18 January 2018

Music Memory - Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin Greatest Hits recordI never tried at school, or at anything because from an early age I assumed I was going to be the next Janis Joplin. Hopefully minus the heroin and sadness, but ugh that voice. Hearing Janis Joplin for the first time is one of those incredible vivid memories from youth that stay with you forever. So much of life goes by and though it may feel intense at the time you don't remember it 10, 20, 30 years later. And yet some things, for whatever reason, are there, stuck in your heart like a note on a pinboard.

One of those halcyon spring/summers that you don't notice the significance of until years later. Warm, English weather. My mother was helping set up an opera festival in an old estate in Hampshire and I was either on holidays or bunking off. The opera was set in the grounds of this huge, mostly derelict house, with a few usable rooms that would be used as a dining room. A lovely (I think Swedish) artist had been asked to paint a massive clock on the floor of the dining room and for whatever reason she agreed to have a grumpy 13? 14? 15? year old hang out with her for the afternoon while my mum helped in the grounds. She even let me paint.

There were hand cut stencils for the roman numerals of the clock and I was allowed to paint in these whilst she did freehand additions and we listened to the now-so-familiar wail of Janis Joplin on her cd player. Now, wait for it, this was before Google. BEFORE GOOGLE. BG for those kids out there. Imagine it. Anyway we painted, we listened, and I absorbed. I memorised words and the tracklisting and went as soon as I could to HMV on Winchester High Street, straight to the J section and found her greatest hits. I bought it, listened and wailed along.

Being pre-Google, it was also the first time I'd seen her. One of the first women of rock. Sitting on a motorcycle, big hair, sunglasses, so cool and, for the uninitiated, no indication of what an incredible, bluesy voice was contained within. I can't think of anyone who has ever sounded even remotely like her.

Even just looking at the cover of that album (pictured) can take me back to that summer, painting the floor.  That CD got 'borrowed' and never returned while I was at uni and, even though by then I owned all the songs and more on mp3 it just wasn't the same. Luckily for me the dogs bought me a replacement vinyl for this last Christmas and not only have I been listening to it pretty much non-stop ever since but all three boys are pretty into it too. Which makes me very happy.

You can listen to Janis Joplin and other favourites of mine on my playlist in the side column.

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