Columbia/Legacy Recordings celebrates the 50th anniversary of Big Brother & The Holding Company's major label debut with the premiere release of Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills. Issued at long last under its original title (nixed by the label as too controversial a half century ago), Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills restores the band's vision and intent in an essential new collection of 16 rare performances including 12 previously unreleased demos and outtakes from the mythic 1968 sessions that generated Big Brother & The Holding Company's Cheap Thrills, the breakout album that introduced Janis Joplin to the world. It also includes liner notes penned especially for this commemorative release by Jefferson Airplane frontwoman Grace Slick and Big Brother & The Holding Company drummer David Getz.
Originally released in August 1968, Cheap Thrills was an out-of-the-box smash, a No. 1 album that – building on the heat she'd generated at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival – established Janis as rock's foremost primordial psychedelic soul singer, a musical archetype whose influence has never waned. Produced by John Simon, Cheap Thrills was the pure distillation of the band's raw talent and bleeding-edge instrumental prowess, with compelling originals ("I Need a Man to Love," "Combination of the Two") as well as covers of jazz and blues favorites (George and Ira Gershwin's "Summertime," Big Mama Thornton's "Ball and Chain," and, notably, "Piece of My Heart," a now-classic soul ballad, penned by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns, that became one of Janis' signature songs and her top charting single during her lifetime). Cheap Thrills spent a combined total of eight weeks atop the Billboard 200 in two runs during October, November and December of 1968.
Of the 16 tracks showcased on the 2LP edition of Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills, only three have been previously released: "Summertime (Take 2)" (on 1993 Janis compilation); "Roadblock (Take 1)" (on 1999 Cheap Thrills reissue); and "Magic Of Love (Take 1)" (from the Columbia/Legacy Record Store Day release, Move Over!). The original Cheap Thrills featured dubbed-in crowd noise to create the sonic illusion of a live album, though only "Ball and Chain" was actually recorded in concert. An alternate live version of the song – recorded at The Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on April 12, 1968 – is included on Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills.