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 many 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.