The San Francisco music scene was bursting with magic during the Sixties and Seventies, from the rise of radio DJs and eye-catching poster artists to Rolling Stone magazine and a number of iconic acts who emerged from it, including the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Steve Miller, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Big Brother & the Holding Company. Directors Alison Ellwood and Anoosh Terzakian sought to bring audiences back to this lightning-in-a-bottle musical moment in San Francisco Sounds: A Place in Time, which covers the years 1965 to 1975.
It’s a spiritual sequel of sorts to their previous Emmy-nominated doc Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time and will premiere Aug. 20 at 10 p.m. ET on MGM+.
“After the experience of working on Laurel Canyon and seeing the richness of connections in the singer-songwriter scene, we wanted to set our sights on the band scene that evolved in San Francisco,” Ellwood and Terzakian tell Rolling Stone. “Taking the immersive and experiential style we employed on LC, we conducted mostly audio-only interviews and combed through hundreds and hundreds of hours of archival footage to mine the stories. What made San Francisco special, both in the music and art of the time, was the ‘no rules’ ethos. They rejected the star-making influence of Hollywood and struck out as pioneers.”
One of many memorable moments in San Francisco Sounds is the discovery of Janis Joplin, who first made it big as the lead singer of the San Francisco psych-rock outfit Big Brother and the Holding Company. In this exclusive clip, watch never-before-seen footage of Joplin’s first rehearsal with Big Brother and the Holding Company, narrated by the band’s bassist Peter Albin.
“The moment Peter Albin told the story about Janis’s first rehearsal in our interview, we knew we would have to make it a scene. SFSU had recently done this incredible 2K transfer of the Firehouse footage and had found 80 more seconds than had ever been seen, so we were thrilled to use it to bring the story to life!” the directors explain.
They add, “Janis was ever-striving. Through the last interviews before her death, she can be heard talking about how she wanted to train her voice and grow as an artist, not only for longevity, but also, she saw it as her purpose. She was full of life and clearly wanted to be sharing her art with the world for much longer than she was able to.”
Joplin left Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1968 to make it as a solo artist and passed away at the age of 27 from a heroin overdose. Rolling Stone ranked Joplin #78 on our list of The 200 Greatest Singers of All Time.