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Music: Jefferson Airplane
aka: Jefferson Starship
"Don't you want somebody to love?"

An American rock band that formed in San Francisco in 1965, Jefferson Airplane has gone through significant stages in its long and storied career.

Jefferson Airplane (1965-1972)

The classic line-up of Jefferson Airplane. Clockwise from bottom-left: Jorma Kaukonen, Spencer Dryden, Jack Casady, Marty Balin, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick.

The original band, Jefferson Airplane, was a Bay Area Folk Music group with a sound comparable to The Byrds and the Lovin' Spoonful. According to Jorma Kaukonen, the name came from a friend, Steve Talbot, who jokingly nicknamed him "Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane" as a parody of the sort of nicknames Blues singers usually adopted (and possibly had Blind Lemon Jefferson in mind), and when nobody else could think of a band name, Kaukonen remembered Talbot's joke and shortened it appropriately. This didn't stop rumours that the original name referred to an impromptu method of holding a too-short marijuana joint. When they first formed in 1965, Jefferson Airplane consisted of Marty Balin and Signe Anderson on lead vocals, Jorma Kaukonen and Paul Kantner on guitar, Bob Harvey on bass and Jerry Peloquin on drums. Harvey and Peloquin didn't last long, and were quickly replaced by Jack Casady and Skip Spence on bass and drums respectively. Airplane would release one album with that line-up before Spence moved on to create Moby Grape (and subsequently suffered from mental illness, dying in 1999), and Anderson left to raise a family.

They were replaced by Spencer Dryden (the nephew of Charlie Chaplin) and iconic frontwoman Grace Slick. Now the classic line-up was set, and with the release of their 1967 album, Surrealistic Pillow, they established themselves as a leading Psychedelic Rock band. They enjoyed Top 10 hit singles in America with "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit", played at the three most famous rock and roll festivals of The Sixties (Woodstock, Monterey and Altamont) and headlined the first Isle of Wight Festival. Unfortunately, the group seemed to run out of steam with the onset of The Seventies; Dryden was fired in early 1970, and Balin, disillusioned with the psychedelic scene after the death of his close friend Janis Joplin, and with the gradual decline of his influence and involvement, quit his band. After a series of revolving members, they finally called it a day in 1972.

Principal Members:

  • Signe Toly Anderson - backing and lead vocals, percussion (1965-1966)
  • Marty Balin - lead vocals, guitar, bass, percussion (19651971, 1989, 1996)
  • John Barbata - drums, tambourine, percussion (1972)
  • Jack Casady - bass, guitar (19651972, 1989, 1996)
  • Joey Covington - drums, percussion, vocals (1970-1972, died 2013)
  • Papa John Creach - violin (19701972, died 1994)
  • Spencer Dryden - drums, percussion, piano, organ, steel balls, vocals (19661970, 1996, died 2005)
  • David Freiberg - vocals (1972)
  • Bob Harvey - bass (1965)
  • Paul Kantner - guitar, backing and lead vocals (19651972, 1989, 1996)
  • Jorma Kaukonen - guitar, vocals, sitar (19651972, 1989, 1996)
  • Jerry Peloquin - drums (1965)
  • Grace Slick - lead vocals, piano, organ, recorder, keyboard (19661972, 1989)
  • Skip Spence - drums (1965-1966, died 1999)

Studio Discography:

  • 1966 - Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
  • 1967 - Surrealistic Pillow
  • 1967 - After Bathing At Baxter's
  • 1968 - Crown Of Creation
  • 1969 - Volunteers
  • 1971 - Bark
  • 1972 - Long John Silver

Live Discography:

  • 1969 - Bless Its Pointed Little Head
  • 1973 - Thirty Seconds Over Winterland
  • 1998 - Live At The Fillmore East
  • 2007 - Sweeping Up The Spotlight: Live At The Fillmore East 1969
  • 2009 - The Woodstock Experience note 

Jefferson Starship (1974-1984)

Jefferson Starship.

However, the band reformed in 1974 under the name Jefferson Starship (named after the ad-hoc supergroup that played on Paul Kantner's Hugo-nominated science-fiction concept album Blows Against the Empire), including members of the original group as well as new musicians drawn from Kantner's solo album, such as lead guitarist Craig Chaquico and Peter Kaukonen, brother of Jorma. Most importantly was the addition of lead singer Mickey Thomas, who joined after the exit of Marty Balin in the late seventies and subsequently became the effective leader of the band in the eighties. This iteration of the group did produce some good melodic rock music and had several successful albums, but they're probably best remembered today as, "That band that showed up in The Star Wars Holiday Special." The band soon started to bleed members, and with Paul Kantner's departure in 1984, none of the original Airplane/Starship members except for Grace Slick were left.

Principal Members:

  • Donny Baldwin - drums, percussion, vocals (1982-1984)
  • Marty Balin - lead vocals, guitar (1974-1978)
  • John Barbata - drums, percussion, backing and lead vocals, congas (1974-1979)
  • Craig Chaquico - guitar, vocals, synthesizer, drums (1974-1984)
  • Papa John Creach - violin (1974-1975, died 1994)
  • Aynsley Dunbar - drums, percussion, marimba, synthesizer (1979-1982)
  • David Freiberg - vocals, keyboard, organ, piano, bass, synthesizer (1974-1984)
  • Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar, banjo, keyboard, synthesizer (1974-1984)
  • Peter Kaukonen - bass, guitar (1974)
  • Steve Schuster - saxophone (1978-1979)
  • Pete Sears - bass, piano, harpsichord, organ, synthesizer, clavinet, celeste, guitar, vocals (1974-1984)
  • Grace Slick - lead vocals, piano (1974-1978, 1981-1984)
  • Mickey Thomas - lead vocals (1979-1984)

Studio and Live Discography:

  • 1974 - Dragon Fly
  • 1975 - Red Octopus
  • 1976 - Spitfire
  • 1978 - Earth
  • 1979 - Freedom At Point Zero
  • 1981 - Modern Times
  • 1982 - Winds Of Change
  • 1984 - Nuclear Furniture
  • 2013 - Live In Central Park NYC May 12, 1975

Starship (1985-1990) and the Jefferson Airplane reunions (1989, 1996)

Starship with Grace Slick in the 1980's.

To avoid legal action from Kantner, the remaining members of Jefferson Starship shortened their name to Starship, a straight-ahead pop-rock group that released three somewhat synth-heavy albums in the late 1980s and had three number one singles with "We Built This City", "Sara" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now". Though critically reviled, they were quite successful commercially nonetheless. As it turned, this group turned out to have the least staying power, and Slick left in 1988. With Mickey Thomas as the sole lead singer, they gradually disintegrated until they broke up in 1990. Notably, in 1989 Donny Baldwin was sacked after assaulting Thomas to the point where Thomas had to have facial reconstruction surgery and plates implanted into his skull.

Meanwhile, in 1989, the classic line-up of Jefferson Airplane reunited for one last album. However, Spencer Dryden was excluded as Kantner still held a grudge against him for his role in firing one of their managers in 1968. The album was not very well-received, but the tour supporting it was a big success. By then at the age of 50, Slick chose to retire from the music industry, saying that 'All rock-and-rollers over the age of 50 look stupid and should retire'. Airplane reunited once more in 1996 for the induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this time Dryden participated and Slick was absent. Spencer Dryden died in 2005 from colon cancer.

Principal Members (* = Jefferson Airplane):

  • Donny Baldwin - drums, vocals (1984-1989)
  • Marty Balin - lead vocals (1989, 1996)*
  • Brett Bloomfield - bass, vocals (1988-1990)
  • Jack Casady - bass (1989, 1996)*
  • Craig Chaquico - guitar (1984-1990)
  • Spencer Dryden - drums (1996, died 2005)*
  • Paul Kantner - guitar, vocals (1989, 1996)*
  • Jorma Kaukonen - guitar, vocals (1989, 1996)*
  • Mark Morgan - keyboard (1988-1990)
  • Pete Sears - bass, keyboard (1984-1987)
  • Grace Slick - lead vocals, keyboard (1984-1988), (1989)*
  • Mickey Thomas - lead vocals (1984-1990)

Studio Discography (* = Jefferson Airplane):

  • 1985 - Knee Deep In The Hoopla
  • 1987 - No Protection
  • 1989 - ''Love Among The Cannibals
  • 1989 - Jefferson Airplane*

Works with a page on this wiki:

"Feed your tropes!":

  • After the End: "Wooden Ships" (written by SF Fan Paul Kanter, in collaboration with members of Crosby, Stills and Nash, and a hit for both groups) depicts ocean-dwelling survivors of an unspecified apocalyptic event.
  • Alice Allusion: All over the place in "White Rabbit".
  • Control Freak: Mickey Thomas by all accounts.
  • Cover Version: David Crosby's polyamory-themed "Triad" is covered on Crown of Creation. Notably, Crosby brought the song to the band after it was originally rejected by The Byrds, but The Byrds later changed their mind and recorded a version as well.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first album, Takes Off is basically a straight-ahead folk-rock album with little hint of the tripped-out weirdness that would follow. It's also worth noting that there is quite a bit more straight-ahead folk-rock on Surrealistic Pillow than a lot of people seem to remember there being, though the group's penchant for chemical experimentation definitely affected even the folk-rock songs on that album.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Sarcastically titled The Worst of Jefferson Airplane.
  • Intercourse with You: "Miracles".
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Somebody To Love".
  • Mushroom Samba: "White Rabbit".
  • Nightmare Fuel: "The House At Pooneil Corners" due to it's menacing intro melody, chaotic sound, lyrics about nuclear war and Jorma Kaukonen's air raid siren like guitar line.
  • One Woman Song: "Jane," "Sara"
  • Oppressive States of America: In "Volunteers", this is the basis for the call for revolution.
  • The Pete Best: Signe Toly Anderson, the original female lead vocalist, and Skip Spence, the original drummer, who played on the band's first album, Takes Off, and left afterwards. Spence went on to be a founding member of Moby Grape.
  • Polyamory: The subject of "Triad".
  • Precision F-Strike: "Up against the wall, motherfucker!" in "We Can Be Together". On the same album, "You call it rain/But the human name/Doesn't mean shit to a tree" on "Eskimo Blue Day".
  • Psychedelic Rock: One of the most influential groups in the genre, the 1967 album Surrealstic Pillow is one of several albums that helped to define the sound of the Summer of Love.
  • The Rainman: Marty Balin, one of the founding members, has a mild form of autism, but still led the group through its first two incarnations prior to taking a solo career in the early 1980s.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Villified: "Volunteers" paints a rosy picture of armed rebellion.
  • Rooftop Concert: In New York, about seven weeks before The Beatles did their more famous concert.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Grace Slick quit Starship after "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" when she realized just how much they had sold out. She reformed Jefferson Airplane at that time, only to quit them after one tour when she decided she was getting too old for this.
    • Marty Balin pulled this- twice.
  • Sexbot: Marty Balin claims that "Plastic, Fantastic Lover" was a paean to his new stereo system (or maybe TV—the story varies), but the description of it as a lover with "chrome-colored clothes", and the references to "Data Control and IBM" make it clear that he was trying to imply a little more—possibly influenced by some of Kantner's SF collection.
  • Shout-Out: Paul Kantner was a science fiction fan, and several of his songs contain references to SF works:
    • The lyrics of eponymous title track of the album Crown of Creation were taken (with permission) entirely from the novel The Chrysalids by British SF author John Wyndham.
    • The album Blows Against the Empire was inspired by, and referenced, another Heinlein novel, Methuselah's Children, again with permission. (Heinlein commented that his plots had been used by others many times, but this was the first time someone had asked first.)
    • "Rejoyce" on After Bathing at Baxter's was about James Joyce's Ulysses.
    • "Triad" contains a couple of references to Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, but it was actually written by David Crosby.
  • The Sixties: Odds are good that, if you're watching a program about or set in the Sixties, you'll hear a Jefferson Airplane song on the soundtrack. Even if it's the very early Sixties.
    • The Seventies: Jefferson Starship successfully morphed into an Arena Rock group along the lines of Toto (as a matter of fact, their hit song "Jane" was accused of aping Toto's single "Hold the Line", right down to the piano triplets).
    • The Eighties: Starship became pretty much the poster band for the so-called "corporate rock" movement mid-decade.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Is it "Jefferson Airplane" or "The Jefferson Airplane"? Averted by later incarnations of the band.
  • Vocal Tag Team

Jan And DeanRockJoan Jett
HeartArena RockJourney
Iron ButterflyThe SixtiesJethro Tull

alternative title(s): Jefferson Starship; Jefferson Airplane; Starship; Jefferson Starship
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