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Thread: Jefferson Starship 1974-1978

  1. #1
    Moderator Sean's Avatar
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    Jefferson Starship 1974-1978

    I've been checking out the albums from this era and kind of like some of the tunes. It seems this was a band with a lot of writers and because of that each album is a hodge-podge with a few standout tracks and the remainder, close to filler.

    I think Spitfire is my fave, though Dragonfly is a close second. I find Red Octopus a little to heavy in the Marty Balin ballads dept, though the title track is one of the best. By the time they made the Earth album something changed and not for the better.

    This band gets shat on a lot thanks to the next era and it's frontman, Mickey Thomas. If they stopped at Jane I doubt they would be considered as much of a joke as they were once they Built That City on rock and roll. He had some amazing pipes though, no denying that and his voice blended great with Grace's. Much better than it did with Marty's.

    Any fans (or haters) of this era?

    Most folks seem to hold the Airplane in high regard and Starship in a much less glowing light. For me, it's sort of the other way around. I miss the rock influences when I listen to Airplane. Some of those albums seems like a rambling, folksy mess. Verses a rambling, rocking mess. Which these albums are.

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    Member hippypants's Avatar
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    For me, Blows Against the Empire, then Red Octopus, then some of the others, but for my taste currently too rocking or MOR. Overall I find Octopus more satisfying. Having said that though, all of the Starship's output is less that the Airplane's. In order I like:

    After Bathing at Baxters
    Crown of Creation
    Takes Off
    Surrealistic Pillow
    Bark

    Off shoot bands: in no order

    Hot Tuna
    Grace Slick's Manhole

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    Airplane are one of my top 10 all time favorite bands and I loosely include the Starship era through Earth as well in that assessment/ranking. Yes, they are different bands and styles. I am one of those who esteem the former more than the latter. I acknowledge that the overall musicianship was of a collective higher caliber with Starship due to enlisting members from a wider and more experienced pool than the burgeoning rock music times of the mid 60s. And perhaps that explains perceptions of less musically (compositional, arrangements and performance) delivered albums. I may be speaking and opining from being actively engaged in assimilating and enjoying this music as it was created and offered to the public, but I believe that gives a perspective not influenced by hind sight by comparing to future rock music evolution. For me the Airplane (Surrealistic Pillow, After Bathing At Baxters and to a lesser extent Takes Off, Crown of Creation & Volunteers) accomplished significant music creativity for the mid to late 60s and stand favorably with the contemporary ground breaking U.S. bands from 64 thru 66 such as the Dead, Quicksilver, Love, Blues Project, etc.

    Sean, I very much agree that Starship gets much of its (undeserved) bad rep from the 80s output. I have seen the version(s) of Jefferson Starship (not Starship) touring over the past 15 years half a dozen of times. I find most of the songs stand the test of time and the performances spirited and engaging. Coincidentally, I caught the first show each after Paul's heart attack and passing. These were emotional experiences. For one, the renditions of Today and Comin' Back to Me (as ballads) were delivered with such delicacy and beautiful two and three part harmonies that there were many misty eyes in the house.

  4. #4
    Dragon Fly is my favorite. Grace’s “Hyperdrive” is as close as this band ever came to prog (with the possible exception of “Sandalphon”), and I’m a big fan of “Caroline” and FM radio staple “Ride the Tiger.” The whole album is pretty solid, with the exception of the typical must-skip Freiberg song.

    Next in line: Spitfire, followed by Red Octopus. There’s a distinct lack of inspiration on Earth, a big come-down after the previous three. Don’t care for the Mickey Thomas period; I’d much rather listen to Grace’s solo album Dreams. It’s really weird yet wonderful (all those over-the-top orchestrations were way out of step with the times for 1980).
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    Pikachupacabra spellbound's Avatar
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    I went to see them in 1975. Wouldn't have gone had I not liked them (and not been old enough to have seen Jefferson Airplane). The band I saw included Grace, Marty, and Papa John Creach. At the time, their albums were Blows Against The Empire (not really the same band that toured their next few albums), Dragonfly, and Red Octopus, all of which I like to this day. Of their later albums, I like Modern Times, which opens with what may be their biggest hit, 'Find Your Way Back,' followed by 'Stranger,' and closes with the anthem, 'Stairway To Cleveland' (answering their critics with "F**k you, we do what we want!"). Many people seem to dislike Red Octopus. I like it, because it emphasizes what Marty does best (and did better than most), writing love ballads. It also includes Slick/Balin/Kantner's great 'I Want To See Another World.' I don't believe I ever saw Mickey Thomas, but he did have a powerful and very good voice. I remember him from Elvin Bishop's band, as well. I always loved hearing Marty and Grace singing together. I saw Jefferson Starship again in 2014, one of Paul's last tours, and the modern version of the band in 2018. R.I.P. Paul, Marty, and Papa John.

    Concert trivia:

    The 1975 Jefferson Starship concert I saw was opened by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, at or near the peak of their considerable powers, with a band that included George Frayne (Commander Cody), Bill Kirchen, Billy C. Farlow, Bruce Barlow, John Tichy, Andy Stein (whatever became of this great fiddler?), and Bobby Black.

    'Fooled Around And Fell In Love' - I once saw Elvin Bishop perform an instrumental version of this song, playing on his guitar both the guitar part and Mickey Thomas' vocal part.

    Several years back, Craig Chaquico played here, and I could hear the music from my back yard. Although he had become a new age artist by then, he still played a mean guitar. He opened his show with a rocking instrumental version of 'Find Your Way Back.'
    Last edited by spellbound; 4 Weeks Ago at 02:46 PM.
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    Although I like this era, my favorite Jefferson Starship album is still “Freedom At Point Zero” which was the first Mickey Thomas album. I still think that one is a hard rock masterpiece and much better than it is often given credit for. As for the era cited in this thread, I have a hard time with much of the Balin stuff. I never cared much for his voice or his writing style. Kantner’s stuff I always loved. Slick and the others were hit and miss. I don’t like any of those albums from start to finish, but there are some great tracks on all of them.

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    ^^^^^
    pretty much sums up my feelings on both versions of Starship.
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    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    I like them. It seems I've always owned a copy of Gold in one format or another. I had two of the '80s albums back when, Winds of Change and Nuclear Funiture and I agree they were spotty afairs. But I had no use for Knee Deep in The Caca.

  9. #9
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Major Airplane fan, but never liked Starship, whether the 70's incarnation or the Mickey Thomas 80's crap (whether the "Jefferson" is still tagged on to it or not)

    I guess that with Jack, Jorma & Spencer absent, it was too much to deal with. Even Covington & Barbatta couldn't fill Dryden' stool correctly. TBH, never saw the bonus of PJC in either the Airplane or in Tuna either, but I'm not a fiddle fan in rock music.

    Quote Originally Posted by hippypants View Post
    For me, Blows Against the Empire, then Red Octopus, then some of the others, but for my taste currently too rocking or MOR. Overall I find Octopus more satisfying. Having said that though, all of the Starship's output is less that the Airplane's. In order I like:

    After Bathing at Baxters
    Crown of Creation
    Takes Off
    Surrealistic Pillow
    Bark

    Off shoot bands: in no order

    Hot Tuna
    Grace Slick's Manhole
    Blows/Empire is definitely not a Starslip album (despite its subtitle), and it's by miles the best Kantner solo album, though Sunfighter and Baron are botyh good in their own right.

    Grace's first two solo albums are amazing, especially Manhole, which borders the grandiose.

    Crown Of Creation is probably my overall fave from that crowd, but I've got big respects for Tuna's Phophorescent Rat as well, despite an ugly album sleeve.

    Quote Originally Posted by zappaeverafter View Post
    Airplane are one of my top 10 all time favorite bands and I loosely include the Starship era through Earth as well in that assessment/ranking. Yes, they are different bands and styles. I am one of those who esteem the former more than the latter. I acknowledge that the overall musicianship was of a collective higher caliber with Starship due to enlisting members from a wider and more experienced pool than the burgeoning rock music times of the mid 60s. And perhaps that explains perceptions of less musically (compositional, arrangements and performance) delivered albums. I may be speaking and opining from being actively engaged in assimilating and enjoying this music as it was created and offered to the public, but I believe that gives a perspective not influenced by hind sight by comparing to future rock music evolution. For me the Airplane (Surrealistic Pillow, After Bathing At Baxters and to a lesser extent Takes Off, Crown of Creation & Volunteers) accomplished significant music creativity for the mid to late 60s and stand favorably with the contemporary ground breaking U.S. bands from 64 thru 66 such as the Dead, Quicksilver, Love, Blues Project, etc.
    Well, I remember sampling Earth & another album in the late 70's (can't remember which): that meant buy a crappy second hand vinyl to see if it gave me a musical boner, than got rid of them in my next raid on Yonge & Queen Street hops. I did get to see JS twice around 2005 (once with balin, the next with Freiberg), and TBH, I wished I'd seen them earlier in my life, though certainly not during the 80's. Kantner was a no-frills kick-ass rocker in both gigs.

    Baron Von Tollbooth's death (the day before Bowie's) was a huge blow for me, and I can only think of Daevid's passing away as a bigger distress.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from heroin-addicts to crazy ones

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by spellbound View Post
    Andy Stein (whatever became of this great fiddler?)
    Was playing in the Prairie Home Companion band circa the 2000's. Not sure what he's been doing more recently.

  11. #11
    Jon Neudorf
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean View Post
    I've been checking out the albums from this era and kind of like some of the tunes. It seems this was a band with a lot of writers and because of that each album is a hodge-podge with a few standout tracks and the remainder, close to filler.

    I think Spitfire is my fave, though Dragonfly is a close second. I find Red Octopus a little to heavy in the Marty Balin ballads dept, though the title track is one of the best. By the time they made the Earth album something changed and not for the better.

    This band gets shat on a lot thanks to the next era and it's frontman, Mickey Thomas. If they stopped at Jane I doubt they would be considered as much of a joke as they were once they Built That City on rock and roll. He had some amazing pipes though, no denying that and his voice blended great with Grace's. Much better than it did with Marty's.

    Any fans (or haters) of this era?

    Most folks seem to hold the Airplane in high regard and Starship in a much less glowing light. For me, it's sort of the other way around. I miss the rock influences when I listen to Airplane. Some of those albums seems like a rambling, folksy mess. Verses a rambling, rocking mess. Which these albums are.
    Im a fan. I also have a soft spot for "Count On Me", my initial intro to the band. For that reason 'Earth' is an album i will always have fond memories of.

    Jon

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by spellbound View Post
    'Fooled Around And Fell In Love' - I once saw Elvin Bishop perform an instrumental version of this song, playing on his guitar both the guitar part and Mickey Thomas' vocal part.
    Ummmm, "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" is an Elvin Bishop song.
    Maka ki ecela tehani yanke lo!

  13. #13
    Pikachupacabra spellbound's Avatar
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    Ummmm, "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" is an Elvin Bishop song.
    I know that. Was I unclear?
    Can this be the swan song? The final elbow?

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    Moderator Sean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlneudorf View Post
    Im a fan. I also have a soft spot for "Count On Me", my initial intro to the band. For that reason 'Earth' is an album i will always have fond memories of.

    Jon
    Always liked that one too. It's probably the best cut on that album.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jlneudorf View Post
    Im a fan. I also have a soft spot for "Count On Me", my initial intro to the band. For that reason 'Earth' is an album i will always have fond memories of.

    Jon
    I have to admit that is one Marty Balin song that I do like.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Sean View Post

    This band gets shat on a lot thanks to the next era and it's frontman, Mickey Thomas. If they stopped at Jane I doubt they would be considered as much of a joke as they were once they Built That City on rock and roll. He had some amazing pipes though, no denying that and his voice blended great with Grace's. Much better than it did with Marty's..
    Well, you're really talking about two different bands in that paragraph. Although they had some of the same people, I view early 80's Jefferson Starship (which gave us songs like Stranger, Find Your Way Back, Wind Of Change, and Out of Control) were a very different band from Starship, the group that inflicted We Built This City, Sara and Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now on us.

    While I can perhaps see the Marty era fans turning away from Modern Times and Winds Of Change, due to the music maybe being a bit more middle of the road or whatever, I still think they're good records. The songwriting it still pretty top notch, and Craig Chaquico provided excellent guitar heroics to spice up even the lesser songs.

    After that, things went sideways fast. It's probably not even worth talking about the rest of it, except to say I still can't believe that Bernie Taupin was one of the guilty parties responsible for We Built This City.

    And I still can't believe that Rock Myself To Sleep was written by one of the Soft Boys (actually, I don't really know The Soft Boys music at all, but I have heard some of Robyn Hitchcock's solo material, and it's hard to believe that one of his former accomplices was responsible for both Rock Myself To Sleep and Walking On Sunshine!).

    As for the 70's era records, which one is the one with the Asian lady riding the dragon on the cover? I've always been curious to hear that one. Always thought that was a cool looking cover, but I've never heard it.

  17. #17
    Moderator Sean's Avatar
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    That's Spitfire. Probably the best of that era.

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    Member dropforge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3LockBox View Post
    But I had no use for Knee Deep in The Caca.

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    I've always called it ....We Built This Shitty.

  20. #20
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from heroin-addicts to crazy ones

  21. #21
    I was and mildly am a big Airplane fan. I liked Starship up to Earth. Dragonfly and Spitfire are my favourite. I have a bootleg with a greay version of Hot Water.
    I went to see them in 78 on the sumner Lorelei festival in Germany but Grace Sick didn't felt well enough to go on stsge , Kantner didn't wanted to play without her ( big mistake) and after Leo Kottke and Brand X didn't exactly brought the house down some disappointed fans burned the stage down with all the Starship backline already on stage. So I saw at least Kantner and from memory Graig Chaquito on stage with a pale as ash festical manager excusing to the audience why they had to cancel the show...
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  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by alucard View Post
    I went to see them in 78 on the sumner Lorelei festival in Germany but Grace Sick didn't felt well enough to go on stsge , Kantner didn't wanted to play without her ( big mistake) and after Leo Kottke and Brand X didn't exactly brought the house down some disappointed fans burned the stage down with all the Starship backline already on stage. So I saw at least Kantner and from memory Graig Chaquito on stage with a pale as ash festical manager excusing to the audience why they had to cancel the show...
    Craig Chaquico had a wall of something like 5 or 6 vintage Fender Dual Showman amps that he toured with, which were lost in that riot. A few years ago, I read that Pete Sears, one of their bassist/keyboardists (he and David Freiberg would alternate between the two instruments), finally recovered a custom built Doug Irwin bass that also disappeared that day.

    Then the next night, or the night after, whatever it was, they played a show that was being filmed, presumably for Rockpalast, where Grace infamously got drunk and, as she put it, "decided she still wasn't happy about WWII". I've never actually seen the footage, which has never been broadcast, apart from a few seconds that were shown on Behind The Music. The clip I saw showed her singing, in the middle of a song, "Who won the war?", and then something that got bleeped out. They also showed a short snippet of her singing White Rabbit waaaaay off key. She said she was so embarrassed afterward that she fired herself from the band as a result.

  23. #23
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alucard View Post
    I was and mildly am a big Airplane fan. I liked Starship up to Earth. Dragonfly and Spitfire are my favourite. I have a bootleg with a greay version of Hot Water.
    I went to see them in 78 on the sumner Lorelei festival in Germany but Grace Sick didn't felt well enough to go on stsge , Kantner didn't wanted to play without her ( big mistake) and after Leo Kottke and Brand X didn't exactly brought the house down some disappointed fans burned the stage down with all the Starship backline already on stage. So I saw at least Kantner and from memory Graig Chaquito on stage with a pale as ash festical manager excusing to the audience why they had to cancel the show...
    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    Craig Chaquico had a wall of something like 5 or 6 vintage Fender Dual Showman amps that he toured with, which were lost in that riot. A few years ago, I read that Pete Sears, one of their bassist/keyboardists (he and David Freiberg would alternate between the two instruments), finally recovered a custom built Doug Irwin bass that also disappeared that day.

    Then the next night, or the night after, whatever it was, they played a show that was being filmed, presumably for Rockpalast, where Grace infamously got drunk and, as she put it, "decided she still wasn't happy about WWII". I've never actually seen the footage, which has never been broadcast, apart from a few seconds that were shown on Behind The Music. The clip I saw showed her singing, in the middle of a song, "Who won the war?", and then something that got bleeped out. They also showed a short snippet of her singing White Rabbit waaaaay off key. She said she was so embarrassed afterward that she fired herself from the band as a result.
    That's the side of Grace I didn't like...

    She was pretty (almost stupidly) ignorant about the "german" thing, in a very anti-hippie way. I don't remember reading anything in Tamarkin's book about her losing someone from her family in WW2.

    I mean, after about half the Frisco scene and almost everyone in the Airplane (except Balin), she fucked a German descendant (Kantner) and had a kid with him, and yet she still made fun of him by imitating a grotesque accent and naming the father of her child Baron von Tollbooth. One could probably pass over those pettiness anecdote, if she didn't have the nastyness about the rest.


    still love the rest (95%) of her personnage, though. But I'd probably be careful if I crossed path with her with a drink in her hand and whatever else (substances) in her blood.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from heroin-addicts to crazy ones

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post

    I mean, after about half the Frisco scene and almost everyone in the Airplane (except Balin), she fucked a German descendant (Kantner) and had a kid with him, and yet she still made fun of him by imitating a grotesque accent and naming the father of her child Baron von Tollbooth. One could probably pass over those pettiness anecdote, if she didn't have the nastyness about the rest.
    Actually, I believe I read it was David Crosby who gave Paul that nickname. He also called Grace The Chrome Nun, which is where that album title came from.

    I think the business about her WWII rant has more to do with her being one of those people who become really unpleasant when they've had too much to drink. Some people just become totally different individuals when they're drunk or stoned or whatever, and I think she's one of them.

    Whether she was ignorant about WWII, anti-hippie or not, I think, is besides the point. The point is, she picked exactly the wrong place and time, and with herself in the wrong state of mind, to start lecturing anyone about WWII.

    still love the rest (95%) of her personnage, though. But I'd probably be careful if I crossed path with her with a drink in her hand and whatever else (substances) in her blood.
    I guess it took a few years, but I recall seeing a news thing in the mid 80's, probably around the time of Nuclear Furniture or Knee Deep In The Hoopla, where she let it known that she was finally off the booze. I remember Starship played one of the MTV New Year's concerts, I guess the year that Knee Deep came out, and at one point, she's being interviewed, I think after their set, and she's asked what her favorite New Year's Eve memory is. She says something like, "Well, it might be because of all the dead brain cells in my head, but I don't remember any New Year's Eves before this one, so I guess this is my favorite New Year's Eve memory, because it's the only one I can remember".

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    One thing I will give the Grateful Dead: I'm not crazy about most of their music - although some of it was definitely good, just not to my taste - but they did stick to their guns. They didn't turn into a cheesy Corporate Rock act. The Airplane did, and that may be why they aren't the same kind of iconic. Plus their music tended to be just plain odd - neither simple nor effectively complex, and often seemed to wander about aimlessly.

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