Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin:
Sexual Liberation for Our
Tabloid Generation

© Brandt Hardin

Rumor has it that Jimi fucked Janis in the Filmore’s rancid backstage bathroom after Monterey Pop. The southpaw guitarist could reputedly fill more than a concert hall to max capacity, though with Janis that’s a questionable accomplishment. Jimi got a piece of every chick within cock’s length—which was far-reaching, according to the Plaster Caster groupies who made a ceramic mold of his womb broom—and Janis gave her crumbling cookie away like a socialist girl scout. Two free lovers making a cosmic connection over a commode.  Given the direction of pop culture in ’67, it seems inevitable that these two would bump uglies in San Francisco, and perhaps fated that three years later they would die on opposite sides of the planet within sixteen days of each other, both at the age of 27.

Neither star had it easy coming up in the 50s. Skinny, half-Injun Jimi wandered the working class neighborhoods of Seattle, WA, shoplifting groceries and getting thwacked by his old man until he finally broke free to enlist in the Air Force. Chubby, pimple-faced Janis got bullied around her little hometown of Port Arthur, TX before ditching her bland, middle-class folks for the paisley hordes of Haight-Ashbury.

By the mid-60s, Jimi had toured his way from Nashville to New York, playing back-up for Little Richard and King Curtis with an envious eye on the spotlight. Janis was jamming West Coast concert halls, as well as jamming needles with her new lover, the lead guitarist for Big Brother & the Holding Company.

In June of 1967, Jimi and Janis shared the bill for the Monterey International Pop Festival, the San Fransisco shindig now credited for bringing cutting edge rock n’ roll out of the idealistic underground and into the corporate profit margin.

The youth culture of “liberation” flowered during the Summer of Love, and Monterey Pop was to be its ultimate cross-pollination. ABC got the film rights. Over a thousand journalists were given tickets and encouraged to spread the word. The country was in the throes of political unrest, the Vietnam War, and black urban riots—it was high time for Middle America to tune in and turn on to sex, drugs, and trendy digs. Monterey Pop was about bringing the liberating power of music to the masses. It was also a jam session of the dancing dead, where Otis Redding, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Mama Cass, and Jerry Garcia got down as though tomorrow would never come.

Monterey Pop was Joplin’s big breakthrough into the mainstream. She had bummed around San Francisco for years at that point, playing background tunes for the trippy hipster dances, scraping for a dime, and getting poked by everything from strange dick to dirty needles. By the next year, she was a national star.

Janis was an unlikely sex symbol—a kinky-haired, acne-scarred, gravel-voiced shrew swilling a bottle of Southern Comfort. Most reasonable men would prefer raw liver in a greasy rubber glove. And yet, everyone who saw her perform was transfixed by the oozing sexuality upon which her bare feet slid into the spotlight. Her performance had more balls than a billiards table. Record executives noticed, and soon she was whisked off to New York with her band in tow, where they would begin recording Cheap Thrills.

By the time he took the stage at Monterey Pop, Hendrix had already been discovered in Greenwich Village by ex-Animals bassist, Chas Chandler, who immediately invited Hendrix to London where he joined two ‘fro-sporting white boys—Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. Monterey Pop would be the American debut of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The left-handed guitarist had already created a sound that no other player could touch, but he pulled out all the stops for San Francisco. After a brief introduction by Brian Jones, Jimi humped and stroked his guitar like a six-stringed wing-wang. He played with his teeth, he played behind his head, he lit his fucking instrument on fire like a child sacrifice to Moloch. The cameras were rolling, the journalists scribbled furiously, and America was ready for a new high priest to preside over their Electric Church.

Jimi and Janis were sizzling icons of the liberation generation whose brief lives momentarily transcended society’s polar opposites: black and white, man and woman, right and wrong. They are remembered today for crossing race and gender barriers that few had dared breech before them.  Jimi was the black man dressed in girly regalia who played the white man’s rock n’ roll. Janis was the butch ball-buster who reached into the soul of black blues and darkened it with the black hole in her soul.

Jimi and Janis are remembered for their fashion sense, their intelligence, and their revolutionary artistry, but perhaps more than any of these, they are renowned for screwing more ass than a blind carpenter turned loose in a proctology clinic. Jimi’s music throbs with phallic dominance, while Janis’ songs drip desperate sexual desire. These two fucked so many people so many times, you have to wonder when they ever had time to write music.

In the early days of his career in Nashville, when a guitar was as hard to come by as a decent day’s wage, Jimi preferred the company of well-off sugar mamas. He hopped from bed to pocket book, and always had a good breakfast in the morning.

Once he made it to Harlem, he fell in with the whores and strippers, most notably sixteen year-old Diana Carpenter. She kept Jimi afloat by turning tricks until the night he came home to find a john choking her in the bathroom. Later on, when he found out she was still whoring behind his back, Jimi whipped her viciously with a belt, exclaiming, “I’ll show you that fat meat is greasy!”—whatever the hell that means. Diana was pregnant with his first (known) daughter, Tamika, at the time, but the young prostitute was shipped back to her parents in the Midwest after the police caught her picking up a john, forever separating the guitarist from his firstborn. Jimi immediately consoled himself between the legs of his first white girlfriend, Carol Shiroky, whom he soon climbed over for the next chick with no remorse.

Though she denies any hanky panky, the first high-class broad that Jimi fell in with was Linda Keith, who was dating Keith Richards at the time. In May of ’66 she turned Jimi on to LSD at a small party, and Jimi never looked back from that cosmic vision. At one point in the evening he caught a glimpse of the future in the mirror where he saw Marilyn Monroe staring back at him. It was through Linda’s high profile connections that Jimi was able to break free of traditional Harlem R&B and move into the eclectic scene of Greenwich Village. In an uncharacteristically sentimental moment just days before he died, Jimi presented Linda with one of his guitars. Inside the case was every letter she’d ever written to him.

Jimi met Kathy Etchingham on the day he arrived in London, and considered her one of his girlfriends up until a few months before he died. Of course, Hendrix continued to spread his seed freely, but he didn’t like the idea of Kathy getting out and about with the boys, especially when he was drinking. On one occasion at the Bag O’ Nails club in London, he found her talking on a public phone and assumed it was a lover. He snatched the phone from her hand and proceeded to beat her face with the receiver until Paul McCartney and John Lennon pulled him off. This wouldn’t be the last time a woman caught the foul end of a drunk Jimi’s bottle of booze.

Everyone knows that loose women gravitate toward rock stars like rubberneckers on fresh roadkill, but Jimi was exceptional in his promiscuity and stamina. It was not uncommon for him to be found in bed with four or five groupies at a time, even as he maintained “steady” relationships with various girlfriends, such as strung out super-groupie Devon Wilson or Latina Playboy bunny Carmen Borrero. Producer Ronnie Spector called Jimi the “black Hugh Hefner.”

Jimi was all about acid and aliens for the most part, but after the trips started wearing on his nerves, his taste for heroin/cocaine cocktails grew steadily. It was better for him than the booze, apparently. The first time jealous Jimi smashed the lovely Carmen in the face with a liquor bottle, he sent her to the hospital, where they barely saved her eye. The second time, he nearly threw her out of a window. But that didn’t stop him from drinking, which didn’t discourage him from sniffing up dope, which made for a nice come down from all the psychedelics.

© Brandt Hardin

Most needle junkies have the libido of a deflated soccer ball, but Janis Joplin’s hardcore heroin habit didn’t keep her from smearing knobs across the Northern Hemisphere. She took on big men and little guys, gorgeous hippie chicks and frumpy junkies like herself. Southern Comfort got the conversation going and heroin was the foreplay. When it was all over with, her pillow was there to soak up the lonesome tears.

Janis always talked about wanting a man she could hold on to, a decent man, a husband, a father, a soul mate. She was so self-conscious about her looks and her weight, but she wasn’t about to let that stop her from test driving every cock on the market. I suppose nobody told her that square husband/father types don’t usually go all in for a turbo-slut. That probably wouldn’t have stopped her, anyway.

People who knew the bold singer always said “she’s got balls,” “she was ballsy,” or “man, what a set of balls,” but it’s possible they were just looking at the wrong person’s anatomy, because Janis’ pussy was backed up with more testicular traffic than an L.A. freeway. She claimed to have fucked “thousands of men,” “a few hundred women,” plus every member of Big Brother & the Holding Company. Janis fucked guitarists and gypsies, hitch-hikers and harlots, law students and long-hairs, bikers and bassists, con artists and space cadets, football stars and fuck ups, singers and songwriters. She did two-ways, three-ways, and four-ways with the casual air of a Sunday brunch. In fact, she was scheduled for a nice three-way with two long-term partners the night that she died. Bob Seidemann, who snapped her “first hippie pin-up girl” photo (and also fucked her), had this to say (about her soul, you pervert):

“Whoa, it’s too big for me, I can’t fill that hole. I’d be shoveling all day…That was [Janis's] tragedy—she couldn’t fill that hole.”

My imagination is filled with scenes of Janis and Jimi in that pube-strewn Filmore bathroom, his bulging black battering ram showing the beginnings of a blister, towering, looming, then descending down to a bush bigger than his afro. Janis’ spine-shivering screech echoes off the tiles as Jimi wraps her sagging bat-wings around his balls like a fleshy pink turban. Total liberation, man. Groovy.

Both singers were showing tremendous tour fatigue by the time they shared a bill again at Woodstock in the summer of ’69. Janis had left Big Brother & the Holding Company behind to become a bigger-than-life rock n’ roll starlet, poised to spearhead the uprising of obnoxious banshees everywhere. Surrounded by Haight-Ashbury clones in Upstate New York and locked into an endless string of stages, hotels, and heroin, Janis was coming down with a bad case of the blues. To top it off, there was nowhere at the festival to get her spike on in private. She was so strung out at that point that she dragged her lesbian lover through scraggly clumps of Plebeian detritus into a porto-potty piled high with hippie turds, where they both shot a fat bag of smack. Life is just one adventure after the next.

Joplin was so plowed when she hit the stage that her shambling performance was left out of the documentary film which solidified that moment in American history as one of peace, solidarity, and brotherly love (although “Work Me, Lord” was added in a more recent edition.) Hendrix’s war zone rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” on the other hand, is often referred to as the defining moment of the Flower Power Sexual Psychedelic Political Racial Religious Revolutionary Love Generation, even though only a handful of groggy kids stuck around that morning to see him perform it.

Unfortunately, his new, all-black group had only been rehearsing for two weeks by the time of the festival, so the rest of Hendrix’s set was a disjointed disaster. Under pressure from his Afrocentric comrades, Jimi had jettisoned his cracker backing band months before to branch out on his own.  A few days after (Pecker)Woodstock, Jimi booked his new, racially pure outfit for a free R&B music festival in Harlem.

Within moments of parking in Harlem, some asshole stole Hendrix’ guitar.  Luckily, the thief’s more aesthetic-minded homeboys somehow got it back in time for the show, which was a total disaster. Black Power types called Jimi’s girlfriend a “white bitch,” assaulted her, and tore her shirt. The hostile crowd booed, threw eggs and bottles him, and that was before he started playing. Only a few hundred stayed to watch the performance. His new, all-black group disbanded soon after.

To make matters worse, Jimi had just returned from a trip to Morocco with bad juju on his back. During an otherwise splendid vacation with his new richy rich pals, Jimi had his Tarot read by an old clairvoyant woman who often worked for the King of Morocco. The first card she turned over was the Star, which seemed promising enough. Then she turned over the Death card. Jimi was terrified. “I’m going to die!” he yelped.

Everyone tried to reassure him that the Death card can mean many things, like new beginnings and rebirth, but Jimi was inconsolable. His sophisticated chums even tried to convince him that Tarot cards are just a bunch of baloney, but Jimi wasn’t hearing that either. This was a man who read The Urantia Book daily, a channeled text which details the epic struggles of extraterrestrial spiritual masters—such as Jesus or Lucifer—for the Soul of humankind. Nobody was gonna tell Jimi about superstition. Death was upon him, man. It was in the cards.

Janis had about all the living she could handle as well. She continued to tour in the months after Woodstock, but her heart just wasn’t in it. She wanted to quit the business, quit shooting heroin, and quit giving out pieces of her heart like moldy bread in a soup kitchen, but she was locked in to the end. She took off for Brazil to get clean, where she fell in love with a law student who tried to convince her to travel the world with the Peace Corps. They ended up back at her place in California instead, where he left her when she immediately got back on the arm-dope. She had an album to record with her new band, anyway.

Jimi Hendrix’ last recording sessions were at his own Electric Lady Recording Studio (named after his previous album) in New York with the reformed Jimi Hendrix Experience, sans Noel Redding. Jimi then embarked on a brief but wearisome European tour, after which he returned to London with his new girl toy, figure skater Monika Dannemann.

On the night of September 18, 1970, the exhausted star ate a tuna sandwich, drank some wine, swallowed a handful of her Vesperax sleeping pills, and within hours, he choked to death on his own vomit. His last song, “The Story of Life,” written the night he died, was found scribbled in Dannemann’s hotel room. The lyrics led a few to believe that his death was no accident:

The story of Jesus
So easy to explain
After they crucified him,
A woman, she claimed his name
When each man falls in battle
His soul it has to roam
Angels of heaven
Flying saucers to some,
Made Easter Sunday
The name of the rising sun
At the moment that we die
All we know
Is God is by our side
The story
Of life is quicker
Than the wink of an eye
The story of love
Is hello and goodbye
Until we meet again

When Janis heard the news, she reportedly balked: “He beat me to it.” Two weeks and two days after his death, Joplin left the recording studio where she had been working on the track “Buried Alive in the Blues.” She called her new boyfriend, who was supposed to join her that evening, but he had decided to stay on at Janis’ house to play strip pool with a few waitresses. Her longtime lover Peggy had also decided to skip their planned three-way in favor of cozying up with her own bag of dope. Furious, Janis returned to her hotel room and shot a hot syringeful. She was found dead of an overdose the next morning, October 4, her nose broken from crashing on the nightstand.

A few days earlier, Janis had mailed a recording of “Happy Trails To You” to John Lennon for his birthday, who received it as an eerie message from beyond the grave. The completed tracks from her new album were released as Pearl three months after her death, which included the prescient track, “Get It While You Can.” Her posthumous album sold more copies than all of her previous albums combined.

Hendrix once told an interviewer, “We play our music—’Electric Church Music’—because it’s like a religion to us.” Jimi may not have been tethered to sensible reality on many occasions, but he certainly nailed that one.  The phallic marble shrine that now marks his grave outside of Seattle still draws thousands of pilgrims every year to pay homage by leaving crayon graffiti and guitar strings to the ancestral spirit of their Electric Church, perhaps praying for one more piece of pussy before death sweeps them away.

© 2011 Joseph Allen

Jimi Hendrix“The Star Spangled Banner”

Janis Joplin“Get It While You Can”