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November 10, 1969
The N. C. Essay
It is unfortunate when an artist
of ability and enormous potential
allows himself to become strangled
by the stigma of his own image. The
hype (or hard sell) has destroyed
many fine rock performers. One
need only look at the pitiful dis
integration of the original Moby
Grape, a band whose initial five
members could all play, sing, and
write with an aptitude that was
staggering, especially for a group
who had recently formed. But, as
Columbia Records chose to blatantly
exploit rather than cultivate the
Grape's talents, the band ended
shattered, suspicious of each other
and the music that was once spark
ling with creativity.
Such is now the case with Janis
Joplin. She has apparently allowed
the press clippings and the hype
(again Columbia's) to transform her
former creative honesty and power in
to a self-conscious, whimpering
caricature. Her new LP, I Got Dem
Old Cosmic Blues Again, Mama, is
contrived and stilted. It retains
only fragments of the Joplin who once
threatened to wipe out all other
chick rock singers.
I must admit that I was one of
those who thought that her split
from Big Brother and the Holding
Company would be a beneficial one.
I thought that a new atmosphere would
afford Janis the freedom she lacked
in her past format. I also hoped that
Big Brother would be able to discover
the range of their growing potential.
I was wrong on both counts. Instead,
Janis has lessened her scope and Big
Brot?iax^has dispersed, irrevocably
(Cont. from page 2)
Job Sanders' new ballet. Fugi
tive Visions, is such a piece of work.
The fugitives, those visions that
terrify us, that burst us with joy,
that make us wonder, that persuade us
into who knows what, scatter themselves
through our lives, catch us by sur
prise, alter us without warning. The
result, in the ballet is just what I
have described above. In the last
movement, danced fully and petrify-
ingly by Miss Winter and Company, a
great sense of separation and alone-
ness fills the stage. A non-descript
vision appears; each of the young
dancers is frozen by what seem the
most horrific of individual percep
tions, each is moved to his own ac
tion. Yet from this fear is ex
tracted a unification; all have under
stood the terror of Miss Winter's char
acter because they have felt their own
fear; each responds. The drawing to
gether of the company, the single em
brace they cling to with the tenacious
power of human desires makes clear
the responsibility, the danger, the
strength possible when single people,
through feeling their own passions
and terrors, can expand themselves
shaken by the effect of long years
of waiting for success and having
Janis leave only six months after
that success was first realized.
Cosmio Blues, by most other ar
tists, might be considered a valid,
at times penetrating, release. But
coming from Janis Joplin, the Queen
Bee of rock, it is a dismal failure.
The emotive power and drive of the
band she has assembled should be
pushing her, not allowing to slip in
to complacency. Her singing should
be stinging and sharp, not weak,
pseudo imitations of emotion. Cozmio
Blues should be many things it is not.
It almost seems that Janis no longer
I suspect that Janis' decision to
use horns grew out of a hope they
would strengthen her once striking
vocal ability, much in the same way
that the Memphis/Stax house band lent
guts to the music of Otis Redding.
But the horns here are useless, stiff,
and sterile, sounding like a Memphis
Blood, Sweat, and Tears. No where is
the rich gustiness that Booker T.
Jones directs at Stax. A pity too,
because there are some fine young horn
men in this band. Among them is
Terry Clements, a tenor saxophonist,
who, if given the opportunity to
stretch out, could make the instru
ment important once more in rock music.
The songs on Cozmio Blues are
typically Joplin - lonely, bitter
crys of lost love and sexual anguish.
But they are circular, go no where,
and end in a wallowing of patented
Joplin screams and pants. If such
hysteria is supposed to compensate
for the lack of content
The final embrace did not end
when the last dancer was enfolded
around Miss Winter. It spread through
the theatre, caught this writer and
swept him to a height so far above
his normal standing that he could see,
clearly, honestly, completely. And
in that sight, that damnably fugi
tive vision, he saw an understand
ing and is better for it.
Mr. Sanders' work, then, succeeds.
It deals with us, with our feelings
of our humanity. We find in Mr.
Sanders' memory a common memory; we
find in his expression one which we,
had we the means, would express; we
find in his compassion our own pow
ers of love and beauty; we find, in
a single man's work, what we, too,
should work toward, the single and
difficult knowledge of ourselves.
In Mr. Noble's ballet, also
world premiered, a far different as
pect of human expression arises.
FUq Flao is light hearted, gay, even
giddy. The work is technically
(Cont. on page 5)
elsewhere in the music, it misses
considerably. She gives the Bee
Gees' To Love Somebody an ad
mittedly new interpretation, but in
doing so, loses much of the song's
poignant character. Eric Burdon
and the Animals did a version with
as much success. Little Givi
Blues starts strong, slow and heavy,
but stays there, building no tension
whatsoever. (In fact, most of the
tension Janis creates is forced).
Wopk Me Lord seems to be an exercise
in screaming technique. We know
you can do it, Janis, really, you
don't have to prove it all the time.
Only on Maybe does any
(Cont, on page 5)
£d» + or I'cLL '
(Cont. from page Z)
what he thought was wrong with the
school. Where do the students stand
in Mr. Ward's decision? as in the
past, they do not.
Item: Why have so many students
and faculty (including Dr. Giannini's
own very talented children), at first
as infected with the same ferver as
our late founder himself, left the
school so prematurely and angrily?
Item: Why are so many students
new and old, sounding the death knell
for Dr. Giannini's vision incarnate?
If the School of the Arts were
just another school it would be easy
to write it off as another experi
ment that failed. But the experiment
did not fail, it thrived and grew.
It was nourished by a whole city and
the love of an idealist. Its poten
tial was infinite because the whole
school - students, faculty, and staff -
shared an enthusiasm, a love, a hope.
That hope has been stifled in many.
When it is gone they grow apathetic
and leave. The love, if it exists at
all, is shared only within departments.
The dream is not dead, but the hope
is dying. With students who feel be
trayed and whose only attitude toward
the administration is hostility, co
mmunication is unlikely. To the facul
ty members, who fee intimidated by the
irresponsible dismissal of their
collegues, honesty and openness are a
threat and are abandoned. And at an
arts school with non—communicative
students and furtive, secretive facul
ty members nothing can be shared.
I am not saying that this is
where we are, I am saying that this is
where we are going and where we will be
in not so many months, unless something
changes. Who will change it? The ad
ministration? The board of trustees?
The board of advisors with its ever
present support and advice? Unlikely!
The fate of the school seems sealed.
And that is cause for alarm.