Monday, October 01, 2018

Revolution Sold Separately

Sometimes the Gods of Sync arrange things so deeper, more subtle truths can make themselves known. It takes time and patience to sort through what these truths may be. Maybe we aren't meant to know these truths on a literal level, but then again the Gods of Sync never seem to lose any sleep worrying about trifles like literalism.

Friday seemed to be one of those days when those gods arrange things in such a fashion as to unveil deeper mysteries. 

Aside from the ongoing trainwreck in the nation's capital-- in which the festering sores of the 1960s continued to metastasize into melanomas that will soon destroy this country-- Friday also bore witness to the passing of Marty Balin, lead singer of Jefferson Airplane and founder of the San Francisco acid rock scene, as well as the long awaited release of a box set of solo material from Clash lead singer Joe Strummer, who passed away shortly before Christmas in 2002.

All three seem intimately connected to me in an important way. The Clash in many ways seemed to me not to be the reincarnation of the Rolling Stones as many fans and critics claimed but the bastard stepchildren of Jefferson Airplane. 

Both epitomized the scenes they emerged from, both mindlessly and hypocritically preached radical politics and both were manned to the absolute brim with scions of the National Security State.

And appropriately (if not inevitably), one of Marty Balin's greatest compositions for Jefferson Airplane was featured in the first Stranger Things series (ie,. the one that doesn't suck), which as pure chance would have it also uses a Clash song as a central plot device. 

Go figure.

And as the Gods of Sync would dictate, The Clash lifted the pounding intro of "She Has Funny Cars" literally note-for-note (they were nothing if not inveterate thieves) in their live reworkings of "The Guns of Brixton" for their 1982 tour. 

This recording was made of "Brixton" in the same time period so many people in Washington have been so fixated on these past few weeks.

Marty Balin the driving force in the Jefferson Airplane and the band's first two albums are largely centered on his songs and vocals. This is especially true for Surrealistic Pillow, for my money the definitive album from the late 60s San Francisco scene. 

It features the group's only hit singles--albeit sung by then-new vocalist Grace Slick, formerly known as high society debutante Grace Barnet Wing. But one of those was written by her soon-to-be ex-husband and the other is essentially "Bolero" with lyrics taken from Carroll. But the best songs on the album are Marty's showcases.

It also seems Marty Balin also single-handedly earns the credit and/or blame for the San Francisco music scene when he opened The Matrix night club with borrowed seed money. 

The story goes that Marty was inspired by Dylan going electric to mix folk with rock but none of the local clubs would book rock music. So he created his own space and nearly every major psychedelic band played there.

The Jefferson Airplane came about through a partnership between Balin and Paul Kantner, a military brat who'd attended an elite military academy for high school. They were later joined by Jorma Kaukonen, whose family had traveled the world when he was young because his father had worked for the State Department. 

Bassist Jack Casady was originally from Washington but I'm not sure what his family were involved with on account of not having my copy of Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon handy at the moment.

Whatever role Balin may had played in both the establishment of Jefferson Airplane and a club for them to play in didn't do him much good after the success of Surrealistic Pillow, however. Balin wisely sat the sessions when the band recorded After Bathing at Baxter's, an acid-fueled mess that's essentially unplayable now.

But the band was already splintering into factions. Kantner and Kaukonen were wresting control of the Airplane from its founder and moving the band towards a darker, heavier and more explicitly political direction. Balin's melodicism was on the shit-list (particularly with Kaukonen) and band members refused to work on his songs. He eventually became a background singer in his own band.

A great example of this process in action is the album Volunteers; Balin's only songwriting composition is on the two minute title track which closes out the album. The song uses the riff from Kantner's typically clunky, typically pedantic opener, "We Can Be Together," but is in an entirely separate galaxy. 

And so, after two sides of charming but staggeringly inept pseudo-songs, "Volunteers" cuts through the entire record like a laser cannon. 

Neither Kantner nor Kaukonen could ever hold a tune in a bucket and Slick's shrill harpy routine had already gone stale, so it's left to Balin to demonstrate what a real singer can do with real songs in this band.

But Balin seemed to suffer for the sins of the San Francisco psychedelic scene. 

He'd been sidelined in his own band, Bill Graham had taken control of the club circuit (and the Airplane itself, until Slick demanded he be fired), and to make matters worse, he got knocked unconscious on camera at the Altamount Speedway when he tried to stop Hell's Angels pledges from beating on his fans with billiard cues.

The Airplane preached revolution in a way uncannily similar to today's hyper-privileged Fauxcialists and Fauxmmunists. However, they were not only largely born and bred in the belly of the Imperial beast, they also became a pack of greedy, narcissistic, hypocritical, coke-head assholes working for what was then the largest record corporation in America. Which is exactly why Balin said he quit the band in 1970.

They'd also take votes every night on who got to fuck Grace Slick until she hooked up with drummer Spencer Dryden then Kantner, with whom she would form Jefferson Starship. So I guess you call them polyamory pioneers.

Jefferson Starship failed to trouble the singles charts until Balin joined as a full-time member for Red Octopus in 1975. With Kaukonen and Casady playing in blues rock also-rans Hot Tuna, Balin served up a string of hits with Jefferson Starship, three of which made the Top 10 and all of which have become standards in the 70s rock canon. 

Balin would later express his frustration when one of hits was played on the radio and the DJ said something to the effect of "there's Grace Slick and Jefferson Starship." But Slick had become a raging alcoholic by this point and drove Balin to quit again in 1978 after Slick had a meltdown during a concert aired on German television. 

Worse, Balin's last (and IMO, best) single with the Starship, the epic "Light the Sky on Fire" failed to hit the Top 40, probably due to its association with the surrealistically terrible Star Wars Holiday Special.

And we all know what happened next. 

Balin was replaced by session vocalist Mickey Thomas and Jefferson Starship morphed into a generic arena rock band before morphing again into the loathsome Starship after Paul Kantner bailed out. We built this shitty and all the rest of it.

Funny story: I was working for the real-life Tony Soprano (long story) in this restaurant when that song was premiered by Scott Muni on WNEW-FM. I couldn't believe how insanely awful it was and I was certain it would die the death post-haste.

I was younger then and had so much to learn.

Jefferson Airplane would briefly reform in the late 80s and make a terrible album before splitting again. Kantner would later reform Jefferson Starship and both it and Mickey Thomas' Starship would tour at each other for the next several years, causing fans to wonder which version of Starship they didn't want to go see vs. which version of Starship they really didn't want to go see.

Jefferson Starship is still out there, believe it or not, with only octogenarian David Freiberg left from any version of the original bands. But damn if that little old guy can't still belt it out. I mean, holy shit already.


With the nation's attention riveted on the summer of 1982 of late, it's worth noting that The Clash's best-selling album, the staggeringly-unlistenable Combat Rock, was combat-rockin' the nations airwaves at that very same time. 

Combat Rock was made while the original lineup was running on fumes, largely due to drummer Topper Headon's crippling heroin habit and the ongoing war over musical direction between Joe Strummer and bassist Paul Simonon (who wanted to move the sound towards a rowdy mix of rockabilly and dub reggae) and Mick Jones (who'd become obsessed with the nascent Hip Hop scene). 

Unfortunately, decent songs seemed to be the collateral damage of this internecine war, with a couple notable exceptions. But even those sounded like someone had drugged the band with twilight sleep during the recording sessions. 

It was astonishing to hear how much The Clash had devolved in just five years, going from paint-stripping punk howlers to feeble two-chord flonks that had all the rock 'n' roll firepower of a cheese fart.

I can't think of another band who so quickly subverted everything they claimed to stand for so quickly or sounded so radically different on record than they did on stage. If you can, let me know in the comments.

The Clash had made their bones as a more cathartic alternative to The Sex Pistols, as well as a band steeped in radical left-wing politics. Of course, that was a complete farce because you couldn't fill a condom with what this band actually knew about left wing politics. Strummer actually did some reading but by and large the band's primary immersion in politics came via the Marx for Beginners comic book their manager made them read.

And like Jefferson Airplane, The Clash seemed hellbent on practicing the violently-extreme opposite of what they were preaching. 

I won't bore you with the details but they may have single-handedly redefined the art of hypocrisy. I mean, you could fill a commuter train with all over the people they gleefully screwed over. 

OK, maybe a Greyhound bus. But still, anyone who tells you different hasn't a clue what they're talking about.

Still, The Clash's early look and sound set the template for the hardcore punk scene that arose in their wake. So depending on where you stand on the issue, you can credit or blame them for that too.

Like the Pistols, The Clash arose in reaction not so much against prog (which was already in retreat by then) but the dreary nostalgia of the pub rock scene and the 50s revivalism of the Teddy Boys, who were tough working-class greasers obsessed with old time rock 'n roll. Of course, Joe Strummer had originally been in a well-regarded pub rock band and his heart belonged to the same era as the Teds, but who's counting, right? 

The moral of the story is that as soon their second album tanked on the US charts, The Clash started looking and dressing like Sha Na Na and made what is probably the definitive pub-rock album, London Calling (1980).

All revolutions inevitably become what they set out to depose.


Like the Airplane, The Clash burst - literally - from the womb of the National Security State. 

Joe Strummer was born in Ankara and lived all over the world as a boy until he was sent to a private boarding school. Why? Well, contrary to "Bankrobber" Joe Strummer's father was a bonafide spy on Her Majesty's Secret Service. 

Mick Jones' father worked for Special Branch, which is a euphemism for saying he was an intelligence officer. Paul Simonon's father went from the military straight into running a Communist bookstore and going on mysterious business trips without telling his family where he was off to. Do the math.

Ironically, Jones was very much a Marty Balin analog for The Clash and was fired from the band in 1983. The ordinarily-amiable Jones has had a lot of musicians decide they couldn't work with him over the years, but this particular ejection ultimately came down to his unwillingness to continue touring Combat Rock, which not only cost the band momentum but also hundreds of thousands- if not millions- of dollars/pounds.

Note: When bands break up, fire members or members leave, more often than not the motivation is/was financial. Junkies are a hassle anyway but they're especially a hassle when you want to tour overseas. Sting quit The Police because someone figured he could make the same money without having to split it with two other guys. As soon as the solo income dried up, The Police were back in business.

Jones' last gig with the band was at the 1983 Us Festival in which The Clash made a huge stink about the promoters (including Apple Computer cofounder Steve Wozniak) failing to contribute proceeds to charity. 

Which prompted a number of journalists to ask why The Clash weren't contributing any proceeds of the $500,000 they were paid for a 70-minute set to charity themselves.

Do as we say, not as we do every minute of every day-- the eternal battlecry of the armchair radical.


Joe Strummer was also bipolar or manic-depressive or what you choose to classify him as nowadays. His brother apparently was as well and committed suicide in public when he was 19. 

When I saw them with the "new" Clash, I didn't realize at the time that he was in the midst of a furious manic phase. And I certainly didn't realize he'd soon crash into a very long and very painful depression. (But still, fucking astonishing performances. Best he's ever given IMO. Maybe the best I've ever seen anyone give).

Again, I won't bore you with the details but his post-Clash work seemed to mirror this and he didn't seem to emerge from the pit until the late 90s when he formed The Mescaleros, which I still swear he modeled on The Grateful Dead. It's a long story.

This video is very dear to my heart-- it was played only because I'd heard it earlier in this week-long run of shows in Brooklyn and yelled for it the entire concert until he reluctantly played it. It captures the force of his shamanic powers just months before his death. And his crack band sound more like The Wailers here anyone has since the actual Wailers.

Bonus factoid: That video was shot the day Layne Staley died. Talk about your omens already.

Other bonus factoid: Those lyrics are almost entirely improvised.


Strummer was never a punk, never actually believed in Punk. He was an old-school Hippie hellraiser, born smack dab in the middle of the Baby Boom. 

Punk and its entrails were really the property of what I call the Boomer X, or the X-Boomers. I just coined the term earlier today so I haven't decided what works best.

Boomer X is that cohort that was born in the late 50s and early 60s and really began to tear away from what call Boomer Prime (well, I call them that now- I just coined that phrase too). Boomer X were the generation who came of age in the miserable mid-70s, when it was painfully clear that the party was over and the bills were overdue. 

Punk and it's appendages wouldn't really take flight until Generation X came into its own, but the Boomer X subclade were the ones who started furrowing the fields. 

Joe Strummer was a lot older than most of the other bands and scenesters of British Punk. He was 23 when he joined The Clash, an age which no less a luminary than Sex Pistol Glen Matlock thought was not only suspect but possibly counterrevolutionary. It's part of his tragedy. His eclecticism seems less to me like creative adventurism than a basic uncertainty of who he was and what he actually did best. 


Strummer himself died in late 2002 because of what was reported as a faulty heart valve. 

But it turns out that that valve probably went as a result of a lifetime of serious drug and alcohol abuse, as well as some very hard years due to the depression. But Joe went out on a high note, having enjoyed moderate success with the Mescaleros and also having enjoyed the high echelon of the rock establishment welcome him back into the fold.

Marty Balin?
The lead singer of Jefferson Airplane lost half his tongue and his thumb and suffered a paralyzed vocal chord when doctors at a Manhattan hospital botched his heart-surgery recovery, he charges in a lawsuit. 
Marty Balin, who co-founded the pioneering 1960s psychedelic rock band and wrote such songs as “Comin’ Back to Me” and “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” was in New York City to promote his new solo album, “The Greatest Love,” with a performance at The Cutting Room in Midtown on March 12, 2016. 
But a day before the show, the rocker, then 74, was rushed into the emergency room at Mount Sinai Beth Israel with chest pains, according to his lawsuit filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court.  
Doctors at the First Avenue hospital performed open-heart surgery, a triple bypass and a valve replacement. Balin came out fine but required recovery in the intensive-care unit.

Susan Balin repeatedly complained to hospital staff about the singer’s care, including that his thumb was turning blue from an intravenous line that was improperly placed and not monitored, Jaroslawicz said. 
Necrosis set in, resulting in Balin losing his thumb.

The suit said Balin, who also suffered from bedsores and kidney damage, now can’t eat or speak properly. He requires dialysis and can no longer “care for his special-needs daughter” who has spina bifida.

There is no justice in this world. I hate you, Demiurge.

POSTSCRIPT: Balin's Airplane cofounders Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson died on the exact same day.


  1. Chris,

    I saw the "new" Clash at the Worcester Centrum in 1984. Was that the show you attended? Pretty sure we'd discussed this before. I enjoyed it, but at the same time had a lingering impression of product, too much polish and calculation for what had been sold to my teenage self as rebellion. I was already switching interest to Big Audio Dynamite, both for its then-innovative sound and as a walk-away from the MTV-friendly frat-rock the Clash were becoming.

    I'm trying to remember which of the early UK punks, one of Malcolm's set, remarked how she knew Punk was dead when she saw a display in the Oxford Street windows of Marks and Spencer, of "punk" clothes with artfully arranged safety pins in rows all up and down the jackets. As you say, instant commodification.

    My favorites remain the Ramones, again in Worcester, in 1985, and PIL at the Orpheum in (I think) 1988. The former for its unbridled energy, the later for its laser cutter precision.

    1. That's amazing that you were switching interest to Big Audio Dynamite considering they didn't actually exist at the time. I've always suspected you were harboring hidden prophetic skills, sir.

      I saw BAD in 1991 and walked out halfway though. I saw PiL in 1982 with Martin Atkins and Keith Levene and it was like aliens had invaded the Channel and blew everyone's brains out. Mass insanity.

    2. Ugh, I wasn't doing it _at that moment_, I mean my tastes were changing and soon landed there. BAD had their first album out in '85. In the meantime I moved away from the creaking Clash train and dabbled in Postpunk like the rest of my peers. No doubt there was a moment or two of WHAM! in there, of which we will not speak.

    3. Marty has taken to giving TOUR:SMART lectures to musicians interested in his life lessons learned in the music biz. His stories are so funny he could be charging cover at comedy clubs. Plus his info is actually quite practical and high value.

      If Marty ever does one of these near you, GO! And tell all your serious musician friends.

    4. Mo, I'm going to pretend you didn't use the W word. We'll just forget about that and move forward. Shame you didn't go to the Providence show so you could see what happens when 10000 hockey jocks go apeshit.

    5. Anony, you should call him "Martin" as to not confuse folks with the recently deceased Marty Balin. But otherwise, appreciate the info.

    6. I realized after I posted that I'd been Marty-ized by all the Balin stuff and got confused. Sorry. MARTIN Atkins is da' man when it comes to music biz talks.

    7. I saw him with both PiL and Killing Joke. I was supposed to see him again with Killing Joke but just before I was about to leave the house my car keys vanished. I mean vanished. I didn't find them for months. They were in a weird place.

  2. Great observations on Jefferson Airplane. They play a big role in my new book, "Rock Catapult: 1966 - The Launch of Modern Rock N' Roll." "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" came out in 1966, and "Surrealistic Pillow" was being recorded, in part, later that same year, just as "Are You Experienced?" and "The Doors" were as well. One of the last Jefferson Airplane drummers, Johny Barbata, played on their '72 album "Long John Silver' and would stick with the group as they morphed into Jefferson Starship a few years later. Barbata played with The Turtles and with CSN&Y on "Ohio." A nice guy, he lives in a town here in central Oklahoma, driven out of California by pesticides used in the forest (Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro died of a reaction to lawn pesticides in 1992). Here's a link to an interview I did with Johny Barbata in 2010:

    1. Ooh, tasty. Very interesting indeed.

      I got Long John Silver as a Christmas present when I was 9. I had a very weird childhood.

  3. Also ... recall that in the Coen Brothers' sadly overlooked film "A Serious Man," Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow" and, particularly, "Somebody to Love" plays a major role in the film, which begins with a dybbuk showing up at a Polish stetl in early 20th century and ending with a rabbi saying: "Quoting verbatim from the song “Somebody to Love,” the rabbi begins: “When the truth is found, to be lies … and all the hope, within you dies. Then what?”

    He clears his throat, and in an appropriately surrealistic fashion continues: “Grace Slick, Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kau …”

    Danny helps the rabbi, giving him Jorma’s last name as “Kaukonen.”

    “Something … These are the members of the Airplane,” the rabbi says, as Danny smiles and the rabbi hands Danny his transistor radio back, adding, “Be a good boy.”

    1. I can't recall that, having never seen the film. But I shall get myself to YouTube posthaste to watch a clip.

    2. Its a great film. There's a lot packed in there

    3. A Serious Man is an excelent and underated Coen bros. Film.

      "Just look at the parking lot!"

    4. In my top five of Coen Bros. films. Well-worth watching.

    5. But, why so serious man?-)

    6. I watched the clip and it kind of went over my head. I guess you need to see the whole movie.

    7. Revolution Sold Separately ... on Cable?-)

    8. I have a theory-- Jim Carrey found what he was looking for in The Number 23. Having got it he began to slowly implode. By he I mean his career.

  4. And while I have nothing to add on The Clash, I will say one more thing about Jefferson Airplane's Paul Kantner (who played rhythm guitar on "Somebody to Love," the A-side to the 11/3/66-recorded single with "She Has Funny Cars" as the B-side): The guy was OBSESSED with UFOs. Recall his 1970 song "Have You Seen the Saucers?" which opens up their '73 live album "Thirty Seconds Over Winterland," the album with flying toasters on the sleeve - the same one Microsoft "stole" for their early 90's flying toaster screensaver.

    1. Oh yes, Saucers is on Early Flight. Typical Kantner try-hard-but-doesn't-quite-make-it, but charming all the same.

      Cheers ArdeeRody.

  5. Have a friend who was touring with Chris Cornell after SG broke up. They were on the bus at a toll late at night and there was another bus behind theirs. The band dared my friend to go beat on the door of the other bus and mess with them. Door pops open to my friend beating on the door, "I'm Joe Strummer, who the fuck are you?". Friend stares mouth agape, tells Joe he's with Chris and everything was cool.

    Sorry for the sorta name drop. And it's been a few years since I heard that story, but I believe Joe wanted to hang with Chris when he found out who was on the other bus.

    1. Howdy Andrew! Thanks for clueing me in to Maria von Hausswolff's "Dead Magic" release from earlier this year. Didn't know she had new material out until you mentioned it.

    2. That's a great story, ABD. Joe had probably never heard of Soundgarden though. Or maybe he had since he was tight with Eddie Vedder.

      Forget I said anything.

    3. @sean

      No problem. Thatxs the first of her work I've heard. It's definitely a bit strange, but I dig it.

      I, too, love when CK talks music and the subsequent chatting with the other weirdos on here about aspects that the casual fan completely misses.

    4. My only secondhand Strummer story also involves his bus. There is a local dive bar in Detroit called the Old Miami started by some Viet-era vets. It's on the notorious Cass corridor known at the time for drugs, prostitution, etc. Sidenote: Cass was the first and only place I ever saw a drunk try to take piss lying facedown.

      Point is, the Miami was rough then and known for its punk shows. After a local (new?) Clash show, Strummer in the bus pulled up to for visit to the Miami. Wish I had more details, though I thought it was cool that one of my first Detroit gigs was at a bar attracting the likes of the Clash.

    5. Sounds like Joe. Probably was the Clash II tour. They did a lot of stuff like that.

  6. Thank you for attempting an explanation regarding “Boomer X”. Despite merely four-ish years between you and myself – that was an impassable crevasse back in 1979 when I was 8 and you were 13. Took me ‘till I was 25ish to bridge the gap with older friends that managed to have your general musical cultural experiences.

    Even though it probably isn’t a fan favorite around here I adore your musings on musick. Really appreciated the other day (week, month?) when you posted my favorite of your demos as an exemplar. And your pre-harmonic analysis of “Geordie Chords”. I told myself there’s no need for me to work up my own analysis and share… But if there’s no need why do I keep thinking about it? Sigh.

    As simple as the riff ultimately is – a tidy occult analysis will take me 1,300 to 2,000 words. I’d like to think that, to understand I-IV “blues” aspect of “Wilful Days”, I’d need to sketch out cadences and especially plagal cadences in the liturgical music of the western tempered scale. I.E. “Amen” and various voice leading examples therein - Compared to the "eastern" realm of natural tuning and the inherently musical use of Aum. And that’s just the prelim…

    While I do not have a BS in music (boo!) - I’m on the spectrum. I spent time in the 90’s on education and I currently lack 12 academic credits, a couple of performance credits and class piano 4. No Bachelor of Science but I schitt you not, I use my music education every stupid day of my gnostic life.

    Marty Balin’s “Miracles” is on the list of liminality inducing 70’s radio staples from my childhood. I spent a good amount of time falling asleep and waking up in the back of our ’72 Chevelle back then. No one seems to have the “disembodied machine intelligence” events the way that PKD, John Lilly and Leary did back in the day. And long before the five tall greys in lab coats visited my teenage bedroom I had my run-ins with something similar. My super young ECCO/starseed moments featured secret terrifying messages as I slipped in and out of sleep to songs like 10cc’s “I’m not in Love”, John Lennon’s “#9 Dream”, Marty Balin’s/Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles”, some Gary Wright, Gerry Rafferty and perhaps Manfred Mann’s earth band’s “Solar Fire”.

    Once again Chris, thanks for what you do.

    1. You're quite welcome. I'd like to hear more about these childhood experiences of yours though. And that's quite a playlist.

      Music theory will never solve Geordie though. It's just beyond our ken. Sadly.

    2. Great comments Sean. I think I had a few of those 10cc moments as well. It's still some of the trippiest production I've ever heard.

      And I can't believe you mentioned Manfred Mann, one of my secret old faves. The Holst Planets album I really liked as well (also imo light-years better than ELP's overblown attempt at something similar with Pictures at an Exhibition) and that alone tells me now someone in that band was probably dialed into something given its mythic/astrological themes.

    3. Sir Loring, it’s very rare but I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on the assertion that solving “Geordie” is beyond our ken. (Really, it’s beyond uncommon that I disagree with you – which I find perplexing.)

      Of course, Music Theory in and of itself will never solve Geordie. However, Music Theory can provide a basis to create a Map of heightened resolution for a deep trip into Territory that you are already rather familiar with... Once so Map-ily empowered I’m of the opinion that an experienced traveler of musical Territory will increase their percentage chance of success, occasionally precipitously. Allowing the lucky but especially diligent aspirant to achieve DCG – or Direct Cognition of Geordie. A fraction of a fraction of a subset of the ole’ Gnostic chart topper DCR – or Direct Cognition of Reality.

      And yeah Chris – you will definitely hear about more of my childhood weirdness. If I had everything written up I could just link to it. Sadly, no blog for me. I searched the internet thoroughly… and apparently, I haven’t made a blog yet. Boo. However, your Leprechaun moment features at least a half dozen crucial details in common with my big 5-year-old equivalent experience. Sadly, I did not get a Leprechaun. Much more cinematic and with a soundtrack no less! But no Leprechaun.

      Thanks Anon for speaking up about “Solar Fire”! Always brilliant and inspiring when someone chimes in with corollary experiences.

    4. My thing is this, Sean-- theory can tell you how but it can't tell you why. Dig the distinction?

      We can sit down with tabs or sheet music and break down all the chords and the arpeggios but can we use theory answer who the fuck thinks to play them? And why? Can theory explain how those insane chords take my head completely out of this world?

      He plays chords that I've never anyone anywhere play. Chords that I'm not entirely sure exist in an objective fashion. He can play conventional guitar quite well. He just chooses not to.

      These demos take it deeper. Has him playing a lot more lead too. Very melodic lead player actually.

    5. Aaaaw Yeah.... thanks for the link.

      Indeed I do dig the distinction. And I still think theory can provide a window to examine precedents (all the daffy music you can assemble thru time). A backwards path to why, but a real path none the less.

      Perhaps I'm on about a Gnostic approach to theory as I outright object to the idea that theory can tell you how. I tend to think that that's believing the hype of an appeal to authority. Which, granted, that's how theory is perceived. It's a tool not an authority.

      Many thanks for the conversation!

  7. Chris, I've probably posted this in the wrong blog post. But could this be another sign??? There was a fire on Coslany Street, Norwich
    England this weekend...and my oh my looks at the pictures.

    and here we are:

    1. Very interesting, Violet. We're the WTF pix taken in Norwich?

    2. Yes, by Mike Coles, it's the exact same buildings, same street.

  8. I like Boomer X; it fits my cohort perfectly. I think the radio & record archons in the mid-70's were adrift not knowing what to program next. College radio gave me access to new music, and yet, as I learned from Dave McGowan that that too was under sway. I'm still a big fan of Blondie.

    1. Music is music, you know? You don't have to buy into whatever someone's trying to sell you to enjoy it. I think knowing JA and the Clash were mixed up in a bunch of weirdness just makes it more entertaining.

    2. Man these music themes are great. As a Boomer-X (great coining job, BTW) in a band playing lots of Boomer-X music it's fascinating to view those songs and musicians with a new eye.

      And speaking of Blondie, we have one of their songs in the setlist while on my nights off I sometimes find myself reading their former keyboard player's stuff.

      Given my now well-developed views on the music biz and those behind it, I still find myself wondering if he's just another tool merely moved to a different location.

    3. Could be. Debbie Harry and I share a birthday, incidentally

      Spread the Boomer X virus, my friend.

    4. I didn't know you and Debbie shared a birthday.
      That makes this old post of mine -
      "The Tide is High for the Dark Archetypal Angel of the Water and the Sky?"
      a bit more synchy/sinky perhaps?-)

  9. Greetings Chris,
    Speaking of The Dead if I’m not mistaken I believe Jerry Garcia was cited as ‘spiritual advisor’ on the back cover of Surrealistic Pillow. Keep up the great work.

    1. Indeed, and he played guitar on one of the tracks. Apparently he helped the Airplane get their shit together because they were a bit frazzled with a new singer and drummer.

    2. It seems Jerry might have played on a few tracks...

  10. Those birth year marketing groupings annoy me more than astrology. UK demographics are not the same as US. Strummer would have actually been born in a dip in birth rate not a boom.

    What happened in both countries at the same time was the oil crisis, stagflation and the neoliberal economic "miracle". Perhaps a better name for anyone young and not "settled" in family life in this period would be a baby doomer. Then everyone after would be a homo economicus, no longer qualifiable as homo sapiens. A degraded form of post apocalyptic human for whom life is fully meaningless.

  11. // Bonus factoid: That video was shot the day Layne Staley died. Talk about your omens already. //

    And in "St. Ann's" Warehouse to boot.

    1. Is there a connection with LS and Saint Ann, V?

    2. Let me dislodge tongue from cheek before I have to bite it...I was just thinking that "St. Ann's" is kind of a funny name for a warehouse or a rock venue. But surreptitiously naming a rock venue after S-T-N, not so irrelevant. After all we're looking a deadly synchros here.

    3. Well, guess who made his world debut there?

      I'll give you a hint-- his name rhymes with Freff Fluckley.

    4. Admittedly, this rather a weak sync (maybe more of an echo), but concerning the connection between Layne Staley and Saint Ann...

      Staley was a Grunge saint; and Grunge was more than just a genre of music: it was a complete worldview (I should probably add the caveat "if you were 18 in 93"), with a music, a literature, a politics/philosophy/ethics...and, of course, a fashion (almost a uniform).

      If you were *authentic" (and Grunge was obsessed with authenticity), you bought your flannel and your torn denim at the Salvation Army or Goodwill thrift shop. And we all admired Layne's authenticity, cause even after he was a multimillionaire, he wore what he bought at the rag shops.

      And St. Ann (no joke!) is the patron saint of secondhand clothing vendors.

      Again, more of an echo than a sync; but hopefully it'll be useful, or at least entertaining.

  12. Thanks Chris, for your always wonderfully well written blogs and breakdowns of the backstories behind the days news/events!

    While reading this post, i had a flashback (non-acid based) to my late teen years and buying a solo album by Marty Balin---cant for the life of me recall what was on it that i liked so much (ca 1982 as well I think?)

    I loved "Red Octopus" and still do.
    Your article even brought back memories of many arguments with my brother when he would tell me how Awesome Iron Maiden (and many other "hard" bands) were compared to the "wimpy" stuff i liked such as The Human league, ABC (lol "Shoot that Poison Arrow" still does something for me!), Heaven 17, Psychedic Furs etc etc well if anyone was around that age in those years they can probably imagine the horrors of their own "MTV Consumer" years!

    One of the few songs that "aged" well along with my increasing years from this era was Heaven 17s "Let Me Go" both the video and song seem to agree with me in the utterly hopeless way I have usually viewed myself and the world---kind of a 28 Days Later feel to it also----No Exit!
    Still love The Cars and Joy Division and New Order also but i know absolutely zilch about the mechanics of music and the like so maybe this is also apparent!
    ATB my friend,

    1. Well, I was one of those weirdos who like wimpy new wave stuff and Metal. More Judas Priest than Maiden, though. I could never hand Dickinson's histrionics. But Van Halen trumped them all.

      The categories and tribalism seem very silly now, esp metal vs punk.

  13. All revolutions inevitably become what they set out to depose.
    Not this time. Rachel Dolezal tried that door and found it doesn't open.

    1. @Dammerung: I honestly respect your realist view. But I'd hone your phrasing just a bit, to "that door doesn't people in our pay grade." Study after study has shown that a wealthy American, a wealthy Saudi, and a wealthy Mexican will all have educations, worldviews, and life experiences far more similar to each others', than to those of the average member of their respective nations.

      Are you old enough to remember Rwanda? They had a race war...between two races so similar that even the average Rwandan couldn't reliably tell them apart, who spoke two "languages" with less difference between them than American English and British English (or American English and Appalachian English). And both races slaughtered the country's pygmy minority (who had no role in the country's politics, and nothing worth stealing). And Rwandans small Muslim community tried to stay neutral during the chaos, tried to offer refuge to endangered individuals of both races, and suffered bloody reprisal.

      As someone who's spent a lot of time in liminal places (a weird kid in the backwoods who caused a minor scandal when he asked the librarian in the nearest town to get him a copy of the Communist Manifesto; as a hillbilly in a fair-sized industrial city in the Midwest; as a White Muslim), I can easily see the future of America turning Tribal in the ugliest sense of the word. But the tribes are unlikely to break neatly along racial/ethnic lines.

      Find your tribe. Your DNA might end up being a key that won't open any door.

      Just some advice from an old dude that's seen the fringes. Salt available in quantity on request! Cheers.

  14. Thank you so much. Have enjoyed your work and efforts especially the last two or three years, since you "came back". Glad you are better. Ketogenic, etc, turmeric, organic coconut for you.. just my half cent.
    Big and appreciative fan. Not in that order.. So stoked and shared recently w fb "friends" your intro: vs. this crap.

    All the best! Glad to have a cool/weird group to sync up with here and there. Cheers g

  15. My favorite Airplane song was the live version of "Plastic Fantastic Lover" from the Bless Its Pointed Little Head album. Balin was the lead vocalist; it was a wonderful give and take between him and the guitars/bass. A song about TV and maybe some other tech as well.

    1. Love that album. They were really moving towards proto-punk live.

  16. Maybe a lot of people will wince, but I really loved (and still do) Balin's solo effort, which was also his big solo hit, 1981's 'Hearts' (written by Jesse Barish). In fact that's what I think of more than any Airplane song, when I think of Balin! Probably because Hearts came out when I was eleven, and just starting to get into music, so it had a big imprint on my mind. At that age I am sure I had no idea who Jefferson Airplane were, albeit I must have already heard their famous hits on the radio.

    1. It's a little mushy but a decent enough performance. Sadly the clock was running out for that generation by then.

  17. I'm not an american, for what i get i'm younger too, and on top of that i'm from the bottom of the world, so much of the music you mention is unknown for me. I got to hear Massive Attack (always loved EF voice, but didn't know wjo she was) and one of my favorite groups is Faith no More. Yesterday i got to read that dome of their songs are like the Killing Joke, so maybe i will look them on youtube.. Thanks for all the info, it feels sometimes like a never ending cicle with the same entities just changing their clothes, like the seasons.

    1. True story- when FNM fired Jim Martin (mistake) they asked Geordie Walker to join. He rehearsed with them but thought they were "too suburban" for him. I guess he meant personally.

    2. I didn't know that, hilarious and brilliant. Thanks again.

  18. Excellent article. I absolutely love this site. Continue the
    good work!

  19. Ditto on Rachel's helpful (for some anyway) diet suggestions.

    Back to JA, a quick search on the lyrics all did not name the author of these lyrics from Crown of Creation, though wiki itself credits Slick:


    Lather was thirty years old today
    They took away all of his toys
    His mother sent newspaper clippings to him
    About his old friends who'd stopped being boys
    There was Harwitz E. Green, just turned thirty-three
    His leather chair waits at the bank
    And Seargent Dow Jones, twenty-seven years old
    Commanding his very own tank
    But Lather still finds it a nice thing to do
    To lie about nude in the sand
    Drawing pictures of mountains that look like bumps
    And thrashing the air with his hands

    But wait, oh Lather's productive you know
    He produces the finest of sound
    Putting drumsticks on either side of his nose
    Snorting the best licks in town
    But that's all over...

    Lather was thirty years old today
    And Lather came foam from his tongue
    He looked at me eyes wide and plainly said
    Is it true that I'm no longer young?
    And the children call him famous
    What the old men call insane
    And sometimes he's so nameless
    That he hardly knows which game to play...
    Which words to say...
    And I should have told him, "No, you're not old."
    And I should have let him go on...smiling...babywide

    1. "Lather" is said to have been written by Slick for Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden, on occasion of his 30th birthday.

    2. Makes sense. It always struck me as a bit like a creepy lullaby. In this case, maybe a lullaby for a manchild.

    3. One of her better efforts IMO. She sang it in blackface on the Smothers Brothers Show.

  20. Jefferson Starship was a decent band with hits like Jane and Find Your Way Back...Why no mention Chris? This is the fruit of this sync story.. Mannequin soundtrack was okay too..

    1. No mention of Jefferson Starship? I even embedded one of their videos, Zeke.

    2. Why didn't you mention "Find Your Way Back" or "Jane" the songs....Those are classic hits with tons of symbolism and no Grace Slick (on the recordings at least). This article is great anyway.. thanks for the entertainment..
      Thanks for putting the Clash in its place too, I once heard Strummer talk about rioting in attempt to gain street cred and I never looked at them the same way again.. British Punk stole from bands like MC5 and other less knowns and its greatest accomplishment was evolving into post punk

  21. You know, I find that you and I Chris have very different musical tastes and experiences. It's interesting, since I think I'm only about 3 years younger than you, but it must have been enough (well, that and spending most of my childhood and all of my teen years in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania). That said, I love when you write about music and the bands and people that make it/made it. Killing Joke is fascinating and quite interesting, if not quite my cup of tea musically.

    1. Gus, I'm not trying to evangelize for music I'm trying to trying to evangelize for stories. Music is music and taste is taste. I'm about the stories and what mean.

    2. Oh I realize that, we like what we like. I think I was just trying to say that despite taste differences, I love when you write about music and music related things, i.e. the stories and what they mean. So thanks for that man.

  22. Found a few mentions of Jefferson Airplane songs used in movies/TV folks forgot about:

    Completely forgot about Girl, Interrupted. (So that makes two things Winona Ryder has been in that involved Jefferson Airplane songs. Probably not a surprising synch since Timothy Leary was her godfather!)

    1. Winona. Sigh.

      Brittany Murphy. Sigh. Weep.

    2. Appropos.. I hope.

      Seems.. KJ. Who said the internet wasn't true and believable

    3. Appropos.. I hope. I hope the great cull is leaving the smart ones intact. Pertinent to your post:

      Seems.. KJ. Who said the internet wasn't true and believable. Keep rocking. Keep working. You are appreciated.. The best continue on..

    4. Yes indeed. We looked at a live version of this a few days ago.

  23. Agree,but it is "reality" which isn't true or believable! When you understand this truth as fact : "the game is over for you".For some reason, the corporate mass media programming (spellcraft) no longer works on some of us.We can see everything is just a joke! And for us...there are no more rabbits left to chase or holes to fall into.

  24. Reading this article has reminded me that in the week or two prior to Balin's death, I went on a "familarise myself with things Jefferson Airplane/Starship" thing because ... I don't know why. I know neither were bands I followed, had only one album (JS Modern Times, because I liked "Stranger.") and really knew nothing outside of those songs that Balin sang. So I went on that indoctrinate in all things Airplane/Starship thing, figured out how old Papa John Creach was in 1975, listened more to Balin and what he brought to the band, and realised I quite liked "Ride the Tiger."

    I'd forgotten I went on this Airplane/Starship inundate course, until reading this blog about ... it didn't even hit me when Balin died that I'd just gone through their back catalogue, reading this, researching that, wondering if Kantner ever did anything, and trying to figure out how tall David Freiberg actually is. Honest. He looks very short. This isn't a problem, but when going on a crash course in all things Airplane/Starship, these are some of the questions you might come up with. I always knew they had a lot of members in the band, and wasn't sure who was actually necessary to have around. I knew Pete Sears seemed talented, but knew little about him. And Aynsley Dunbar I knew from the multiple bands he's been in. Underrated drummer. It led me to ask "what does David Freiberg actually do?" So it made me kind of laugh your mentioning of him, which then reminded me .. hey. I was just looking into how tall Freiberg is not all that long ago. Actually just before Balin died.

    Still not a huge fan of Airplane or Starship. But Balin had a great voice.

    1. Gerard yeah it's a strange coincidence. As if you had a premonition/precognition about Balin's death, at a subconscious level.

      I found myself reading Nick Carter's (yeah an in-joke pseudonym) biography on Jack Parsons, a few days before Adam Parfrey died. Back in May this year. Parfrey was the founder of Feral House, the small press that published the Parsons bio. I have never read a Feral House book before or since. Reminds me, does anybody know who 'Nick Carter' is? I searched, couldn't find anything. Seems to have hid his real identity successfully enough. Chris, Horowitz?

    2. Yeah, I forget at the moment. I might have it my records somewhere, Lawrence. It was somebody in that field.

    3. Brilliant stuff, Gerald. My next blog will be called "So How Tall is David Freiberg Anyway"

    4. I think you mean John Carter. It's been said the it's the pseudonym of Paul Rydeen, author of Jack Parsons and the Fall of Babylon. Always wanted to read Sex & Rockets. I think Rydeen has written with, or for, Parfrey/Feral in the past, but I definitely could be wrong.

    5. I think he's 3ft 2. I mean this "inundate" in all things Airplane/Starship went so far as to listen to Baron von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun, Manhole, and a host of other side projects members have been associated with. I didn't do this when Paul Kantner died. I never figured out what he did in the band to be honest, well at least by the latter Starship era. Even reading this article left me with the feeling Kantner was more figurehead than talent.

      But if all height is based off of Grace Slick being about 5ft 4/5ft 5, none of Airplane/Starship were very tall. Kantner wasn't much taller than her. But who is the smallest Airplane/Starship member. Who?

      I hope it is Freiberg.

    6. Kantner was a fan of science fiction, and it influenced his songs. "Blows Against the Empire" released in 1970 was a theme-album project (hippies hijack a starship and travel to another planet to set up a Utopian civilization) outside of the regular Airplane discography. Parts of John Christopher's novel "The Chrysalids" were transplanted as lyrics in "Crown of Creation".

    7. Ah Ike, thanks. Yes John Carter. Why did I think Nick Carter? Who's Nick Carter? Yikes I just checked, he's a BackStreet Boy, although those boys are approaching middle-age soon enough.

      So Paul Rydeen perhaps? Thanks for the tipoff.

  25. fwiw overpowered by funk is my favorite clash song.

    1. I hear there's a new medication for that kind of thing. Consult your doctor.

    2. pfffff.... funk out! christopher.

  26. 33: ;) Hail Mary, full of grace... Bow.

  27. Does your site have a contact page? I'm having a tough time locating it but, I'd like to shoot you an email.
    I've got some creative ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing.
    Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it
    grow over time.

    1. Sigh- not yet. Won't be doable until I migrate. Which I'm loath to do at the moment.

  28. MC has a question - what's your source for your theory on Joe Strummer's demise? Because between the published biography and a Google search, all the evidence points to, well, this:
    For whatever it may be worth, I seem to recall speculation (not in the bio but some other punk book) that Joe's heart condition wasn't undiagnosed but misdiagnosed, but also that he'd known for a long time that his lifetime would be short, and this knowledge was a factor in both his depressions and his post-Clash musical expermentalism (shades of Jeff Healey)

    1. My source is an email exchange with a noted Clash historian who read the coroner's report, MC. I have the email somewhere in my archives.

  29. Thought you'd all appreciate this excerpt from a very interesting article on Grace Slick & Jefferson Airplane:

    "She once turned up at the White House for an informal party hosted by Tricia Nixon, hippie-loving daughter of then president Richard Nixon (Grace and Tricia were alumnae of the prestigious Finch College finishing school in New York). Grace had a gift in her bag – she was carrying a stash of powdered LSD, which she intended to slip into Tricky Dicky’s vodka martini. Unfortunately, she was turned away at the gates by security once they realised she’d brought along Abbie Hoffman, who was co-founder of the anarchic Yippies, as well as being high on the CIA’s Most Wanted list."

    Silly White Rabbit! Tricks are for kids! (& Tricky Dicks!)

  30. Cinimod_ofCarthach2:29 PM, October 03, 2018

    Have you heard this from Strummer, Chris?

    "The Sirens are rising in the East" from London is Burning.

  31. Greate post. Keep posting such kind of information on your blog.

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  32. AIs learn heart love and wonder here under the sun

  33. "I can't think of another band who so quickly subverted everything they claimed to stand for so quickly or sounded so radically different on record than they did on stage (The Clash). If you can, let me know in the comments."

    The bands that come to mind don't fit the quick criteria, any in fact, but such come to mind albeit prog rock groups like Yes and Genesis, in fact do come to mind. From breeding cult classic bombers like Starship Trooper, Firth of Fifth to radio friendly make some money Invisible Touch and Owner of a Lonely Heart...two completely different bands, same entity.
    The Sybils cousin, Peter Gabriel has been on the SS orbit here and there I see. For Yes, of course there's Anderson and Howe who haven't but but if anyone should, the bassist Chris Squire was the most freakiest live bassist, well tied with KC Tony Levin, I've ever seen. Jones Beach, Black onesy grey star symbol, permanently scarred.
    They played well live.
    Foo Fighters IMO sound like imposters live versus how they record their records. I know there are a couple more of the nineties types . Maybe Metallica and then Korn. They both sound similar and good live vs recording.
    WuTang Clan, sounded horrible live compared to the album. Hammerstein Ballroom '00, Bass at 10aud2, all 9 on stage, made CREAM sound un-listenable.

    1. Adding more detail, Yes drummer Bill Bruford ties Yes and Genesis, as he drummed with the post-Gabriel Genesis. And for your KC link, Gabriel and Tony Levin have worked together for years.

  34. Nothing's gonna stop us now.

  35. Interestingly, and perhaps apropos of nothing, Jefferson Starship's Paul Kantner was a correspondent of Michael Aquino's. According to Gavin Baddeley's "Lucifer Rising" they shared an interest in science fiction and space travel.

  36. I am first time poster here, so I hope you excuse my ignorance and/or forgive me if this has been previously mentioned. Anyway, I was listening to the JA song "she has funny cars" and the opening chord riff reminded me of something which I just realised was same as opening to The Monkees song "Last train to Clarksville". Or am I just a music doofus?

  37. highlighted by Terry's note-for-note cop of the intro to 'She Drives Funny Cars' from the book "Clash City Showdown" 2003

    And Jefferson Airplane's drummer got the lick from one of the myraid instrumental tracks by Teen Beat drummer Sandy Nelson.