There are no vocals on this track. Joplin's band, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, the recorded their parts on October 3, 1970 at Sunset Sound studios in Hollywood. Joplin listened to the track and was scheduled to record her vocal the next day, but that night she was found dead from a drug overdose at the Landmark Hotel. The instrumental track was left on the album as a tribute to Janis.
Pearl was released three months after Joplin died. It was her most commercially successful album, going to #1 in the US. It only reached #50 in the UK. "Pearl" was one of Joplin's nicknames.
This song was written by Nick Gravenites, who also wrote the 1969 Joplin songs "As Good As You've Been to This World" and "Work Me, Lord."
Paul Butterfield, who included the song on his 1973 album Better Days, was the first to record a version with lyrics. The song is about someone who is so lonely and tormented, he feels like he's buried alive.
Love, Janis is a book by Janis Joplin's younger sister Laura Joplin, a biography of Janis. Quite a chunk of the book's content is letters from Janis. Since she couldn't be here to sing this track (which you can tell would have been a knock-down-drag-out hit), we'll share this Jack Nicholson anecdote: Backstage at an Elton John concert, Nicholson was there complaining to Janis' manager Albert Grossman about his not having released Janis from her schedule for her to appear in the film Five Easy Pieces. Janis would have played Helena, had the deal gone through. Janis came to her manager's defense: "My managers are terrific. Whatever they wanted to do, they had a reason." Laura notes that one of Janis' defining traits was loyalty.