Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Jefferson Airplane - 2400 Fulton Street
Tuesday I will be attending San Francisco Giants’ “Grateful Dead Night” at AT&T Park. Deadhead friends are flying in from all over California. They will get together and talk of concerts, sporting events, life experiences and shared adventures. I say this apologetically, especially when I am with them, I was never a big fan of the Grateful Dead. Yes, I was an usher for their legendary 14 shows at the Warfield Theatre in 1980 but, that was solely a starving law school student’s little perk through the Placement Office.
It is not that I dislike the Dead. In fact, I like much of their music. I suppose when I first heard the Dead it was their 1967 release called The Grateful Dead and, by then, I found the Jefferson Airplane much more interesting
For me the Jefferson Airplane was that incredible band that lived at 2400 Fulton St. near Golden Gate Park in a Victorian house that they painted black. Almost every weekend in the summer they would play for free in the Park. Fact is their debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, came out in 1966 a year before the Grateful Dead’s debut. In the same year the first Grateful Dead album was released the Airplane gave us two spacey albums, Surrealistic Pillow and After Bathing At Baxter’s. To me back then the Grateful Dead’s old blues covers were just not as creative.
Of course, many differ with that assessment but, if you take into account how long each band survived, it is at least an argument. The Grateful Dead went on to legendary status and lived until Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. Jefferson Airplane (according to Wikipedia the name is slang for a used paper match split to hold a joint that has been smoked too short to hold without burning the fingers but according to band member Jorma Kaukonen, the name was invented by his friend Steve Talbot as a parody of blues names such as Blind Lemon Jefferson) only survived until 1972 (sure, there was the Jefferson Starship, but there was also Ringo’s All-Star Band after the Beatles.)
During its life the Airplane produced a number of great recordings and even did a few Levi’s jeans commercials. Fortunately, in 1987, 2400 Fulton St., a compilation of the Jefferson Airplane’s music, including their pitches for Levi’s, was released. The two disk set captures the Airplane and the psychedelic period of 1966-1972.
The album takes from Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (1966), “It’s No Secret,” “Come Up The Years,” “Let’s Get Together,” and the amazing “Blues From An Airplane.” From Surrealistic Pillow (1967) it compiles “My Best Friend,” the classic “Somebody To Love,” “Comin’ Back To Me,” the LSD-inspired “Embryonic Journey,” “She Has Funny Cars,” the iconic classic “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” and that trip of a song “White Rabbit.” Bathing At Baxter’s (1967) contributions include “Wild Tyme (H),” the memorable “Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil,”A Small Package Of Value Will Come To You, Shortly,” the anthem “Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon,” “The Last Wall Of The Castle,” “Rejoice,” and “Martha,” Crown of Creation (1968) is represented by Grace Slick’s “Lather” and “Greasy Heart,” Paul Kanter’s “Crown Of Creation,” and David Crosby’s beautiful “Triad.” The album pulls from Volunteers (1969) “We Can Be Together,” the Kanter, Crosby and Stephen Stills written song “Wooden Ships,” the traditional tune “Good Shepherd” and “Eskimo Blue Day.” The release Bark (1971) provides “Pretty As You Feel” and “Third Week In The Chelsea.” Their final album recorded as a band, Long John Silver (1972), contributes “Eat Starch Mom.” To capture the era there is a live recording of “Volunteers” from Woodstock and “Fat Angel” from Bless Its Pointed Head (1969) a live album recorded at Filmore East and Filmore West in 1968, The album also contains obscurities - The Levi’s Commercials, the band’s 1970 single “Mexico” and the B-side “Have You Seen The Saucers?;” and “J.P.P. McStep B. Blues” which was first released on the band’s post break-up compilation album Early Flight (1974).
Many argue the sound quality of this compilation leaves much to be desired. True, RCA could have remastered the originals, cleaned them up, compressed and decompressed them, digitized and excited them and provided greater separation and clarity. After all, they have the Masters. I suppose they could do that one day, but, I’m kind of glad that they didn’t. There is a real honest quality to the recordings that is true to the day and the band that, if reprocessed, would likely be lost. As is, it is the best kind of flashback an old hippie can have.
- Old School