"Ball and Chain"

June 1967.  The Monterey Pop Festival.  It was designed to do for rock and pop music what the Monterey Jazz Festival and Monterey Folk Festival did for their respective genres.  And it succeeded beyond anyone's expectations.  

Canned Heat, Steve Miller, and Laura Nyro became stars overnight.  Otis Redding effectively introduced himself to white audiences.  The Who stunned the crowd by smashing their gear at the end of "My Generation."  Jimi Hendrix followed them and ended his set by setting his guitar on fire.

But the stand out highlight in a weekend of exceptional performances was the one that Janis Joplin delivered with Big Brother & the Holding Company.  The reviews were glowing:

Janis was a “burning lava flow of energy.”

She was a “force of nature.”  

She was a “maelstrom of feeling that words could barely suggest.”

She "wasn’t pretty.  She was just plain shake-that-thing erotic.”

Catching her onstage at the Monterey Pop Festival, the reporter from The Village Voice proclaimed that “to hear Janis sing ‘Ball and Chain’ just once is to have been laid, lovingly and well."

High school reunion

August 4th, 1970.  Guess who was on the bill at Ravinia that night?  Janis Joplin.  Taking the stage with her new group, The Full Tilt Boogie Band.  Just the day before, they'd performed for a taping of The Dick Cavett Show in New York City where they were eager to show off some of the new tunes they'd been working on.  They performed "Half Moon" months in advance of its release on Pearl.  

During the interview portion of the show, Cavett asked Janis if she'd ever been back to Port Arthur, Texas.  Giddy with delight, she told him of her plans to attend her high school reunion later that year.  And spontaneously she asked him, "Would you like to go?"

Cavett sidestepped the offer saying, "Well, I don't have that many friends in your high school class."

Without missing a beat, Janis replied, "I don't either."

 

You can't go home again

In the fall of 1970 Janis Joplin went back to Port Arthur, that little Texas town that caused her so much pain and heartache as a teenager, for her 10 year high school reunion.  It should have been a triumphal return.  It should have been the ugly ducking coming back to put the town bullies in their place.  But Laura Joplin, Janis' sister recalled that the experience was a dismal non-event.  

“They had no experience of rock and roll,” Laura said of her sister’s classmates. “They were still living at home and trying to be insurance agents and stuff like that.  Janis was traveling around the world.  

"She wanted them to say, ‘My God, Janis, you’re the most incredible thing!’”

But instead, the award they gave her was a car tire…for having come the longest distance.

Laura went on. “It was one of those things where you don’t necessarily get your fantasy, but maybe you get what you need.”