The summer had inhaled and held it’s breath too long…

First loves are a weird thing. They stick with you forever regardless of what happens next.

Everyone would talk about The Dead and how they were really out there, broke barriers and were anarchic and strange and different. The Jefferson Airplane however managed to get a record deal first and make that album before The Dead, they also let’s face it just make better records. The Dead may have blown your mind live but the Airplane could blow your mind with a record. They also had Grace Slick, Marty Balin and Paul Kantner who could sing and harmonize.

The fact they were successful was counted against The Airplane, by the time I came to their music, somehow they had sold out. Isn’t that the whole point though to make records and have people buy them, yes they probably should not have done the Dr. Pepper and Levi’s commercials.  They were also overtly political, sang about revolution and drugs and even getting old in a rock band.


So one day I was in that fateful library, source of many subversive sounds and words and came upon Jefferson Airplane’s Flight Log which not only chronicled the band but their IMG_1158many off-shoots and solo records. Yes it’s a patchy collection, self-indulgent, over-indulgence, a collage of sounds and ideas held together by the thought of a band, fragmenting, changing, coalescing around various members and projects reaching heights and lows, forever restless. The problem with a compilation is everyone thinks they could make a better one, someone missed off all the good songs, people are never happy.

For a long time this was all the Jefferson Airplane I had ever heard and I loved it, I knew everyone song, I could sing along to every one. Unlike many bands of the era they were heavy, they rocked and yet they still could be a little folky and mellow. They had a bass player that could shake your speakers and the guitar player would make your brain hurt with some weird shit he played. They also had a girl singer who sang like she had more balls than all the guys in the band, she was terrifying and beautiful and intimidating in her sexuality. She was the ideal of what hippy chick meant to a pimply kid in Liverpool.

I recorded Flight Log onto a cassette and played it relentlessly. It was all I needed of the Airplane and their off-shoots, it was just about perfect in my mind, like that first love it became a frozen moment in time. Eventually I tired of the band. I convinced myself they were lightweight when compared to cooler hipper bands of their time and place.

Over time I bought all the bands records, gloried in the diversity of sounds they made. I bought Hot Tuna albums and some Jefferson Starship records. I still thought of them as a kind of poor cousin to The Dead and Moby Grape and some of those odder bands of the time and place. Then I found Flight Log again in all it’s glory on super thin vinyl with the Grunt label, so thin it kind of warps under it’s own weight when you hold it up. It is however glorious in it’s sound. ranging from the experimentation of the first two sides to the more conventional sounds of the fourth side. It is ten years of restless development all the time with a pop sensibility, let’s face it it also has one of the few songs about cannibilism in Silver Spoon and it has Grace Slick one of the great women vocalists wailing away over all four sides.


“Where are the bodies for dinner? I want my food…”

This is what those blissed out hippies could do:

At the end of the day your first love always wins out, The Airplane for me will always embody the San Francisco sound. They will always be my go to band for that sound of sunshine and lazy days and happy thoughts, I also choose Dr. Pepper when I want soda and wear Levis so I guess those ads worked, guess I am easily influenced and a little shallow.


your the one I used to love, now I’m dancing with the whores above…

With an album cover that reminds us all of a certain age that we are all declining in some way. An aging rock star stares bemusedly away from the camera overseen by the fearsome clowns of our past looking over his shoulder.


At one time we were all fierce rock and roll warriors blazing a trail of glory through the seedy firmament of back street clubs and festivals. Time has however caught up with us with spreading waistlines and the creeping tiredness that happens when we contemplate standing in a sweaty club to listen to new music for hours. My friend and I laugh at the idea of having become the creepy guys swaying at the back to the latest band on the stage, able to appreciate but not truly immerse ourselves in the experience that at times seems exclusively reserved for the youthful. We have become what we rebelled against, the establishment. We can no longer join the union because we are now the man.

Dan Stuart in 2012 crawled out of his own creeping malaise to start making records again. He was inspired by the pain of a lost love and the thought of what that means to an older man. He followed it up with Marlowe’s Revenge in 2016. There is still the anger of loss but now the darkness of retribution.  It’s a beautiful powerful angry fuck you of an album. It’s a wailing album that manages not to be self pitying, it’s like the conversation you may have at the bar with a friend years after the divorce, and six shots into the night. He is backed by the Twin Tones a young band of Mexican musicians that bring back bite and sneer to his music. He is the old uncle having a pull on the whiskey bottle and a bong hit before stepping unsteadily to the stage to show the young bucks how it was done back in the punk rock days.

It is not many an ex-punk that can muster a good record never mind several. Stuart has never been concerned about his image or people liking him. He describes himself in his fake memoir as:

“I’m not a particularly nice person and if you have to worry about whether you like me or not then we’re both wasting our time.”

And on songwriting:

“Songwriting is easy.

Don’t pick up that shitty old guitar until you have to. Be fucked up but with the clarity of a monk. Fear noodling and embrace the obvious. Keep the windows open, it’s just notes and shit.”

I’ve made it to page 25 and there is a quotable moment on every page, I may be a bit of a fan of Dan and his alter ego Marlowe Billings.


yesterdays hazy, tomorrows a blur…

The dysfunctional 80’s have come full circle in more ways than one. The political ramifications of, well I am not going to bleat on, but we are currently experiencing the final outcome of dissolving the power of collective bargaining. In another full circle for me Dan Stuart has now drawn a line under his career maybe.

So I have been enjoying Dans music recently, actually since the first time I heard Green on Red I have been enjoying Dan’s music. It is some of the rawest, emotional and honest songwriting around.  Yes throughout most of the 80’s/90’s Dan and Green on Red were on the messier side of live performances, they could however be totally captivating in their own manic way.

Dan is now an older wiser but just as cynical on his new album the Unfortunate Demise of Marlowe Billings. He is in a reflective mood it seems, looking at his own past and his current situation. He has been forced into more of folk/songwriter than rock star, there I however a sense that he is ready to bust out the electric and rock it up at any time, maybe just waiting for the right invite.