The Jefferson Airplane were my favorite San Francisco band of the 1960s. Not sure I could rank the members ... not sure I should. Jack Casady was always my favorite, but what about Marty/Grace/Paul? Marty and Grace always had that singing together, maybe we’re in love, maybe we hate each other thing going ... Paul and Grace, not so much, even if they did eventually have a kid together.
We played Surrealistic Pillow over and over in the summer of ‘67. Grace stood out ... she had the hits ... Marty sang most of the other leads, although given the harmonies it wasn’t always clear who, if anyone, was the “lead” singer. Jorma played the guitar solos. Paul Kantner was certainly an important part of the band, but I don’t think I paid him much attention.
He was far more out front with the next album, After Bathing at Baxter’s. He wrote some of my favorite songs from that one ... “Wild Tyme”, “Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon”. Crown of Creation seemed like more of a group effort, although Marty didn’t seem as involved. The title track was Kantner, and it brought his sci-fi tendencies to the forefront.
Bless Its Pointed Little Head was probably my favorite Airplane album, if I’m being honest. It’s certainly Jack Casady’s finest. The emphasis on the Hot Tuna boys again pushed Kantner to the background, although he was better represented when a reissue added a couple of his songs.
Volunteers was great, and it was also the last time I loved, or even paid attention to, an Airplane album. Kantner’s “We Can Be Together” was arguably their best political track.
But then came Blows Against the Empire, attributed to “Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship”. That was the first time the term “Starship” was used, and it was the only time a halfway decent album was attached to the name. In retrospect, the title is a bit of a stretch. And while we played Blows constantly when it came out, I can’t say I bring it out much any longer. But I’ve always loved “Have You Seen the Stars Tonight”, and that was the first song that came to mind when I heard that Kantner had died.
And here’s “We Can Be Together”, with great rhythm guitar from Paul: