revisiting detour
liquid sky (slava tsukerman, 1982)

music friday: jorma kaukonen

I just finished Jorma Kaukonen's memoir Been So Long. Kaukonen is best known for his work as a guitarist for Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. He's a fine writer. The book is episodic at times, as Kaukonen pulls memories out of his life. The time spent making albums with the Airplane is rather quickly dispensed with, not because of any ire towards his old band, but he doesn't seem to realize (or care) that readers might have an interest in those albums. He spends equal amounts of time on all albums he worked on, including his many solo albums.

His honesty pays off throughout the book. Of the Airplane's status as "hippies", he writes, "We were ... affluent and most of our problems were upper-class, first-world ones.... The so-called straight people might have considered that we lived an eccentric lifestyle, but consider this: we were successful in a mainstream way, contracted to an old guard establishment corporation (RCA), and we all had money."

Jorma writes in a low-key style, a bit like his vocals. His doesn't shy away from talking about his troubles with booze and drugs, but neither does he sensationalize them. It's just there. By the time you've finished his book, you've learned something of his philosophy of life. He's 78, and content. He also still loves to play his music.

Here are a few songs featuring Jorma. From Volunteers, "Good Shepherd":

"The Other Side of This Life" is as much a showcase for Jack Casady as it is for Jorma, but sometimes you can't have one without the other:

Maybe his best solo track, from Quah:

Legendary acoustic Hot Tuna:

And probably his most-famous composition ... he once recorded an album with 11 different versions of this song. Here, he plays it at the Airplane induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

And a bonus: "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning"

Comments

Tomás

I never heard of him. And while I know Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, I don't know them beyond the obvious radio play hits. So these are great choices. They sparked my interest for more, both for the music and your thoughts. After reading you for all these years I think I understand that groups like The Jefferson Airplane were big for you (and to you) but you don't dig as deep into them as others. I think its the same for you and Creedence.

Steven Rubio

The Airplane had a great run of albums in the late-60s. I never saw them live, but lots of local concerts were simulcast in those days, some even on TV, so it felt like I'd seen them. Surrealistic Pillow is the obvious starting point. Bless Its Pointed Little Head shows them at their live best. We tended to look down on Creedence in those days because they had hit singles ... secretly, we loved them, and it's clear in retrospect that they were the great area band of the time, although they were never really a "San Francisco Band" ... they were from the suburbs. The Airplane was "special", while Creedence was omnipresent.

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