From the Stacks

From The Stacks: Jefferson Airplane, ‘Thirty Seconds Over Winterland’

Here’s an album that represents 3-4 age tests.

Familiarity with Jefferson Airplane might be the first of those tests, but “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit” have been classic rock and soundtrack staples for the last 50 years. You don’t have to be an old timer to know who the band is; however, you either need to have some years on you or be a music geek to know that they were still cranking out records in 1972, when Thirty Seconds Over Winterland was released.

And then there’s that title, which is a play on the name of the 1944 film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo about Jimmy Doolittle’s daring raid on Tokyo. I’m guessing if you remember when that flick was in theaters, you probably didn’t land here because you were Googling Jefferson Airplane albums. THANK YOU FOR DROPPING IN, MRS. PERKINS! YOUR SHAWL IS LOVELY!

Although it’s not part of the actual album, the Sears price sticker is the third age test. If you can remember when Sears sold albums, you’re likely at least in your fifties. If you can remember when Sears sold anything, you’re likely at least in your fifties.

Finally, there’s the album’s cover art. Do you remember flying toasters? They were something of a fad in the early ’90s thanks to screensavers. (I guess maybe “screensaver” represents a fifth age test: Do you remember when people bought software to randomize the images on their computer screens in order to prevent burn-in during long idle times?) I’m pegging you at no older than mid-thirties if you remember flying toasters.

The Jefferson Airplane sued Berkeley Systems, the makers of the flying toaster screensaver, but without success for two reasons: 1) They owned no trademark on flying toasters; and 2) Berkeley Systems claimed that they’d never seen Thirty Seconds Over Winterland’s album cover. That’s certainly possible, of course–similar ideas emerge independently of each other all the time–but my hunch is that in this case it’s unlikely. The most generous explanation would be that someone on Berkeley’s creative team saw the album cover at some point in time and the image registered with him or her while the specifics didn’t. Presto–15 years later he or she came up with a brilliant screensaver idea and truly believed it was an original.

Or lawyers are dirty liars. Let Ocam’s Razor shape your choice.

You can pick up a copy of Thirty Seconds Over Winterland for five bucks or less. Flying Toasters screensavers can be found online for free. Happy hunting.

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