Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen "The Legendary Typewriter Tape: 6/25/64 Jorma's House" (2022 release)

On Record Store Day Black Friday 2022, Omnivore Records will issue the first official release of a long-circulated bootleg recording. This recording, known as the "Typewriter Tape", was informally recorded in 1964 by a pre-fame, pre-hippie duo of Janis Joplin and Jorma Kaukonen. The Legendary Typewriter Tape: 6/25/64 Jorma's House will be limited to 3,500 vinyl LP copies, with liner notes by Kaukonen and sound restoration by engineer Michael Graves. The album will be released digitally and on CD on December 2nd.

The Legendary Typewriter Tape was recorded on reel-to-reel tape at the then-23-year-old Kaukonen's house in Santa Clara, California, as the guitarist-to-be of the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna was rehearsing blues covers with the 21-year-old Joplin, before she joined Big Brother And The Holding Company. The title refers to the occasional background noise made by a typewriter, which was being used by Kaukonen's late wife Marguereta to write a personal letter. Perhaps Marguereta should be credited with percussion!

Joplin and Kaukonen first met at a hootenanny in San Jose in 1962, when the San Francisco music scene of the '60's was in the earliest stages of its development. To put the time of this recording into perspective: it was made the year before the formation of either the Airplane or the Holding Company, and the year before the war in Vietnam began to escalate. It was three years before the Summer of Love, and at least two years before the term "psychedelic rock" was coined. And it was six years before Joplin tragically died at age 27 in 1970.

Based on the sound of this recording, the two Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductees seemingly had little or no interest in rock and roll music at that moment in time. You won't hear Janis belting out dem ol' kozmic blues that made her a legend. This rehearsal recording was grounded in a more earthy form of the blues, mostly consisting of covers of old blues songs from the 1910's and '20's, including Richard M. Jones' "Trouble In Mind" from 1924, and Jim Jackson's "Kansas City Blues" from 1927. Joplin's old-fashioned blues voice is as impressive, in its own way, as her later rock-and-roll voice. Her singing has a genuine feeling for the material here, particularly when she covers her idol Bessie Smith's 1929 song "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out". Kaukonen's acoustic blues guitar picking is fascinating and has a similarly commanding feeling for the material, often foreshadowing his work with Hot Tuna (especially when the duo covers the 1916 Prince's Band tune "Hesitation Blues", which Hot Tuna would later cover as well). At the end, the duo are heard performing an original Janis Joplin song titled "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy". Although that song's sound is consistent with the old blues tunes that are covered, it also gives just a slight hint of what was to come later from Janis.

I am glad to see that The Legendary Typewriter Tape is being given a proper release, since it is too significant to the history of '60's music to simply languish as a bootleg for as long a time as it has. As of this writing, I have not yet heard the official release. But I hope that Michael Graves' sound restoration makes Joplin's vocals clearer, as her voice tends to sound more distant than Kaukonen's guitar on the bootleg. While I am certainly hoping for more cleaned-up sound quality, I also hope it isn't cleaned up too much, because the lo-fi sound is a part of what makes the recording sound so authentic as early-20th-century-style blues. And, of course, I hope the typewriter sound is not mixed out, because it sometimes sounds like a vague percussion instrument. And besides, it is accidentally an essential part of this historical recording -- so much so that the album is named after it!

Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen "The Legendary Typewriter Tape: 6/25/64 Jorma's House" (Omnivore OV-495) 2022

Track Listing:

1. "Are We Taping Now?"
2. Trouble In Mind
3. Long Black Train
4. Kansas City Blues
5. Hesitation Blues
6. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out
7. "How 'Bout This?"
8. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy