A sad anniversary in rock music history has just passed: it’s been 40 years since singer Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose in a Hollywood hotel. KPCC’s Nick Roman says Joplin had stayed in Los Angeles to record what would be her greatest album – “Pearl.”
Producer Paul Rothchild of The Doors fame wanted more polish than Janis had with her first band - Big Brother and the Holding Company. He also planned to strip away the sonic overload of the Kozmic Blues Band – the musicians on her first solo album.
Janis got to Hollywood at the end of August to work on “Pearl.” She stayed at the Landmark Motor Hotel on Highland; it’s the Highland Gardens Hotel now. On October 3rd, she went to Sunset Sound Studios about a mile and a half from the hotel to listen to “Buried Alive in the Blues.” Ace guitarist John Till – who’d played with Janis at Woodstock – and the rest of Joplin’s new backing group - The Full Tilt Boogie Band - had recorded the track. Janis would do the vocals the next day. That night, she got high - she was into heroin then – and she ended up with a “hot shot” that killed her.
A shaken John Till eventually quit rock ’n’ roll and went back to Canada where he’s an engineering draftsman. “Pearl” came out four months after Janis Joplin’s death – without vocals on “Buried Alive in the Blues.” It spent a month at Number 1.