Fifty years of Jefferson Airplane reveals deep tracks and rock ‘n’ roll poetry

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When rock music fans think about the music of the 1960s, the Summer of Love and Haight-Ashbury, Jefferson Airplane is invariably included. It has been more than 50 years since the release of the band’s debut album, “Takes Off.” (To purchase or learn more information about that release, visit http://store.lemonwire.com/jefferson-airplane-takes-off-090771518613.html    ). “Takes Off” was released in 1966, and from that point on, and especially through the 1960s and 1970s, Jefferson Airplane seemed destined for rock ‘n’ roll history annals with a collection of unusually poetic rock songs that also incorporated memorable chords and riffs.

Jefferson Airplane 1960s overview

With lead singer Grace Slick and the guitar and bass powerhouses of (now late) Paul Kantner and Jack Casady respectively, the sound of Jefferson Airplane was certain to be appreciated by rock fans. The group’s popularity skyrocketed after they headlined the legendary Monterey Pop Festival. Their intricate grooves and thoughtful lyrics  took the so-called hippie movement beyond noodling guitar solos and into acid rock. The music was the perfect backdrop for songs like “Come Up the Years,” (1966), “Young Girl Sunday Blues,” (1967) and “Somebody to Love” (1967). Of the three, “Somebody to Love” is no doubt the most famous, and “Come Up the Years” is probably more laid back than audiences might expect.

Two of the three aforementioned songs are not well known unless audiences have the albums, or live in a market that plays rock ‘n’ roll deep or album tracks. For most of the country, the rock ‘n’ roll poetry contained on some of Jefferson Airplane’s lesser-known songs goes unheard. Even if a song isn’t a “deep track” per se, there is a sparse intensity to classic Jefferson Airplane songs that allow them to have stood the test of time.

“Young Girl Sunday Blues”

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From the 1967 album, “After Bathing at Baxter’s,” “Young Girl Sunday Blues” brims with an energy that overflows because of the buzzing concoction created by the solid cracking of drums that meshes with a bass line that doesn’t get discussed often enough. The entire soundscape dances with a beat reminiscent of hand claps. Slick’s voice is throaty and emotive. She is joined quickly on vocals by one of the musicians. The lyrics portray a lover leaving (seemingly). Phrases like “…days all made with waterfall colors,” “when I tell you I dream it might seem like silence…” and “ah, come into my life/let yourself wander free and easy” create a kind of surrealistic poetry. The lyrics coupled with the sound never allow the song to get bogged down in sentimentality – – even if such were meant by various interpretations of the lyrics, it isn’t felt. Emotions are present, to be sure, but not pathos. Much to the band’s credit, Jefferson Airplane manages to make a song about someone’s “blues” fun.

Jefferson Airplane post-1960s

By 1975, Jefferson Airplane had become Jefferson Starship. The band had two notable Top 20 hits, “Miracles” and “Count on Me.” Both songs featured Marty Balin on vocals. In the 1980s, the band would have a resurgence in popularity with “We Built This City” and the pop ballad, “Sara” in 1985. Both songs were from the band’s album “Knee Deep in the Hoopla.”

In 1996, Jefferson Starship/Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Slick did not show. According to Rolling Stone, Slick believed that rock musicians older than 50 looked stupid and should retire. There were also reports that the singer was suffering from a foot problem (SFgate.com). At any rate, the band performed without her, and at least the band was successfully inducted.

Jefferson Airplane remains one of the most unique bands in the history of American rock ‘n’ roll. Their body of work and subsequent critical and popular acclaim bears this out.

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