Music: Blows Against the Empire

Blows Against The Empire.

What you gonna do when you see your lady rolling?
How you gonna feel when you see your lady strolling
On the deck of a starship with her head hooked into Andromeda?
— "Starship", Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Marty Balin, Gary Blackman

Blows Against The Empire is the debut studio album by Paul Kantner, released in 1970. A sci-fi concept album, it was released as his band Jefferson Airplane began its downward spiral. The album was described as being by "Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship", but this was before the official formation of the band known as Jefferson Starship, and the album featured various friends of Kantner's, including Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead, David Crosby of The Byrds, Graham Nash of The Hollies, and, of course, several former members of Jefferson Airplane, including Grace Slick who wrote or co-wrote several of the songs on the album.

The album was very loosely based on the novel Methuselah's Children by Robert A. Heinlein. It tells the story of a rag-tag band of hippies, free-thinkers, and radicals who, frustrated with an increasingly oppressive America, decide to hijack the first-ever starship, which is just being completed, and set off to create their own utopia in the sky. The protagonist, a musician and rebel, whose wife is pregnant with her first child, decides to join the hijackers rather than raise his child in an increasingly dystopian world.

It was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, a category normally used for movies. Probably due to the influence of the controversial New Wave Science Fiction movement, it came in second to "No Award", beating every other entry, but still not receiving the award.


Side One

  1. "Mau Mau (Amerikon)" (6:33)
  2. "The Baby Tree" (1:42)
  3. "Let's Go Together" (4:11)
  4. "A Child Is Coming" (6:15)

Side Two

  1. "Sunrise" (1:54)
  2. "Hijack" (8:18)
  3. "Home" (0:37)
  4. "Have You Seen The Stars Tonite?" (3:42)
  5. "XM" (1:22)
  6. "Starship" (7:07)

Bonus Tracks (CD Remaster):

  1. "Let's Go Together (Alternate Version)"
  2. "Sunrise (Demo)"
  3. "Hijack (Demo)"
  4. "SFX"
  5. "Starship (Live)"
  6. "Radio Spots"

Tropes against the empire:

  • Arcology: The Generation Ship which the protagonists hijack is an arcology:
    Hydroponic gardens and forests
    Glistening with lakes in the Jupiter starlight.
  • The Caper: The protagonists' plan: steal Earth's first starship for themselves.
  • Concept Album: One of the earliest, and one of the first to be based on a specific novel.
  • Free-Love Future: One of the things the protagonists are seeking as they set of with their freshly-stolen starship.
  • Generation Ship: A Ragtag Bunch of Hippies hijack a generation ship and set off for the stars.
  • La Résistance: The hijackers have been members of America's La Résistance for decades before deciding on a new plan.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Sunrise", written entirely by Grace Slick, opens with her singing the title before any instruments join in.
  • New Wave Science Fiction: Although it was loosely based on a classic SF novel, the protagonists were replaced by a rag-tag band of hippies in search of free love and free music, and the musical experimentation on the album, especially the section where the Generation Ship launches, made it a favourite among New Wave SF fans.
  • One-Word Title: "Sunrise", "Hijack", "Home", "XM", "Starship".
  • Oppressive States of America: The increasingly oppressive and fascistic government of the US, which has outright declared rock-and-roll illegal, inspires a rag-tag band of hippies to hijack a starship.
  • Protest Song: The album's opener, "Mau Mau", is a classic anti-war protest song of the sort the Jefferson Airplane had done several times previously.
  • Psychedelic Rock: The entire album is a psychedelic epic, filled with drug references and the like. The song "XM", in particular, is an experimental piece designed to represent the launching of the great starship.
  • Questioning Title: "Have You Seen The Stars Tonite?"
  • Rock Opera: One of the earliest, released only two years after Tommy.
  • Sampling: During the hijack scene, an audio clip from George Pal's The War Of The Worlds 1953 is used.
  • Take a Third Option: Faced with continuing a seemingly never-ending battle against an increasingly oppressive American government, or surrendering and giving up their ideals and dreams, the protagonists decide instead to hijack the first-ever starship and set off for themselves.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: Discussed as part of an analogy in "Mau Mau":
    Tyrannosaurus rex was destroyed before
    By a furry little ball that crawled along
    The primeval jungle floor,
    And he stole the eggs of the dinosaur.
  • War Is Hell: "Mau Mau (Amerikon)"
    You unleash the dogs
    Of a grade-B movie star governor's war
    While you sit in the dark
    Insane with the fear of dying