Put The Boot In: Janis Joplin and Jorma Kaukonen – The Typewriter Tape 1964 – “Candy When I’m Good”

by | Jan 19, 2020 | 0 comments

Today in the ‘rock room’ plays a legendary and unique
recording, famed in the ‘bootleg’ world for both its rarity and performance. On
July 25th 1964, smack dab in the middle of the turbulent musical
madness sweeping across the United States two folkies from different worlds met
in an apartment in Santa Clara, California for a practice/jam session prior to
both of their respective performances at San Francisco’s ‘Coffee Gallery. That
afternoon Jorma Kaukonen turned on his tape recorder to capture both his and
fellow vocalist from Port Arthur, Texas Janis Joplin’s 20 plus minute rehearsal
capturing in the ‘rock room’s humble opinion one of the most important aural
rock documents to ever circulate. The ‘Typewriter Tape’ as it would become known, found these two giants of the San Francisco scene and rock history exploring their influences, abilities in the privacy of Jorma’s apartment. In the close
background Jorma’s Swedish wife Margareta types a percussive letter home in the
electric ambiance. Six songs circulate on the recording Kaukonen made that
summer day, Jorma has stated that there were other songs taped, but they have
not made it out to the general listening public as of the writing of this rant. 
San Francisco in 1964 was home to a number of traveling musicians and wayward
youth like Jorma and Janis, looking for direction and driven by their art. Names
like Jerry Garcia, who was a well-known banjo player and guitar teacher and
Paul Kantner (who would soon meet and team up with Jorma in Jefferson Airplane)
were filling the folk clubs and playing jug band melodies. Within a year from
the aforementioned “Typewriter Tape”, the folkies mentioned previously, in
addition to groups like the ‘Byrds’ and Bob Dylan himself would plug in
electric instruments and the sepia toned folk musical landscape would be
decorated with a sunrise of a thousand colors and visions only previously
witnessed in dreams.
Back to the recording at hand, at this time both Jorma and
Janis as well as a host of other musicians made their way to the ‘left coast’ for a way out of the straight edged
expectations of the ‘American Dream’. These talented musicians had made the decision that they were not going
to live the life of their parents. Janis left her deeply conservative live in
Texas where here separatist vibe made here an obvious candidate for defection.
Jorma, moved many times as a youth as a child in a military family, and learned a appreciation
for the blues early in life. By the time he attended college out west he was quite the
purist in the ways of folk and country blues. Both musicians had acquired a deep
understanding of the blues aesthetic even during their formative times, but what
is more than obvious from the vibe of the tape is that it is clear that both are destined for
Kaukonen plays what sounds like a hollow bodied electric
guitar and Janis sings the shit out of the five covers and one original on the
tape. The recording plays like an Alan Lomax field recording from a back porch
in the South. The attitude is so substantial and the talent so undeniable, this
is one of those tapes that is so good I feel guilty listening to it. The
quality is more than reasonable with the guitar and voice audible as well as
the typewriter and Jorma’s boots on the hardwood floor.

The cassette/reel opens with the blues vaudeville standard, “Trouble
In Mind” (this song was officially released on the 1993 boxset Janis) following some tuning and Jorma
mentioning to Janis that the typewriter may be going while they play and maybe
it will keep time. Kaukonen pops the opening licks in serpentine fashion as
Janis enters with the first verse in stunningly. Joplin, just 21 sings with a
husky jubilance. Influenced by Etta James, Tina Turner and Big Mama Thorton
Joplin even at this early age howls with a bawdy throat. Kaukonen is also
stunning in his already exceptional guitar abilities after quite a bit of
practice during his college days. The music has already seeped between their floorboards into their bones. It’s the
only explanation for such a deep internalization and dissemination of a
timeless music created well before each respective musician’s time.
A 12 bar blues, “Long Black Train” follows and spotlights a
malleable Kaukonen solo spot that features a series of dark blue elastic string
bends. Again, Janis illustrates her stunning understanding of the blues idiom
and a deft ability to sink herself into the lyrics. Jorma, shifts his picking
and strumming approach throughout to keep things interesting with Janis close
behind at every corner. At the song’s conclusion Jorma and Janis meet on vocals
and guitar for the concluding lick which elicits a giggle from Janis.
Another blues/rag starts,  hailing from 1927 comes next with “Kansas
City Blues”. Janis and Jorma had met in 1962 so it’s a fascinating look into
their musical relationship by deciphering their repertoire through songs like
this. Their bonding and eventual musical ‘freakness’ was rooted in these early
sessions. Kaukonen starts the “Kansas City” opening lick with a practice run through
before stomping out the tempo and jumping in with both feet. For a fan of these
musicians this may be one of the greatest things you will ever here. Jorma picks
out a groove that jumps like a cricket in a pricker patch, his signature guitar
work instantly recognizable. Janis scats matter of factly, and when she says
she’s going to Kansas City, you believe her, she aint never coming back.
Kaukonen is a well spring of ideas, his string work constantly moving while
Joplin keeps the melody grounded like a fence post in gravel. For the ‘rock
room’ this reading of ‘Kansas City’ foreshadows what is yet to come for both Jorma
and Janis while also encapsulating their deep running respect for influences of
the past.
Jorma comments about the typewriter again before lobbing
some riffs about and beginning the traditional cut, “Hesitation Blues” (Also
featured on the 1993 box set Janis ).
In just a few years the song would be a favorite of ‘Hot Tuna’ fans as it would
feature on their debut LP, as it continues to be a favorite for Jorma and Jack
of  right through today. Here, Kaukonen’s guitar parts twist and knot
their way around his thumping boot heel while Janis leans waaaaaaaaay into
the verses. This is one of the moments where the typewriter moves in and out of
tempo lending a surreal alternative percussion to the jam. Kaukonen’s guitar
has a snug and cozy softness in its tone and slips delicately through the rhythmic
changes. The ease in which Joplin sings her part is comforting and menacing at
the same time. She has already mastered her gruff sensuality, and it’s just not
playing a part for her. “Hesitation Blues”, like “Uncle Sam Blues” would be co-pted
and become a career song for Jorma and the cause of that just may be the way
Janis sung it back in 1964.
“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” is another 1920’s
blues classic that was made popular by Joplin idol Bessie Smith. Classic rock
fans are well familiar with Eric Clapton’s cover of the song on 1970’s: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Here, years prior Kaukonen
and Joplin stay tight to Bessie Smith’s reading with Jorma finger picking out
the brassy melody of the indigo horns of the Smith recording. Joplin mirrors
Smith’s asthetic in some ways, but leaves her unique and substantial stamp all over the
recording. Airy and spacious, Jorma will exhale a stringy lick and Joplin will
undulate her voice in kind. Crisp as a Golden Gate morning Joplin’s perfect dictation
pulls emotions out of the blues that make you wonder how someone so young could sing as if they have lived it. She croons so effortlessly, whenever her voice raises slightly the ambiance
of the room amplifies it to a stunning effect. There is one small stumble toward the
end where both Jorma and Janis’s understanding of the ending of the song
differs, to which Jorma agrees he like Janis’s way better and they conclude the
song together.
The final song available on the circulating recording is an
original Janis Joplin composition and the only one available from this session.
“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy” is a 12 bar blues that begins with some straight and exciting rock
riffing by Kaukonen. This early Janis original uses the theme of the ‘Daddy’
figure and how the protagonist does not want her “Daddy” whether of the sugar variety
or biological kind to be taken away, while the subject states what she can do to keep him happy. While
basic in its construction, Jorma lets an aggressive solo out of the bag in the
songs framework to which Janis can be heard digging on. Again, to the point of redundancy,
Janis is blues vocal perfection.
The cassette ends there and what we are left with is a brief
yet exceptional capture of two rock legends learning, playing, practicing and
honing their craft in a laid back and natural environment. At the time of this sonic document neither knew what the future would hold for their abilities. The magic
contained on the “Typewriter Tape” is a small glimpse of the impetus that would soon
start a multicolored and hallucinatory journey to the stars for Jorma and Janis via their stunning
musical talents. 


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