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June 09, 1972 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1972-06-09

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Friday, June 9, 1972
Janis: C
Deborah Landau, . J A N I S
TIMES, 1971, Paperback Lib-
rary, $.75, paper.
Robert Somma, N O O N E
sion Magazine and Outerbridge
and Dienstfrey.
David Dalton, JANIS, 1971,
Simon and Schuster, $4.95, pa-
The eulogies for the young and
talented are always more in-
tense and moving than those de-
livered for our elders. Rightfully
so. Elders get sadness w i t h
perhaps a touch of reverence,
but the young get sadness with
more than a touch of anguish.
And the cause of death really
doesn't matter so much - it's
the event itself which strikes
a bitter note, whether it's sui-
cide, the result of personal ne-
glect and unconcern, or the in-
evitable "Act of God" w h i c h
provides the relief when all oth-
er explanations fail.
For Janis, neglect reigned su-
preme. The High Goddess of
Rock's Pantheon, her abandon-
ed life-style was well-known and
documented. And if she didn't
leave a legacy - always a hur-
ried ascription to the popular
deceased-then her short span
on top at least goes down as one
of the more colorful and poig-
nant entries in Rock's folklore
Stimulants played a major
role in Janis' life. On stage, the
drugs and Southern Comfort
were replaced by the electric
pulse from behind. The music
pumped her up. Properly ener-
gized for lift-off, she would let
loose the wailing agony of stored
traumas, the hidden griefs which
poured out as confession from
a stimulated high. Narcosynthe-
sis, with the audience as note-
Janis would roll into town,
grab the microphone like a re-
acquaintance with a lost lover,
and blast out her pains as if
they were the accumulated frus-
trations resulting from some
freakoid endeavor to enter some
nonexistent twilight world of
eternal happiness: "Ahhhhh
Neeeeeeeeeeeed Sumboooooooody
to Luuuuuuvvvvvvvv" - to the
point where you felt like "Jesus,
baby, pain is pain, but why force
it to misery?"
Wherever her erratic w a y s
took her, Janis was always good
copy. A picturesque bird, this
one, even' though you sometimes
got 'the impression that the be-
jangled enigma of her public
personality was partially t h e
work of some record company
exec's PR hype.
Her public image was imbued
with the ethos of immediacy;
she Was an unflagging propon-
ent of the "Now," and she forc-
ed herself to meet this image,
creating a persona of struggle.
A living elegy, she pushed her-
self to the extreme, inviting
trauma; unconsciously dedicat-
ed to burning herself out be-
fore her time.
Fallen heroes are also inevit-
ably followed by reams of lit-
urgy, especially when the pub-
lishers know that the public
craves an "in-depth" explanation
of an idol's tragic death. Such
an expectation -usually goes un-
fulfilled, and in Janis' case the
assumption holds. The three vol-

umes reviewed here obviously
represent a desire to cash-in on
a quasi-mythic stature. "Quasi,"
because I sense a desire to
create myth maybe where it
didn't exist.
I haven't assumed responsibil-
ity for educating the public, al-
ways a fruitless endeavor, but
sometimes it is just one hell of
a pleasure - if you'll excuse any
apparent smugness -- to prove
the validity of H. L. Mencken's
homily, "Nobody ever w e n t
broke underestimating the in-
telligence of the American pub-
lie." The support for the aphor-
ism in this instance involves
what seems to be at least one
case of blatant plagiarism which


Page Five

ashing in on a superstar

should have some writer and edi-
tor standing tall in front of the
Canons of Ethical Writing for
either dereliction of duty or in-
competence, or both.
While reading Deborah Land-
au's Janis Joplin: Her Life and
Times, primarily a composite
picture drawn from quoted re-
miniscences strung together with
suitable transitions, I was.
struck, though not overly im-
pressed, by a. few lines which
compared the rise of Jazz to
the ascendance of Rock. Both
were underground music move-
ments - as was the Folk move-
ment - and both were similarly
associated with the use and the
abuse of drugs by many of the
foremost figures of the move-
When I got into No One Wav-
ed Good-Bye, the most readable
of the three books and a col-
lection of ten feature articles,
half of which are reprints of
newspaper accounts, I was again
hit by the mention of drug use

to Christ, people - and if you
doubt me, look for yourself.
Even the World Book paraphras-
ing that got turned in for sev-
enth-grade termpaper assign-
ments wasn't as blatantly lift-
ed. Need more evidence? . . .
On the next page of McGre-
gor's article, he says "Every-
thing depends upon the inspira-
tion of the moment. Hence
drugs: they kick you on, give
you time to think, and help ease
the lurking fear . . ." Later, on
the same page, "The strain is
immense, and when you con-
sider all the other showbiz pres-
sures on rock stars - one-night
gigs, fan clubs, promotions,
image-mongering - the wonder
of it is that more don't fall
Returning to page 127 of Lan-
dau's book, we see "In rock, as
in jazz, a great deal depends
upon the inspiration of t h e
moment. The strain is immense.
Hence drugs: they kick you on,
give you time to think." Flip

No One Waved Good-Bye is a
good read. The inclusions are
brief and to the point, and the
five newspaper reprints are eas-
ily the most digestible. The five
new "perspective" pieces writ-
ten specifically for the volume
are primarily a rehash of old
stuff and can easily be passed
off as deferential epiphanies to
that "cashing-in" syndrome.
However, of the three books re-
viewed, No One is the only
volume which warrants the pur-
chase price.
David Dalton's book, J a n i s,
leaves an ambivalent taste. As
originally conceived, the work
probably would have provided a
tasty bit of perusing, but the
begotten concoction bears the
imprimatur of adroit salesman-
ship. One point in Dalton's fav-
or is that Janis, at least the first
section, is not entirely a maud-
lin perpective piece, but an on-
the-spot presentation with the
flavor wrought from immediacy.
A Columbia University grad-
uate and an aspiring photograph-
er, Dalton decided to write a
book about Janis after unsuc-
cessful attempts to do the same
on other rock stars. His meet-
ing with the feathered flame is
typical of other recounted an-
ecdotes about her: " 'I'm going
to write a book about you'," he
"told Janis Joplin when she was
begining- her first tour with her
Full Tilt Boogie Band in Louis-
ville, Kentucky.
''Honey,' Janis replied in
partying manner and with an
eye to the future, 'if you can
pay for the plane tickets, then
you can follow me around for
the rest of my life.' "
After this theatrical exchange,
Dalton followed Janis around for
several months, eventually find-
ing himself a passenger on the
Festival Express, a traveling
Rock Train winding its way
westward across Canada in July,
1970. Starting in Toronto, t h e
Express represented Rock's ver-
sion of the barnstorming politic-
ian - chugging across the pro-
vinces, waylaying for assorted
concerts to deliver the message,
and finishing the campaign in
Calgary. Included on the mani-
fest were the Grateful Dead, De-
laney and Bonnie, Buddy G u y ,
Eric Anderson, and Ian and Syl-
via. Not a bad collection of
luminaries for anyone seeking
material to fill the pages of an
anticipated book on the Coun-
ter Culture's upper-echelon.
Less than a month after this
troupe through the Canadian
wilderness, Janis OD'ed, and
Dalton was left with a wealth
of memorabilia on her final
days. Unfortunately, what could
have been a highly interesting
and poignant epilogue to a sad
case of the blues has been pad-
ded to the hilt for the con-
sumer's pleasure.
The resulting opus is a con-
trivance roughly the size of an
Ann Arbor phone book, printed
on thick paper. There are four
main divisions to the book: The
first part, the best,, and only
original writing between the cov-
ers, presents eighty-one pages of
large type detailing Dalton's ex-
periences while traveling with
Janis; the second has over forty
pages of photographs chronicl-
ing Janis' career as a superstar;
the third is devoted to excerpts
from Rolling Stone magazine;
and finally we get fifty-seven
pages worth of sheet music of
some of Janis' more popular
songs. Inserted somewhere in the
middle is a polyethylene tear-out
record (a la the back side of
a Cheerio's box) of some scrat-
chy jams and raps recorded on
the Festival Express - and all
for only $4.95, plus tax. Grac-
ing the stands of your local head
shop, the book will probably be

billed as a comprehensive por-
trait of one Rock Star Janis
Joplin, but if Dalton and Pub-
lisher were as interested in
painting as they are in making
the quick buck on the depart-
ed, the first section of the book
would be sufficient to tell Dal-
ton's story, and it could be pro-

duced as a seventy-five cent
Nixing the purple flourishes,
the first part of Janis remains
worth reading, if for no other
reason than the human interest
present in Dalton's verbatim
transcriptions of some zesty Jop-
lin conversation. Listen to Janis
describe how she got started in
the Rock business:
"How I really got in the band,
it was really funny, it was per-
fectly apropos . . I had gone
to the big city and got good
and evil and came back home,
with a little R 'n' R, right? This
cat came down, and I was play-
ing a gig, and after the gig
was over at some people's house,
and I was sitting there, and this
cat came in and scooped me
right up, man, it was Travis.
Travis just came and scooped
me up, threw me onto the bed,
who, baby! . . . Halfway
through New Mexico I realized
I'd been conned into being in the
rock business by this guy that
was such a good ball . . . I was
fucked into being in Big Broth-
er." .That's what is called the
quintessential human interest.
Other, similarly piquant ane-
cdotes are deposited in t h i s
first section of Dalton's book,
but the prime stuff can be found
in an abridgement appearing in
the February 17, 1972, issue of
Rolling Stone, and for only sev-
enty-five cents. The five bucks
for the full treatment is a rip-

off, highway robbery, unless you
are one of those aficionados who
insist on throwing your hard-
earned greenstuff on the com-
passioned and poverty-struck en-
trepreneurs of Counter Culture
Today's writer ,..
L. P. Kluzak is a senior ma-
joring in Journalism at the

" For Janis, neglect reigned supreme. The High
Goddess of Rock's Pantheon, her abandoned
life-style was well-known and documented. .

in both the Jazz and Rock under-
grounds. However, this time I
sensed that I had read those
lines before, even though I was
not sure just where. I went back
and made a quick run through
Landau's book, and sure enough
In No One, Craig McGregor's
piece, "A Magical Connection
Failed" (reprinted from T h e
New York Times) begins "Brian
Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Jop-
lin. It's a familiar list. T h e n
another, longer and not so fa-
miliar: Buddy Bolden, K i n g
Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Bix
Beiderbecke, Charlie Parker,
John Coltrane.
"They all died before they
should have. Heroin, barbituates,
insanity, sickness, suicide . . .
They cracked up, splintered like
grass, died tragic, ignoble
deaths . . Once it was jazz-
men, now it's rock stars."
On page 127 of Life and Times,
we find "Other major figures
who have died in situations in-
volvin,; drugs are Brian oJnes
of the Rolling Stones; Brian
Epstein, manager of the Beat-
les; Alan Wilson of Canned Heat.
Brian Jones, Al Wilson, Jimi
Hendrix, Janis Joplin. It's a.
familiar list. Then another long-
er and not so familiar: K i n g
Oliver, Bix Beiderbecke, Char-
lie Parker, John Coltrane. They
all died before they should have,
tragic, ignoble deaths. Heroin,
barbituates, insanity, sickness,
suicide. Once it was jazzmen,
now it's rock stars . . ." Honest

a couple of pages- to 129, and
behold, "When you consider all
the showbiz pressures on rock
sars - one-night gigs, fan clubs,
promotions, image-mongering -
it isn't realy surprising to find
them seeking some form of es-
Somebody is either very gutsy
or stupid. Which one of the two
parties we point the finger at
can't be ascertained for sure
from the vital stats 'of the re-
spective books, but the data
reads as follows: "A Magical
Connection Failed' first appeared
in The New York Times as 'Bix
to Janis - A Magical Connec-
tion Failed,' November 1, 1970."
The first printing of Life and
Times is dated April, 1971. And
the laughing irony of Life and
Times is the "All rights re-
But who knows, maybe McGre-
gor and Landau are one and the
same person - which would still
leave us with a case of ques-
tionable ethics; pawning off the
same material under different
covers. .
As mentioned earlier, L an-
dau's work isn't much more than
a collection of quotes thrown to-
gether with some uninspiring,
ornate passages describing Jan-
is' flamboyant life-style, includ-
ing nine pages, affixed as an
Appendix, devoted to significant
excerpts from her horoscope. At
most, the book deserves only a
brief skimming. Enough said
about Janis Joplin: Her Life
and Times.

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