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Month: May 2021

143: Me and Bobby McGee

Since I was a young adult, I’ve liked listening to Janis Joplin. That bluesy rasp she always had going on really underlined her overall sound. And like so many others my age, I devoured her biography Buried Alive. One of the things that struck me then was the way so many of the people from her hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, thought she’d ruined her voice because she’d sounded sweeter and purer as a teenager. Of course, they also bullied the hell out of her because she had an artistic mindset and she wasn’t a racist at heart. (She did drop the N-bomb from time to time because it was originally the only word she had in her vocabulary for Black people.)

The other thing that struck me was that in all of her photos she seemed like kind of a mess. Her hair was everywhere. She wore a million beaded necklaces. She had the baggy, shapeless clothes on. In short, she looked kind of scuzzy and while it kind of matched her sound, it belied the emotion behind her delivery. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I saw a black-and-white nude she’d done in 1967, that I was able to see her differently.

Kubernik: The 2020 Legacy of Janis Joplin

In that image, taken by Bob Seidemann but not released until after her death, her hair is a little more under control. She’s still wearing lots of necklaces, but now they’re nearly her only defense against the camera’s eye. She’s got some curves going on that you never suspected were there. But her face…her face is an expression of vulnerability, maybe even fright. You can see it in the cropped closeup to the right which I’m pretty sure is from the same session. Janis was always artistically naked on the stage, but now she was giving us a literal nakedness that allowed the young woman behind the bawdy broad to shine through.

And I think that might be at the heart of her rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee.” Janis was able to channel more of a bittersweet sound than her usual Kozmic Blues thing, and then when the band opens up toward the end of the record, she’s just along for the ride.

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142: Anthony Robustelli

This week I’ve got something extra-special for you. It’s an interview with Anthony Robustelli, whom I got to speak with recently via Skype.

Anthony is a musician who has toured with lots of big-name performers, he’s written books about Steely Dan and The Beatles (with more to come currently on the back burner), he’s got a Beatles-based podcast that takes a whole new look at them, and his latest project is a 3D animated rock opera that takes place in the ashes of the 2016 election. Whether your politics lean red or blue, you’ll probably find it fun (though admittedly it’s a little more fun for the blue crowd).

This is a longer episode than usual—just a shade over an hour, total—but my hope is that you’ll have as much fun listening as I had chatting.

If you want to encounter him elsewhere on the web:

Where you can find him on the Twitter Machine.

LIkewise, here’s his Instagram profile.

His 3D animated rock opera, The So-Called President.

This is his main page.

shadybear.com Link to his production studio.

If you’re interested in checking out his Beatles book, this is the place to go.

And last but not least, here’s the direct link to his podcast, which is back up and running as of today! You should also be able to find it in Podcast Republic or your favorite podcatcher software: https://shadybearbklyn.podbean.com/

Enjoy.

No transcript this week, unfortunately. My apologies!

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