Jefferson Airplane

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An American rock band that formed in San Francisco in 1965, Jefferson Airplane has gone through significant stages in its long and storied career.

The original group, Jefferson Airplane, was a Bay Area Folk group with a sound comparable to The Byrds and the Lovin' Spoonful. With the release of their 1967 album, Surrealistic Pillow, they established themselves as a leading Psychedelic Rock band. Focused around the songwriting nucleus of Marty Balin (lead vocals), Grace Slick (lead vocals, keyboards), Jorma Kaukonen (guitars) and Paul Kantner (guitars), they enjoyed Top 10 hit singles in America with "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit", played at the three most famous rock and roll festivals of The Sixties (Woodstock, Monterey and Altamont) and headlined the first Isle of Wight Festival. Unfortunately, the group seemed to run out of steam with the onset of The Seventies; disillusioned with the psychedelic scene after the death of his close friend Janis Joplin, Marty Balin quit his band, and Jefferson Airplane had essentially disintegrated by 1972.

However, the band regrouped in 1974 under the name Jefferson Starship (named after the ad-hoc supergroup that played on Paul Kantner's science-fiction concept album Blows Against The Empire), including members of the original group as well as new musicians drawn from Kantner's solo album, such as lead guitarist Craig Chaquico. Most importantly was the addition of lead singer Mickey Thomas, who joined after the exit of Marty Balin in the late seventies and subsequently became the effective leader of the band in the late eighties. This iteration of the group did produce some good melodic rock music and had several successful albums, but they're probably best remembered today as, "That band that showed up in The Star Wars Holiday Special." The band soon started to bleed members, and with Paul Kantner's departure in 1984, none of the original Airplane/Starship members were left.

To avoid legal action from Kantner, the remaining members shortened their name to Starship, a straight-ahead pop-rock group that released three somewhat synth-heavy albums in the late 1980s and had three number one singles with "We Built This City", "Sara" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now". Nevertheless, this group turned out to have the least staying power, and they broke up in The Nineties after the reformation of the original Jefferson Airplane line-up in 1989.

At the moment[when?], members of both Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship perform as distinct groups and occasionally cross over with one another.

Jefferson Airplane provides examples of the following tropes:
  • After the End: "Wooden Ships".
  • Alice Allusion: All over the place in "White Rabbit".
  • Control Freak: Mickey Thomas by all accounts.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first album is basically a straight-ahead folk-rock album with little hint of the tripped-out weirdness that would follow. It's also worth noting that there is quite a bit more straight-ahead folk-rock on Surrealistic Pillow than a lot of people seem to remember there being, though the group's penchant for chemical experimentation definitely affected even the folk-rock songs on that album.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: According to Marty Balin, the name came from a friend who suggested a parody of the sort of nicknames Blues singers usually adopted (and possibly had Blind Lemon Jefferson in mind). This didn't stop rumours that the original name referred to an impromptu method of holding a too-short marijuana joint.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Sarcastically titled The Worst of Jefferson Airplane.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Mushroom Samba: "White Rabbit".
  • One-Woman Song: "Jane".
  • Polyamory: The subject of "Triad". It also contains two Shout-Outs to Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.
  • The Pete Best: Signe Toly Anderson, the original female lead vocalist.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Up against the wall, motherfucker!" in "We Can Be Together". On the same album, "You call it rain/But the human name/Doesn't mean shit to a tree" on "Eskimo Blue Day".
  • Psychedelic Rock: One of the most influential groups in the genre, the 1967 album Surrealstic Pillow is one of several albums that helped to define the sound of the Summer of Love.
  • Rooftop Concert: In New York, about seven weeks before The Beatles did their more famous concert.
  • The Sixties: Odds are good that, if you're watching a program about or set in the Sixties, you'll hear a Jefferson Airplane song on the soundtrack. Even if it's the very early Sixties.
    • The Seventies: Jefferson Starship successfully morphed into an Arena Rock group along the lines of Toto (as a matter of fact, their hit song "Jane" was accused of aping Toto's single "Hold the Line", right down to the piano triplets).
    • The Eighties: Starship became pretty much the poster band for the so-called "corporate rock" movement mid-decade.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Is it "Jefferson Airplane" or "The Jefferson Airplane"?
    • Averted by later incarnations of the band.
  • Title Drop: Starship's 1985 album Knee Deep In The Hoopla; its title is buried deep in "We Built This City":

Say you don't know me or recognize my face
Say you don't care who goes to that kind of place
Knee deep in the hoopla sinking in your fight
Too many runaways eating up the night