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Posted by Historical Fundamentalist on 02/05/02 - 23:31:58
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According to one Dead-related account I read years ago (by Hank Harrison, I think), the term "Planet Earth Rock'n'Roll Orchestra" had been kicking around the Kantner, Garcia, Freiberg folkie crowd in the early 60s. Don't necessarily give that one much credence.

My understanding of the PERRO story is....

When the rest of the Airplane were more interested in being Hot Tuna in Summer 70, Paul and the pregnant Grace took the guide demos they had cut for the space opera he had been working on and turned them into "BATE" - with the asssitance of Casady, Covington, Peter Kaukonen, David Freiberg, Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, David Crosby and especially Graham Nash who mixed the entire second side of the album. Reputedly there is a full Airplane version of "Have You Seen The Stars Tonite" somewhere in the can. (To RCA: release it NOW!!!!!!!)

When questioned by the press about the use of the term, "Jefferson Starship", and asked whether the Airplane would now split into Tuna and a new band called JS which would be headed by Paul and Grace and comprise the kind of folks on "BATE", Paul denied there would be a band called JS - but said: "There was a band formed out of those sessions: The Planet Earth Rock 'n' Roll Orchestra." [Melody Maker, Jan 71]

Of course, the later sessions for "BATE" coincided with the start of recording for Crosby's "IF ONLY I COULD REMEMBER MY NAME" - and it was the two albums being recorded side by side at Wally Heider's by essentially a bunch of friends which facilitated such a wonderful musical cross-pollination.

Crosby referred to his album as the second PERRO album and said there was third on its way. I must confess I missed totally the press announcment - referred to in the article - of a Kantner album to be called "PERRO" in the early 70's. Was this the third PERRO album Crosby was referring to?

It's been generally accepted -and reputedly supported by Crosby - that Mickey Hart's "ROLLING THUNDER" album cut in Spring-Summer 72 was the third PERRO album.

For some reason I can't fathom, "SUNFIGHTER", "BVT" and "MANHOLE" and Graham Nash's "SONGS FOR BEGINNERS" don't qualify as PERRO albums. (?!?!?)

Crosby in 70-72 was certainly as serious as Paul about making PERRO work - and there is an odd reference in his autobiography(?) to planning for what is essentially the PERRO crew - though he doesn't use the name - to cut the soundtrack for a movie he intended to make in late 72/early 73.

Not only were there various PERRO sessions in 71 - as described in the article - but there was serious talk of a tour.

To my knowledge, nothing from the PERRO sessions was ever made public (officially) until now and nothing was ever released under the PERRO monicker.

The trend for using star/name musician/friends on solo albums wasn't limited to just San Francisco around this time. People like Leon Russell and Stephen Stills were doing similar things in LA.

What seems to have made San Francisco different was the announcement of the PERRO concept and the very serious intent to actually turn the superstar-guests-on-your-solo-album idea into some form of loose semi-permanent band structure.

It's a huge shame PERRO wasn't taken further. If it had worked in the way Kantner and Crosby were talking about, it might have brought the jazz ethos of musical excellence more into the pop-rock arena and broken - at least in part - the pop industry's insistence on readily-identifiable distinct and marketable pop products/packages.

As it was, Paul went back to trying to make the Airplane work. 14 years later the Airplane has become the Jefferson-less Starship and Kantner's in the wilderness (where in some perverse ways he actually seems to enjoy it); and from the kind of packaged product Starship was, you're just a few steps away from the Spice Girls and the boy bands.

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