Music

The (Kind Of) Complete Woodstock: Jefferson Airplane

grace slick

“All right friends, you have seen the heavy groups, now you will see morning maniac music. Believe me,  yeah.  It’s the new dawn.”

It’s eight a.m. Sunday morning when Grace Slick awakens the crowd from their short nap.  Only two hours ago The Who cleared the stage.  Wavy Gravy’s Hog Farm is still struggling to serve “breakfast in bed for 400,000.”

“There’s always a little bit of heaven in a disaster area,” Wavy said earlier.  He might have been talking about The Jefferson Airplane’s lead singer.

Grace Slick wasn’t only beautiful, sexy, and a kick ass singer, but she was a little bit scary.  There was something about Slick and the rest of the Airplane that was a bit different from their Haight-Ashbury counterparts — a little less peace and love and a little more “I’ve got a knife in my boot.”  Maybe it was the muscular playing of Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, and Paul Kantner.  Maybe it was Slick’s take no shit attitude, I don’t know.

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Slick’s male counterpart on lead vocals, Marty Balin, who was knocked unconscious by a Hell’s Angel a few months later at Altamont.  Listen, I’m sure the Hell’s Angels would knock all of us the hell out, but tough guy reputations aren’t made on the losing side of a public KO.

The Airplane really were a unique beast, though.  Even the songs everybody knows demonstrate the band’s broad range: On one end there’s the trippy psychedelia of “White Rabbit” and on the other is the borderline proto-metal of “Somebody To Love.”

Jefferson Airplane only grew bigger after Woodstock, and yet even bigger in the Seventies when they evolved into Jefferson Starship.   The horrible beast called Starship that ruined the Airplane’s legacy with a string of ever shittier songs in the eighties did not contain any of the founding members.

Grace Slick retired from music in 1989 after a brief Jefferson Airplane reunion, and continues to assert that old people have no business on stage playing rock and roll.  She’s a painter now, and doing quite well.  Her artwork is just a Google search away if you’re interested.

Marty Balin is still kicking around the music business.  You can visit him here. I’ve always enjoyed that guy’s voice. [Note: Balin died September 27, 2018, well after this post was originally published.]

Paul Kantner still tours a version of Jefferson Starship, which has some 2013 tour dates lined up.  Don’t confuse this band with Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas unless you want to hear “We Built this City” for the one millionth time.

Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen still play together, frequently as Hot Tuna, which was their quite successful post-Airplane project.  Of even greater interest, Kaukonen runs a guitar camp in Ohio that looks like a blast.

Drummer Spencer Dryden died in 2005.

Jefferson Airplane: The Woodstock Experience captures the band’s full set:

1.  The Other Side Of This Life
2.  Plastic Fantastic Lover
3.  Volunteers
4.  Saturday Afternoon / Won’t You Try
5.  Eskimo Blue Day
6.  Uncle Sam’s Blues
7.  Somebody To Love
8.  White Rabbit

Your official Woodstock soundtrack song count to date: 136

Next week: Joe Cocker

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