Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Janis Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band -- "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" (1969)

But if it's a dream, I don't want (no, I don't really want it)
Yeah, if it's a dream I don't want 
Nobody to wake me

One morning my freshman year of college, I was having a dream about a high-school classmate.  No, it wasn't a nasty dream -- shame on you! -- it was just a wonderful dream about a beautiful and very nice girl.

And then one of my roommates came into the room and woke me up -- whether inadvertently or because it was time to go to class, I don't remember.  It doesn't really matter.  What does matter is that he woke me up at a really good part of the dream.

Johnny Depp, star of 21 Jump Street
I don't think he knows how close I came to killing him with my bare hands.  I would have strangled him like Homer Simpson used to strangle Bart in the brief Simpsons cartoon that were a small part of The Tracy Ullman Show, one of the original Fox network shows (along with 21 Jump Street and The Gary Shandling Show).  I don't ever recall feeling more upset, more frustrated, more disappointed.  I was beside myself.

Now let's roll back the clock a year, to the spring of my senior year at Parkwood.  I had taken summer school the previous two summers, and I had taken government -- usually a first-semester, senior-year class -- my junior year, despite opposition from a guidance counselor who just kept repeating, "But it's usually a SENIOR class."

It turned out that nearly all of my classmates were seniors who had failed the class first semester -- not exactly my crowd.  Plus the teacher (a girls' PE teacher who looked a little like Babe Ruth) was not the most accomplished teacher I ever had.  So maybe I should have listened to that guidance counselor.

Anyway, I had sort of run out of classes to take senior year.  There was English, and math, and physics, and . . . what else?  (Latin IV?  Are you freakin' kidding me?)  I was in the chorus, and I was in the orchestra, even though I didn't play an orchestra instrument.  (The orchestra director knew I was a good musician so he asked me to help out with various minor percussion instruments -- triangle, bass drum, tambourine, that sort of thing.  It was not the most exciting gig I ever had.  You'd count 86 measures of rests, then hit the bass drum or triangle, then rest another 131 measures, and so on.)

The Kozmic Blues album cover
So I ended up joining the Spectator staff -- it was unofficial (I was never listed on the masthead) because I had never taken the journalism class, but our advisor overlooked that.  I got dropped off at school pretty early because of my parents' work schedule, and on the days when we didn't have before-school jazz-band practice, I went straight to the journalism office, which had a turntable and Janis Joplin's I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! album.

This song was side one, track one, and I probably played it a few hundred times that semester.  I think it was Janis's best song ever.  (The Kozmic Blues album was released in September 1969, at the beginning of my senior year of high school.  A year later, Janis Joplin was dead of a heroin overdose.)  

When I was in college, I was a little frustrated that telling people that I was from Joplin, Missouri didn't really impress that many people.  So occasionally I would gild the lily just a bit.  

For example, I remember telling someone that Janis Joplin got her last name because her mother left her on the doorstep of an orphanage or convent in Joplin, and the people in charge gave her the town name for a last name because they didn't know her actual last name.  

Pretty lame, right?  But I think a few people bought it.  Of course, there was a lot of Boone's Farm and marijuana and LSD being  consumed in those days.  (One spring break, my suitemates drove to the south Texas desert and brought back a gunny sack full of peyote buds.  Talk about your long, strange trips.)

Which reminds me that in 9th grade, when we were the student managers for the South basketball team (the UNDEFEATED South basketball, thank you very much -- you'll suck on it and you'll like it, East and North basketball teams), Bob Parrish and I persuaded Mark Hemingway that Bob (or perhaps both of us) had written the words to the Monkees' hit record, "Last Train to Clarksville."

I'd better stop right here.   I see a few more tangents coming up dead ahead, and we'll go off on every single one of them if I don't pull the plug on this post right now.

Without further adieu, here is Janis Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band performing "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder"):

Here's her performance of the song at Woodstock:

You can click here to buy the song from iTunes:

Or click here if you prefer Amazon:

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