Just Janis Joplin and a guitar: Me and Bobby McGee demo, July 28, 1970.
What a gem this is! Janis playfully lamenting that her Texas accent is back, to the delight of producer Paul Rothschild and the fellas in the booth, followed by an achingly intimate first take on “Me and Bobby McGee” that reveals the searing pain that you believe would make her willing to trade all of her tomorrows for a single yesterday.
She never sounded more vulnerable, more melodic, and not-so-ironically when you think about it, more powerful. Set yourself at the feet of a master storyteller and prepare to be amazed by a song you only thought you knew.
The familiar (perhaps now even too-familiar) Full Tilt Boogie Band version of the single was released on January 11, 1971, and would spend 9 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s surely been played somewhere on earth every hour of the day since then.
The album Pearl was released the same day and also spent 9 weeks at #1 (the last week of February, and all of March and April), winding up as the 4th best-selling album of 1971.
Janis hadn’t quite completed work on Pearl before she passed, but this was hardly the work of bone-picking scavengers capitalizing on her tragedy. On the contrary, this was the celebration of an artist entering a peak whose height we’ll never know. As you’ll hear here, even Janis had no idea what she was about to unleash.
Unleash she did, nevertheless.
(Tip o’ the hat to the fantastic Barry Feinstein photos in this clip, and the strongest possible recommendation to check out the rest of the gems on the Pearl Legacy Edition, available at your favorite retailer and streaming at Spotify.)