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Jefferson Starship

Entry updated 13 September 2021. Tagged: Music.

Also known as Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation and Starship. US psychedelic rock band, formed, as "Jefferson Airplane" in Los Angeles in 1965 by Marty Balin (1942-2018) and Paul Kantner, amongst others; later joined by Grace Slick (1939-    ) whose songwriting skills and distinctive voice contributed a great deal to the commercial success of the band. The folk-rock and LSD-experimentalism of their early albums sometimes took science-fictional directions: "Crown of Creation" (on Crown of Creation, 1968), for instance, is a version of John Wyndham's novel The Chrysalids. But it was not until the band was renamed Jefferson Starship in 1974 that sf became central to their recordings. The group's first release under that name, Dragon Fly (1974), contains "Hyperdrive", a puzzling but suggestive hymn to an advanced technology, perhaps powered by magic, that cuts "corners in time". Also on the album is "All Fly Away", which appears to be a version of James Blish's Cities in Flight series. The wide-eyed sense-of-wonder continues in songs like "I Want To See Another World", on Red Octopus (1975), and the mystic-futuristic updating of Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "Song to the Sun: Ozymandias/Don't Let It Rain" on Spitfire (1976). This prolific output of spiritually optimistic rock songs did not escape a certain predictability and even blandness, summed up by this couplet from "The Awakening" (on Freedom at Point Zero, 1979): "now by the light shining through from within/We'll find our way back to the stars once again." "Alien" on Modern Times (1981) and "Winds of Change" on Winds of Change (1982) provide more of the same. ("I Came Back From the Jaws of the Dragon" on the same album is about the contemporary political situation and is not sf). "Champion" on Nuclear Furniture (1984) may owe something to Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion, although present-day politicians and newsreaders are also name-checked. In 1984 founding member Kantner left the band, and took legal action to prevent the remaining members recording under the name "Jefferson Starship"; the next album, Knee Deep in the Hoopla (1985) was therefore released as by "Starship". Despite being a frankly ordinary piece of adult-oriented rock this became one of the band's biggest selling titles. Starship released two more albums, but disbanded in 1990. In 1994 Kantner reformed the group, now (in homage to Star Trek: The Next Generation) under the moniker "Jefferson Starship: the Next Generation". They released one original album, Windows of Heaven (1999), and a number of live albums whose genre-influenced titles (Deep Space/Virgin Sky, 1995; Across the Sea of Suns, 2001) make plain the group's continuing interest in sf. [AR]

selected works

  • Dragon Fly (RCA, 1974) as by "Grace Slick, Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship"
  • Red Octopus (RCA, 1975)
  • Spitfire (Grunt/RCA, 1976)
  • Earth (Grunt/RCA, 1978)
  • Freedom at Point Zero (Grunt/RCA, 1979)
  • Modern Times (Grunt/RCA, 1981)
  • Winds of Change (Grunt/RCA, 1982)
  • Nuclear Furniture (Grunt/RCA, 1984)
  • Knee Deep in the Hoopla (Grunt/RCA, 1985) as by "Starship"
  • No Protection (Grunt/RCA, 1987) as by "Starship"
  • Love Among the Cannibals (Grunt/RCA, 1989) as by "Starship"
  • Windows of Heaven (Sanctuary Records, 1999) as by "Jefferson Starship: the Next Generation"


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