1968, Music

Cheap Thrills (1968) by Big Brother and the Holding Company

In the version of the ’60s I got from ’90s music television, Cheap Thrills is one of the seminal documents of the San Francisco psychedelic scene. But listening to it for the first time all these years later, it’s hard to see why it was such a big deal.

I guess it’s considered the best record Joplin put out with Big Brother before going solo. But she is hardly the star of this record, singing backing vocals on some of the songs, leaving Sam Andrew to sing lead at times.

The production is not great, the live tracks sounding particularly poor all these years later, but the whole thing sounds rather dated, in sound of the guitars in particular. (The could be the effects, I guess.)

Outside of the hit single, “Piece of My Heart.” much of the original material is not great, pretty underwritten lyrically and not as catchy as the songs Joplin would later go on to sing on her solo debut.

But the instrumental performances are pretty good – if hardly psychedelic – and one of the guitarists is awesome. (I’m not sure if it’s Andrew, whom Wikipedia credits, or Gurley, whom RYM credits, but one of these guitarists deserves to be better known.) And of course Janis is here, smashing the gender norms of what a woman singer should do. So there’s that.


  1. “Combination of the Two” (Sam Andrew) 5:47
  2. “I Need a Man to Love” (Andrew, Janis Joplin) 4:54
  3. “Summertime” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward) 4:01
  4. “Piece of My Heart” (Bert Berns, Jerry Ragovoy) 4:15
  5. “Turtle Blues” (Joplin) 4:22
  6. “Oh, Sweet Mary” (Peter Albin, Andrew, David Getz, James Gurley, Joplin) 4:16
  7. “Ball and Chain” (Big Mama Thornton) 9:02
  • Janis Joplin – vocals
  • Sam Andrew – guitar, bass, vocals
  • James Gurley – guitar
  • Peter Albin – bass, guitar
  • Dave Getz – drums

with John Simon on piano

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