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Friday, February 18, 2011

Metal Louvre: Big Brother and The Holding Company - Cheap Thrills

Sure, Big Brother and The Holding Company was more blues and acid rock, and Janis Joplin was more a soul and blues mama, but there's no denying they left a monster imprint upon the future of rock on its way towards developing the vein of metal. Ask any hard rock or heavy metal band coming up in the wake of Big Brother if they weren't affected by the screeching, pounding thrum of "Combination of the Two" "Piece of My Heart," "I Need a Man to Love" or their crushing reinterpretation of "Ball of Chain," I'd say they're a fricking liar.

The cover of Cheap Thrills was illustrated by Art Crumb, whose main claim to fame is the raunchy animated sex 'n pot romp, Fritz the Cat. Yet, I feel his Cheap Thrills artwork remains his true calling card, at least on a singular level. As a child, I was mystified and transfixed by the Cheap Thrills album and would sit with it in my lap while my mother played it almost anytime I asked for it. I like to say I was weaned on Motown, Jimi and Janis plus the early seventies pop standards of the times. Thus, Cheap Thrills will always be an endearment to me.

My progressive mom never took issue that I was staring at the headlights of the cartoon Janis in the panel for "I Need Someone to Love," nor was she worried about me figuring out what a doobie was or the fact a turtle is puffing away on a ciggie. I was always sucked into the toking cyclops, the dancing number two, the turban-doused man with an unspoken moment of a-ha! he's pushing off the cover, Janis' ball and chain, and that somewhat horrific panel of the cut-off facial with the guy tugging at his eye and the upright feet in the background. As a child, I thought they'd gotten into a fight or worse, a murder had occurred. With age and experience grows the morning after dawning of truth, heh...

By today's social mores, the Cheap Thrills album cover is somewhat politcally incorrect, yet this was a time of enormous social upheaval and it is representative of the riot-filled times in sixties and post-sixties America. The Haight was alive with music and art back then, even if it's now become more of an underground subculture than in its prime. If its legacy has any extension into modern times aside from its most notable musicians and political activists, the Cheap Thrills album is purely symbolic on all levels of aesthetic.


metalodyssey said...

A Metal kudos for bringing such a Rock historic album cover to the spotlight here. You are so right about this cover being "politically incorrect" now. It's revisiting such marvelous art from the past that may just correct our societal "uptightness" of today... then again, that may be wishful thinking on my part. Fabulous post!

- Stone

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Thank you kindly. I've always been an advocate of this album from top-to-bottom. Most people would be appalled to see the old Dean Martin roasts, much less this cover, but the intent of each, like All in the Family, was to bring the core social issues to the front and show them for what they are

metalodyssey said...

Man, one of these days I want to "score" an entire set of those Dean Martin Roasts on DVD... at a cheap price... at an "off of the course" flea market.

They don't make comedians like that anymore, like we saw on Dean Martins Roasts. Talk about the good old days!

- Stone

Anonymous said...

The guy in the lower left corner isn't just "tugging" on his eye; he's actually put a 'hit' in his eye, which was sometimes done back in the day.