Tuesday, March 28, 2017

David Allen writes


Decades ago
We gathered
And compared
Our favorite drugs,
Which pill sent us soaring,
(“One pill makes you larger,”
The Airplane sang),
And which pill made us retarded?
(“And one pill makes you small?”)
Which pills were discarded
Because they didn’t
Do anything at all?
Flash forward to now
Where we find the balding heads
Sitting on Jim’s back porch,
Listening to him play
Old standards on his squeeze box
While we compare the new pills
That thin our blood
And reduce our cholesterol
And keep our hearts –
And our lives –
On a regular beat. 

 ..._Robert Crumb:  
My First LSD Trip --  Robert Crumb


  1. In 1965, 23-year-old Marty Balin bought a former pizza parlor on Fillmore Street in San Francisco and converted to a music club, the Matrix. He met fellow folk musician Paul Kantner at another local club; a native San Franciscan, Kantner had worked briefly in a folk duo with David Freiberg (who was a member of the Jefferson Airplane and its later incarnation Jefferson Starship but would be chiefly remembered for his stint with Quicksilver Messenger Service, another influential San Francisco band of the time). Balin and Kantner continued to recruit musicians for the house band at the Matrix. Signe Toly Anderson became the lead vocalist and performed on their first album but left the group in 1966 after the birth of her first child. (She and Kantner would die on the same day in 2016.) Then Kantner recruited his fellow blues guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, whom he had gone to school with at Santa Clara University; Kaukonen named the band in honor of his own nickname, Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane. Drummer Jerry Peloquin and acoustic bassist Bob Harvey completed the original lineup, which debuted at the opening of the Matrix on August 13, 1965. Within a few weeks Peloquin left due to the band's drug use and was replaced by guitarist Skip Spence, and in the fall Harvey was replaced by Jack Casady, a friend of Kaukonen from their hometown, Washington, D.C. who had arrived in San Francisco just two weeks earlier. (In 1969 the two would form Hot Tuna, a blues band that first performed in association with the Jefferson Airplane but became an independent entity in 1972, when the Airplane became the Starship). On 16 October they performed at the city's first "happening," a dance at the Longshoremen's Hall, supported by a folk-rock group, the Great Society, which featured Grace Slick; the "San Francisco Chronicle" jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason saw them perform there and began touting them in his column. On 6 November they performed at Bill Graham's first benefit concert, to pay the legal fees for the radical theater group the San Francisco Mime Troupe after its leader Ronnie Davis had been arrested on obscenity charges; in 1967 Graham became the Airplane's manager. That month they signed a recording contract with RCA Victor, which included an unheard-of advance of US$25,000, and on 10 December they performed, with Great Society and others, at Graham's first show at the Fillmore Auditorium. After their debut album "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" was completed in March 1966 Spence left the band to form Moby Grape; he was replaced by Spencer Dryden. The album was released in September; RCA only pressed 15,000 copies, but more than 10,00 were sold in San Francisco, causing the label to reissue it after deleting one controversial song and censoring two others. Anderson's last performance with the Airplane took place at the Fillmore on 15 October 1966 and she was replaced the next day by Slick, at Casady's instigation; the Great Society had played its last gig in September, and Slick's contract was bought up fr $750. In December the band was featured in a "Newsweek" report on the new psychedelic San Francisco music scene. On 14 January 1967 the Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service headlined the "Human Be-In" in Golden Gate Park.

  2. Their second album, "Surralistic Pillow" (suggested by their unofficial producer Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, who said the album sounded "as surrealistic as a pillow is soft"), released in February, featured their two most successful singles “White Rabbit” (written by Slick) and "Somebody to Love" (written by her brother-in-law Darby Slick), both of which had been recorded by Great Society. (Produced by Sylvester Stewart ["Sly Stone"], it had taken Great Society more than 50 takes to achieve a satisfactory rendition of "Someone to Love;" it only took the Airplane 13 days to record the entire album, at a cost of $8,000.) On 25 March the album charted on the Billboard 200 album chart and remained there for over a year, peaking at No. 3. Because "White Rabbit" obviously borrowed its references from Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through The Looking-Glass," radio stations were allowed to play it. In 1990 she told "The Wall Street Journal" that the song "was directed not to the kids but to the parents. People think I was exhorting all young people to take drugs. We already were taking drugs. I didn't have to exhort the young people. I was telling the older people, 'This is what we're doing and why we're doing it. You tell us not to take drugs, and yet you read us books -- when we're very young -- like Peter Pan, which says sprinkle something on your head and you can fly, books like Alice in Wonderland, where she takes at least five different drugs and has a wonderful time. What do you think you told us? That a chemical is going to get you where you want to go." However, in 2011 she told the same periodical, "It's about following your curiosity. The White Rabbit is your curiosity... In 'Peter Pan,' sparkle dust lets you fly. In the 'Wizard of Oz,' they awaken in a poppy field to see the beautiful Emerald City. Our parents read us stories about chemicals that make it possible to have a good time." She also tried to distance the song from drugs by claiming "Feed your head" referred to getting as much knowledge and information as possible by reading books.
    One pill makes you larger
    And one pill makes you small
    And the ones that mother gives you
    Don't do anything at all
    Go ask Alice
    When she's ten feet tall

    And if you go chasing rabbits
    And you know you're going to fall
    Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar
    Has given you the call
    Call Alice
    When she was just small

    When the men on the chessboard
    Get up and tell you where to go
    And you've just had some kind of mushroom
    And your mind is moving low
    Go ask Alice
    I think she'll know

    When logic and proportion
    Have fallen sloppy dead
    And the White Knight is talking backwards
    And the Red Queen's off with her head
    Remember what the dormouse said
    Feed your head
    Feed your head


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