As a child growing up in the late Sixties/early Seventies in Scotland, my first access to real music was through my older brothers record collection. Sharing a bedroom, I would sneakily play his LPs whenever he wasn’t home. His collection ranged from Genesis (Peter Gabriel era: Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound), David Bowie (Hunky Dory/Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane), Roxy Music(For Your Pleasure, Stranded, Country Life).
Amongst those progressive and glam rockers, were records by Janis Ian. Known as a singer songwriter/folk artist, many of her songs feature a smoky jazz tinged feel, with upright bass and drums played with brushes. I still have no idea how my brother would have come into contact with her music. Can’t remember exactly which of her records he actually had back then: might have been Stars or Between the Lines. I was more a fan of the loud guitars and heavier rock which were everywhere back then but something about Janis’s pared back approach really appealed. Introspective music but with very insightful lyrics and themes.
The other thing which stands out from back then was that my Mother also loved Janis Ians music. My parents were not big music fans and actively disliked most of my brothers “long haired rubbish” music – their idea of good music was Mantonvani: a kind of orchestral muzak. But my Mother made an exception when it came to Janis Ian.
I recently re-discovered Janis Ians music after reading this blog post about her recording of Between the Lines and musicians and producers involved. It details the recording of Between the Lines in 1975 and the contributions of producer Brooks Arthur and the other session musicians involved: https://songsfromsodeep.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/at-seventeen-janis-ian/
As a finale to the story, I decided to make a post on https://www.thegearpage.net/ to see if there were any other fans of Janis’s music there. The Gear Page is a guitarists forum where heated discussions take place on the merits of the Les Paul vs Strat, Fender vs Marshall etc. I got a few replies from people filled with positive comments. Then I get a reply from Janis Ian herself – how cool is that? As you can see, her comments mainly concern her own guitar work on her recordings and playing live. The Internet can be a cool place after all!:
“Thanks for the kind words, everyone! I didn’t do a lot of guitar work on early albums (outside of just trying to play clean), but you can hear more on Strictly Solo and the Unreleased Take No Prisoners album… and of course, in concert. I’ve gotten rid of most of my outboard (though I’m debating adding a wah pedal back in, and I still use an A/B box for tuning). Mostly these days, I depend on my fingers for effects – and the signature Santa Cruz is a really malleable piece of machinery, too! Anyway, thanks again. Much appreciate being part of this page.“
Here are a couple of my favourite Janis Ian songs: