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booksmusicfilmstv.com 1960s Music Index
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Jefferson Airplane, one of THE seminal rock bands of the '60s, were formed in San Francisco in 1965, and the first line-up consisted of Marty Balin (vocals, guitar), Paul Kantner (guitar, vocals), Jorma Kaukonen (guitar, vocals), Jack Casady (bass), and, later, Skip Spence (drums) and Signe Toly Anderson (vocals).
Their debut album, 'Jefferson Airplane Takes Off', was released in 1966. When Spence and Anderson departed, they were replaced by Spencer Dryden and rock's first female superstar, Grace Slick, both having left the Great Society.
Two Great Society numbers, with 'Alice In Wonderland' references, the psychedelic anthems 'Somebody To Love' and 'White Rabbit', were recorded by Ms. Slick's new band, and remain the Airplane's most famous two tracks. Both songs featured on the group's second album in 1967, 'Surrealistic Pillow'. The two songs and the LP made the U.S. Top 10, the album peaking at no. 6.
With the arrival of Grace and Spencer the band became more experimental, combining jazz, folk, blues, and rock, changing from more of a folk rock sound to more of a heavier one, laced with stunning guitar playing, very powerful rhythms, and two vocalists whose voices complemented each other - the softer voice of Marty, the hard edged, dynamic voice of Grace, though the song 'Lather' is a lovely example of a sweet-voiced Gracie.
'After Bathing At Baxter's' was the group's third album, released in 1968, which did less well, but was followed by 'Crown Of Creation' in the same year, which did much better, as did the 1969 'Volunteers' album, which was a very brave album for its time, or any time come to that. The band were lyrically daring, especially with that 'up yours' song for counter culture types, 'We Can Be Together'. The band had really reached its zenith with this album, and at Altamont - that desperate end to the vibrant '60s decade - Marty Balin was knocked unconscious by the Hell's Angels - who the Airplane had previously defended. Not long after, the group started to drift apart, with the band's personnel going off in different musical directions, either while in the band or leaving all together. Despite this, the early '70s still saw the group enjoy great success.
Jefferson Starship evolved out of the Airplane, and were a bigger band commercially, if not as imaginative as the original Jefferson entity. 'We Built This City' and 'Sara' were U.S. number ones, and 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now' was a number one in the U.K. as well as in the U.S.
But the really striking Jefferson legacy is mainly Jefferson Airplane - the wonderfully rich music of dazzling colour and lyrical beauty - 'When The Earth Moves Again', 'Wooden Ships', 'Alexander The Medium', and 'Have You Seen The Saucers', et al.
- Paul Rance/booksmusicfilmstv.com.
Jefferson Airplane Albums
Jefferson Airplane Takes Off RCA 1966
Surrealistic Pillow RCA 1967
After Bathing At Baxter's RCA 1968
Crown Of Creation RCA 1968
Bless Its Pointed Little Head RCA (LIVE) 1969
Volunteers RCA 1969
Bark RCA 1971
Long John Silver BMG 1972
Thirty Seconds Over Winterland RCA (LIVE) 1973
Jefferson Airplane Sony 1989
Jefferson Airplane CDs available from Amazon.com
Jefferson Airplane CDs available from Amazon.co.uk
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