Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Takes Off
Released: Original 1966 My copy = 1980 reissue
Musicians: Marty Balin-Singer and founding member, Paul Kantner-rhythm guitar, vocals and co-founder, Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen-solo guitar, Signe Toly Anderson-singer, Alex Spence-drums, Jack Casady-bass
Producer: Matthew Katz &Tommy Oliver
Recording engineer: Dave Hassinger
This is Jefferson Airplane’s first release. Grace Slick was not in the band at this time. Signe Toly Anderson had that role. We all know and are saddened by the passing of Mr. Paul Kantner Jan 28,2016. Signe Toly Anderson also died that same day! That’s just really strange.
Jefferson Airplane was a San Francisco, California-based band who pioneered the counterculture movement as well as psychedelic rock in the 1960s and 1970s decades. Formed in 1965, the group defined the San Francisco Sound and was the first from the Bay Area to achieve international commercial success. It’s fame spread even before this first LP.
The “classic” line-up of Jefferson Airplane remained stable from 1967 to early 1970, and consisted of Marty Balin, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen and Grace Slick. The group broke up in 1972, and essentially split into the two bands, Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship. Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.
Here’s the official website and I have to say it’s one of the better band websites I’ve ever seen:http://www.jeffersonairplane.com/
In 1962, 20-year-old Marty Balin recorded two singles for Challenge Records, neither of which were successful. Balin then joined a folk group called The Town Criers from 1963 to 1964. After the Beatles-led British invasion of 1964, Balin was inspired by the success of the Byrds and Simon & Garfunkel in merging folk with rock to form a group in 1965 that would follow that lead. With a group of investors, Balin purchased a former pizza parlor on Fillmore Street,which he converted to a music club, the Matrix, and began searching for members for his group.
Balin met folk musician Paul Kantner at another local club, The Drinking Gourd. Kantner, a native San Franciscan, had started out performing on the Bay Area folk circuit in the early 1960s, alongside fellow folkies Jerry Garcia, David Crosby and Janis Joplin. Kantner has cited folk groups like the Kingston Trio and the Weavers as strong early influences. He briefly moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1964 to work in a folk duo with future Airplane/Starship member David Freiberg (who subsequently joined Quicksilver Messenger Service).
Balin and Kantner then recruited other musicians to form the house band at the Matrix. After hearing female vocalist Signe Toly Anderson at the Drinking Gourd, Balin invited her to be the group’s co-lead singer. Anderson sang with the band for a year and performed on their first album before departing in October 1966 after the birth of her first child.
Kantner next recruited an old friend, blues guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. Originally from Washington, D.C., Kaukonen had moved to California in the early 1960s and met Kantner while at Santa Clara University in 1962. Kaukonen was invited to jam with the new band and although initially reluctant to join he was won over after playing his guitar through a tape delay device that was part of the sound system used by Ken Kesey for his Acid Test parties. Drummer Jerry Peloquin and acoustic bassist Bob Harvey completed the original lineup.
The origin of the group’s name is disputed. “Jefferson airplane” is slang for a used paper match splint to hold a marijuana joint that is too short to hold without burning the fingers – an improvised roach clip. A popular conjecture suggests this was the origin of the band’s name, but band member Jorma Kaukonen has denied this and stated that the name was invented by his friend Steve Talbot as a parody of blues names such as Blind Lemon Jefferson. A 2007 press release quoted Kaukonen as saying:
“I had this friend [Talbot] in Berkeley who came up with funny names for people,” explains Kaukonen. “His name for me was Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane (for blues pioneer Blind Lemon Jefferson). When the guys were looking for band names and nobody could come up with something, I remember saying, “You want a silly band name? I got a silly band name for you!”
The group made its first public appearance as Jefferson Airplane at the opening night of The Matrix on August 13, 1965.
A few weeks after the group was formed, Jerry Peloquin departed, in part because of his disdain for the others’ drug use. Although he was not a drummer, singer-guitarist Skip Spence (who later founded Moby Grape) was then invited to replace Peloquin. In October 1965, after the other members decided that Bob Harvey’s bass playing was not up to par, he was replaced by guitarist-bassist Jack Casady, an old friend of Kaukonen from Washington, D.C., Casady played his first gig with the Airplane at a college concert in Berkeley, California, two weeks after he arrived in San Francisco.
The group’s performing skills improved rapidly and they soon gained a strong following in and around San Francisco.
Two significant early concerts featuring the Airplane were held in late 1965. The first was the historic dance at the Longshoremen’s Hall in San Francisco on October 16, 1965, the first of many “happenings” in the Bay Area, where Gleason first saw them perform. At this concert they were supported by a local folk-rock group, the Great Society, which featured Grace Slick as lead singer and it was here that Kantner met Slick for the first time.
In November 1965, Jefferson Airplane signed a recording contract with RCA Victor, which included an unheard-of advance of US$25,000. Prior to this, they had recorded a demo for Columbia Records of “The Other Side Of This Life” with Bob Harvey on bass, which was immediately shelved by the label. On December 10, 1965, the Airplane played at the first Bill Graham-promoted show at the Fillmore Auditorium, supported by the Great Society and others.
The group’s first single was Balin’s “It’s No Secret” (a tune he wrote with Otis Redding in mind); the B-side was “Runnin’ Round The World”, the song that led to the band’s first clash with RCA, over the lyric “The nights I’ve spent with you have been fantastic trips”.
The group’s debut LP Jefferson Airplane Takes Off was released in September 1966. The folk-music-influenced album included John D. Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road” and Dino Valente’s “Let’s Get Together”, as well as original ballads “It’s No Secret” and “Come Up the Years”. Despite the fact that the group had neither performed outside the Bay Area nor appeared on TV, the album garnered considerable attention in the United States and sold well enough to earn a gold record award. RCA initially pressed only 15,000 copies, but it sold more than 10,000 in San Francisco alone, prompting the label to reprint it. For the re-pressing, the company deleted “Runnin’ Round This World” (which had appeared on early mono pressings), because executives objected to the word “trip” in the lyrics. For similar reasons, RCA also substituted altered versions for two other tracks: “Let Me In”, changing the line “you shut your door; you know where” to “you shut your door; now it ain’t fair.” In the same song, they also switched the lyric “Don’t tell me you want money” to “Don’t tell me it ain’t funny”. “Run Around” was also edited, changing the line “flowers that sway as you lay under me” to “flowers that sway as you stay here by me”.
The original pressings of the LP featuring “Runnin’ ‘Round The World” and the uncensored versions of “Let Me In” and “Run Around” are now worth thousands of dollars on the collectors’ market.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Airplane
The copy I have is a re-release from 1980 according to the catalog code of AYL1-3739, but the jacket does not have a bar code on it which is strange for 1980 not to have one. It is also not glossy. I’m not sure if it is the pressing or in the recording, but the vocals seem slightly distorted and the drums seem a bit too far in the back.
I would not mind getting a hold of one of the original pressings.
1. “Blues from an Airplane”
2. “Let Me In” (lead vocals: Kantner). Listen to the crazy bass line in this song.
3. “Bringing Me Down”
4. “It’s No Secret” Balin
5. “Tobacco Road” Clay Warnick
1. “Come Up the Years” – One of my favorites from this LP, listen to the harmonies.
2. “Run Around” (lead vocals: Kantner)
3. “Let’s Get Together” (lead vocals: Kantner, Anderson, Balin) Chester Powers-Yes, this is a cover of The Youngbloods hit. Airplane never did many covers.
4. “Don’t Slip Away” – There is a dropout in this song for about 10 seconds, it is a fade error in the recording.
5. “Chauffeur Blues” (lead vocals: Anderson) Lester Melrose
6. “And I Like It”
Here’s the original uncensored version of Let Me In (available on the 2003 CD release)https://youtu.be/LlyGsQjSEYU
Come up the years:https://youtu.be/npAiGnDlpk4
Here’s a live version of It’s No Secret with the original line up including Signe Toly Anderson
Here’s Airplane covering The Youngbloods:https://youtu.be/46up8BsG_Gw