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Music

Hear the raw audio of Janis Joplin's only UK solo show

Janis Joplin was an icon in every sense of the word. She first set the world alight with her work in Big Brother and The Holding Company and then as a solo artist backed by The Kozmic Blues Band. Seemingly overnight, Joplin became one of the most revered vocalists of her generation, galvanising all those who heard her records or were lucky enough to catch one of her famously captivating performances. 

Joplin’s career is made even more remarkable because it was so short, and it’s a testament to her that she remains one of the most eminent musicians in rock history, over 50 years since her tragic death. 

She started life in the small conservative Texan town of Port Arthur, and as an adult, she became the antithesis of her town, rising up to become a poster girl of the countercultural movement. Joplin relocated to San Francisco in pursuit of an unburdened life and the hippie ideal, finding comfort in the blues music of the past. Subsequently, she dedicated many of her earliest shows to the forgotten singers of bygone generations. 

The Grateful Dead cover that paid tribute to Janis Joplin

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Notably, she championed covers over the pursuit of writing original music. This reconfiguration of tradition was something that was glorified throughout her career, and it became one of the most instantly recognisable facets of her artistry, making her stand out from her contemporaries. She managed to fuse the old world with the new and created a legend in the process. 

Duly, what Joplin left behind is some of the most potent music in existence. Although she wasn’t a songwriter, she does make a solid claim to be the most outstanding performer of her generation — and when we mean performer, we mean performer. Her mesmerising on-stage chops changed everything and set the scene for subsequent heroines such as Stevie Nicks and Siouxsie Sioux.

Ostensibly, one of her best performances came on April 21st, 1969, when she played her first and last headline solo show in England at London’s historic Royal Albert Hall. Supported by prog-rock legends, Yes, Joplin delivered one hell of a night.

She performed an eclectic mix of soul and R&B covers, as well as her original cut ‘Work Me, Lord’. “I don’t want to offend the propriety or anything, but if you want to dance, then that’s what it’s all about, right?” she asked the audience. By all accounts, the crowd responded positively and stood up from their chairs for the entirety of her hour-long set. The atmosphere was electric.

Of the pandemonium that Joplin inspired, NME wrote at the time: “… her hour of belting, grinding vocalising against her soul-slanted backing group had created enough excitement and emotion to make the audience forget their inhibitions… They responded by dancing in the aisles, the boxes, and on the stage.”

Joplin herself was over the moon after the performance and the reception she recieved. The publication wrote: “She bursts into the green room of The Royal Albert Hall like the cork from a bottle of Moet et Chandon champagne. Excited, elated and bubbling over, Janis Joplin couldn’t have been happier.”

“We did it, we did it!” she exclaimed, “and a room full of pressmen ain’t going to bring me down.” Elsewhere, she said: “The concert scene in Europe has been exciting, but this one was a little more exciting because it was well, The Albert Hall, man, it was dynamite!”

Well, luckily for us, a bootleg recording of the entire performance exists, and it sounds incredible. So sit back, and be prepared to enjoy the magic of Janis Joplin at what was perhaps her finest moment. You won’t be disappointed. 

Listen to the show below.

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