An American rock band that formed in San Francisco in 1965, Jefferson Airplane has gone through significant stages in its long and storied career.
The original group, Jefferson Airplane
, was a Bay Area Folk
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.
With the release of their 1967 album, Surrealistic Pillow
, they established themselves as a leading Psychedelic Rock
band. Focused around the songwriting nucleus of Marty Balin (lead vocals), Grace Slick (lead vocals, keyboards), Jorma Kaukonen (guitars) and Paul Kantner (guitars) and ably backed by the powerful rhythm section of Jack Casady (bass) and Spencer Dryden (drums), 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
; disillusioned with the psychedelic scene after the death of his close friend Janis Joplin
, Marty Balin quit his band, and Jefferson Airplane had essentially disintegrated by 1972.
However, the band regrouped 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. 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 late 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 were left.
To avoid legal action from Kantner, the remaining members 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
". Nevertheless, this group turned out to have the least staying power, and they broke up in The Nineties
after the reformation of the original Jefferson Airplane line-up in 1989.
At the moment, members of both Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship perform as distinct groups and occasionally cross over with one another.
Works with a page on this wiki:
- 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".
- One Woman Song: "Jane".
- Oppressive States Of America: In "Volunteers", this is the basis for the call for revolution.
- Polyamory: The subject of "Triad".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sex Bot: 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, Methuselahs 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.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Villified: "Volunteers" paints a rosy picture of armed rebellion.
- Vocal Tag Team