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Music / Surrealistic Pillow

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Surrealistic Pillow.

Surrealistic Pillow is the second studio album by Jefferson Airplane, released in 1967 through RCA Records. It is generally considered to be their strongest album, most popular and critically acclaimed. It is their first album with vocalist Grace Slick and drummer Spencer Dryden (Nephew of Charlie Chaplin), replacing Signe Toly Anderson and Skip Spence respectively. Spence did write "My Best Friend" for this album, however and he and Anderson appear on "Don't Slip Away", "Come Up The Years" and "Chauffeur Blues" on the UK version of the album. These three songs originally appeared on their previous album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.

Hits include "Somebody to Love", "My Best Friend", "Embryonic Journey" and "White Rabbit".

Tracklist (Standard Version):

Side One
  1. "She Has Funny Cars"
  2. "Somebody to Love"
  3. "My Best Friend"
  4. "Today"
  5. "Comin' Back to Me"

Side Two

  1. "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds"
  2. "D.C.B.A. - 25"
  3. "How Do You Feel"
  4. "Embryonic Journey"
  5. "White Rabbit"
  6. "Plastic Fantastic Lover"

Tracklist (UK Version):

Side One
  1. "My Best Friend"
  2. "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds"
  3. "D.C.B.A. - 25"
  4. "How Do You Feel"
  5. "Embryonic Journey"
  6. "Don't Slip Away"

Side Two

  1. "Come Up the Years"
  2. "Chauffeur Blues"
  3. "Today"
  4. "Comin' Back to Me"
  5. "Somebody to Love"

Bonus Tracks (2003 Reissue):

  1. "In the Morning"
  2. "J.P.P. McStep B. Blues"
  3. "Go to Her (Version Two)"
  4. "Come Back Baby"
  5. "Somebody to Love (Single Version)"
  6. "White Rabbit (Single Version)" / "D.C.B.A. - 25 (Instrumental)"

Principal Members:

  • Signe Toly Anderson - backing and lead vocals note 
  • Marty Balin - lead vocals, guitar, percussion, tambourine
  • Jack Casady - bass, guitar
  • Spencer Dryden - drums, percussion
  • Paul Kantner - guitar, vocals
  • Jorma Kaukonen - guitar, vocals
  • Grace Slick - lead vocals, piano, organ, recorder
  • Skip Spence - drums note 
  • Jerry Garcia - guitar

Embryonic Tropes:

  • Alice Allusion: "White Rabbit" is one entire shout-out to Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass:
    • In the novel Alice drinks medicine that makes her grow and shrink in an instant, this after she followed a white rabbit into the rabbit hole.
    One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small
    (...) Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall
    (...) Call Alice when she was just small
    And if you go chasing rabbits
    • Alice also meets a caterpillar who smokes from a water pipe.
    Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call
    • Alice meeting the Red and the White Knight on a giant chessboard is from Through The Looking Glass
    When the men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go
    (...) And the White Knight is talking backwards
    • The Red Queen in the novel orders a lot of decapitations, which is changed into a clever pun here.
    And the Red Queen's off with her head
    • The Dormouse is a character from when Alice meets the Mad Hatter and the March Hare.
    Remember what the Dormouse said. Feed your head.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Somebody to Love" describes nothing but depressing situations and tells the person (s)he needs somebody to love. This may sounds like a Pep-Talk Song about The Power of Love, but when you think of it makes it actually worse since the person to whom the song is addressed to is already in a lot of despair and would probably get even more depressed if someone told him or her that she is also totally alone and without someone to love.
  • Bo Diddley Beat: "She Has Funny Cars" is based on this beat.
  • BolĂ©ro Effect: "White Rabbit" uses this effect in the melody. In fact, Grace Slick herself said that Ravel's Boléro was the other major influence on the song (besides Carroll's novels and LSD).
  • Cover Version: Technically "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" are covers of songs by Slick's previous band The Great Society (though only the former had been released before she left the band).
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover is in black-and-white.
  • Despair Event Horizon: "Somebody to Love" tells the protagonist that since "your friends treat you like a guest" he better find somebody to love.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: "D.C.B.A. - 25"
    I take great peace in your sitting there
    Searching for myself, I find a place there
  • Everything's Better With Bunnies: Especially "if you go chasing rabbits", as "White Rabbit" tells us.
  • Face on the Cover: A group photo of the band.
  • Follow the White Rabbit: "White Rabbit"
    And if you go chasing rabbits
    And you know you're going to fall
    Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar
    Has given you the call
    Call Alice, when she was just small
  • Instrumental: "Embryonic Journey".
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Somebody to Love".
  • Mushroom Samba: "White Rabbit", where imagery of Lewis Carroll's most famous novels is used as a metaphor for drug hallucinations.
  • New Sound Album: Less Folk (The influences are still noticeable, however), More Psychedelic.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "She Has Funny Cars". The line doesn't appear in the lyrics.
  • Ode to Intoxication: "White Rabbit", which has become the Standard Snippet to play whenever a film or TV scene evokes people enjoying hallucinogenic drugs.
    One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small
  • One-Word Title: "Today".
  • Pep-Talk Song: "She Has Funny Cars"
    We live but once, but good things can be found around in spite of all the sorrow
  • The Power of Friendship: "My Best Friend".
    Ah, you're my best friend
    (You are my best friend)
    And I love you so well
  • The Power of Love:
    • "Today"
    Today everything you want
    I swear it will all come true
    Today, I realize how much I'm in love with you
    With you standing here
    I could tell the world what it means to love
    • "How Do You Feel?"
    Just look at her walk
    Do you see what I mean?
    She is coming our way
    Oh, how my heart beats, I don't even think I can talk
    How do you feel?
  • Psychedelic Rock: This album is one of several albums that helped to define the sound of the Summer of Love.
  • Record Producer: Rick Jarrard (who was also working with Harry Nilsson around the same time).
  • Questioning Title?: "How Do You Feel?"
  • Second-Person Narration: "Somebody to Love".
    Don't you need somebody to love?
    Wouldn't you love somebody to love?
    You better find somebody to love.
  • 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-coloured 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:
    • "White Rabbit" is a shout-out to Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The band based the melody on Maurice Ravel's "Bolero" and was also inspired by a similar bolero heard on Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain.
      • A line from "White Rabbit" inspired the book "Go Ask Alice" (1971), a book about drug addiction.
    • "Embryonic Journey" was used (among other films) in the series finale of Friends.
      • "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love" are also well-used in media. Odds are good that, if you're watching a program or a film about or set in the Sixties, you'll hear one of those two songs. Even if it's the very early Sixties. "White Rabbit" in particular has become the Standard Snippet to play whenever characters are taking hallucinogenic drugs.
  • Special Guest: Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead plays guitar during "Today", "Comin' Back to Me", "Plastic Fantastic Lover" and "J.P.P. McStep B. Blues".
  • Word Salad Title: The album title, which was allegedly inspired by a comment from Jerry Garcia about the music being "surrealistic as a pillow".


Video Example(s):


White Rabbit

The Jefferson Airplane song "White Rabbit" was intended as a jab towards parents who read their kids stories like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, in which Alice herself uses several drug-like substances throughout her whimsical adventure, only to wonder why those same kids would go on to use drugs themselves.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / AliceAllusion

Media sources: