Jefferson Airplane is a San Francisco band who gave the baby boomers a voice, pioneered the American LSD movement, and single-handedly invented psychedelic rock. Their stylistic journey from the 1960s hippie spaciness of "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love", to the 1970s AOR of "Miracles" and "Jane", to the utterly vapid 1980s MTV hits of "We Built This City" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" is unprecedented in the world of music.
Jefferson Airplane's "classic" lineup consisted of Marty "Ballin' My Eyes Out" Balin, Jack Casady, Spencer Dried, Paul Katner, Jorma Kaukonen, and Grace "Alice" Slick. Since then, they have been reincarnated under names such as Jefferson Starship and Starship, going through a million different lineup changes/split-ups and periodically adding/losing members such as Mickey "Wailin'" Thomas, Donny
Osmond Baldwin, Pete Sears, and Craig Chiquaco.
But despite their later selling-out, apparently they were pretty good. Or people liked them, at least. Perhaps that meant they were good, perhaps not. I mean, this was the '60s, after all—wasn't everyone all stoned or something? Says these guys played at Woodstock and stuff, after all, and my mom always said that was the most stoned time of her life.
1965–72: Jefferson Airplane
Jefferson Airplane formed in 1965 in San Francisco. Historically, they smoked a lot of pot, did a bunch of stuff, had several original members who apparently rather majorly modified their names before going into into the entertainment business because it would seem "Martyn Jerel Buchwald" isn't a good name for a frontman, and various other things that are undoubtedly quite fascinating to people who care.
In 1967, the Airplane released their most popular single, "White Rabbit". The song instantly became a Top 40 hit on every continent except Antarctica. It details a day in the life of a hippie in San Francisco, California's Haight-Asbury Park district, complete with a verse about crashing a school bus into a medium-sized gorge. Unfortunately, Disney misconstrued the lyrics as being a reference to Alice in Wonderland, and immediately sued the band. The suit was settled, and any image that shows the White Rabbit with the members of Jefferson Airplane is now property of The Walt Disney Company.
1974–84: Jefferson Starship
This is all very confusing. It says Jefferson Starship began in 1970, as a one-off for the album Blows Against the Empire. But then it says Jefferson Airplane released the albums Bark (which I'm guessing is somehow related to dogs) and Long John Silver (which I'm guessing is related to the seafood restaurant) in 1971 and '72, respectively. How could Jefferson Airplane release albums if they had changed their name to Jefferson Starship beforehand?
Whatever, we'll just ignore that one-off album. Jefferson Airplane was spawned in 1974, right after Jefferson Airplane fell apart. Er, dissoluted, rather. Or dissolved? Dis...something. At any rate, the Airplane fell apart in some manner, and then it became a starship, stopped coasting low amongst the clouds, and started soaring high amidst the stars! They must have been quite high, indeed. During this phase, the band slowly transitioned from hazy '60s psychedelia and folk music to slick '70s AOR.
In 1978, during a live recording of the Star Wars Rosh Hashanah Special, a drunken Grace Slick fell over and accidentally tore off Kantner's human disguise, revealing him as a hideous alien and shocking viewers worldwide. As a result, she was ejected from the Jefferson Starship fleet. During her time away from the Starship, she developed a hairspray addiction (see right). Less noticeable, however, was her crippling drug and alcohol addiction. Real bad stuff there...
In 1981, Grace decided to return to the Jefferson Starship and take control of it for herself. Onboard the Starship, those working under Paul Kantner were getting fed up with him trying to push the band in an "intelligent" and "creative" direction, since everyone else just wanted to write coldly-calculated pop songs. Overnight, Grace and the crew broke into Kantner's sleeping quarters, blinded him with his own reflection, and ejected him into space, where he floated for years, never to be seen again.
After the coup against Kantner, Jefferson Starship shortened their name to just "Starship". Grace and Mickey Thomas were elected as their leaders, known for their wailing, almost alien-like voices. With two great vocalists in charge of Kantner's old crew, they had gained control of what would become the most powerful and most feared cult of the '80s. The band came up with the plan that they would control space by filling the airwaves with pop songs that promoted their message of total domination, the plea for legalized baby killing, and peace through giant hair.
Starship's first #1 hit was "We Built This City", a celebration of an imaginary city built on rolling rocks, so it could be transported easily. The follow-up hit, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now", was a warning to all those who tried to stand in the band's way. Starship's final warning to the people was "Sara", a song that explicitly states the band's intentions to bring "Sara" (an obvious euphanism for world domination) together with them. The lyrics plainly say that there is no turning back, and that this domination would happen no matter what.
Starship were beloved by housewives and mullet-rocking men worldwide, though none of them picked up on the subliminal messages. Unfortunately, in 1989, Grace Slick departed the Starship to rejoin the Jefferson Airplane back down on Earth. Without Slick, the Starship soon faltered, crumbling and plummeting to Earth in flaming metal chunks. Thus ends the story of Starship, one of the most popular-yet-unthinkably cheesy bands of the 1980s.
Since the crumbling of the Starship, the three bands been resurrected, reincarnated, reunited, rehashed, and repacked several times, going through a million different lineup changes and periodically adding/losing members while wandering off into totally different musical directions.
In 1992, Kantner returned from space and established "Jefferson Starship – The Next Generation". This lineup more closely resembles Jefferson Starship's original mix of psychedelic and electric folk music from the mid-1970s, rather than the big-haired pop tunes it was widely known for during the Thomas-fronted years. Kantner unfortunately passed away in 2016.
In 1992, Mickey Thomas reassembled the Starship (no Jefferson) with duct tape and formed Starship featuring Mickey Thomas, touring steadily ever since. In 2013, they released their first album in over 20 years, Loveless Fascination; evidently, they have exhausted all of their greatest hits options, and not gotten the memo that nobody gives a shit about anything coming out of Thomas's mouth besides hearing "We Built This City" for the millionth time. This is in addition for the hundreds of middle-aged women across the country named "Sara" who can be found mouthing the line "storms are brewin' in your eyes" right along with Mickey.
- Jefferson Airplane Stalls (1966)
- Trippy Pillow (1967)
- After Bathing at Baxter's (1967)
- Zenith of Evolution (1968)
- Volunteers (1969)
- Woof (1971)
- Long John Silver's (1972)
- Dragon Fly (1974)
- Blue Squid (1975)
- Spittake (1976)
- Mars (1978)
- Freedom at Point Blank (1979)
- Hard Times (1981)
- Winds of March (1982)
- Fallout Furniture (1984)
- Knee Deep in the...Well, It's Not Hoopla (1985)
- No Condom (1987)
- Jefferson Airplane (1989)
- Love Amongst the Cannibals (1989)
- Windows of Heaven (1998)
- Jefferson's Tree of Liberty (2008)
- Loveless Fascination (2013)