Monday, 26 October 2015

Jefferson Airplane: Surviving TV Footage 1966-1989








The Alan's Album Archives Youtube Jefferson Playlist now has lift-off!!! Visit https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC0AAF9F7B8118373 if the player doesn't work!

Whether it be in concert, in a documentary, in a music video, at a festival, on top of a roof or in a TV studio sending up hopeless elderly presenters who didn't have a clue what was going on, there was always something a little bit special about a Jefferson Airplane TV clip. Those great staring Grace Slick eyes, that Paul Kantner slouch, that Marty Balin intensity - this is a band that looks as well as sounds amazing and yet again we have a much longer column than the average AAA band that has survived the years and the rise and fall of various Empires intact. On the plus side, being an American band who got big relatively fast means that for once we can be fairly sure that there isn't too much from down the years that have been lost (American TV networks didn't have the space and financial problems of many of their European cousins). Also on the plus side, the Jefferson family had a very long and involved career (which like most of our Jefferson book and articles we've pruned down to the 1966-1984 years - I'm not sure I could stomach sitting through all the plain 'Starship' videos as well, which despite only taking place over the course of four years would come close to doubling this list). On the unusual side of things, I've noticed something in this list: most AAA bands start in the monchrome years and go on to dazzling psychedelic colour but of course that was when the Airplane started - instead things seem to get more monochrome as the list goes on for some reason...

As ever with these articles, a few things before we start. This is no doubt not a complete list of everything out there. It is however a complete list of every clip that I've ever come across so I can vouch for all of these first-hand having seen them with my eyes - it doesn't matter how convincing a list in a book might be if I haven't been able to see it for myself. Doubtless there are things I haven't seen, though, so I doubt it's truly complete - on the other hand it's as complete a list as I've seen anywhere. The second thing to say is that we've tried our hardest to put these clips in chronological order but that's not always possible - some sources don't have a date, some dates contradict each other and no matter how many Ed Sullivan sites I sift through there's always somebody who remembers the date clearly or has the cuttings that contradict everything - in order to save us that problem we're only giving the year but we've tried to put things in order where that order is obvious. The third thing is to say that certain things have been cut - the entire 1981 show released as 'The Definitive Concert' has already been covered in out DVDography for instance - although, actually, that's it this time around (blimey we usually have a long list of these exceptions!)

The final thing to say is that we're keeping this list to full band performances by either Jefferson band - so no Grace interviews, no Marty solo shows and no Hot Tuna I'm afraid, perhaps at a later date (goodness knows this article goes on for long enough as it is!) As for where you can see these clips, I'm afraid there's rather limited choice: to date the only official Jefferson Airplane DVD out there is 'Fly J A' (2004) which features eleven archive performances (sadly some of them shortened) intercut with interviews with all of the 'classic' line-up. We'll tell you when these are available - otherwise its back to Youtube again I'm afraid folks. Yes Youtube, the Tutankhamen's Tomb of the modern musical archaeologist - little did the people who invented it for teeny boppers and teenagers think that so many great and rare 1960s and 1970s would end up here. As with the other 29 books in our series we've put together our own 'playlist' to save you looking - just visit our Alan's Album Archives page for free 
(https://www.youtube.com/user/AlansArchives) and we'll try and keep the playlist as topped up as we can in the ever-changing world of youtube (which is why we won't give the direct links because they'll be long gone by the time some of you read this book - though hopefully replaced by somebody else one day too!) So why not give us a 'follow' and come and say 'hello' while scrolling through our 'Jefferson' playlist? (You can have a look at our six Alan's Album Archives videos while you're there!)

Anyway,  with that lot out the way, it's full throttle to the Airplane at peak altitude...

1) Bell Telephone Hour ('It's No Secret' US TV 1966)

We start with the only clip of the band with Signe Andersen as vocalist (not that you see her much hidden behind Marty), recorded at the Filmore in late 1966 as a group of hip groovy young things gyrate the night away under some psychedelic florescent lights. The band are clearly singing this song for real, although the studio take is substituted for use on this late period revival of a 1940s/1950s music variety programme. Both band and audience look impossibly young, perhaps because they were back then. Included in the 'Fly Jefferson Airplane' DVD.

2) American Bandstand ('Somebody To Love' 'White Rabbit' US TV 1967)

'I've never yet run into anybody who ever had anything derogatory to say about San Francisco, everybody who goes falls in love with it' says presenter Dick Clark, who declares the band also to be 'one of the biggest acts in the world right now' after the release of 'Surrealistic Pillow - that's a mouthful ain't it?!' The Airplane live up to this billing too, all striking their own individual poses on stage leaning, lying, slouching sitting or standing (so they look less like a band than any other group to have ever been on the Bandstand stage). Grace, dressed like a nun for reasons best left to herself (is this a comment on censorship or people's prior conceptions about what the band will be like?), stares down the camera with sheer intensity as she mouths the words to both hits while the rest of the band just look cool and unbothered (if you look closely you can see that there are no plugs to any of the guitars so the band weren't even trying to pretend this was 'real' A 90 second interview is chaos, 'Do parents have anything to worry about?' Dick asks Paul - probably the wrong choice given his answer 'I think so their children are doing things they didn't do and they don't understand it' is his response! Even this early in the band's career Marty seems ostracised, miming away on a piano he doesn't even play on the record and not getting talked to in the interview - just a clip and a few months ago the camera couldn't take its eyes off him! By the way the Jeffersons were unlucky to be captured in black and white - this was the last episode of the long running series broadcast that way before they started back in colour with their next series. All in all a great clip.

3) Smothers Brothers Hour ('White Rabbit' 'Somebody To Love' US TV 1967)

And we're back in colour for the so-called comedy programme every AAA band seemed to play with their usual jokes about bananas. The intro? 'Usually an Airplane is made out of metal, wood and canvas and held together by welding and rivets but Jefferson Airplane is a new concept in aircraft, made out people, hair, guitars and held together by words and music!' The show clearly has a wannabe hippie director given the amount of effects and gimmicks on this clip of the band actually singing this time their two biggest hits - mainly in silhouette with a light show taking place behind them. Once again Marty is symbolically stuck back left sadly banging a tambourine while Paul takes his usual spot at the front of the stage. 'White Rabbit' was included in the 'Fly Jefferson Airplane' DVD.

4) Monterey Pop Festival ('Today' 'High Flyin' Bird' 'Somebody To Love' Live US 1967)

Poor Marty - his biggest moment in front of a stage of millions singing one of the greatest love songs of a generation and what does director D A Pennebaker do? He films Grace mouthing the words that's what! That aside this is a great clip, with the Jefferson's two songs amongst the highlights of the film of the Monterey Pop Festival. The band are on cracking form throughout the forty minute show and the competition between Marty and Grace during a killer 'High Flyin' Bird' is extraordinary, both of them living out the painful blues song. Both 'Today' and 'High Flyin' Bird' were featured in the original film released to cinemas in 1968 with a further performance of 'Somebody To Love' rescued for 'The Complete Monterey Pop' 3 DVD in 2004. Presumably other material exists, although the camera crews didn't film everything back then as space was tight, so who knows? In addition the first two tracks are recycled for 'Fly Jefferson Airplane'.

5) Ed Sullivan Show ('Crown Of Creation' 'Won't You Try?-Saturday Afternoon' US TV 1968)

Amazingly, the ever conservative Ed Sullivan allowed the Jefferson juveniles onto his flagship show and they didn't disappoint, singing two of their most complex pieces - one about how mankind's evolution has ground to a halt and another about the psychedelic weirdness of a hippie excursion rejecting the 9-5 lifestyle in favour of peace and harmony. Not bad for two short songs performed live on TV in a prime time slot though perhaps not really what the producers were looking for. 'Creation' appears to be a preview before the release of either album or single, while even 'Won't You Try?' hadn't been out that long at the time. The band are a little rough and heavy and the vocals struggle to be heard over some powerful drumming, whilst the director again spends too much playing around with the light show and the band seen from a distance instead of just filming what's happening. However, this is an important clip, with 'Crown Of Creation' now officially available on the Ed Sullivan compilation volume four ('The Psychedelic Sixties') and both the seven and twelve DVD versions of 'The Ed Sullivan Rock and Roll Collection'.

6) Perry Como Special (!) ('Martha' 'Watch Her Ride' US TV 1968)

Talking of which, this collision between a crooner and the Jeffersons is even stranger, although the two aren't seen together on screen - instead the Airplane have sent in two groovy home videos to re-boost the falling sales of the 'Baxters' album. On 'Martha' the camera work cuts quickly between all six band members doing something (Grace is sitting chewing flowers, Spencer is up to something weird in a garden in a big hat, Marty is sitting Beatles 1966 style in sunglasses in front of some big flowers, Jack is rowing a boat out across a big lake, Jorma is up a tree and miming to Grace's recorder playing for some reason, while Paul is playing with some peacocks before the whole band play 'hide and seek with the cameras. It's like a low budget laidback re-make of 'Magical Mystery Tour'). 'Watch Her Ride' is a bit more normal, but only because we actually get to see the band miming this time in front of yet another psychedelic light show (did all TV studios get them cheap?) This clip is unique in the Jefferson canon for giving the whole band equal 'air time', spending long lingering shots on each one before moving on instead of just being obsessed with Grace. One of the better if dafter Jefferson TV programmes, both clips were used in 'Fly Jefferson Airplane'.

7) Smothers Brothers Hour ('Lather' 'Crown Of Creation' US TV 1968)

A repeat performance on the supposedly-comedy-but-surely-a-tragedy show. The band get much more to do on this one, even re-enacting the lyrics of 'Lather', while the director uses special effects to make it look as if three slightly different coloured Graces are singing at once. One of the Brothers - I don't know which one and I'm not sure I want to - cameos on 'nose trumpet'! Goodness only knows what most of middle America made of this clip! Meanwhile the controversy comes from what the band did next, with Grace 'blacking up' to sing on 'Crown Of Creation' in a solidarity protest on behalf of African Americans which she now admits she regrets and rather backfired (most people watching this who didn't know the band didn't know what she really looked like anyway). Yet again it directs the camera's attention away from Marty whose really on form tonight, with lots of extra whoops and yells not on the recorded version and of all the band's 'live in studio' re-creations of their work this may well be the best, all the more impressive given how complicated the piece is. Ah-ah-ah-ah! 'Crown Of Creation' was recycled in the 'Fly Jefferson Airplane' DVD.

8) The Jefferson Airplane Rooftop Performance ('The House At Pooneil Corners' Live US 1968)

'The idiots have won!' All I ever used to hear from Beatle fans whenever some new anniversary of 'Let It Be' rolled around was 'wasn't it great when they played up on the roof of their Savile Row Apple headquarters and wasn't the guy who thought it up great?' Actually it was a band who had the idea first - Jefferson Airplane whose November 1968 and almost as chilly performance predated The Beatles by two months. Even the police are called in and disrupt the end just as on the other side of the pond, with no permits sought by either band and both police are equally unnervingly polite ('I don't mind, it sounds nice, believe me it's a good change - but the city can't stand it!') The fab four almost certainly would have known about it as it was much talked about at the time even if the footage wasn't released for another forty years- McCartney in particular was a big fan - although it has to be said that this hotel roof in upper Manhattan isn't quite as wild and windy a venue as the precarious London roof. Nor did The Beatles' version start with the slogan 'New York - wake up you fuckers!' Political director Jean-Luc Goddard was director that day, in the process of making an unfinished film 'One A M (One American Movie)' - abandoned before being resuscitated by D A Pennebaker as the wittily titled 'One PM (One Pennebaker Movie)! I wonder why the band chose the song they did, as the turbulent 'House At Pooneil Corners' about nuclear annihilation is far from the obvious song to play in the circumstance and the band performed much better political songs. Note how cold the band look - and wonder why Marty has his sunglasses on even though its barely daylight in Winter - as well as basking in a great band performance that's the equal of the record. This clip was used for the first time ever in 'Fly Jefferson Airplane'.

9) West Pole ? ('Greasy Heart' US TV 1969)

Available as part of a double DVD set with 'Go Ride The Music', this unfinished-at-the-time documentary on the hippie scene (how many were there for goodness sake?) features a nervy Ralph Gleason glancing down at his script every few seconds, interspersed with some prime footage of several leading bands (including the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service). It's another one of those 'mimed footage with the record home movie' type things with the band performance slowed down and lots of lingering close-ups. Jorma looks like a vampire in his clip, or at least he does before the weird light show turns him yellow then purple. Truly odd.

10) Night At The Family Dog ('The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil' 'Eskimo Blue Day' 'Jam' Live US 1969)

The Family Dog was a San Francisco concert venue established by Janis Joplin's friend and manager Chet Helms that provided psychedelic bands with somewhere to play that wasn't owned by Bill Graham. A TV film of various highlights of some of the acts who played there was compiled together and screened, would you believe, on the National Educational Television Network in 1970 (re-released on DVD in 2007). The Airplane are easily the stars of the show with one of their best mini-concerts, with perhaps the definitive live version of 'Pooneil' that lasts some eight minutes and includes a killer Jack Casady bass solo, plus the rarely heard and rather less together 'Eskimo Blue Day' which is comparatively short at six minutes (!) and features a quiet, less frenetic vocal from Grace. Various members of the Airplane can also be seen on stage with the Grateful Dead and Santana as part of a 'Super Jam' that ends the show, although the thrill of seeing Jorma and Jerry Garcia weave lines together aside it's not as interesting as it sounds.

11) Woodstock ('Somebody To Love' 'White Rabbit' 'Uncle Sam's Blues' 'Won't You Try?-Saturday Afternoon' 'Volunteer' '3-5ths Of A Mile In Ten Seconds' Live US 1969)

'Morning Maniac Music' where the Jefferson Airplane, booted from their intended headlining closing spot on Saturday night when the show ran on too long, provide an intense early morning wake up call. Unlike most of the shows we've listed recently, where the band are spaced far apart and seem to be going in six different directions, here they're all crammed together on a tiny stage and seem like much more of a 'band' here than Monterey, even if the camera insists on staring at Grace looking lovely in white (and clearly out of it judging by her eyes). A funky bass-led re-make of 'Somebody To Love' is a highlight, though eclipsed by a thrilling 'Won't You Try?'. Surprisingly given how popular the band's set was thought to be at the time nothing by the band made the three-hour original cut of the film released to cinemas in 1970 and even more surprisingly the two songs chosen to represent them in the later 'director's cut' four hour version were the most obscure songs they performed: 'Won't You Try?'  surely won just by virtue of being such a great performance though, in typical Airplane style on the verge of collapse until suddenly rushing forth with a tautness the envy of every other band who played that August weekend. 'Uncle Sam's Blues', meanwhile, is an unreleased Jorma Kaukanen blues number about draft dodging played for sarcasm in great contrast to most of the upfront happy vibes of the event. In addition the 1994 documentary series 'Woodstock Diaries' unearthed the two big Grace-sung hits 'Somebody To Love' and 'White Rabbit', with the '40th Anniversary Collection' adding a ramshackle '3-5ths Of A Mile In Ten Seconds'. I've also seen a clip of 'Volunteers' doing the rounds, although this hasn't been officially released as yet.

12) Dick Cavett Show ('We Can Be Together' 'Volunteers' 'Somebody To Love' US TV 1969)

'We're learning to communicate!' A show that's already turned up in our CSN book, given that amongst the other guests this December 12969 night are David Crosby and Stephen Stills. The Airplane and CSNY were performing at Woodstock the night before - Stills hasn't even changed yet and still has his 'mud' which he wears like a trophy - and the pair are still buzzing with excitement. By contrast the Airplane are their usual cold calm taciturn selves, starting the show with a rather woolly reading of their brand new and controversial song 'We Can Be Together' (the first time the 'f' word was used on television?'Boy will the old lady upstairs be sore!' is Cavett's mock-angry response) before segueing into the ever-so-nearly-the-same-song 'Volunteers' with Marty on one of his last performances with the band in cracking form. The band will end the night with three songs - more than anyone else - with a fiery 'Somebody To Love'. Sitting with Crosby and Stills and Joni Mitchell in a circle 'like little elves' (Grace even has a Crosby-style fringe jacket) the band discuss Grace's upbringing ('You don't seem like the usual Finch girl' 'Well I only stayed one year - it takes two!'), her father's career as an investment banker, where Jimi Hendrix  - the night's other planned guest whose gone awol - is right now ('Asleep!') , bar reviews (Paul remembers one as the band 'sounding like they were kicking down a back fence'), the panel's three Scorpios (Grace, Joni and Dick himself), David Crosby accidentally insults four of the show's sponsers ('We'll be back another season!') and another chaotic but likeable Dick Cavett show is over, included on disco one of the 'Rock Icons' series of Dick Cavett Shows.

13) Altamont/Gimme Shelter (Live US 1969)

'It's getting kinda weird up here!' Nowadays people are too quick to think that only The Rolling Stones played at the infamous festival where a snazzily dressed hippie died as the result of brandishing a pistol at a members of security - who just happened to be a hell's angel (to put this in context it wasn't much of a brandish - and they were threatneing his girlfriend at the time). However the Airplane had been one of several bands who had already played earlier in the weekend and felt the same weird vibes of the festival, oh so different to Woodstock just six months on. In the 'Gimme Shelter' film of the festival, watched back by the Stones open-mouthed in the editing suite, Jefferson Airplane are shown having to halt their performance mid-way through a rapidly collapsing 'The Other Side Of This Life' when it becomes clear the crowd are getting out of control. 'Easy!' pleads Grace as the scuffled get bigger and nearer the stage as the hell's angel try to clear back the hippies rushing towards the band and the track just eventually fizzles out as the band strain to look what's going on. Realising that something needs to be done, the rhythm section keep going as a distraction while Grace tries to calm the crowd down and Marty, the hero of the hour, leaps into the crowd to defend a girl being beaten up with a snooker cue and in turn gets smashed in the face. Paul's strained response 'To the Hell's Angel who just smashed out lead singer in the face...umm, thankyou for that' says it all, while Paul argues face to face with another Hell's Angel who wants his microphone to address the crowd. Their end response 'Keep your bodies off each other - unless you intend love!' A scary moment in a scary show with a very dazed Marty barely making it back to the stage.

15) Go Ride The Music ('We Can Be Together' 'Volunteers' 'Mexico' 'Plastic fantastic Lover' 'Somebody To Love' 'Emergency' 'Wooden Ships' TV Special US 1970)

Ralph Gleason's back again with some more dodgy links in between some great footage of hippie bands at their zenith. The Jefferson Airplane part of this show is an intimate indoors set at Pacific High Studios, very different to the boldness of the Monterey and Woodstock shows, with the big change being that Spencer Dryden has left and been replaced on the drum-stool by Joey Covington, though for the moment Marty is still around. The performance is much kore interesting than predecessor 'West Pole' because the band perform for much longer (nearly an hour) and we actually 'see' them perform rather than speeded up mimed footage. Admittedly the playing is a little rough - Covington isn't to everybody's tastes and only lasts one year with the band and this is his worst showing yet - but the song choice is interesting. This is the only time you can see the band performing their single-only 'Mexico' and it's a great performance with Grace on her political Nixon-baiting high horse ('There's a man called Richard and he's come to call himself King!'), the only time the band ever performed 'Emergency', a rather average Marty Balin rocker intended for a film soundtrack that never happened and the last time that Marty can be seen singing any of these classic on stage until his return with Jefferson Starship four years later (when the band have changed quite a bit). Instead it's a revved-up 'Plastic Fantastic Lover' that steals the honours as best song of the set with a lethargic Marty suddenly sparking into life and a rare and lovely performance of 'Wooden Ships' close behind intercut with stock footage of boats. There's an interesting use of splitscreen (four ways compared to Woodstock's three) and some intercut footage of revolution, protest and police massacres. In addition there are interviews with Marty and, for some reason, Jerry Garcia. The whole footage can be seen on the two-DVD set 'Go Ride The Music/West Pole'.

16) Live At The Fillmore East ('John's Other' 'Wooden Ships' 'Uncle Sam's Blues' 'Walking The Tou Tou' 'Jam' Concert US 1970)

Grainy 50 minutes of footage of the late Airplane in their natural habitat at the Fillmore, with some unusual songs played and uniquely the band's new sexagenarian fiddle player Papa John Creach playing a bigger role than most members of the band. Don't come to this gig looking for Marty-Grace interplay - there really isn't any apart from a rather rough sounding 'Wooden Ships' and sadly Balin's last filmed footage with the band finds him way past his best. However this footage is compelling to the big Jefferson collector because it features a massive four unreleased songs, one of them apparently made up on the spot by Joey Covington and captures the band in transition, with only Papa John looking at all like he wants to be there.

17) The Last Days Of The Filmore (Film 1971)

As reported in our Grateful Dead book, this film was a sort of Bill Graham documentary intercut with the promoter's typically savvy idea for a 'farewell show' filmed for posterity as a big gesture. All the big San Francisco bands played it (except Big Brother and the Holding Company strangely) with a performance by Hot Tuna (Jorma, Jack , Joey and Papa John in this line-up) playing 'Uncle Sam's Blues' again appearing some twenty minutes in before we get to the main Airplane feature some forty-five minutes in. A colourful rendition of 'We Can Be Together' seems at odds with the monochrome shots of the audience dancing to the song and to be honest the band are rather short-changed by the whole deal, the band being cut off in their prime for yet another Bill Graham rap about being on the phone all day. Though rarely spotted the film is out on DVD, released in 2009.

18) Rotterdam Kralingen Pop Festival ('The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil' 'White Rabbit' German TV 1970)

Every entry in this list is either a music video or a concert or a TV programme filmed in America. Tbis is the one exception, a three minute burst of 'Pooneil' and a four minyte burst of 'White Rabbit' taped during a festival in Holland. The Byrdsm Santana and a young T Rex were the other headliners but from what footage exists nobody played that well that week - Grace in particular sounds out of tune and uncharacteristically husky during this performance. Grace and Paul also clash terribly trying to improvise their way out of trouble duroing 'Pooneil'. To date this footage is unavailable on anything.

19) Live At The Winterland ('Drivin' Me Crazy' 'That's For Sure' 'Better Lying Down' 'Big City' 'Come To Life' 'The Witcher' 'Have You Seen The Saucers?' 'White Rabbit' Concert US 1975)

Jumping ahead five years in time (what were they all doing???) this footage too is unavailable on anything - but it can be seen legally thanks to Jefferson Starship's rather good official Youtube channel where much of the rest of this list comes from (the Airplane need one too pronto!) This gig is clearly not suitable for general release - its shot by static cameras in grainy black and white and the band are a bit messy to say the least. However the channel were right to put it out because historically it's a fascinating document of a band who never put out a live album (not in the Starship years at least) and with the band reluctant to perform Airplane songs as yet there's a really weird and wild collection of material here. The band have just rejoined forces with Marty, who left pretty much the minute our last entry was filmed, and are flying high after the success of 'Red Octopus'. However nothing from that album is actually played here - instead we get two songs Marty played with his offshoot band Bodacious DF, Grace's solo 'Better Lying Down' from 'Mahole', two songs from Starship debut 'Dragonfly' and a preview of drummer Johnny Barbata's lone Starship vocal 'Big City' a year before it appears on the album 'Spitfire'. It's a fun concert, Grace joking with the band who can reads the setlist on stage better than she can and with some great performances amongst the murk. David Freiberg is, not for the last time, the hidden talent of the show with cracking performances of his two 'Dragonfly' songs including an epic eight minute version of 'That's For Sure' with Marty singing lead while Freiberg plays the piano that's double the length of the album cut thanks to some terrific wah-wah Craig Chaquico guitarwork. However the highlight has to be a surprise eleven minute extension of 'Saucers', reclaimed from a 1970 Airplane single and turned into a tour de force. More please Jefferson Starship, this is great! In case you were wondering why bassist-keyboard player Pete Sears is sitting down in this and the next few clips by the way he injured his back in a skateboarding accident - the band were big fans and even wrote a song about the hobby in 1978 (which is as awful as it sounds!)

20) Don Kirshner Show ('Miracles' US TV 1976)

Jefferson Starship are receiving an award. They don't quite know what to do, having not received one for anything in about eight years and seem very out of place here amongst the smartly dressed general music crowd. The performance of their hit song is very ragged but it's great to see the 'proper' Starship in colour if nothing else! Unavailable officially I'm afraid.

21) St Charles (Music Video 1976)

The band's first official music video comes surprisingly late in their story and oddly is promoting not a planned single but the six minute opus from their third album 'Spitfire'. It's a colourful version of a colourful song however, very fitting for this gorgeous song's hazy other-worldly feel. This time the director has some colour filters to use on the band but unlike the gimmicks of earlier years this kind of suits this different-way-of-looking-at-the-world song  (ie the band look good in red!) Intermingled with this are home movies of the band at play on the water including a brief shot of a nude Grace in the sea for good measure. Nice and pretty suitable for the song, I think I saw it in a dream once too.

22) Old Grey Whistle Test ('Count On Me' Rehearsal filmed for UK TV 1978)

Every so often Whispering Bob Harris got to leave his BBC studio for the glamour of another country for special filming - though it nearly always turned out to be New York. For one show in 1978 he was on hand for a charming rehearsal for the Starship's 1978 tour - their last before the big change towards new wave and the loss of Marty, Johnny and (briefly) Grace. The band sound mighty fine sitting round on the floor cross-legged as Marty teaches them all how to play a song he covered on the 'Earth' album. This is even a rare chance to see Marty on guitar while its fascinating to just see the band dynamics - Grace and David getting pally on the sofa while Paul directs the band from the floor and Pete is away in his own world on piano.

23) Star Wars Holiday Special ('Light The Sky On Fire' 1978)

Yes there was a Star Wars TV special filmed after the success of the first film. No, you really don't need to see it - it's awful, notwithstanding the fact that I seem to be the only sci-fi fan in the world who hates these godawaful films (yes even the originals!) At least the films had a certain intended gravitas to them though - this one is a comedy variety show only with Chewbacca and Hans Solo as Perry Como and Ed Sullivan this time - yep exactly - with links to various oddball things along the way. I've no idea why the Starship got involved - possibly money and/or blackmail - but appear they do, plugging the last gasp release single by the Marty-era band (never included on an album but given away free with the best-of album 'Gold'). Of all the music made by the Balin-era Starship, this is easily the worst: a horribly over-sung rocker with awful cliched lyrics which somehow seems even worse in this TV version.  Grace by the way has already left leaving the way for Marty but alas Balin has never sounded so banal. At least its more interesting than the footage around it however...Sadly the band don't dress up but they still manage to look pretty stupid anyway in all that fake purple light and late 1970s video effects. Perhaps mercifully, the Star Wars Special has never been officially released and there's probably an ewok ninjas warrior after me right now for reminding the world that it ever existed...

24) Find Your Way Back (Music Video 1981)

The start of the new look new wave Jefferson Starship in our list with a futuristic looking video (yes even now) which clearly inspired the film 'Tron' and new vocalist Mickey Thomas at the start of a lifelong career hamming things up for the camera. The 'black android' figure seen on the cover of rather good 1981 album 'Modern Times' can be seen 'running' across the stage at the start of the show and suddenly 'transforms' into a guesting Grace Slick (who sings un-credited on the album but didn't appear on this song) but is replaced by an actress for the futuristic shots that keep cropping up throughout the video (she is after all 42 here and too old to be dressing up but she still looks  at least ten years younger here). In what might be a symbolic gesture she rips up the picture used for the inside gatefold sleeve of 'Modern Timnes' featuring the six-piece male version of the band into tiny bits, then pieces them back together again with her image in blue added over the top.  Note how little we see Paul in this video by the way, now the lone member from the increasingly distant Airplane days.

25) Stranger (Music Video 1981)

Even more MTV is this sequel video from the same album, apparently shot on the same day (either that or this band wears a lot of the same clothes a lot of the time). Grace is still dressed like an android and sings like one too, while Mickey tries not to get the giggles watching her. Along the way we get cutaway shots of  Mickey with a sheet over his head, walking through a doorway 'The Day The Earth Stood Still' style (no doubt sci-fi buff Paul Kantner's suggestion) and Pete Sears playing a double-necked guitar.

26) Fridays ('Find Your Way Back' 'Jane' Live US 1981)

'Friday's was a late-night comedy show with occasional guest stars, a bit like Saturday Night Live but even less funny that ran between 1980 and 1982. A rare chance to see Starship play live rather than simply mime and they sound rather good, turning in rather good renditions of their new release and their last big hit. What's interesting is how the band have split up into 'pairs' - Grace and Mickey share a microphone, Craig and Dave do the same on stage right, whilst Pete and Paul are all the way to stage left, with new boy Aynsley Dunbar on drums. The allegedly funny presenter introduces the band and nominates Grace as his 'favourite' - she looks deeply embarassed and we get the old shtick about her naming her child 'god' (this was a joke to annoy the mainstream press - she was actually named China; also Paul was as much responsible for her as Grace was if you get my drift but isn't mentioned in that context!) The Starship can be pretty ropey live but not here - the band are punchy and powerful and they all put on a great show. They should have done more shows like this. Still not available officially sadly.

27) Live at Moscone Center ('Somebody To Love' 'Ride The Tiger' 'Stranger' 'Fast Buck Freddie' 'Find Your Way Back' 'Save Your Love' 'Fooled Around and Fell In Love' 'Girl With The Hungry Eyes' 'Pete Sears Bass Solo' 'Play On Love' 'Jane' 'Light The Sky On Fire' 'Aynsley Dunbar Drum Solo' 'Stairway To Cleveland' 'Dance With The Dragon' 'White Rabbit' 'Rock and Roll Is Good Time Music' US May 1982)

'This is for all the veterans who already rode the tiger!' A similar live show to the one released as 'The Definitive Concert' the year before but on a slightly ropier day from a year later, this is something of a test for most fans (the band crashed to a halt when they get the words to 'Stairway To Cleveland' round the wrong way!) The show starts off with a completely reinvented 'Somebody To Love' that's on the borderline between genuinely inventive and sacrilegious but the crowd seem to like it. In all the band play a full 90 minutes though so it's worth hanging around just for the rare tracks that didn't make the DVD like a particularly angry 'Fast Buck Freddie', a more new wave refit for 'Dance With The Dragon' that works rather well or Craig Chaquico replicating his finger-numbing endless guitar solo on 'Save Your Love' brilliantly for what seems like hours. As for lowlights, Mickey also gets to do a number called 'Fooled Around and Fell In Love' from his years in the Elvin Bishop Band - this is Starship schlock three years early. Oh and 'Light The Sky On Fire'; is back, this time with Mickey rather than Marty on lead - it hasn't improved things though.

28) Winds Of Change (Music Video 1983)

An odd video, starting in space and ending up in...well where are we exactly? A desert with a TV set on a pedestal that plays images of Jefferson Starship in an all white house. On the plus side Grace takes the unusual move of re-recording her lead vocal and does a much better job, singing in a quiet focussed growl rather than trying to compete with Mickey in the shrieking stakes. Throughout the video the silhouette of the howling wolf from the album sleeve runs amok for no apparent reason. Best moment: 'The winds are starting to howl' sings Grace, before right on cue a wind machine starts up. How very MTV.

29) Be My Lady (Music Video 1983)

You wouldn't have though the band could do anything much to this simple soppy pop song but they do anyway, messing around with the colour coding (so that this is a peculiar mix of colour and black and white). Meanwhile, in between a mimed performance by the band, Mickey is approached by some mad old woman at the corner of a house (not Grace I hasten to add) and Pete Sears gets kissed by his wife (and co-writer of this track) Jeanette. Aaaah! In a terribly corny end, though, Mickey finally gets the model whose been stalking him throughout the video and we see their silhoueettes kiss as a blind is pulled down,. This is a flipping music video by one of psychedelia's finest acts, not a flipping Mills and Boons visualisation!

30) Out Of Control (Music Video 1983)

By contrast nothing could be too weird or outrageous for this most downright peculiar song. Grace puts on her best 'mad woman' routine while Paul Kantner mouths the opening robotic vocoder voice and a smoke machine runs riot. The camera then keeps leaping around the band before Grace apparently gets locked up in a broom cupboard and the band point back and forth on the 'he said she said' bits. So bad is this video and this song that its almost good but my mental problems aside (now didn't anybody tell you?) this is just...horrific. The band are dying o their feet right about now.

31) Layin' It On The Line (Music Video 1984)

However I've always had a soft spot for Jefferson Starship's last record 'Nuclear Furniture' which managed to be both weirder and more accessible than anything the band had done before. The same goes for this fun video for the first single which features a mock advert for 'Mick and Slick', the faces of the 'Nuclear Furniture' company. A now suddenly moutstache-less Mickey (who doesn't look right at all without it) is on great form as a whole crowd of babies come out to cheer them on

32) No Way Out (Music Video 1984)

Despite being one of the few songs from 'Furniture' without any sci-fi connotations the last ever Jefferson Straship video is given a 'Thriller' sized back story about Mickey being lost on an alien planet before the song even starts. Actually that's quite a clever twist on the lyrics, which are clearly about a doomed relationship and a mistake that won't be forgiven. The band and various associates (I'm sure I spotted manager Bill Thompson in there somewhere!) pop up playing various aliens and freaks which is a lot of fun ({Paul looks particularly good as a Kiss-style make upped alien). An outline of a chair goes into nuclear reaction by the end of the song too!

33) Planes (Music Video 1989)

Onto the reunion album now and 'Planes' is the self-referencing Paul Kantner lead-in track. This time round the video follow the lyrics pretty much exactly, with  young boy asleep in bed and flying into the sky (where he passes Jorma on a motorbike!) The lad looks an awful lot like me in 1989 actually - but unless I was abducted through a crack in time and my molecular structure was rebuilt just for the video and then I was brainwashed by a Man in Black who looked a lot like Johnny Cash  I doubt it was me somehow (then again have you seen what the band do in some of these videos?) Although I hate the reunion album as much as the next fan I've always rather liked this silly song and the video is fun too, the band mocking various hit videos with their hand gestures and dance-steps (so wrong for the Airplane!) and hurling paper aeroplanes at each other, not to mention Marty and Grace's mock choir boy poses. Oh and I don't think its spoiling too much to say that the big revelation at the end of the video is that the child grew up to be...Howard Hughes. Wait, what?

34) True Love (Music Video 1989)

This is a much more 'normal' Marty Balin song so there I was expecting a much more normal video. But no: we're in a circus over-run by clowns and acrobats and with Marty dressed up as a circus ringleader (none of this is in the lyrics, by the way). The best shot is Jorma trying to keep his concentration as two jugglers throw their sticks either side of him, closely followed by Grace living up to her nickname as the 'Chrome Nun'. Which was ever so nearly almost where we came in...

Well we can't top that and we've run out of music so that's all for now - be sure to join us for more Jefferson Airplane/Starship next week!

No comments:

Post a Comment