The Start of Jefferson Starship


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Posted by Prehistoric Fundamentalist on 01/04/02 - 15:26:45
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Hi, Scot

This is a tale that has changed several times over the years. One of the things you'll find with Grace and Paul over the years is that the emphasises of their historical perpsectives can shift quite significantly. (Hey, Paul's only human - and we usually tell current versions of our history to suit our current agendas.)

One of the best example of changing perspectives is Grace's 85-86 downer on Paul and her enthusiasm for outside writers. By 88 she was back pally with Paul - they shared a tour bus in 89 (wonder what Skip Johnson had to say about that?) - and saying how much she needed to do her songs.

I've been following JA/JS with a historian's penchant for pedantic detail since 68. Michael - who has far more detail (than I'm ever likely to have!)from current sources - frequently asserts that I've got it wrong. But Michael - as a good manager rightly should! - has a NOW! agenda and should only be interested in the past where it can be exploited for the present band's benefit.

Most of the "BATE" suite was written for the Airplane's follow-up to "VOLUNTEERS" - and the Airplane reputedly cut a version of "Have You Seen The Stars Tonite." When the rest of the band were more interested in being Hot Tuna, Kantner took his demos and smartened them up to become the "BATE" album we know and love. (Despite its commercial success - #20, gold disc - it got decidely mixed reviews at the time.)

The media, keen for a story on the splitting up of the Airplane into Hot Tuna (Kaukonen, Casady, Balin and Covington) and a new band called Jefferson Starship (Paul, Grace and whoever else they said was in the band - including the "BATE" guest stars), asked Kantner several times about this in late 70/early 71.

He always denied that there was any intention to form a band called "Jefferson Starship" - he'd just used the name for the album. He told MELODY MAKER: "but there was a band formed at those sessions: The Planet Earth Rock & Roll Orchestra."

Although the JS name would not be used again until early 74, a number of reviewers described "SUNFIGHTER" and "TOLLBOOTH" as being "Jefferson Starship" albums.

Barbara Rowes dull-but-detailed 1980 biography of Grace provides some interesting insights into the early 74 transition - particularly bringing out Barbata's role in it.

On the first Starship tour in Spring 74 Paul told NME: "This is a new band." In the Summer Grace told Lester Bangs in CREEM that, "I don't know if it'll carry on as Starship or go back to Airplane. Somehow I don't think so."

[Sexist aside: Bangs claimed in the interview Grace flashed a tit at him!]

I've never seen an official explanation for the Grace Slick & Paul Kantner/Jefferson Starship monicker on "DRAGONFLY" - but it's very much a band album, with everybody (but Barbata) composing, Freiberg having two vocal leads and Marty guesting. I can only assume higlighting the Slickantner names like that was to emphasise the Jefferson Airplane connection.

All the band members (apart from Marty who refused) signed the new Grunt-RCA contract in 76. At some point there was a Jefferson Starship Inc, though I've no idea who owned it.

It might suit Paul and Michael now to say that JS always was Paul's band the way it is today. It wasn't. It was a fully-democratic unit - so democratic they effectively drove Paul out in 84! - run on the same lines as the Airplane.

Even though JA Inc by 71 was Paul, Grace, Jorma, Jack and Thompson, the other band members were effectively accorded full rights and encouraged to think that way. Paul in 71, responding to ROLLING STONE criticism of Joey's "Thunk": "Well, I don't understand it either. But it's his song."

I think it's to Kantner's eternal credit that JS was run on the same lines as the Airplane. I don't think we would have had the tremendous music 74-76 without that approach.

However. we might also have escaped the Thomas-Chaquico takeover!

Yin and Yang, I guess. But the music 74-76 speaks for itself.


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