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Janis Joplin's Full-Tilt Boogie Ride: Rolling Stone's 1970 Cover Story

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As she got into it, she jumped off the stage, and a kid in the front row started shaking it down with her. That was all that was needed. Everybody got out, onto, and over their chairs and stayed dancing, shouting and clapping.

From there things just kept grinding on with "Summertime," "Kozmic Blues" and "Move Over," a blues Janis has written for her next album. By the time she got into her last number, "Piece of My Heart," security had all the house lights turned on in the hope that it would cool everybody out, but it had just the opposite effect. The kids saw that everybody was standing, dancing up and down and screaming, and it just made them wilder and eventually the whole audience swarmed up to the stage like a hive of bees.

In this conservative southern town, it was as if Janis had flashed a vision of the Garden of Eden at them. And they didn't want it to end.

They were grateful to Janis for taking them away from where they were and putting their heads somewhere else, and they showed it. Janis was exhausted but excited; the rain dance had worked. As Janis and the band left the stage in the eternal rock pantomine of unplugging guitars, the crowd howled for more.

Janis, beaming, took another sip of Southern Comfort from a styrofoam cup and hit into the encore, "Get It While You Can," a blues written by Jerry Ragovoy (who also wrote "Piece Of My Heart") which Janis has recorded for her next album. As she stepped off the stage a longhaired kid in a headband handed Janis a telegram: "Come to Ripple Southern Comfort Party in Your Honor ..."

The local papers the next day were as ecstatic about the concert as the audience, the Louisville Times called it a "love feast," and the Courier Journal, in its article titled "Rock Queen Blasts Off Like An Apollo Rocket," launched into some classic pyrotechnic journalism: "Like an Apollo rocket blasting off that's the power of Janis Joplin's voice. Howling, screeching, and penetrating the air with such brilliance and force, you believe for a moment she could fill the Grand Canyon with sound."

The success of the concert can in part be attributed to Janis' new backup group, which has finally given her the confidence she needs to put out.

"Basically, we are like studio musicians who were put together for a session," Ken Pearson, the organist, explained. "It's not like we played together in the garage for three years before making it. We are still finding out what kind of music we like. I'll go up to John's room, and he'll play me something and I'll say, 'you mean, you like that?' You know, we're just a group of musicians, from really different backgrounds, thrown together, slowly becoming a family."

Ken himself has worked with a lot of small rock and jazz bands in Canada. He backed up folk singer Ronny Abramson and played with Penny Lang's Montreal Symphony 1500 before joining Jesse Winchester about a year ago as a piano player. Jesse had come North to avoid the draft and had planned to head west with his four-man band in an old bus, just stopping and doing a number wherever they happened to be, when Robbie Robertson offered to record him. Robbie had got together a bass player and a drummer for the session, but still needed a keyboard, so Jesse and Ken were the only members of the original group to play on the album. Ken would probably have stayed with Jesse's band, but, when Jesse was billed to play a gig last February with the Band, Jesse felt his group would provide a better contrast to the Band's full sound if he played just with himself and a bass player. So Ken was temporarily out of a job. It was just at this time that Janis was looking to form a new backup group.

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Song Stories

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

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