Cheap Thrills

Greatly Appreciated

Cheap Thrills  is the second album from Big Brother and the Holding Company and their last with Janis Joplin as primary lead vocalist.  In 2003, the album was ranked #338 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.  (More from Wikipedia)


I have not meant to suggest in these various Women-in-Rock posts that women have just been doing what men do when they do rock and roll.  Sometimes women are the ones blazing a trail.  When Cheap Thrills, the breakthrough album for Big Brother and the Holding Company came out in August 1968Janis Joplin had already wowed the crowd at the legendary 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.  


To some extent, the psychedelic movement in rock was winding down, or at least it was old news:  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had come out the year before, the Summer of Love in San Francisco was also in 1967, and Hair opened on Broadway in late 1967.  There was even a mock funeral for “The Death of the Hippie” in San Francisco in October 1967.  


(February 2014)



Still, Cheap Thrills was a true sensation – as happened so often with the BeatlesBig Brother and the Holding Company staked out territory on this album that other rock artists could only admire; no one tried to follow them.  The front cover art by top “underground comics” artist R. Crumb still looks amazing; almost as well known is the dramatic pose by Janis Joplin on the back cover. 


But of course it was the music that made a true impression on me.  An old friend from my model-rocket days had introduced the album to me, playing the devastating live track “Ball and Chain” first and then Side 2 in its entirety after that (including Ball and Chain again).  The song that closed the first side, “Piece of My Heart” was one of my two favorite songs in my first year at college in 1969-1970 – the other was “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by the Band. 


Within two months of its release, Cheap Thrills was the #1 album in the country on the Billboard charts where it remained for most of the rest of the year.  Surrealistic Pillow from the Jefferson Airplane made it to #3, and the Grateful Dead had a #6 album with In the Dark – but not until 1987

(February 2014) 
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Items:    Cheap Thrills  

Last edited: March 22, 2021