Wikipedia. Here's the short version:
Jefferson Airplane were a late '60s San Francisco psychedelic rock band, originally featuring, at its core, Paul Kantner, Marty Balin, Jorna Kaukonen, Jack Casady, and, from their second album onward, co-lead singer Grace Slick. In the early '70s, Kantner and Slick formed a temporary side project called Jefferson Starship, which was not really meant to be a proper band (they also had a baby together, but never married). Kaukonen and Casady frequently performed as a side project called Hot Tuna, and although Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and Hot Tuna co-existed for a time, by 1974 the band split for good into either Jefferson Starship or Hot Tuna, leaving Kanter, Slick, and Balin as the core of Jefferson Starship. Many other members came and went. After going on a drunken tirade during a concert in Germany in 1978 where she gloated about the US winning World War II, Slick was kicked out of the band, and soon after, Balin left as well. In 1979, another lead singer, Mickey Thomas, mainly known for singing lead on Elvin Bishop's huge hit "Fooled Around and Fell In Love" in 1976, joined Jefferson Starship. Mickey Thomas had never been in Jefferson Airplane. Slick, presumably more sober, rejoined in 1981. By 1984, Kantner had finally had enough of the band's transition into increasingly cheesy arena rock, but all the other members of Jefferson Starship totally wanted to keep going. Kantner said that if they wanted to keep going, they would have to do it under a different name, God damn it. Legal action was taken. Slick and Thomas suddenly had a needle to thread: they needed a new name that still retained the sense of connection with the old group, while also managing to satisfy the rigid decree of the court system. What if they dropped the "Jefferson" and became, simply, Starship? The perfect solution for all involved! Although the initial Starship lineup was essentially the 1984 lineup of Jefferson Starship minus Kantner, the only member of Starship who had ever originally been in Jefferson Airplane was Grace Slick. And then the Germans invaded Alsace-Lorraine in revenge for Slick's drunken tirade.
But what about the music, Little Earl, what about the music?
Early '80s Jefferson Starship is what happens when a band just ... keeps ... going. Why are we a band again? We've got to keep being a band because being a band is what we do. No one asks how we got here. To ask is to make trouble.
Jefferson Starship's early '80s hits are like the early '80s hits that time forgot. I've never heard them played anywhere. None of them were very big hits, but there were a bunch of them. It's like their popularity declined, but they never quite got unpopular enough. They still had an excuse to keep making records. And unlike most other aging '60s veterans, the band dove eagerly and brazenly into the MTV age. You thought the video for "We Built This City" was bad? Wait till you get a load of some of this shit.
Most people probably think of Jefferson Starship as having retained some semblance of taste and integrity before the shameless slide into Starship, but I discovered a shocking secret. In reality, Starship really began once Mickey Thomas joined Jefferson Starship in 1979, long before the name change. Mickey Thomas was like the Safeway Select Cola to Steve Perry's Coke. When "Jane" hit #14 in 1979, sounding like Toto after a long night at a biker bar, any lingering Jefferson Airplane fans probably headed for the exits, but Mickey was just getting warmed up.
"Find Your Way Back" found its way to #29 (#3 on the Mainstream Rock chart) in 1981, just as Slick rejoined the band at the last minute. According to Wikipedia, "Although not appearing in the band picture on the gatefold cover, she is listed on the back cover of the LP with the credit 'Introducing Grace Slick' and her picture is on the lyric sleeve with the note 'Grace Slick courtesy of Grace Slick.'" Ha ha, guys, very funny. The video finds Mickey Thomas trying to give Oates a run for his money in the mustache department, as well as wearing the world's tiniest tie. Also, I love how there's a group photo at the end, and then an entirely separate photo of Grace Slick that suddenly flies in out of nowhere. She's gone light speed!
"Stranger" stalled at #48 (#17 Mainstream Rock), took its title from Billy Joel, its opening drum beat from "My Sharona," and I think Grace Slick took her hair from Bride of Frankenstein and her necklace from her neighborhood hardware store, but other than that, it's not bad. Most unintentionally hilarious moments:
- 1:02 - Eyes! So many eyes!
- 1:10 - Mickey Thomas has a sheet over his head, and as the camera zooms in, the sheet ... flies off his head! Slowly!
- 2:05 Mickey walks through a dark room toward a brightly-lit doorway, stands in the doorway, and then ... turns around! And then disappears! In a blinding flash!
And yet, like loyal fans sitting in the bleachers when their team is down 9-0 in the 9th, there still must have been at least one or two old hippie burnouts, desperately clutching their ticket stubs from the Fillmore days, hoping that Paul and Grace would be able to turn this (star)ship around and fly it back to glory.
Their faith would be ... how should I put it? Misplaced.