Monday, October 4, 2010

Janis Joplin -- "Move Over" (1971)

Make up your mind, darlin'
You're playing with me
Either be my loving man
Or let me be!

"Move Over" is the first track on Janis Joplin's fourth and final album, Pearl, which was release posthumously in 1971.  She had been found dead of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970 -- to paraphrase "Sgt. Pepper," it was 40 years ago today.

Pearl was Joplin's best-selling album, and included her biggest hit single, Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee."  The album is also known for its a capella recording of "Mercedes Benz."  Joplin had recorded one take of that song only a couple of days before her death.  Another track on the album is an instrumental because she hadn't yet recorded the vocal track for it.

I've never seen or heard anyone turn herself inside out like Janis Joplin did when she performed.  Her personal life was a mess -- she had a drug problem, an alcohol problem, and problems with men (and women as well).  I can't say it was a surprise when she died of an overdose at age 27.

Why am I writing about this particular song?  My sophomore year of college, my roommate and I rented a compact stereo system from a guy whose roommate had a bigger and better stereo.  (I think we paid him $10 each for a year's rental.)

Our rented sound system had a cassette deck -- the first time I had ever had access to a cassette player/recorder.  I still remember the first cassette I made -- some of the songs were recorded off the radio, some were recorded off an LP.  The James Gang album I wrote about was on that tape.  So was the next song I'm going to write about.

I played that cassette over and over.  It seemed so wonderful to be able to put together your own music compilations -- and getting songs for free off the radio was a real bonus.

TDK cassette tape
I can't begin to estimate how many cassette tapes I've made in my life.  I used to tape LPs that I liked while they were relatively new and free of noise.  A 90-minute cassette usually held two albums easily.

But what I really enjoyed was putting together compilation tapes, more commonly referred to as "mixtapes."      

"High Fidelity" soundtrack
One essayist has referred to personal mixtapes "the most widely practiced American art form."  This art form was immortalized in the 1995 Nick Hornby book (and 2000 John Cusack movie), High Fidelity.  What guy of my generation has not made a compilation tape for a girlfriend (usually full of songs intended to send her messages) or to play at a party?

Cassette tapes are not exactly cutting-edge technology these days, but I do the same thing  with iTunes and a blank CD.  It's a lot easier than hitting the "pause" button on the cassette deck, putting the stylus down in the blank space just before the track I wanted to record, releasing the "pause" button on the cassette recorder just before that track began, quickly turning the volume control down to zero at the end of the track, and then hitting "pause" once more.  Of course, then I had to switch that LP for another one and go through the whole process again.

Here's "Move Over":

Here's Janis performing the song on "The Dick Cavett Show":

Here's a link to use if you'd like to buy it from iTunes:

Or click here if you prefer Amazon:

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