Jefferson Starship

Who's making noise in and around Madison? What's new in the business of making music around town? Review shows and CDs here. Please keep all hype in Hype Exchange.
Kenneth Burns
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Jefferson Starship

Postby Kenneth Burns » Wed Jan 20, 2016 3:19 pm

Is anyone passionate about Jefferson Starship? How did that act remain so viable for so long? I'm thinking of Jefferson Starship proper, though related Starship/Jefferson Airplane history is of course pertinent.

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Wed Jan 20, 2016 3:38 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:How did that act remain so viable for so long?

I've often wondered this myself. I love, love, love, love, love the Airplane. Love'em! But I've yet to hear even a single Jefferson Starship song that interests me (let alone one that doesn't just outright blow.) Every review guide I've ever seen has tried to convince me that Red Octopus is some kind of mid-'70s masterpiece but it just sounds like lame-o MOR pap to me. As penquin would say: {shrug}

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby christopher_robin » Wed Jan 20, 2016 3:54 pm

"Jane" is kind of great in its own weird way, or at least contains an astonishing number of hooks in the first 60 seconds.



But yeah, they pretty much blow.

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby christopher_robin » Wed Jan 20, 2016 3:59 pm

Marty Balin's return to the fold brought the hit "With Your Love", which is pretty corny, but I personally know the co-writer Vic Smith, and that song saved his ass. Royalties for decades. It's weird how these things look different from the inside -- judged on its own merits this is a trifle, but in the context of "OK let's craft a hit single that will be played in lounges for the next 40 years" it's actually kind of impressive. I mean, I've never been able to pull that off and neither has anyone else here.


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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby Kenneth Burns » Wed Jan 20, 2016 4:30 pm

Presumably their success owed partly to hit singles but also to 70s-80s AOR airplay? I don't understand 70s-80s AOR. I don't understand how an album like Jackson Browne's "Hold Out" (1980) hits number one on the Billboard album chart but generates no top 10 singles.

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Wed Jan 20, 2016 4:41 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:I don't understand how an album like Jackson Browne's "Hold Out" (1980) hits number one on the Billboard album chart...

Heh. I'll just stop you right there.

The correct answer is derived from a complicated equation involving airplay, record sales reporting, payola, and bucketfuls of cocaine.

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby scratch » Wed Jan 20, 2016 6:34 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:Presumably their success owed partly to hit singles but also to 70s-80s AOR airplay? I don't understand 70s-80s AOR. I don't understand how an album like Jackson Browne's "Hold Out" (1980) hits number one on the Billboard album chart but generates no top 10 singles.


Along with what Prof. W's said regarding the how of Jackson Brown's commercial success, it's helpful to remember that through much of the '70s there was very little relationship between the singles charts and the album charts. For a time in some quarters (including Madison's quarter) it was considered crass and not artistic at all to court top forty success too obviously. During part of the time 'Hold Out" was at the top of the album charts, Donnie and Marie or Debby Boone might well have been on top of the singles chart.

After a couple of Jefferson Starship albums, some started referring to them as Jefferson Skateboard because it seemed they'd dumbed down the music compared to what Jefferson Airplane. But what do I know? I like Hot Tuna, even the heavy metal period. As I recall Grace Slick panned the whole Starship ethos in one autobio or another.

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby Dust Mite Rodeo » Wed Jan 20, 2016 7:32 pm

What? They built this city. Built this city with Rock 'n Roll.

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby Kenneth Burns » Thu Jan 21, 2016 6:56 am

It was inevitable that "We Built This City" would come up. Here is my take. It is a canonical Bad Song, but my feelings about it have evolved. I hated it when it was a hit in 1985. Its very 1985 production grated on my teenage ears. I was more interested in what was known at the time, amusingly, as college rock and maybe some Tom Petty. Now I actually think the song is kind of poignant, mainly because it prompts me to contemplate Grace Slick and her remarkable longevity -- her success singing on hit singles across three decades and with three different acts. And I have come to find the hook not un-catchy. If "We Built This City" comes on the radio -- and it does -- I no longer change the station.

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby Kenneth Burns » Thu Jan 21, 2016 7:01 am

I wonder if Starship could have milked the '80s for even more hits if they'd gone instead in a hair metal direction, like Heart. I'm actually confused as to what genre Starship is. I'm fascinated to see that Wikipedia lists Starship's genre as "AOR." Is it accurate to call that a music genre? I thought it was a radio format. Clearly I'm not the only one who's confused.

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby Henry Vilas » Thu Jan 21, 2016 9:02 am

I like Jefferson Airplane but as others have said, not so much the Starship version. I saw the Airplane twice in the 70s, once in San Diego and once at the Field House in Madison. Hot Tuna opened with an acoustic set. They were OK, but not hot shit (which they originally wanted to call themselves, but their record label nixed that).

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby scratch » Thu Jan 21, 2016 9:40 am

Henry Vilas wrote:Hot Tuna opened with an acoustic set. They were OK, but not hot shit (which they originally wanted to call themselves, but their record label nixed that).


According to Jorma, this is not true. Just like how "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is not about LSD. Jorma said it was a reference to the same thing as the line about what smells like fish in "Keep on Truckin'" from Hot Tuna's Burgers album.

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby Igor » Thu Jan 21, 2016 11:56 pm

I think that all the Jefferson Airplane/Starship projects really suffered from inconsistent songwriting. Even on their best albums, they delivered clunkers with an annoying frequency. Maybe that was due to the seemingly democratic process that they used to handle the songwriting, including many outside co-writers as well. Since they regularly had writers with very different ideas, it was unlikely that they were going to deliver as album as cohesive as one by The Who, for example.

My personal faves would be Surrealistic Pillow, Volunteers, Blows Against the Empire, Dragonfly, and the first 2.1 albums with Mickey Thomas (Freedom at Point Zero, Find Your Way Back, and the title song from Winds of Change. I think Red Octopus is overrated, and Spitfire and Earth coasted by largely based on the strength of Balin's singles.

I will admit that some of the stuff I have only heard once or twice (Baron Von Tollbooth, Bark) but I think that there is probably a good reason they were not memorable listens. I have Sunfighter and Crown of Creation on LP - they may deserve another listen, but it has been a while.

Never had much use for Hot Tuna.

Mickey Thomas killed the band at the end - they suffered the same fate (Vaguely Effeminate Lead Singer with Large Ego) that befell Styx and Journey. He didn't deserve to have his head caved in by Donnie Baldwin, but he ran them into the ground nonetheless. He was correct that all of Kantner's songs were sounding the same at that point though.

Viewing their live videos on Youtube reveals that they were not exactly a "tight" live band at any point in their history.

I thought China Kantner was a hottie when she was an MTV Veejay.

That's all I got...

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Fri Jan 22, 2016 12:41 am

Igor wrote:Find Your Way Back

Y'know, now that I think about it, I totally dig the title track from this.
You've won this round Jefferson Starship!

Igor wrote: Crown of Creation ... may deserve another listen

It absolutely does. Love that record.

Igor wrote:Never had much use for Hot Tuna.

And how!

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Re: Jefferson Starship

Postby Igor » Fri Jan 22, 2016 12:57 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
Igor wrote:Never had much use for Hot Tuna.

And how!


They seemed like the kind of band where a fan would say "this album has some tasty blues licks on it, man". I hate that. Tasty is like "moist" and should only apply to food.

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