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Big Brother & The Holding Company

Big Brother are primarily remembered as the group that gave Janis Joplin her start. There's no denying both that Joplin was by far the band's most striking asset, and that Big Brother would never have made a significant impression if they hadn't been fortunate enough to add her to their lineup shortly after forming. But Big Brother also occupies a significant place in the history of San Francisco psychedelic rock, as one of the bands that best captured the era's loosest, reckless, and indulgent qualities in its high-energy mutations of blues and folk-rock.

Big Brother was formed in 1965 in the Haight-Ashbury; by the time Joplin joined in mid-1966, the lineup was Sam Andrew and James Gurley on guitar, Peter Albin on bass, and David Getz on drums. Joplin, a recent arrival from Texas, entered the band at the instigation of Chet Helms, who (other than Bill Graham) was the most important San Francisco rock promoter. Big Brother, like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, were not great songwriters or singers. They didn't entirely welcome Joplin's presence at first, though, and Joplin did not dominate the group right away, sharing the lead vocals with other members.

It soon became evident to both band and audience that Joplin's fiery wail -- mature and emotionally wrenching, even at that early stage -- had to be spotlighted to make Big Brother a contender. But Big Brother wasn't superfluous to the effort, interpreting folk and blues with an inventive (if sometimes sloppy) eclecticism that often gave way to distorted guitar jamming, and matching Joplin's passion with a high-spirited, anything-goes ethos of their own.

Big Brother catapulted themselves into national attention with their performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, particularly with Joplin's galvanizing interpretation of "Ball and Chain" (which was a highlight of the film of the event). High-powered management and record label bids rolled in immediately, but unfortunately the group had tied themselves up in a bad contract with the small Mainstream label, at a time where they were stranded on the road and needed cash. Their one Mainstream album (released in 1967) actually isn't bad at all, containing some of their stronger cuts, such as "Down on Me" and "Coo Coo." It didn't fully capture the band's strengths, and with the help of new high-powered manager Albert Grossman (also handler of Bob Dylan, the Band, and Peter, Paul & Mary), they extricated themselves from the Mainstream deal and signed with Columbia.

The one Big Brother album for Columbia that featured Joplin, Cheap Thrills (1968), wasn't completed without problems of its own. John Simon found the band so difficult to work with that he withdrew his production credit from the final LP, which was assembled from both studio sessions and live material (recorded for an aborted concert album). Cheap Thrills nonetheless went to number one when it was finally released, and though it too was an erratic affair, it contained some of the best moments of acid rock's glory days, including "Ball and Chain," "Summertime," "Combination of the Two," and "Piece of My Heart."

Cheap Thrills made Big Brother superstars, a designation that was short-lived. By the end of 1968, Joplin had decided to go solo, a move from which neither she nor Big Brother ever fully recovered. That's putting matters too simply: Joplin never found a backing band as sympathetic, but did record some excellent material in the remaining two years of her life. Big Brother, on the other hand, had the wind totally knocked out of their sails. Although they did re-form for a while in the early '70s with different singers (indeed, they continued to perform in watered-down variations into the '90s), nothing would ever be the same. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Comments

Loved her in the sixties. I'm 64 now still think she hits my soul even now. What a talent to waste!
The Full Tilt Boogie Band was a better match for Joplin than the sloppy Big Brother band, but there was something about Big Brother's rawness that worked in the early days.
rsantini3
WHAT A WASTE OF OF A GIFTED TALENT-SHE WAS THE GREATEST BAR NONE.
LAST I SAW JANIS WAS AT ATLANTIC CITY POP FESTIVAL.... . : (
Doesn't even come close to the Monterey Pop performance with Janis...
Dead at 27......
Bad a** singer always loved her to bad she had she died that sucks big time The best GOD rest her soul!!!!!!!!
Minha querida Janis. Quero ouvir um dueto seu com Amy Winehouse quando eu chegar ao além.
Idolatro vcs.
Always loved Combination of the Two--seemed to perfectly capture the Summer of Love. Still get chills when I hear it.
rfuentes3560
One of the best bands and our beloved rock and blues Queen Janis performing Ball and Chain Live .If you haven't heard it please do Janis and Big Brother and Holding Company at their Best...
dpaulus24
I saw them in concert in St Louis, '68 I think. Kept looking for the flash of the Southern Comfort she liked so well.
Combination of the Two---great song; even better live.
Big brother and the holding company. I always loved the gritty quality of the whole sound. Capped by Janis' voice it was all rock n roll. A little grit in the lube kinda feeling. Fast and loose. Like driving a muscle car flat out in the desert with the stereo cranked.

Trust me on this one ;-)
andreanna.me t r u l a s
No One sang like Janis and never will again..She is a LEGEND, Forever !!! xoxo
D-egan5 it's Janis Joplin.
d-egan5
why don't they tell you in the bio who is singing this song???? That is just dumb....
...Janis, damn, I miss that woman
classic
Leonard Cohen Chelsea hotel. " we don't hv the looks but we hv the music".leona r d is 80! She couldn't keep up the whatever too bad/sad. A great personae with an incredible voice!
On the album Cheap Trills it was certified by the CA Hells Angles.
burrlars
Sweet music to my ears. God she was great.
Janis Joplin is the Queen Of Rock
For a reason
Long live Janis Joplin✌️��
No one could do the blues like Janis Cheap Thrills is one of the best albums of the era. Saw her and Hendrix at the Singer Bowl in Queens-think it was 1970. You know what they sayn "if you remember the "60's" you weren't there" lol
<3 her voice <3 this song <3 amazing
Peter albin....my dads friend - love the whole band. they still sound great..altho there could never be another Janis of course
1224012991
Love her!
jimsrepair
saw Janis and jimi in concert in seattle 1968. Hot That May 23 rd. Then Rain as the concert was going. Great memory
She blew (blued?) her voice out early, but when she was at the top of her game, no one could touch her. Cheap Thrills has to be one of the most under-played albums ever. Don't know and don't care what the critics thought of the album.
Pearl truly described Janis,Rare and precocious . Truely a great loss. Fan FOREVER!
paulabell90
Absolutely love everything she does! Too bad she left so early... I'd kill for a voice like hers
Janis! The Queen of the Hippie/Count e r Culture 60's!
nik_dangr
pfdill-

Nice pickup! I was scratching my head over the vocals, too. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have noticed Sophie in the comments by the band member at the end of the cut.
Oh thank you for explaining. I thought I'd lost it. It totally doesn't sound like Janis!
pfdill
the singer on this live in Germany CD ain't Janis.... the Pandora notes give a history of BBHC & Janis, but the Live in Germany CD is a recording of a reunion attempt. I think the woman's name is Sophie Ramos: and the comparison just points out why I still miss Janis.
Saw her in Tempe AZ - flew off in helicopter - she's one of my faves
mistycara13
Love Janis's voice! Amazing
Love it
michelle0634
I I was right there. It was awesome!!!!!
phh6262
Man Ohhh Man do I miss her...R.I.P Janis
jeharris577
if you can't get past what you hear to appreciate how her music makes you feel; you'll never get her appeal
What makes me even more impressed with Janis than I always was, is how solid she was even in these live recordings,. Disagree with skipwayman, Pearl was a great album.
Big Brother made Joplin, her music got sloppy after she left them. Considering her lifestyle, her fate was inevitable though.
ahhhh 1966
Janis and BB&HC.....wo w . . . . d e f i n i t e l y the correct combination of the two
FREAKING AWESOME!
man jannis best work was with big brother and the holding company
I remember buying their first album (the one before Cheap Thrills) Janis was just great!
If you like Janis singing the blues, give Susan Tedschii (sp?) a listen.
spamalot1
The only white gril who could sing real blues!
Janis always penetrates me with her voice...i get the chills. love it!!!!!!

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