Jefferson Starship stays linked to roots
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 13:09

The latest incarnation of a band that started nearly 50 years ago, Jefferson Starship will perform hits from all its eras on Sunday night at the Heritage Fair.

by Bill Gates

    If only you believed in miracles, we’d get by.


Let’s start with a recap for you kids out there who were born after 1980 and really don’t remember what the dormouse said.
    In the 1960s, there began a group called Jefferson Airplane which played what was then called “psychedelic rock.”
    They hit their peak in 1967 with the album Surrealistic Pillow and the group’s signature hit was “White Rabbit,” a song about ... things that have psychedelic effects.
    Jefferson Airplane was founded in 1965 by Marty Balin and Paul Kantner. When one of the people they recruited, Signe Anderson, left the band in 1966, she was replaced by a singer named Grace Slick.
    In the 1970s, there was a band called Jefferson Starship that tended more to pop mainstream than psychedelic.
    This group, which again featured Balin, Kantner and Slick, hit its high point in 1975 with “Miracles,” a love ballad that ran nearly seven minutes and contained a line that couldn’t be played on mainstream radio but probably wouldn’t even be noticed nowadays.
    (Nonetheless, it’s a line that can’t be printed in a family newspaper like The Eagle.)
    Move ahead to the 1980s — and now we have a group called Starship that couldn’t lay claim to Jefferson as it no longer included any original members.
    That was a good break for fans, who otherwise would have had to cope with the same band who sang “White Rabbit” also being responsible for “We Built this City.”
    Heck, it would have been hard to believe the same band that gave us “Miracles” could have also produced “We Built this City.”
    (On the other hand, Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is a great song, featured as it was in the 1987 movie Mannequin starring Kim Cattrall.)
    Starship is still together and still tours. It is not the band that will play the Heritage Fair this weekend.
    Taking the main stage on Sunday night is Jefferson Starship, reformed in the early 1990s.
    The band still features Kantner, and occasionally has a guest appearance by Balin (no word if he’ll be joining the band on Sunday, although it’s unlikely).
    Slick “retired” in 1989 (but has sung on a few of the band’s studio albums).
    David Freiberg, a member of both Jefferson Airplane and the original Jefferson Starship, sings and plays guitar, and on lead guitar is Mark “Slick” Aguilar (a former member of KC & the Sunshine Band).
    Drummer Donny Baldwin first played for Jefferson Starship in the early 1980s, and keyboardist Chris Smith joined the band in 1998 and now has the distinction of playing keyboards longer than anyone else in the band’s history.
    Handling the “Grace Slick role” is singer Cathy Richardson, a talented session singer who has numerous television and film credits and has portrayed Janis Joplin on stage.
    Through its various incarnations, the band has piled up successful albums and hit singles.
    There have been six top 10 albums, with Red Octopus reaching number one in 1975 and eight other albums hitting the top 20 on the Billboard charts.
    Eight singles have made it to the top 10, although the three number one hits — “We Built this City,” “Sara” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” were done by Starship.
    Otherwise, the group’s highest-charting single is “Miracles,” at number three.
    Jefferson Airplane, along with Balin and Kantner, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
    The band plays hits from all of its various eras dating back to Jefferson Airplane.
    So expect to hear “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” “Count on Me” and “Runaway,” possibly “Jane” and “With Your Love”, “Find Your Way Back” and “Wooden Ships” and, if we’re lucky, the full version of “Miracles.”
    (Alas, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop us Now,” despite being sung by Slick, appears to be considered a Starship song.)
    Jefferson Starship wraps up this year’s Heritage Fair starting at 8 p.m. on Sunday at the Shipway Stage.
    It’s probably a good idea to stake out a spot much earlier. Hey, the Martians make their reunion appearance starting at 12:30, followed by Mark Bray and the Steel Soul Cowboys (3 p.m.) and The Regal Beagles (Jimmy Buffet covers!) at 5:30.
    Just don’t forget to feed your head!