Bassist Peter Albin recalls the band raising the roof off one day in the 1960s when their playing was interrupted by a knock at the door. Two San Francisco police officers were investigating reports of a woman screaming.
“Oh, that’s just Janis. It’s OK,” came the reply.
That fun nugget — as well as rare footage of the actual rehearsal — enliven “San Francisco Sounds: A Place in Time,” a two-part documentary on MGM+ that concludes Sunday. The first part dropped Aug. 20.
The late Joplin is joined by an astonishing number of great artists who came to define the city — the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, The Great Society, Steve Miller, Carlos Santana, Moby Grape, and Country Joe & The Fish, all mixing rock, folk and the blues.
Viewers get a street-level view of the rise of the San Francisco dream — artistic freedom, community and authenticity — and its fall, thanks to hard drugs, commercialism and increasingly hard edges. The time period is 1965 to 1975, short but sweet.
“It’s not just the music,” says co-director Anoosh Tertzakian. “Everybody was trying to break the rules of whatever their medium was, and I think it’s in that breaking the rules that they found something new. The music was what was keeping the pulse together.”
The docuseries explores how the Grateful Dead got some of their iconic logos, how city music venues Avalon Ballroom and The Fillmore began, how the seminal Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit” came about and how the deaths at the Altamont show soured the hippie mood.
Tertzakian and filmmaker Alison Ellwood, who last teamed up to capture the music of the Los Angeles neighborhood Laurel Canyon, turned their attention north and found a place “on the edge of the earth.”
“It was like every misfit from anywhere in this country who rattled loose, ended up in San Francisco,” the series quotes Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead as saying.