Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Jefferson Airplane [2]

Jefferson Airplane @ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Induction Year: 1996
Induction Category: Performer

"Inductees: Marty Balin (vocals; born January 30, 1943), Jack Casady (bass; born April 13, 1944), Spencer Dryden (drums; born April 7, 1938, died January 11, 2005), Paul Kantner (vocals, guitar; born March 17, 1941), Jorma Kaukonen (guitar, vocals; born December 23, 1940), Grace Slick (vocals, keyboards, flute, recorder; born October 30, 1939).

In terms of music and lifestyle, the Jefferson Airplane epitomized the San Francisco scene of the mid-to-late Sixties. Their heady psychedelia, combustible group dynamic and adventuresome live shows made them one of the defining bands of the era. Much like their contemporaries on the San Francisco scene - Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Big Brother and the Holding Company principal among them – the Airplane evolved from roots in folk and blues to become a psychedelic powerhouse and a cornerstone of the San Francisco sound. They were the first band on that scene to play a dance concert, sign a major-label record contract (with RCA), and tour the U.S. and Europe. In addition, they espoused boldly anarchistic political views and served as a force for social change, challenging the prevailing conservative mind set in “White Rabbit” and issuing a call to arms in “Volunteers.” In a sense, San Francisco became the American Liverpool in the latter half of the Sixties, and Jefferson Airplane were its Beatles.

Looking for a band to play at a new San Francisco club, the Matrix, of which he was part owner, Marty Balin founded Jefferson Airplane in 1965 The lineup that released Jefferson Airplane Takes Off a year later consisted of singers Balin and Signe Toly Anderson, lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner, bassist Jack Casady and drummer Skip Spence. When Anderson left to raise a family, she was replaced by the charismatic Grace Slick. Slick had been a member of The Great Society and brought with her a pair of songs – “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” – that would become rock classics in the Airplane’s hands. Drummer Spencer Dryden replaced Spence, who went on to become one of Moby Grape’s three guitarists.

The adventurous Airplane took unprecedented liberties on record and in concert. Kantner came from a folk background, Kaukonen was a blues aficionado, Casady grew up playing R&B, and Dryden boasted jazz training in his background. Balin was a pop crooner and Slick’s tastes were literary and offbeat. These various strands, brought together in the heady, experimental cauldron of San Francisco in the mid-Sixties, made for an electrifying union that moved rock music a few giant steps forward. The five Jefferson Airplane albums released from 1967 to 1969 – Surrealistic Pillow, After Bathing at Baxter’s, Crown of Creation, Bless Its Pointed Little Head and Volunteers – rank among the worthiest bodies of work of that or any decade.

Surrealistic Pillow (1967) yielded the Top Ten hits “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” making the Airplane the most commercially successful band on the underground-oriented San Francisco scene. The album stayed on the charts for over a year and peaked at #3. At the same time, the group behaved unconventionally by anyone’s standards. Surrealistic Pillow included surreal psychedelic raves with titles like “3/5 Mile in Ten Seconds,’ “She Has Funny Cars” and “Plastic Fantastic Lover.” It closed with a stark, lengthy, unrehearsed and chorus-free ballad, “Comin’ Back to Me,” which featured “spiritual advisor” Jerry Garcia (of the Grateful Dead) on guitar.

Appearing in late 1967, after the bloom was off the flower power-themed Summer of Love, After Bathing at Baxter’s caught the Airplane at a creative zenith. An uncompromising psychedelic manifesto, its songs were clustered into five “suites” that ran for up to twelve minutes. The inspired songwriting, most of it by Paul Kantner, captured the agitated yet utopian sensibility of San Francisco in the late Sixties, best expressed in this line from “Wild Tyme”: “I’m doing things that haven’t got a name yet.” The group worked on the album from June through October of 1967, defying record company demands and deadlines. In so doing, they helped trigger a shift in sensibility that placed creative control in the hands of musicians.

Crown of Creation, which appeared in 1968, displayed an increasingly political streak and a further tightening up of their sound. Bless Its Pointed Little Head served as a live document, affirming Balin’s later contention that “the stage performance...was the whole point of the band.” In 1969 the Airplane performed at both the Woodstock and Altamont rock festivals and released their most overtly political album, Volunteers. Thereafter, the group gradually frayed under the weight of diverging viewpoints. Kaukonen and Casady paid increasing attention to their blues-based side project, Hot Tuna, while Kantner premiered the name Jefferson Starship on a 1970 side project entitled Blows Against the Empire. In 1971, the still-intact Airplane launched a custom label, Grunt, which released records by the band, its offshoots and friends. Several more Airplane albums followed, including Bark (1971) and Long John Silver (1972). In true contrarian spirit, they entitled their best-of album The Worst of Jefferson Airplane. Despite some bright spots, the group was never as vital in the Seventies as they had been in the Sixties – a not-uncommon fate for bands of their vintage.

Jefferson Airplane formally evolved into Jefferson Starship in 1974, achieving considerably more commercial success in the Seventies than the Airplane had known in the previous decade. Built around Airplane originals Kantner, Slick and Balin, the radio-minded Starship racked up fifteen Top Forty hits, including the Balin-sung “Miracles” (#3). Jefferson Starship actually outlasted Jefferson Airplane, though the latter group did reassemble in 1989 for a reunion album and tour. However, the Starship rubric remained the chief post-Sixties port of call for Kantner and Balin, while Kaukonen kept Hot Tuna alive and Casady bounced between both of these Airplane offshoots. In 1999, Jefferson Starship released a CD, recorded live at the Fillmore in San Francisco, that included many Airplane classics and brought the story full circle.

April 7, 1938: Spencer Dryden was born.

October 30, 1939: Grace Victoria Wing, a.k.a. Grace Slick (of Jefferson Airplane), is born in Chciago, Illinois.

December 23, 1940: Jorma Kaukonen was born.

March 17, 1941: Paul Kantner was born.

January 30, 1942: Marty Balin was born.

April 13, 1944: Jack Casady was born.

August 13, 1965: The Matrix, a pizza parlor turned rock club, features Jefferson Airplane as its opening act. Vocalist Marty Balin is a co-owner, and the still-legal hallucinogen LSD is sold at the bar.

October 16, 1965: A Tribute to Dr. Strange—an evening of music, dance and light shows—is organized by the Family Dog, a pioneering group of hippie promoters. Performing at the event are the Jefferson Airplane, the Great Society and the Marbles.

January 21-23, 1966: The Trips Festival, a multimedia event featuring performances by the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company, is held at Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco.

February 1, 1966: Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Jefferson Airplane headline the First Annual Tribal Stomp at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom.

August 18, 1966: The Jefferson Airplane release their debut album, ‘Jefferson Airplane Takes Off’.

May 6, 1967: “Somebody to Love,” by Jefferson Airplane, enter the Top Forty. It will remain there well into the Summer of Love, peaking at #5.

June 17, 1967: Jefferson Airplane performs at the Monterey International Pop Festival as its second album, ‘Surrealistic Pillow,’ is peaking at #3.

1968: By 1968, the hippie movement was spreading across the U.S. and Europe, even though the political landscape hardly reflected the ethos of peace and love. Rock and roll was becoming a business, and bands continued to proliferate. Quicksilver and the Steve Miller Band both issued their debut albums, and the Grateful Dead released ‘Anthem of the Sun,’ a record that attempted to sonically re-create an LSD trip. The Jefferson Airplane hit the Top Ten with ‘Crown of Creation,’ the Big Brother and the Holding Company went all the way to Number One with ‘Cheap Thrills.’

June 28, 1968: Jefferson Airplane is pictured on the cover of an issue of Life magazine devoted to the late Sixties music revolution.

July 1, 1968: Bill Graham takes over the Carousel — a music hall owned by the Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead — and re-christens it Fillmore West.

August 15-17, 1969: The year 1969 was the year of the rock festival. The largest was the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, held on the weekend of August 15-17 in the tiny town of Bethel, in upstate New York. An estimated crowd of 450,000 attended the event, which featured everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Joe Cocker, to Arlo Guthrie, the Jefferson Airplane, the Who, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Ravi Shankar and Country Joe McDonald. If Woodstock marked the apex of the hippie movement in America, the Rolling Stones’ free concert in Hyde Park did the same for England. Held on July 5, the show drew nearly 300,000 people, the largest gathering in England since V-E Day.

April 11, 1973: Jefferson Airplane release a live album, ‘Thirty Seconds Over Winterland,’ which will be their swan song until they briefly reunite in 1989.

November 1, 1973: Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” peaks at #3. It is the biggest hit single to date by either Jefferson Airplane or Jefferson Starship.

October 11, 1985: “We Built This City,” by Starship—formerly Jefferson Starship, and Jefferson Airplane before that—rockets to #1. It is the first of three chart-toppers from the Starship. The others: “Sara” (1986) and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” (1987).

September 17, 1989: ‘Jefferson Airplane,’ the self-titles reunion album by the San Francisco legends, is released on Epic Records. It is their first studio album since 1972’s ‘Long John Silver.’

October 11, 1992: ‘Jefferson Airplane Loves You,’ a three-CD box set filled with hits, rarities and album tracks, is released.

January 17, 1996: Jefferson Airplane is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the eleventh annual induction dinner. Mickey Hart and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead are their presenteres.

January 11, 2005: Spencer Dryden of Jefferson Airplane passed away. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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@ Classic Bands
Jefferson Airplane is regarded as the most successful San Francisco band of the late 60s, despite countless personel and even name changes. The group was formed in August 1965 by guitarist Marty Balin, when he teamed up with guitarists Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen, vocalist Signe Anderson, drummer Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence and bassist Jack Casady. Kantner was already a familiar face on the local folk circuit as was Balin, formerly of the Town Criers and co-owner of the Matrix club. The band soon became highly popular locally, playing gigs and benefits organized by promoter Bill Graham. Eventually they became regulars at the Fillmore Auditorium and the Carousel Ballroom, both a short distance from their communal home in the Haight Ashbury district. With the San Francisco music scene in full blossom, record companies engaged in a bidding war for local talent, and Jefferson Airplane became one of the first to sign a major record contract with RCA for an unheard of sum of $25,000. As the year ended, the band, a mere four months old, began work on its first album.

Shortly after the release of their moderately successful debut LP, "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off", (#128 on the Billboard Hot 200) Skip Spence was fired for missing too many rehearsals and replaced by Spencer Dryden. Signe Anderson became pregnant and also departed. She was replaced in October 1966 by Grace Slick. (real name: Grace Barnett Wing) Slick was already well known with her former band, the Great Society, and brought two of their songs, 'White Rabbit' and 'Somebody To Love' to the Airplane. Both titles were on their second influential collection, "Surrealistic Pillow", and both became U.S. Top 10 hits. They have now achieved classic status as definitive songs from that era.

The band's reputation was enhanced by a strong performance at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. This national success continued with the erratic "After Bathing At Baxters" and the brilliant "Crown Of Creation". The latter showed the various writers in the band maturing and developing their own styles. Balin's 'If You Feel', Kaukonen's 'Ice Cream Phoenix' and Slick's tragi-comic 'Lather' gave the record great variety. This album also contained 'Triad', a song their friend David Crosby had been unable to include on a Byrds album. They maintained a busy schedule and released a well-recorded live album, "Bless Its Pointed Little Head", in 1969. The same year, they appeared at another milestone in musical history: the Woodstock Festival. Later that year, they were present at the infamous Altamont Festival, where a group of Hells Angels killed a young spectator and attacked Balin.

Slick and Kantner had now become lovers and their hippie ideals and political views were a major influence on the album, "Volunteers". While it was an excellent album, it marked the decline of Balin's role in the band. Additionally, Dryden departed and the offshoot band, "Hot Tuna" began to take up more of Casady and Kaukonen's time. Fiddler "Papa" John Creach joined the band full-time in 1970, although he still continued to play with Hot Tuna. Kantner released a concept album, "Blows Against The Empire", bearing the name Paul Kantner And The Jefferson Starship. The 'Starship' consisted of various Airplane members, plus Jerry Garcia, David Crosby and Graham Nash. This majestic album was nominated for the science fiction Hugo Award. Slick, meanwhile, gave birth to a daughter, China, who later in the year graced the cover of Slick And Kantner's album, "Sunfighter".

Following a greatest hits selection titled, "The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane" and the departure of Marty Balin, the band released the cleverly packaged "Bark". Complete with brown paper bag, the album offered some odd moments, notably Slick's 'Never Argue With A German', sung in spoof German, and new drummer Joey Covington's 50s-sounding a cappella 'Thunk'. It also marked the first release on their own Grunt label. The disappointing "Long John Silver" was followed by a gutsy live outing, "30 Seconds Over Winterland".

Soon afterwards, Kantner and Slick separated; she moved in with Skip Johnson, the band's lighting engineer, and eventually married him. Later that year, Slick was regularly in the news when her drinking problems got out of control. "Spitfire and Earth" continued the band's success, although they had now become a hard rock outfit. Meanwhile, "Count On Me" became a U.S. number 8 hit and "Runaway" reached number 12 in 1978. That same year, Slick was asked to leave the band, only to be allowed to return when she dried out.

"Freedom From Point Zero" and the U.S. number 14 hit "Jane" at the end of 1979, bore no resemblance to the musical style towards which remaining original member Kantner had attempted to steer them. He suffered a stroke during 1980, but returned the following spring together with a sober Grace Slick. Both "Modern Times" (1981) and "Winds Of Change" (1982), sold well, although by now the formula was wearing thin. Kantner found his role had diminished and released a solo album later that year. He continued with the Airplane throughout the following year, although he was openly very unsettled.

Towards the end of 1984, Kantner performed a nostalgic set of old Airplane songs with Marty Balin's band, amid rumours of a Jefferson Airplane reunion. The tension broke in 1985 when, following much acrimony over ownership of the band's name, Kantner was paid off and took with him half of the group's moniker. Kantner claimed the rights to the name, although he no longer wanted to use the title, as his reunion with Balin and Casady in the KBC Band demonstrated.

In defiance, his former band performed as simply, "Starship", but by this time only Grace Slick remained as an original member, after the incredible changes of the previous few years. The new line-up added Denny Baldwin on drums and recorded 'Knee Deep In The Hoopla' in 1985, which became their most successful album. Two singles from the album, 'We Built This City' (written by Bernie Taupin ) and 'Sara', both reached number 1 in the USA.

The following year, they reached the top spot on both sides of the Atlantic with the theme from the film "Mannequin", with 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now'. Their image was now of slick perpetrators of Adult Pop, performing immaculate music for the MTV generation (on which China Kantner was a presenter). Now, having gone full circle, Grace Slick departed in 1989 to join Kaukonen, Casady, Balin and Kantner to tour as the Jefferson Airplane.

The group was not well received by the record buying public and sensing that their popularity had slipped considerably, Casady and Kaukonen again re-formed Hot Tuna, and Kantner was left to rebuild his "Starship" after Grace Slick announced that she was leaving the music business.

Retirement, however has not been very kind to Slick. In 1993, her house overlooking Mill Valley golf course was gutted by a fire started by sparks from a gate being welded by Marin County workers. Lost in the fire was her personal collection of memorabilia and several studio tapes. Three firefighters were fired after they were caught stealing items from the scene.

In 1994, Grace was arrested at her new home in Tiburon, CA, for threatening police, who were investigating a report of gunfire. She was released on $7,000 bail and, after agreeing to a plea bargin, entered a detoxification programme to control a recurrance of her alcohol problem. Apparently, she had begun drinking again (after several years "dry") following the fire at her last home, and had decided on a bit of indoor target practice.

The same year brought further tradgedy when Papa John Creach died from pneumonia after suffering a heart attack during the Los Angeles Earthquake.

After "Starship" had run it's course in the early 90s, Kantner revived the 'Jefferson' Starship name and he hooked up with ex-companion Jack Casady, ex-Tubes drummer Prairie Prince, and alternating vocalists Signe Anderson (from the very first Airplane) and Darby Gould. Later on in 1992, Marty Balin rejoined.

The band began touring extensively and in 1995, Jefferson Starship released the live album, "Deep Space/Virgin Sky", a tribute album to Papa John. Since spring 1995, Diana Mangano took Anderson's place as the female vocalist of the group, and in May 1996, ex-Dixie Dregs keyboardist T Lavitz signed on.

In 1996, Jefferson Airplane were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Grace Slick, unable to travel for medical reasons, declined the invitation to attend, and instead, sent a rude note containing many four-letter words.

In the next few years, the rest of Jefferson Starship toured extensively, both electric and acoustic. Their album "Windows of Heaven" was released in February, 1999, and in August, 2003, re-mastered versions of the first four Jefferson Airplane albums were issued.

The band, in its various forms and names, has performed over 700 concerts in 16 countries in their 35 years in existance.

In January, 2005, drummer Spencer Dryden passed away after a long battle with colon cancer. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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