Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music – The Jazz & Pop Writings 1968 – 1971 by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison
It’s funny to be writing a review of an anthology of musings on now legendary albums on the same day I read a review of a Nine Inch Nails concert where the writer (from the Associated Press, no less) said the highlight of the evening was the show stopping encore – “a cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt.'” The review didn’t bother to research that the song was in fact a Nine Inch Nails song! For now, let’s forgive that horrible oversight and jump in the time machine. Let’s go back, way back, to the late 1960s when new music sounded like nothing you’d ever heard before and each week saw the release of a mind-blowing album. Enter Patricia Kennealy-Morrison. Her book “Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music – The Jazz & Pop Writings 1968 – 1971” is a collection of her reviews from the golden age of rock and roll. For those of us that weren’t around in this heyday, Patricia sets the stage by describing the times. From free records and free love to gaining back stage access and overcoming rampant sexism in the industry, Patricia was lucky enough to have some incredible stories and even better – she got paid to write about them!
In music today, when talking about artists, the first words that come to mind are “sounds like [insert classic band name here].” In the late 1960s, you had to be a lot smarter because the music that was being released often sounded like nothing you’d ever heard before (or since!). Keeping these thoughts in mind, reading her reviews of records such as “Cheap Thrills” by Big Brother and the Holding Company are even more essential as she dissects the nuances of how the songs sound on the album versus how they were performed in concert, an experience many of us would kill to have had. In the end, she recommends the album by telling the reader, “it’s wild, it’s exciting, it’s exuberant as hell, and it loves you.”
As if it weren’t enough to try and explain Janis Joplin to people that may not have been familiar with her music at the time, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison also had the formidable task of reviewing “The White Album,” “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be” by The Beatles. Having lived in a world where those albums always existed, I found myself setting “Rock Chick” down many times to just close my eyes and imagine a time where these legendary recordings were being heard for the first time. By today’s standards, you could not say that every cut on each album is anything but essential (except “Octopus’ Garden,” which has not gotten better with age), but at the time, she explains her honest feelings on “The White Album” – “the first time I heard it, I thought it was spectacular, then I thought it was dismal. Now I think I won’t think about it, but just dig it, because more than anything it is a happy album.” She rightly compares the tensions of the songs on “Let It Be,” to the sound of creaky floor boards about to cave in from the pressure and further goes on to state that the album might as well be called “Rest In Peace.”
“Rock Chick” isn’t all about album reviews, however. Patricia wrote about her experiences at Woodstock, going to music events with the art elite (read: art snobs) at the Whitney Museum (some things never change!), critical analysis of the changing times (foreshadowing the dismal state of music today) both for women and the music industry, rants about the rising cost of ticket prices (to $10 at the time – oh, to be so lucky now!) and interviewing future legends such as Jeff Beck. Her reviews are peppered with after thoughts, written specifically for the book, that put into context what was happening at the time, both in her personal life as well as the politics of the magazine, which brings us to perhaps the most important reviews she wrote – those of The Doors. If you are unfamiliar with Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, you are about to find out where the Morrison in her name originates.
Getting to interview The Doors on a trip to New York as they were recording their most left of center record (and perhaps my favorite), “The Soft Parade,” Jim Morrison and Patricia Kennealy really hit it off, to put it mildly. This is where “Rock Chick” and Kennealy-Morrison’s autobiography “Strange Days – My Life With and Without Jim Morrison” fits in perfectly as a companion book. “Strange Days” elaborates on the romance and ultimate wedding of Jim and Patricia and we get to be flies on the wall for some of the most epic stories in rock and roll. Despite their relationship, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison had no problem calling The Doors out on a weak track and refused to write a glossy review of Jim Morrison’s first poetry books “The Lords and The New Creatures,” to placate her lover. She goes on to explain that Jim appreciated her honesty and in fact felt that her review was constructive criticism and as Patricia points out, a marriage proposal followed several days after the publication of the article, so clearly the artist valued her journalistic integrity. “Rock Chick” also features her reviews of “Morrison Hotel,” “The Soft Parade,” “13” and “Absolutely Live.” Kennealy-Morrison had left Jazz & Pop prior to the release of “LA Woman,” so no review is included, but again some of the behind the scenes stories of “LA Woman” are featured in “Strange Days.”
The times changed and Patricia Kennealy-Morrison moved on from Jazz & Pop to become a copywriter for RCA Records, getting to work with and write ad campaigns for David Bowie, The Kinks and Lou Reed, just to name a few artists. Ultimately, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison would go on to write 14 other books (with more on the way): the science-fantasy series “The Keltiad” as well as “The Rock and Roll Murders: The Rennie Stride Mysteries,” of which she drew inspiration from her real life experiences in ‘the biz,’ as well as her autobiography “Strange Days – My Life With and Without Jim Morrison.”
Flash forward to present day. We live in a world where music is instantly forgettable and reviews are often more tedious and pretentious than the music itself. Books like “Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music – The Jazz & Pop Writings 1968 – 1971” by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison are living proof that it was not always that way – far from it, actually.
Janis Joplin - The Pearl Sessions. Available April 17, 2012
Great news for Janis Joplin fans! 2012 will see the release of not one but two sets of unreleased Janis music from Columbia / Legacy Recordings! On April 17, 2012 “Janis Joplin – The Pearl Sessions” will be released. The double disc set will feature the entire “Pearl” album as well as the mono single masters of the tracks “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Half Moon,” “Cry Baby,” “Get It While You Can,” “Move Over” and “A Woman Left Lonely.” The second disc will feature 8 previously unissued takes from the recording sessions of “Pearl,” Joplin’s last LP as well as “in the studio chatter.”
The tracklist for disc 2 is:
Overheard in the Studio / Get It While You Can (Take 3) / Overheard in the Studio / Get It While You Can (Take 5) / Overheard in the Studio / Move Over (Take 6) / Move Over (Take 13) / Move Over (Take 17) / Me and Bobby McGee (demo) / Me and Bobby McGee (Take 5 – alternate) / Cry Baby (Alternate version) / A Woman Left Lonely (Alternate Vocal) / Overheard in the Studio / My Baby (Alternate Take) / Overheard in the studio / Get It While You Can (Take 3) / My Baby (Alternate Take) / Pearl (Instrumental) / Tell Mama (Live in Toronto)
If the Full Tilt Boogie Band is not your thing and you are more of a Big Brother and The Holding Company Janis fan, never fear – “Live At The Carousel Ballroom 1968,” a previously unreleased concert recorded in San Francisco, is being released on March 13, 2012.
The tracklist for “Live At the Carousel Ballroom 1968” is:
Combination of the Two / I Need A Man To Love / Flower in the Sun / Light Is Faster Than Sound / Summertime / Catch Me Daddy / It’s a Deal / Call On Me / Jam – I’m Mad / Piece of My Heart / Coo Coo / Ball and Chain / Down On Me / Bonus Track: Call On Me (live)
Janis Joplin Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968. Released March 13, 2012.
Sometimes life is too surreal to be believed. I am a die-hard Janis Joplin fan and several years ago, I was elated that her appearances on the Dick Cavett Show were released in full on DVD. One of the best episodes was from 1970, where just mere months before Janis died, she appeared on the Dick Cavett Show and one of the other guests was actress Raquel Welch. The episode is epic in every way from Janis’ performance of “Get It While You Can,” to her and Raquel engaging in conversation with Dick Cavett. The Cavett box sets that are available on DVD are so great, if you don’t have them or haven’t seen them – I cannot recommend them highly enough. Now that you know the back story, imagine finding out that for a Raquel Welch retrospective film festival, the legendary Dick Cavett would interview Raquel in person to talk about her career?! I hoped that one of the discussion topics would be about Janis and lo and behold – the first part of the interview granted me my wish. I am passing this greatness onto you, so please enjoy watching Dick Cavett and Raquel Welch talking about Janis Joplin on February 11, 2012.
On February 11, 2012 when singer Whitney Houston was breaking on through to the other side at one of my old haunts in Los Angeles, 3000 miles away in New York, history was also being made – but on a happier note. All weekend at the Walter Reade Theatre, the Film Society at Lincoln Center has been paying tribute to one of the goddesses of the silver screen – Raquel Welch. When Raquel was getting her start in the 1970s, she appeared on Dick Cavett’s popular TV talk show. If you’ve ever seen her appearance (and it’s available on DVD – so seeing it is a must!), you saw the sparks fly between Dick Cavett and Raquel Welch. All these years later, the pair reunited for an in-person interview that was conducted prior to a screening of “The Three Musketeers,” starring Ms. Welch.
My first thoughts on getting the chance to see history being made before my eyes was my hope that Dick Cavett and Raquel Welch would reminisce about Raquel’s first appearance on the Dick Cavett Show because in addition to Raquel’s appearance, another one of my goddesses was on the show that night – Janis Joplin! As my incredible luck would have it (and don’t worry, I’ll be passing this luck on to you, my dear readers), the first thing they talked about was Janis! From that point on, you could knock me over with a feather, but the hour long interview was just like being at a taping of Cavett’s legendary show as he interjected his witty jokes in between questions and answers and Raquel Welch was more than happy to open up to fielding questions from all aspects of her incredible career.
Raquel looked absolutely stunning as the sex siren is 71 years old! She attributes her great body to her daily routine of Yoga and staying out of the sun. She joked that it takes her 9 hours to get ready every day. They also talked about the fact that Raquel has been voted the number two sexiest woman of film (with number 1 being Marilyn Monroe). Raquel said she never got a chance to meet Marilyn and that her and Monroe were nothing alike – though they are often compared to each other.
Dick Cavett and Raquel Welch
As I mentioned before, a video will be coming soon of Dick Cavett and Raquel Welch talking about Janis Joplin, so stay tuned. I am still in awe after seeing these two legends in this format right in front of my eyes! Thanks Dick and Raquel for a night I will never forget!
Top: A photo of Nikka Costa that I took. Bottom: Janis Joplin's "I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama" album cover
A few years ago, I was in Los Angeles seeing one of my favorite performers, the one and only Nikka Costa. Her music, if you don’t know it, it soulful and funky. I’ve often tried to describe her sound to people as what you’d get if James Brown and Janis Joplin had a musical baby! If you’ve not heard Nikka’s music, I urge you to fix that immediately! I was in the front row watching Nikka Costa deliver a goose bump inducing performance of her song “Push and Pull.” (A video from Nikka performing “Push and Pull” in New York will be coming soon, so stay tuned!) In the middle of the song, I couldn’t help but feel that Janis Joplin’s spirit was ever present in the room with us. I took out my camera and snapped a photo of Nikka Costa living completely in the moment. When I reviewed my pictures after the concert was over, I couldn’t believe the similarities between my photo (pictured on top) and the cover of Janis Joplin’s “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama” album cover (as pictured below). Needless to say, the photo became my favorite photo I’ve ever taken.
I was fortunate enough to meet Nikka Costa last week when she performed another amazing show in New York and I was able to tell her the above story as well as having her sign my photo! Yay for me! Thanks again to Nikka Costa for always putting on a great show and for signing this photo which is already framed and hanging proudly in my house.