This is from Cheap Thrills, by Big Brother and the Holding Company, featuring Janis Joplin. This song’s a band effort with songwriting credits to all the members; Janis is not front and center. I’m not sure it’s the best performance on the album — you’d really have to give that to Ball and Chain — but it’s maybe the best-written song. And it’s a hell of a performance: Hard, melodious, well-crafted rock and roll.

Cheap Thrills

Cheap Thrills is not actually a live album; the crowd noise is synthetically inserted. It’s special because it represents the peak performance of Big Brother as a group and Janis Joplin personally. They were not really as good a band as they sound on this collection.

Janis was that good a singer, but none of the musical directions she explored in the few short years between this record and her drinking/drugging herself to death worked out quite as well as this crazed, ecstatic approach. If she’d lived, she would have climbed way higher, I’m sure. Fuck heroin.

Oh, Sweet Mary is two-thirds minimalist guitar instrumental; there are a couple of verses sung by one of the males in the band, some meticulously-placed howls and harmonies from Janis, and a loping, driving rhythm section pushing the song along every second. Really fine stuff.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).

Links · Spotify playlist. This tune on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify. There’s no decent live video that I can find.


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From: blake (May 28 2018, at 18:00)

Sir! "Combination of the Two" and "Summertime" are on that album!! "Oh, Sweet Mary" is the best writing? Feh!


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colophon · rights

May 28, 2018
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