2010-10-26

Bring on the Dancing Pagans



In between Elvis and The Beatles, kids all over the Western world were given a crash course in the myths and archetypes of the ancient world via the Italian Peplum craze, also known as the "sword-and-sandal movie." 1957's Hercules, starring Steve Reeves, essentially ushered in the wide-release superhero blockbuster- everything from Star Wars to Iron Man has followed in its footsteps. These movies were so ubiquitous that Hollywood created its own Pepla, with films like Ben Hur and Cleopatra. But Hollywood always hedged its bets, and didn't have the pagan gusto and elemental physicality of the Italians.

The formula was simple- an American muscleman playing a mythic hero (usually Hercules or one of his equivalents), an evil king or queen, a scheming priesthood bent on human sacrifice, a virtuous maiden in need of rescue and lots and lots of exposed Mediterranean flesh for every possible taste. To an America stuck in the corporate monotony of the Cold War, these films were like an explosion of pure id, an atavistic knife to the heart of a denatured West.

Dancing Amazons from the first Hercules movie

I argue in The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll that these films had an enormous effect on the post-British Invasion rock scene, and you can see strong echoes of these dance sequences all over the place in the late 60s. It would all dissipate by the end of the decade as the Me Generation and its smug, insipid political obsessions stifled the culture until punk and new wave kicked that id back up to the surface.

But in the meantime, watch these obligatory dancing girl scenes from various Pepla. They're all jampacked with erotic energy and offer up at least a distant echo of the ancient Mysteries.







2010-10-23

Gods 'n' Guitars: Talk of the Town



UPDATE: My interview with Aeon Byte Radio is up here now!


We got a bit of a late start promoting The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll due to some unavoidable issues behind the scenes, but things are finally starting to rev up. There are a lot of irons in the fire at present and I'll be posting Secret History-related appearances as they go live. As with this blog I intend to use these interviews to expand on the ideas put across in the book, not simply do the same talking points over and over. That's just too boring for me, and I have a very hard time faking it.

This interview is posted now on the Red Ice Radio archive:
Chris Knowles returns to talk about his new book The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll -The Mysterious Roots of Modern Music that is connecting the modern Rock 'n' Roll phenomena to the ancient world, the ancient gods and the mystery cults. We talk about the emergence of Rock 'n' Roll, the genres, the state of the ancient world, Rome, religion, revolution, culture, counter culture, creativity, the Muse and the archetypal forces that are influencing musicians, even if they are aware of it or not....

There's also an hour on The X-Zone. The interview is available on iTunes (click here) and The X-Zone podcast pages (click here). Also check out The X-Zone jukebox here.

My appearance on Aeon Byte will go live this weekend. Here's Miguel's pitch:
In ancient times, The Mystery Religions quenched the thirst of those tired of extroverted dogmas, those seeking altered states of consciousness, a direct connection with the divine, and an escape from the bondage of ego and death. An individual could be gripped by ecstatic cosmic energies as well as agonize alongside the gods and their celestial sacrifices. The Mystery Religions thrived across the Greco/Roman civilization wearing the clothing of various religious cults, including Christianity, inviting men and women, philosophers and emperors to unlock the secrets of Creation itself.

They were both wild celebrations for the greater life and intimate rituals of inner contemplation. Eventually, the Mystery Religions were outlawed and extinguished by Orthodoxy, existing only in fragments within Secret Societies or the lore of hidden faiths in the borderlands. Yet with the rise of Occultism, the birth of a more egalitarian society, and as a reaction to an existentialist world of grim threats, the Mystery Religions returned without the world even knowing they were back. The old gods took on new names and returned to the material world to impart their Gnosis. The arcane rituals were resurrected except for the addition of modern technology. And they thrived in a seemingly popular form of entertainment called Rock 'n' Roll. We take a voyage into the past for the essence of Mystery Religions and how they incarnated themselves into Rock Music.
Don't forget Acharya S's very indepth review of the book- click here.



As a bonus, Here's a modern Galloi unconsciously replaying an ancient role: lip-synching to Chrissie Hynde's own channeling of the Great Mothers - Isis, Demeter, Cybele - "I'm a Mother."

2010-10-18

Jimmy Page, Kenneth Anger and Lucifer Rising

This is my original pitch for the 2006 Classic Rock piece on Lucifer Rising. The story featured interviews with Jimmy Page, Kenneth Anger and Bobby Beausoleil. The piece was reprinted in Guitar World in December of 2006.

1969 was the year the utopian dreams of the 60’s Generation came crashing down to Earth. The false dawn of the Woodstock festival was book-ended by the horrific Manson Family Tate-LoBianco murders in Los Angeles and the Rolling Stones catastrophic free concert at the Altamount Speedway outside of San Francisco. And a new band called Led Zeppelin, sporting a harsh new sound and dark, occultic worldview crashed the Peace and Love party setting the stage for a parade of quasi-satanic imitators.

Like a demonic sprite summoned to chronicle his master’s handiwork upon the earth, underground film-maker Kenneth Anger released his landmark short film, Invocation of My Demon Brother, a work dedicated to his hero, British occultist Alexander “Aleister” Crowley. The piece used jump-cut editing, unleashing a montage of black magic ritual imagery along with footage of the Rolling Stones’ free concert in Hyde Park, commemorating the death of Brian Jones, who died July 3 of that year.

Anger had inserted himself into the Stones’ malign orbit, just as Mick Jagger’s ego had mushroomed to such mammoth proportions that he imagined himself as the earthly incarnation of Lucifer, the rebel angel of Christian mythology. Jagger was commissioned by Anger to create the soundtrack for Invocation and constructed a 12-minute suite of tape loops, primitive synthesizers, detuned accordions and driving drums and bass. The music is completely unlike anything the Stones or Jagger had ever performed. Even today, it sounds dangerously avant-garde.


The history of Invocation of My Demon Brother was nearly as malevolent as the film itself. The project started life in 1966 as “Lucifer Rising,” Anger’s paean to the spirit of Lucifer which he saw manifested in the social unrest and violence of the time. Anger cast Bobby Beausoleil, one-time guitarist with legendary LA Rock band Love, as Lucifer. A row would result in Beausoleil fleeing LA with the 1600 feet of film shot for the project and a curse put upon him by Anger would result in Beausoleil falling into the clutches of Charles Manson and his desert-dwelling "Family." Manson and Beausoleil would hold the film hostage, but Destiny had other plans for them.

Following the success of Invocation, Anger set to work re-conceptualizing Lucifer Rising. Ejected from the Stones’ orbit after Jagger renounced the devil and all his works in the wake of Altamount, Anger had the good fortune of meeting Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin at a auction of Crowley’s possesions. A three-year drama would follow with Page agreeing to compose the soundtrack to Lucifer Rising, only to have face Anger’s wrath after only 28 minutes of music had been recorded.




Like Jagger’s work on Invocation, Page’s soundtrack sounded utterly unlike anything Led Zeppelin had recorded. Using his guitar run through and ARP synthesizer, Page composed a series of nightmarish dirges. Following a break with Page, Anger would reconcile with Beausoleil, who was now serving time for his role in the Manson killings. Beausoleil eventually composed the soundtrack for Lucifer Rising from his prison cell, possibly an historic first.

"Symphony for the Devil" will explore the complex relationships and coincidences connecting the nightmares of the Love Generation, everything Charlie Manson to Altamount to John Lennon’s murder. The flirtation with the dark side that made the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin so controversial and the influence that Anger’s pioneering work had on rock video and occult-inspired artists like Black Sabbath and David Bowie will be explored. The connection of Anger’s work to Jagger’s notorious film debut Performance will also be touched upon.

2010-10-14

The Problem with Music



...is money, of course. We live in an age when everything is commodified from its inception, which is killing our culture and our souls. This process really picked up steam in in the music industry in the 80s, but has now reached total metastasis. But first, some deep background...

17 years or so ago indie rock producer Steve Albini wrote a widely distributed screed in which he detailed how badly screwed 99% of musicians who signed to major record labels got. The funny thing is that this was written in the post-Nirvana gold rush years when million-dollar advances were seen as the new normal. Who knows what normal is today, but I guarantee you that whatever terms Albini was trying to scare musicians away from major labels with in 1993 were probably downright liberal to what bands are looking at today. All the more so given that companies like Live Nation now take cuts of sales, tour receipts and licensing.
The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month. The next album will be about the same, except that the record company will insist they spend more time and money on it. Since the previous one never "recouped," the band will have no leverage, and will oblige. The next tour will be about the same, except the merchandising advance will have already been paid, and the band, strangely enough, won't have earned any royalties from their T-shirts yet. Maybe the T-shirt guys have figured out how to count money like record company guys.
Read the whole thing here.

I feel really sorry for younger people who've grown up in a sick and denatured pop environment, where artists are filtered out and sleazy, narcissistic no-talents are hyped to the gills. It's fostered a very twisted relationship of people to what should be their culture, a process accelerated by the radical dumbing-down of our society as a whole.

All of the stupidity we see out there with all of the occult symbolism is a direct byproduct of this disconnect. Real occultists like Jimmy Page don't play the industry's games- Led Zeppelin surrounded themselves with bonebreaking gangsters in order to scare the piss out of all the ripoff artists in the business and it worked marvelously for them. Tough act to follow, however.

2010-10-13

Led Zeppelin, Gods of Panic

Arthur magazine has unearthed an old article on Led Zeppelin written by none other than William S. Burroughs. It's heavily charged with the same themes that I explore in The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll and offers an experienced view into the kind of energies that Led Zeppelin were whipping up in their prime:

2010-10-09

An Air of Mystery



When I was a kid rock 'n' roll was almost invisible. You had a handful of magazines- Creem, Rolling Stone, Circus- and a couple of late night concert shows- Rock Concert, Midnight Special. But you hardly ever saw rock bands on prime time TV, just the pre-approved soft rock and disco acts that the WWII Generation still running the networks didn't feel threatened by. It began to pick up at the end of the 70s with cable and syndication, but in the interim it created an incredible air of mystery around these bands.

The lack of information created a vacuum, which was filled with myth and urban legend. Hence you heard all kinds of fevered speculation - usually of an occult nature - about rock stars and deals with devils and the rest of it. Kind of like what you hear today about Jay-Z and the Gagger, only back then you could use ignorance and imagination (and not just stupidity) as an excuse.

Mystique is a centrally important aspect of rock 'n' roll, and the over-exposure of social media is making it impossible to build that mystique. At least one behind the scenes luminary understands the important of mystery, and that's former Guns 'n' Roses manager Allan Niven. When asked for his opinion on Axl Rose's Chinese Democracy project which burned up tens of thousands of hours- and millions of dollars- in the studio, Niven had this to say:
“Axl made two huge mistakes: one was releasing it and the other was working with manager Irving Azoff. I’d have done everything in my power to make sure Chinese Democracy was something people always talked about and wondered about – but never got to completely hear."
Niven might be referencing the Beach Boy's Smile project here. But big money did what it always does; stomp all over the intangibles that make pop culture alluring:
“Recording went on for so long, there was no way in hell the record was going to meet expectations. Before its release it was a myth. But Irving (Azoff) wanted to get it out of the way because he wanted a (GnR) reunion. I doubt he was motivated to see it successful – he essentially got paid for its release, not its performance. The release was done purely for financial reasons. I don’t think Irving ever understood the unlikelihood of that reunion taking place; of how deep feelings run.”
Niven goes so far as to say that Axl shouldn't have even allowed mixes to leak:
“Axl should have made sure to keep all tapes and discs under lock and key. Then he could have released the occasional track and he could have worked them live for another ten years. That would have been more mysterious, more fascinating.”
Niven is right- we always want most what we can't have. That was a part of rock 'n' roll for many years. Your primary experience with rock 'n' roll was on the records or in concert. You met rock 'n' roll on its turf, not the media's. Led Zeppelin were the masters of this- they didn't even put their pictures on their record sleeves after their second LP.

Sometimes I think that this also explains Killing Joke's longevity- they were always just out of reach. Everyone I've ever played their records for tuned right into their wavelength, and were always amazed they'd never heard them before. There might be a lesson in that.

2010-10-07

Die Antwoord's Evil Boy, or the Thompson Evil Twins


Not even remotely safe for work


One of the strangest trends of the past few years has been the grafting of the old Marilyn Manson aesthetic (itself taken from earlier Industrial video antecedents, performance art and fashion photography) onto disposable pop and dance music artists. None of this is the doing of the artists- performers, more accurately- it's the work of very expensive designers, choreographers and directors.* Too often people confuse the two. Once the performers are inevitably disposed with, this provisional army will move onto the next batch of puppets and cast their visual spells.

What we've seen from artists like Lady GaGa, Rihanna and some rappers is an adoption of this strange Plutonian energy into their visual presentation, using techniques, props and costumery more suited to metal acts. None of it's remotely new- you can see pretty much every riff in an old episode of 120 Minutes or Headbanger's Ball (the media machine intentionally destroys history because it needs to pretend that stolen ideas are original). But it's working- music video is by no means dead, and it's still an incredibly important tool in promoting an artist. Without it, no one would have even heard of Lady GaGa.

What is new is this strange evolution- this kind of visual imagination (Plutonian or otherwise) was the stock-in-trade of alternative rock acts, but most of the breakout alt.rock acts seem to be trading in that hipster vibe- that strange mix of Hermetic and Orphic memes and cues- that tend to radiate suburban privilege and comfort, not the stuff of rock 'n' roll. A lot of this is an evolution- the music industry stopped spending the big bucks on rock acts as soon as it realized that its fans are downloading their music from torrent sites- and the more Dionysian impulses in rock have been in recession.

This video would have been a huge hit in Pompeii- the phallic worship here is straight out of the Dionysus and Pan cults that ruled over that pleasure palace. I have no doubt the producers here- or the artist whose work they are referencing- are familiar with this history. I can just smell the pheremonal sweat, smoke and piss, and hear the maenad's yipping across the chasm of centuries.

The music itself has more of that new wave revival sound to it, referencing its 80s visual antecedents- the group itself even look like an evil 21st Century Thompson Twins. Everything seems to be an evil twin of some 80s act these days. If I hadn't hated all of that stuff the first time around, it might even give me a nice hit of nostalgia.

Offensive as this video might be to some people, it's also got a harsh, jarring buzz and a adrenalized kick, something that rock 'n' roll once had and very much needs to recapture. It's also incredibly timely, since this ties into what I've been writing about. Passion Pit make great records, but you can easily take your eyes off them and (most 0f) their videos.

Another 80s throwback- the music video is once again the playing field. If you want to compete- no matter what kind of music you make, think visual. It's part of the wonder of what once made rock 'n' roll great. Remember, it was TV that put Elvis and the Beatles over in the first place.

*If you need any proof that it's not the performers in the driver's seat, watch this.

2010-10-06

Fire from Heaven, or Guitar as Invocation



Killing Joke recording inside the Great Pyramid

Picture this.

1991, Pachyderm Studios in Canyon Falls, Minnesota. With arch-geek Steve Albini twiddling knobs and faders now and then, a pack of aging Anglo-Punks bash away in a serviceable if somewhat routine manner in the recording studio. Aping then-current Industrial Metal sounds in addition to the work they have done in the past, the sound is perfectly acceptable, if not a bit unoriginal. Pretentious Scottish poet Chris Connelly comes in and lays down his best Bowie imitations over the din.

Then, he comes in.

Impeccably dressed in expensive Italian clothes and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Rutger Hauer, he calmly sets up his rack in the center of the room. He tunes up his guitar, dons a pair of headphones, and waits for the playback. As the first string is struck, the air seems to shredded by
burning shrapnel. A sound that seems indescribable fills every corner of your consciousness, and thoughts of savage possibility rush by in a blur.

You look through the control room glass into the studio, and the man sits on a stool, motionless, impassive, and yet obviously possessed by a grim state of absolute concentration. The primal, subconscious contents that lay dormant in your brain, the hot buttons of fear, rage and awe well up in you. It's dredges up an ancient and atavistic landscape, flashes of ancient twilights, a black-purple sky, impossibly huge, being torn apart by thunder and crackling bursts of fire from heaven.



As the playing stops, you tremble and wonder what could have possessed you. As you ponder what you have heard, you realize the man only played one or two simple patterns over and over again.

Later as the folks in the control room do their best to completely bleach the music of any color or complexity, you think back on those riffs. The murderous rush of "Hole in the Wall", the wall of terrifying noise in "Uninvited Guest", the tribal swing of "Motion Sickness", the galloping thrust of "Mania" etc etc. and you wonder how such simple little phrases can be so evocative. How so few notes can tell you so much about yourself, about the deep-seated instincts that must be suppressed in order to insure the very survival of civilization.

As the man walks into the control booth, quietly sipping a cup of tea, laughing almost inaudibly at a bandmate's joke, you wonder, does he realize what he is doing? Does he realize what he can unleash?



You go to the record store, to investigate what this man has done before. You find his band's most recent album, because that's the only thing the crappy chainstore in the strip mall has available. You go home and put it on. The first two songs do nothing for you, just plodding rants. The third song, appropriately entitled "The Beautiful Dead," is something else. As the band pounds out a savage syncopation, the guitar flies like quicksilver, the aural equivalent of a flamethrower. The man plays multiple variations on the song's main riff and you wonder, what in God's name is he playing?



As the last bar of the measure is sounded, those hot burning chords fly out of everywhere, and you sit stunned. What is he playing? You can hear the notes, but there is something else there, something dark and unknowable. The whole album is full of this dark, unknowable presence. Summoned by this unlikely shaman.

For over 30 years, Gregory "Geordie" Walker has been an unsung hero of rock guitar. Scores of guitarists have hijacked his riffs, from Kurt Cobain in 'Come as You Are' to Mick Mars in 'Dr. Feelgood' to Kim Thayal in 'Fourth of July' and on and on. Artists as unlikely as Van Halen, and Green Day have grafted trademark aspects of his playing onto their own styles. Dozens of alt-rock guitarists claim him as inspiration.

But his circle of admirers is limited to other guitarists, for the most part. It is stunning to note that a guitarist who unleashes such unbridled aural savagery with his instrument seems so oblivious to its effect. What drives him? He seems totally disinterested in the rock star circus. His longtime partner does all of the talking to the press. His near-silence creates an aura of mystery that deepens the impact of his art.

All we have is 30 years of ferocious, incantatory guitar magic. All we have is a sound that for 30 years has dug into the listener's consciousness, pulling up primal instincts from the genetic morass.

I remember seeing Killing Joke in 1989 in an outdoor concert. As shrieking ethnic noise poured out of the PA, the band walked down the adjacent street to the stage, accompanied by a bunch of kids carrying torches. I will admit, I was frightened. I know the potential for mass hysteria. It was a potentiality they seemed to be actively courting.

The feeling in the crowd was palpably apprehensive. The primal fears dredged up by a torchlit procession are unmistakable, no matter what the time or setting. The taped music sounded like the soundtrack to some Lovecraftian human sacrifice. As the band took the stage, Geordie looked around and smiled, mildly of course. He was enjoying this. The potential of three thousand drug-addled kids going insane and rioting didn't seem to faze him at all.

2010-10-05

Motley Crue, Twisted Sister & the Hair Metal Explosion


Mötley Crüe: Dionysian/Korybantes/Galloi
Twisted Sister: Dionysian/Korybantes/Galloi
Mythos: Although most of the original UK glam bands flopped in the US, they struck a nerve with hardcore fans who'd mix the glam attack with more conservative memes from affiliated bands like Kiss and Alice Cooper and concocted a new strain of bubblegum metal for the Material Age.

Mötley Crüe emerged when skinny-tied New Wave was still the rage on the Hollywood rock scene.
The Crüe dressed metal but were a hard rock band at heart, drawing its influences from British glam stompers like Slade and Sweet (Crüe’s debut Too Fast for Love was a dead ringer for Sweet’s 1975 smash Desolation Boulevard), as well as better-known acts like Alice Cooper, Kiss and Queen. Unlike the ranting NWOBM bands, early Crüe lived and died on catchy, shoutalong melodies. Noting that the girls in the stands got prettier when bands offered up power ballads, the Crüe made sure they had one on hand for every album.

With Kiss out of uniform, the Crüe hijacked their old comic book villain outfits, adding just enough makeup to ring a bell without crossing Kiss’s army of lawyers. Their look and unintentionally-humurous videos caught MTV’s eye, and helped spark a strip-mall rebellion against the androgynous Brits dominating the charts. The critics hated them, but Crüe fed on their disapproval, boasting of the bad reviews in their press kits.

Van Halen and Mötley Crüe inspired a batallion of lesser metallic Dionysii. Hot on Crüe’s heels were Quiet Riot, who scored platinum with their soundalike cover of Slade’s ‘Cum on Feel the Noize.’ Ratt scored with ’Round and Round,’ bolstered by a video featuring Milton Berle (who appears in drag, as he did on TV). Other bands like Y&T, Autograph, and Poison repeated the formula and New York’s Twisted Sister made a mockery of it.



Led by Dee Snider, Twisted Sister were nowhere near as slick as their California rivals, but scored big in 1984 with two catchy hits, ‘Were Not Going to Take it’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’, both of which were as punk as they were metal. Twisted Sister produced two humorous videos for the hits, both of which were burnout revenge fantasies featuring Animal House star Mark Metcalf (who played the sadistic fratboy Doug Niedermeyer).

Sister quickly waned, buy Dee Snider became an MTV VJ and a rock folk hero after testifying before Congress during the Rock music censorship hearings called by the politically-connected wives of the PMRC. Snider kept bus with a new band, sporadic acting roles, frequent appearances on Howard Stern's radio show, his own DJ gig and the inevitable Twisted Sister reunion.

Crüe’s own fortunes took a turn for the worse when the entire band descended into addiction hell. Vince Neil’s career was nearly ended when he drunkenly crashed his car, killing Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle. He got off with what many thought was a shockingly lenient sentence, and the Crüe cleaned up their act as best they could and became major stars, peaking with 1990’s smash, Dr. Feelgood. (Razzle was replaced by Terry Chimes, who'd recently fled the Clash's internal meltdown.)

Things got complicated from there, with Neil and Lee coming and going and a new singer (briefly) taking over in 1994. All of the tumult led to the inevitable big-money reunion, which was nearly scotched by Mars’ severe illness, which caused the bones in his spinal column to fuse. With big money at stake, Mars got the best care available and the band raked it in on the road.


NOTES: This cut hurt. Writing is difficult enough as it is but dealing with shrinking word counts has made it torturous. I worked ten times as hard on Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll than I would if I were writing for a blog because every word brings you closer to the brink. I wanted to make sure that every word counted; that every page packed maximum impact, both informationally and emotionally. In the end I think it made me a better writer, but it forced me to make some very hard decisions. Since these bands were essentially the after-effect of Van Halen's success- and were less archetypally pure this bit had to go, even though I worked very hard on boiling it all down to its essence.

2010-10-04

Jefferson Airplane and The Calm Before the Storm


STATS
Jefferson Airplane: Dionysian
Jefferson Starship: Apollonian
Mythos: In their heyday, the Airplane were the definitive SF psych band, having evolved from earnest folk rock outfit to druggy, bluesy jam band. Reconfigured as a mainstream rock outfit in the early 70s, scored a string of soft rock hits until evolving into an arena-rock band with a revolving lineup.


An author's worst enemy is the dreaded word count. Which is why the Internet can be the author's best friend. The reason I bring it up is that I had to trim a section on the Jefferson Airplane after doing a tremendous amount of work on it (especially in the editing stage- it's a lot more difficult to say less than more). Grace Slick gets her own section in the book, though arguably she did her best work with the Jeffersons - both the Airplane and the pre-Mickey Thomas Starship. I say "arguably"because Grace's solo albums have their partisans.

My chapter on the new Dionysians was a bit top heavy, so I had to cut out the section on the Jeffersons. It's not entirely fair, but Slick is seen as the star attraction of the Airplane, having earned the band's chart hits. Slick's frenemy, Airplane founder Marty Balin, would turn the tables in the 70s when he joined Slick's Jefferson Starship outfit with husband Paul Kantner and earned the band a string of big-selling soft rock standards.

The two JA vids here demonstrate exactly why Slick was not only the breakout star of Psychedelia, but also show how she carved a whole new identity for women in Rock 'n' Roll, which I refer to as the 'Isis' archetype. Something about Slick's posture always reminded me of a Romanized depiction of the goddess- maybe that was all her finishing school training.



But the cut was also one of those fortuitous heartbreaks, since I discovered this video which marries some poignantly innocent flower child footage to Jefferson Airplane's "Embryonic Journey." This video really captures the striking parallels between the ancient Mysteries and the early days of the Aquarian Explosion, and would carry over into print.

It's all so poignant because things would very nasty very quickly for a lot of these people, as bad drugs and bad actors would flood the sunny streets of San Francisco soonafter. When people set about creating the next major countercultural movement, I hope they will learn from the mistakes of the Sixties, as well as all of the other utopian movements that collapsed upon themselves. Without any further melancholy, here's the excised section on the Jeffersons...


Though unfondly remembered as the band that evolved into 80s synth-popsters Starship, The original Jefferson Airplane were acid -dazed outlaws who kick-started the Psychedelic Rock revolution. The Airplane arose out of the mid 60s folk rock explosion, when founders Marty Balin and Paul Kantner began to add electric guitars to their romanticized folk and blues ballads. The band picked up two blues virtuosi, guitarist Jorma Koukonen and bassist Jack Cassady, as well as howling folk mama Signe Andersen. The group got signed and got some buzz with their debut LP. Onstage the Airplane were already a bonafide jam band, earning the rep with their blissed-out improvisations.

LSD and other hallucinogens were all the hot ticket in town, and the Airplane’s new batch of songs got weirder and druggier. They got even more so Grace Slick defected over from rival band the Great Society when Andersen became pregnant, and soon became San Francisco’s flagship Psychedelic band.

In early ‘67, the Airplane cut the landmark second LP, Surrealistic Pillow, which featured their early signature songs ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Somebody to Love’, both sung by Slick. The album was a hit and the Airplane became major stars. But the drugs were getting to them, like everyone else. The Airplane went overboard in the studio for their third LP, After Bathing at Baxter’s, causing Balin to walk out in disgust at the acid-crazed mayhem.

Their fourth studio album Crown of Creation (1968) reflected a trend towards science fiction and apocalypticism. The album featured ‘Triad’ which friend David Crosby agave them after The Byrds had rejected it. The Airplane loved Triad - free love was their way of life, and Grace bedded all of her bandmates save Balin at one time or another.

The Airplane peaked in 1969 with their landmark LP Volunteers, which climaxed with the pile-driving revolutionary anthem, ‘Volunteers (of America)’. From that point on things got dicey. Having been usurped as Airplane leader after Pillow, Balin found himself isolated in the band he created and he left in 1971.



With the Airplane in shambles, Kantner enlisted an all-star cast of friends for a new project he named 'Jefferson Starship'. That project came to fruition with Red Octopus (1975) which also saw Balin onboard as a full member. Balin’s lusty ‘Miracles’ became a major smash, Octopus topped the charts for four weeks, and the band continued on with a string of Top 20 hits. The Starship were now far more successful than the Airplane had ever been, thanks to the very same love ballads that isolated Balin in the 60s.

That success was short-lived. Slick’s drinking had gotten out of control, and she and Balin left the band in late ‘78. Balin was replaced by Mickey Thomas and Jefferson Starship took on a more calculated arena rock sound, gradually devolving into the uber-commercial Starship, best known for ‘We Built This City’ (1985). A full Airplane reunion in 1987 did little to staunch the bleeding. After a protracted legal struggle, Kantner and a revolving cast of Bay Area journeymen reclaimed- and restored- the Jefferson Starship name.