Brilliant US Psychedelia

Posted on 2007-10-01 14:46:43

Jefferson Airplane is an american psychedelic band formed on the West Coast of the USA during the summer of 1965 in what was called the San Francisco Bay folk boom. Singer Marty Balin recruited another folk musician, Paul Kantner, blues guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, jazz and folk vocalist Signe Toly Anderson, drummer Jerry Peloquin, and acoustic bassist Bob Harvey. They drew inspiration from groups such as the Beatles, the Byrds, and The Lovin' Spoonful, and built a local following at the Matrix Club.The group made its first public appearance August 13, 1965 at The Matrix club in San Francisco. Peloquin was a seasoned musician whose disdain for the others' drug use was a factor in his departure just a few weeks after the group began its career. Skip Spence then took the drum chair. The band gradually developed a more electric sound that led to Harvey's replacement by Kaukonen's childhood friend, Jack Casady in October 1965. Later in 1965, they signed to RCA and recorded an album for release the following year called ''Jefferson Airplane Takes Off''. In 1966, Spence was replaced by jazz drummer Spencer Dryden and Anderson by singer Grace Slick, formerly of another San Francisco group, The Great Society. Amongst their fans, the group's name was further shortened to "the Airplane". Slick brought with her a powerful and supple contralto voice, well suited to the group's amplified psychedelic music, as well as a number of important compositions, including "White Rabbit" (which Grace wrote) and "Somebody to Love" (written by Grace's brother-in-law, Great Society guitarist Darby Slick).Their transition from local to national notoriety was made possible by their appearance at the epochal Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967. Monterey showcased leading bands from several major music 'scenes' including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and England and the resulting TV and film coverage gave national (and international) exposure to groups that had previously only had regional fame. All these bands were also greatly assisted by appearances on nationally syndicated TV shows such The Ed Sullivan Show, which were videotaped in color and augmented by recent developments in video techniques. The Airplane's famous appearance on the Sullivan show, performing "White Rabbit", has been frequently re-screened and is notable for its pioneering use of the Chroma key process to simulate the Airplane's customary psychedelic light show.Membership remained stable until 1970, by then they had recorded five more albums. The first of these, ''Surrealistic Pillow'' (1967), included two classic tracks, "White Rabbit" (inspired by the psychedelic drug LSD, then extremely popular in San Francisco, Maurice Ravel's ''Bolero'', and Lewis Carroll's ''Alice in Wonderland''), and the rousing anthem "Somebody to Love", as well as a reminder of their earlier folk incarnation, Kaukonen's solo acoustic guitar ''tour de force'', "Embryonic Journey", which referenced contemporary acoustic guitar masters such as John Fahey and helped to establish the popular genre exemplified by acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke. The album was extremely successful, reaching #3 in the US album charts, and alongside ''Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'' and The Doors' debut album, it is widely regarded as one of the seminal albums of the so-called "Summer Of Love".''After Bathing at Baxter's'' (1967) further showed their proficiency in psychedelic rock. Its famous cover features a whimsical re-imagining of the group's Haight-Ashbury house as a Heath Robinson-inspired flying machine, drawn by artist and cartoonist Ron Cobb. ''Crown Of Creation'' (1968) was a transitionary record, more structured than ''...Baxters'', whereas ''Bless Its Pointed Little Head'' (1969) captured their live sound, recorded at concerts at the Fillmore and the Fillmore East. In the aftermath of the demise of the San Francisco scene, the band released ''Volunteers'' (1969), their most political venture. The title track, "We Can Be Together", "Good Shepherd", and the post-apocalyptic "Wooden Ships" (also recorded by Crosby, Stills & Nash) were all highlights. The band performed in an early "morning maniac music" slot at the Woodstock festival in August 1969. In December that year, they played at the infamous free concert held at the Altamont speedway in California. The concert, which was headlined by The Rolling Stones and also featured The Grateful Dead, was marred by crowd violenceóMarty Balin was knocked out during a scuffle with Hells Angels members who had been hired to act as "security". The event became notorious for the now-famous "Gimme Shelter Incident" due to the death of black teenager Meredith Hunter, who was fatally stabbed in front of the stage by Hells Angels "guards" after allegedly pulling out a revolver during the Stones' performance (this incident was the centerpiece of the documentary film ''Gimme Shelter'').Balin and Dryden left shortly thereafter. ''Bark'' and ''Long John Silver'' were released on the band's own label, Grunt, with Joey Covington on drums and "Papa" John Creach on fiddle, after which the group effectively disbanded as Casady and Kaukonen converted their side-project Hot Tuna to a full time band. The live album ''30 Seconds Over Winterland'' (1973) is now best remembered for its cover art, featuring a squadron of flying toasters, which in turn spawned the famous "After Dark" computer screensaver design.

Jefferson Airplane Discography

1966 - Jefferson Airplane Takes Off1967 - Surrealistic Pillow1967 - After Bathing at Baxter's1968 - Crown of Creation1969 - Bless Its Pointed Little Head1969 - Volunteers1971 - Bark1972 - Long John Silver1973 - Thirty Seconds Over Winterland [live]1982 - Radio Special, Vol. 191989 - Jefferson Airplane1998 - Live at the Fillmore East2006 - At Golden Gate Park [live]2007 - Last Flight [live]

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