Jefferson Airplane

TrackAlbum
Crown Of CreationCrown Of Creation
Good ShepherdVolunteers
It’'s No SecretJefferson Airplane Takes Off
LatherCrown Of Creation
Somebody To LoveSurrealistic Pillow
Third Week In The ChelseaBark
TriadCrown Of Creation
We Can Be TogetherVolunteers
White RabbitSurrealistic Pillow
Wooden ShipsVolunteers

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Contributor: Peter Viney

Fly Jefferson Airplane. Gets You There On Time.

You’ve got to love a group who titled their first compilation LP The Worst of Jefferson Airplane. Their latest cheap supermarket compilation is a mundane “Best of …”.

I hadn’t thought till I made the list that two of them are written by/with David Crosby (Triad, Wooden Ships). Grace Slick’s voice makes the Airplane versions the definitive ones. Triad is said to be the song that got Crosby evicted from The Byrds. Stephen Stills co-wrote Wooden Ships with Crosby and Paul Kantner.

White Rabbit chooses itself, but it would be in my “Top Ten songs of the Late 60s” list too. Somebody To Love was released as an Airplane single a couple of months earlier, though probably best-known in the version from Grace Slick’s earlier band, The Great Society, because that version appeared on the huge-selling Rock Machine I Love You compilation from CBS in 1968. A live version of It’s No Secret can be found on Bless Its Pointed Little Head.

Nothing from After Bathing At Baxter’s? Somehow it’s an album I listen to, not an album I’d select individual tracks from. The two best albums for me are Crown Of Creation and Volunteers. I still enjoy the irony of driving a stately saloon with We Can Be Together blasting out of the stereo: “Up against the wall motherf*cker … Tear Down The Walls!” I still call Bob Dylan “Bud Dolan” as the Volunteers sleeve notes do.

The dive downwards after Volunteers was sharp, though Bark is still a decent album (Long John Silver isn’t), and I love Jorma Kaukonen’s Third Week At The Chelsea, an unlikely track for most people’s selections, and atypical of Jefferson Airplane’s sound.

I think we can ignore anything with “Starship” on the sleeve, but I still enjoy the absurdity of Blows Against The Empire and the concept of hijacking the first starship and taking hippydom to boldly go where no one has gone before.

 

Paul Kantner (1941–2016)

Marty Balin (1942–2018)

Spencer Dryden (1938–2005)

Skip Spence (1946–1999)

Signe Anderson (1941–2016)

Joey Covington (1945–2013)

Papa John Creach (1917–1994)

Jefferson Airplane official website

Jefferson Airplane biography (iTunes)

Anyone gonna add other good stuff of the Airplane era? How about later albums from Paul Kantner and Grace Slick including Baron Von Tollbooth & The Chrome Nun with Jerry Garcia on lead guitar – how good are these? Or the half a dozen studio albums from Jorma and Jack’s side project Hot Tuna (done – see toppermost #40) or maybe we have an expert on Grace Slick’s handful of solo albums (I liked Dreams a lot, the title track of album number two – Ed.). The Airplane sure did spawn some strange and wonderful music, not to say titles!

TopperPost #36

4 Comments

  1. Merric Davidson
    Aug 2, 2013

    Despite the obvious merits of the classic album Surrealistic Pillow (White Rabbit, Somebody To Love, etc.), the Airplane’s best album is Volunteers. Released right at the end of the 60s the group reached a peak with this one, voices and guitars soaring and combining to produce a memorable collection of songs. You can’t just dip in to Volunteers. It demands a longer listen and the experience is still richly rewarding. A band at the top of its game. Sadly there wasn’t to be another great album. The three tracks that Peter has selected here are excellent but if push comes to shove – which it clearly does – my two for the desert island would be Hey Frederick (“either go away or go all the way in” / “how many machine men will you see”) where Grace Slick’s vocals on her own song are at once tantalising and life affirming – maybe her best ever performance; and then there’s Eskimo Blue Day which is possibly her second most magnificent moment in Jefferson Airplane. Listening to both these again right now does weird things to the hairs on the back of the neck, and then I tuned in to the video with Paul and Jorma thrashing it and I’m done in. Turn it up to eleven!
    Jefferson Airplane perform Eskimo Blue Day in 1970

  2. Peter Viney
    Aug 2, 2013

    OK, with Eskimo Blue Day, the video has me convinced. I agree that Volunteers works on its own and every track deserves to be Toppermost … but so does Crown of Creation. This was indeed a band at the top of its game. Jack Casady was just about the best bass player around at that point. Jorma was and still is an incredible guitarist.

    The human name
    Doesn’t mean shit to a tree

    I had that scribbled on an address book cover, but I also had:

    Life is Change.
    How it differs from the rocks

    From Crown of Creation. I was into “significant” lyrics.

    It strikes me now that “The reason I come, and I go is the same” is the wordplay that inspired Stevie Nicks “the women they will come and they will go” in “Dreams”, but maybe both echo All Along The Watchtower, “and the women came and went” but I don’t really get the sense of wordplay from Bob. And you need a female voice. And Grace Slick’s voice always makes the back of my neck tingle too.

    BTW, I reckon Hot Tuna plus Jorma and Jack solo merits its own Toppermost, if not two.

  3. Rob Millis
    Aug 2, 2013

    Great read; on a phone at the moment but will have another read at home. Would be delighted to contribute a Hot Tuna feature.

  4. Rob Millis
    Aug 2, 2013

    I think the key here is that at least three of us agree that S.P. isn’t necessarily the best Airplane effort; one vote apiece for Crown Of Creation and Volunteers and I would add mine for After Bathing at Baxter’s for sheer abandon and artistic freedom. Truth be told, there is an argument for Bless Its Pointed Little Head trumping the lot: the sheer energy of many cuts there, definitely THE album to hear that primal, rumbling growl of Jack Casady’s bass intertwining like a vine around the drum parts.

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