Saturday, December 25, 2010

Aw yeah....buried alive in the blues.

If you haven't been able to tell, next to motorcycles music is my second big love. Rock, real country, reggae, hip-hop, soul, R&B, some punk and a little jazz, and blues....lotta blues! So, I'm going to mix in the music a little more than I have in the past. Indulge me a little, and you may pick up on some musicians you might not have heard about, and some music you might want to explore a little more.

Nick Gravanites is a living legend in the blues. A pivotal member of the Chicago blues scene, as well as a shaper of a lot of the "San Francisco Sound" of the '60's, Gravanites has written songs for everybody from Paul Butterfield to Janis Joplin. Nick has produced, written for, and played on over 50 albums in his career. A co-founding member, along with Mike Bloomfield and Buddy Miles, of the Electric Flag, writer of the soundtracks for The Trip, and Steelyard Blues, and a band member of Big Brother & The Holding Co. after Janis Joplin left.

This is a clip of Nick Gravanites that I found by accident on YouTube, from Nov. 1980. Gravanites is paired up here with the "guitarist's guitarist", John Cipollina, a founding member of the seminal Frisco band Quicksilver Messenger Service. A big fan of Cipollina's body of work, I had never seen him playing slide guitar in the manner he is here. Unfortunately, John Cipollina died of emphysema (a condition he battled from his youth) on May 29, 1989. Turn up the volume, and listen and watch two musicians play their hearts out.....

Buried Alive In The Blues was a song that Nick Gravanites gave to Janis Joplin, but she never got the chance to sing it. During the recording of Janis' 1970 album Pearl, they had 8 songs finished - 5 with the final vocals, and 3 with "working" vocals. There was space on the album for 2 more songs, but the band was out of material. The band struggled for 2 more days, then Janis called her old friend Nick, and asked if he had any songs for her. Gravanites said he had a couple, but they weren't finished yet. One in particular Gravanites said, would be perfect for her, and it was called Buried Alive In The Blues, but he only had 2 verses finished. Joplin pleaded with Gravanites to come to L.A. and finish writing the songs, so she could put them on Pearl, which he did.

Gravanites finished writing Buried Alive In The Blues in the studio while the band recorded the other tracks. The Full Tilt Boogie Band had laid down the musical tracks for Gravanites' Buried Alive, and Janis was to lay down the vocals for it, as well as Me And Bobbie Magee on Sat. Oct. 3rd. Janis did finish Me And Bobbie Magee's vocals, but she was tired from a full day in the studio, and she'd been drinking on top of a little "taste" of heroin she'd done in the afternoon. After listening to the music tracks for Buried Alive late in the evening, she decided to head back to the Landmark Hotel, where she and some of the band were staying, and do her vocals on the next day. Lots of artists if they were recording at Sunset Sound Studio (which Joplin was) would stay at the Landmark, because it was close, and relatively quiet.

Janis went up to her room (#105), and shot up more of the heroin she had, went back down to the lobby, asked for change for the cigarette machine, got a pack of smokes, and went back up to her room after talking to the desk clerk for a while. She sat on the edge of her bed, slumped forward towards the floor, hit her mouth on the nightstand on the way down, and died of an overdose around 2:00 am on Oct. 4th. Her body wasn't discovered until 18 hrs. later, when band member John Cook was leaving at 7:30 pm with a couple roadies to head down to Sunset Sound. Cook noticed Janis' car still parked in the lot, got a pass key from the desk, and went into her room. The connection for her heroin it's said, was responsible for 6-8 other OD deaths that same weekend, because he didn't bother to "step on" his new shipment - it was 50-80% pure. Janis was one of the unlucky ones. Fuck.

Buried Alive In The Blues appears on Pearl, but only the musical track is heard, Janis never getting to record any vocals at all. The Landmark Hotel has since changed its name to the Highland Gardens, but it's still at 7047 Franklin in Hollywood, and yes, you can stay in her room, #105, if you wish.


Anonymous said...

Check out Zero another great band Cipollina was in.

mindpill said...

thanks.....again. happy new year. see you at born free. ride safe, be peace.