“Things to Come”
“Girl With the Hungry Eyes”
“Just the Same”
“Fading Lady Light”
“Freedom at Point Zero”
In my 10th grade year I met Janis. Janis was a year older than me in school and we hit it off. She was zany, irreverent, and funny as hell, and I still on an almost daily basis think of something that we did back then or jokes that we shared. She also introduced me to a lot of great music. This was the first. I don’t think she was a big fan of the band or anything, but she liked Grace Slick, and she loved “Jane”, the song that was on the radio at the time. Grace and Marty Balin had just left the band so neither was on this album.
The more I heard “Jane” on the radio the more I loved it. Our local album rock station gave “Rock Music” some play as well. I remembered being on vacation with my family over school Christmas break and hearing a live simulcast of a New Year’s Eve concert by the band. They played a nearly all the songs from this album but also a few classics. I recognized “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”, and it was weird to hear them sung by Mickey Thomas, Starship‘s newest singer.
I bought the album very soon after this and learned all the songs. It’s an amazingly strong and cohesive album. All the songs, written by different members of the band, all hold together remarkably well and there’s not a weak one in the batch. The early favorites were “Lightning Rose”, “Just the Same” and the title track. It took me a little longer but I grew to love “Just the Same”, “Things to Come” and “Awakening”, and those are probably my favorites after all these years.
I was very intrigued by the band and wanted to explore more of the history. I found a 2-record Jefferson Airplane set called Flight Log, sort of a best-of, which gave me a good introduction. But a lot of it really didn’t grab me. I liked a few songs, but most of them I didn’t connect with. Some of that changed when, a year later, Grace rejoined the band. Originally she just did some guest vocals on the next album, Modern Times, but subsequently rejoined fully. I saw them on that tour, got to see Grace live for the first time, and heard some older songs that I’d never heard before, like “Fast Buck Freddie”.
I continued to love J Starship over the years, and slowly developed a strong appreciation for J Airplane as well. The influence that they had on me was to learn that music could be about more important things than partying, sex, romance, etc. Paul Kantner had a strong socio-political sensibility and his songs were about activism and criticism. They introduced me to all the other Woodstock-era bands, and pop music became a voice of change and revolution. It meant something. It was important.
Over the years, Jefferson Starship became more and more pop, and there was less room for Paul Kantner’s songs in their mix, and he left the band. But he took the “Jefferson” with him and wouldn’t allow the remaining band to use it. They carried on as Starship and had a string of major pop hits. Grace continued in the band for two albums until she too had had enough of it and left. She and Kantner reformed with the members of Jefferson Airplane and they released one pretty strong self-titled album.
To this day, I still consider this to be the best album recorded by the band, in any configuration and under any name (with the Airplane album Crown of Creation a very close second). Jefferson has had an enormous impact on me that I cherish to this day, and they introduced me to many other artists that I love as well.