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Of hippies, ducks and capitalist pigs: Jefferson Airplane’s acid-drenched Levi’s commercials
06.07.2017
03:51 pm
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In 1967, Levi’s had a new line of white jeans it wanted young folks to know about, so they sought out three groovy acts from the West Coast and had them record free-form radio spots about the new white jeans as well as the revolutionary (har) stretchy qualities that made the jeans such an impeccable fit. The bands were the Sopwith Camel, Jefferson Airplane, and a Seattle group called the West Coast Natural Gas Co.

The Airplane had been together for less than two years by this point, and their breakthrough album Surrealistic Pillow had just come out. “White Rabbit” hadn’t been released yet, but “Somebody to Love” had been. They were basically in the act of cresting, and now they were appearing on the radio selling Levi’s jeans. 
 

 
The bands were given creative control over the spots, of which there were nine in all. They’re pretty amusing—you can almost imagine the Smittys in Mad Men pridefully taking credit for the idea. Four of the tracks are by the Sopwith Camel, and four were by Jefferson Airplane.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.07.2017
03:51 pm
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Grace Slick says ‘f*ck’ on American TV for the very first time, 1969
01.18.2017
05:00 pm
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Watch below as Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick becomes the very first person in history to say “fuck” on American television on August 19th, 1969—the day after Woodstock—on The Dick Cavett Show. Technically the whole band pretty much sings “fuck” if you want to split hairs. Someone had to do it first, I’m glad it was the Airplane.

“We Can Be Together” was the lead-off number on the band’s politically radical Volunteers album and the B-side for the “Volunteers” single. Due to the group’s unique contract for the times—they had complete artistic control—RCA had to go along with whatever the Jefferson Airplane wanted, including “shit” and “motherfucker” appearing in their lyrics. For the single, the “motherfucker” was mixed low, but not actually bleeped.

The song’s music and lyrics are credited to Paul Kantner, who claimed to be inspired by the Black Panther Party’s use of the “Up against the wall, motherfucker” battle cry, itself a phrase 60s activists often heard coming from police and national guardsmen during that tumultuous era.

Kantner also cribbed some (nearly all) of the lyrics from something called “The Outlaw Page” that appeared apparently first as a leaflet and then in the East Village Other underground newspaper. “The Outlaw Page” was a polemic written by a guy called John Sundstrom, who was a member of an anarchist/Situationist-inspired Lower East Side-based “street gang with analysis” called the Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers [UAW/MF] whose name came from a poem titled “Black People!” by Amiri Baraka. The Motherfuckers, whose unprintable name made them virtually press-proof, were involved with storming the Pentagon, setting up crash pads in New York City for counter culture types and the occupation of Columbia University. Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse’s stepson, Tom Neumann was an early member.
 

 
Sweet young Joni Mitchell had just finished singing her lovely, lilting “Chelsea Morning,” when big bad Grace belted these words out to an unsuspecting America:

We are all outlaws in the eyes of America
In order to survive we steal cheat lie forge fuck hide and deal
We are obscene lawless hideous dangerous dirty violent and young
But we should be together

Come on all you people standing around
Our life’s too fine to let it die and
We can be together

All your private property is
Target for your enemy
And your enemy is We

We are forces of chaos and anarchy
Everything they say we are we are
And we are very
Proud of ourselves
Up against the wall
Up against the wall motherfucker…

More after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.18.2017
05:00 pm
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Higher Revolutionary Mutation with the Jefferson Airplane, 1970
12.17.2014
10:51 am
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If push came to shove and I had to pick the ONE—just one—rock group whose message I most “resonate” with, I think I would ultimately have to pick Jefferson Airplane. Outside of the MC5, their lyrics were the most overtly revolutionary—as well as being deeply weird, intellectual and futuristic—of the classic rock era. Their druggy image was completely uncompromising and the way they flouted the rules of polite society was both bratty and brave for that era. The notion of a bunch of rich, indulgent hippies preaching rebellion while living in a mansion in San Francisco being driven around in a Rolls Royce on RCA’s tab was very appealing to me when I was young. The Airplane beat the capitalist system on its own terms and embraced the contradictions that went along with that.

Jefferson Airplane had a contract with the label (they and Elvis were RCA’s biggest selling acts of the 60s) giving them complete creative control, so they were able to get away with lots of things other groups couldn’t. Dig the revolutionary communiqué of a song like “Crown of Creation”:

In loyalty to their kind
They cannot tolerate our minds.
In loyalty to our kind
We cannot tolerate their obstruction!

That’s “Us vs. Them” (or smart vs. dumb, if you prefer) put as starkly and as radically as possible. Those lyrics will always be relevant, I suppose, but in the context of the 1960s, they were incendiary. When the band performed this number on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968, Grace Slick wore blackface and did the “Black Power” salute at the end. It was a completely insane thing to do. What were the powers that be at CBS thinking to let something like that slip into America’s living rooms? What was she thinking to do such a thing (and what did the rest of the group think?)? A year later, Slick would be the first person to say “fuck” on television (technically she sang “motherfucker”) when the group did “We Can Be Together” on The Dick Cavett Show.
 

 
The Airplane could be wildly erratic in concert as anyone who has listened to more than a handful of their live performances can tell you. They could be punky and powerful, sloppy and jammy or else razorsharp and inspired. Maybe it had a lot to do with the quality of the LSD on a given night, eh? Who knows? In any case, this short set, filmed at Wally Heider’s studio in San Francisco in 1970, is the group playing at near their peak efficiently as a revolutionary rock and roll unit.
 

 
Go Ride The Music includes interviews with band members and Jerry Garcia (credited as “the Guru”) between songs—you’ll note that Marty Balin is sick to death of talking about “the Revolution”—and utilizes a similar editing technique to the multi camera /multi screen thing that was so effective in Woodstock. The only complaint I have is too much Marty and not enough Grace. She looks goddamn gorgeous here and the camera is always on him. Numbers, in order, “We Can Be Together,” “Volunteers,” “Mexico,” “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” “Somebody To Love,” “Emergency” and “Wooden Ships.” (This version of Go Ride The Music has all of the Quicksilver Messenger Service material edited out. If you want to see them, I direct you here.)
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.17.2014
10:51 am
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When Jean-Luc Godard met The Jefferson Airplane
09.26.2013
02:55 pm
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During his Marxist/Maoist phase, French film director Jean-Luc Godard traveled to New York to film the Jefferson Airplane who he (quite rightly, in my opinion) regarded as exemplars of the American revolutionary vanguard, playing on a rooftop in Midtown Manhattan. The performance, for which no permit was either sought or granted, took place on the morning of December 7, 1968 as people were making their way to work.

The event was staged for Godard’s projected One American Movie project. That film was also to feature segments with Black Panthers leader Eldridge Cleaver, Rip Torn, LeRoi Jones and Tom Hayden and to generally take a survey of the New Left’s “American revolution.” When Godard ultimately abandoned the project, the footage was assembled as One P.M. by D.A. Pennebaker in 1972.

The Airplane play a long, almost menacing version of “House at Pooneil Corner” which starts to gel nicely at the 2:30 mark. The reaction shots are priceless. You can see Godard himself in the first few seconds, waving the camera away. Makes you wonder where Paul McCartney got the big idea for the rooftop concert in Let It Be, doesn’t it?
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.26.2013
02:55 pm
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Up Against the Wall: Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen at The Psylodelic Gallery
06.28.2013
05:09 pm
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Jorma Kaukonen, bottom right

This is a guest post from Michael Simmons

Ah yes—I remember it as if it was yesterday! ‘Twas way back in the aughts, kids – the first decade of the 21st Century. Maybe four, five annums back. I was at a medical facility for a procedure related to what remains of my back. The cute young receptionist asked that I fill out an interminable form – the filling out of interminable forms being a hallmark of The Twenty-Worst Century. Name, address, next-of-kin, zabba-da-doo-bee-waba-da-booty – and ethnicity.

Ethnicity?

“What goes here?” I asked the receptionist, tossing back what remains of my longhair with a twinkle in my good eye, the one I can still see through. She assured me that it was an optional question for a study the facility was conducting and not for nefarious purposes or denying me my constitutional rights. I thought about it. What am I? I’m Caucasian, an agnostic Jew, an American, a human being (most days, some nights), but none of these rang right. And then the twinkle in my eye broke into fractals and I put pen to paper.

I answered Hippie-American.

“Hippie” is an inexact term that has many definitions depending on the perspective – and bias – of the definer. Many think of floral children with stupid grins and pinned eyes or The Eagles or people who subsist solely on brown food. Not I. My Hall Of Hippie Fame short list includes The Beatles, The Fugs, Allen Ginsberg (also a Beat), Abbie Hoffman (who held his flower in a clenched fist), a friend of mine who once punched a cop and who shall be nameless here, and Grace Slick—The Queen Of Sarcasm.

Graced with a thrilling set of pipes–pun intentional–Slick was in a rock band called the Jefferson Airplane that I dearly loved–and still do. I’ve been a frothing fan ever since I heard “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit” on the radio in ’67. I first saw them live on Friday, November 28, 1969 at the Fillmore East in New York City. They were a ragtag gang of freaks who eschewed any semblance of show biz, but whose advanced respect for—and pursuit of—musicality was on par with jazz cats and kitties. Their guitarist was Jorma Kaukonen, a singular slinger who invented an electric style too personal to be recreated by others. Jorma can wah and fuzz with the best and is also a primo exponent of fingerpicking blues, gospel and folk from the Reverend Gary Davis school of intricate hand gymnastics. He and fellow Airplaner–bassist Jack Casady (another absolute axe master)–also formed Hot Tuna, a kickass band that’s played everything from ragtime to heavy metal for 45-sumpin’ years now.

As he told me a few days ago, Jorma sobered up “16 years, 5 months, and 23 days ago – but who’s counting?” At the same approximate time, he and wife Vanessa Kaukonen founded the Fur Peace Ranch–a guitar camp in Darwin, Ohio. (O come all ye free associative evolution riffs!) Young and old alike attend Fur Peace to learn and play—it’s one of America’s coolest music schools. Jorma also gigs 150 to 200 nights a year under his own handle and with variations of acoustic and electric Hot Tuna. (Casady and mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff are regular partners–the latter being part of the “Jewgrass” Scene in Noo Yawk in the ‘70s–as was I.)

Given that the Airplane and Tuna are two of the mightiest hippie bands to emerge from the ‘60s, one day Vanessa suggested–nay urged—Jorma that they create something to keep the spirit truckin’, as it were, and make the artistry of that era available for education and inspiration. “I’m not a particularly nostalgic person,” he points out.  “I recognize the significance of a lot of this stuff, but since I was there I take a lot of it for granted and it’s kinda like ‘who gives a shit?’ Fortunately my wife is not like that. She’s younger than me and she does give a shit and she pointed out this stuff and I got it.”

They built a two-story silo next to Fur Peace in Darwin and dubbed it the Psylodelic Gallery. Being an American with a unique twistory of history, Jorma had his own take on the project. “The Psylodelic Gallery is a lot more interesting than The World’s Largest Ball Of Twine,” he explains. “I’m a huge fan of roadside America and I go see all that shit. The World’s Largest Prairie Dog in Oakley, Kansas – whatever. We have a little sign on the road, so we’re part of roadside America too.”

This Saturday, June 29 is the Grand Opening of the Psylodelic Gallery. Pioneer psychedelic rockers Big Brother & The Holding Company will perform and there’s an exhibit of photographs from the first day Jorma met Janis Joplin in 1962, plus the actual typewriter that can be heard in the legendary “Typewriter Tapes” of him and Janis playing together all those years ago. Also featured is Jorma’s original Fillmore Auditorium poster collection and his 1958 Gibson J-50 acoustic guitar that he picked with the Airplane and Tuna. (If you’re familiar with Jorma’s solo instrumental classic “Embryonic Journey” from Surrealistic Pillow, then you know the J-50.) Ephemera from Jack Casady and Wavy Gravy are displayed, quotes from Martin Luther King, Timothy Leary, Jerry Garcia and others line the walls, and a film and liquid lightshow by Chris Samardizch of The Brotherhood Of Light will be screened. 

New exhibits will go up every three months–four a year total. Vanessa’s already working on visits from local students. She’s intent on promoting “Art through activism, art through action, art through conversation.” As for definitions, Jorma says his “vision of the hippie is productive, honest intensity. There were a lot of people back then who followed that creative path simply for the love of it. They couldn’t be bothered getting involved in the incredibly complex fine arts world or the business aspect. They did it cause they loved it and they did a lot of it.”

Makes one damn proud to be a Hippie-American.

For more information, check out the Psylodelic Gallery on their website or via Facebook. The first eight Hot Tuna albums have been reissued on CD and can be ordered from Culture Factory USA.

Below, Jorma Kaukonen and The Jefferson Airplane rip through “Eskimo Blue Day” live at The Family Dog in 1970:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.28.2013
05:09 pm
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Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service live 1969/70

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Go Ride The Music was produced by pioneering Bay Area rock journalist Ralph Gleason in 1970 for National Educational Television - an era in which even TV was on drugs.

The Jefferson Airplane’s segment was filmed on April 2, 1970. The Quicksilver Messenger Service footage is from a performance at Sonoma State University circa August of 1969.

1) We Can Be Together - Jefferson Airplane
2) Volunteers - Jefferson Airplane
3) Mexico - Jefferson Airplane
4) Warm Red Wine - Quicksilver Messenger Service
5) Baby Baby - Quicksilver Messenger Service
6) Subway - Quicksilver Messenger Service
7) Plastic Fantastic Lover - Jefferson Airplane
8) Somebody To Love - Jefferson Airplane
9) Mona - Quicksilver Messenger Service
10) Emergency - Jefferson Airplane
11) Wooden Ships - Jefferson Airplane

“Free happy crazy people naked in the universe
We speak Earth talk
Go ride the music”
 

Posted by Marc Campbell
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04.01.2012
04:03 pm
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‘You are the Crown of Creation’: Jefferson Airplane, 1968
12.03.2011
08:23 pm
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The Jefferson Airplane do “Crown of Creation” on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968.

“In loyalty to their kind, they cannot tolerate our minds.

In loyalty to our kind, we cannot tolerate their obstruction.”

You have to hand it to the Smothers, what other TV show in 1968 would have allowed Grace Slick to sing the above lyrics, wear black-face and give the “Black Power” salute (as she does at the end of the song)? Such an insane thing to do! Considering what a political hot potato that show was for CBS at the time, it’s odd that THIS number passed by the censors, don’t you find? What were they thinking? What was she thinking? (And what did the rest of the band think???)
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.03.2011
08:23 pm
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Jefferson Airplane on the Perry Como Show 1968
09.18.2011
04:50 am
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Jefferson Airplane perform “Watch Her Ride” on a 1968 episode of the Perry Como TV show.

You got to give Como credit for going out on a limb here. I’m sure his television audience was gagging on their peanut brittle as they watched these damn hippies bobbing in some kinda bubbly lower intestinal weirdness.

“What is that stuff they’re floating in Fred?” It looks like beatnik poop. Put more foil on the rabbit years Fred. Somethin’ ain’t right!
 

Posted by Marc Campbell
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09.18.2011
04:50 am
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Jefferson Airplane vs. Fatboy Slim: ‘Somebody To Praise’


 
Brilliant! You can download DJ Lobsterdust’s “Somebody To Praise” here.

 
(via HYST)

Posted by Tara McGinley
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06.15.2011
01:55 pm
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