You probably know Pearl, Janis Joplin’s last and best known album, released just a couple of months after she died. This is the home of “Me & Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz,” the two songs every non-Joplin fan knows.
What’s unique about this particular edition is that it’s a Korean reprint from the Tae Do Record Company. I can’t find any information on Tae Do so I don’t know whether they were legitimate licensees or bootleggers, but their sleeves were usually monochromatic and made of pretty thin cardboard. Artwork on this one is slightly different than the American version—both Joplin’s and her backing band’s names have been added to the front cover—but otherwise it’s an exact reproduction right down to the CBS logo on the back.
For me it’s all about the implicit story. In January 1971 we were sending kids off to Vietnam, and occasionally even bringing them home. I like to imagine some jungle weary serviceman on a Korean layover, a short stop on his journey back to the States. He was excited to see something familiar: a record staring at him through a shop window. Something from back home; something connecting him to the guy he was before he was handed an M-16 and ordered to shoot strangers.
He didn’t have a record player. He didn’t have anything more than his duffel bag and the clothes on his back, but he had to buy it. That soldier walked into the shop, laid down his money, and tucked his shitty Korean knockoff copy of Pearl into his bag. There were thousands of miles to fly still, but he was home.
You can pick up a copy for just a couple of bucks, but come on: That kind of history, real or imagined, is priceless. Happy hunting.