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We Can Be Together
Jefferson Airplane were as much a coalition as a band, and at moments they could be the most exciting and poignant coalition/band/group in music. And at moments they were breaking in pieces, and sometimes those moments coincided.

Paul Kantner, as one of their weaker singers, the guy who wrote harmony songs, not just leads, was the one who tried to get everybody singing and playing at the same time, if not always in sync. "We Can Be Together" sounds too ferocious and has too much desperate posturing for a we-should-be-together song, which is appropriate, as neither band nor scene is going to hold together much longer.* Kantner's the one who tries hardest and longest to keep the ideals real.

*That's why I'm embedding it. Of the Kantner-only writing credits, I like "The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil" and "Crown Of Creation" just as much, but the latter is too focused for what I'm trying to say, and too much of a take-down of a "them" rather than a wrestling with a difficult "us." The former has too much optimism. Its "You and me we go walking south, and we see all the world around us" changes in a few months ("House At Pooneil Corners," co-written with Marty Balin) to "You and me we keep walking around/And we see all the bullshit around us." "We are leaving, you don't need us," on "Wooden Ships" comes a few months after that (by Kantner and Steve Stills and David Crosby), same alb as "We Can Be Together" and is just as much posturing and just as desperate. Backs against the wall so we retreat to fantasy, 'cause the wall's not coming down.

"I can carry my friends and I do when I can, we get by however we can."

Paul Kantner, March 17, 1941 – January 28, 2016.

(I didn't stay listening to Kantner and crews much beyond 1972, if any of you would like to point me towards what's most interesting in what came after.)

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On the other hand...

Interesting that I say they're as much a coalition as a band, given that I'd also say that they integrated their musical elements way more than, for instance, David Bowie or Roxy Music ever did.* I'd say the Airplane integrated the elements way better, too,** though I can understand someone making the argument that Bowie and Roxy were deliberately underscoring the disparateness of their musical elements, the point being that the elements were a choice, were put on and taken off, not merely inhabited as if inevitable. Even take out the word "deliberate," and you can still get Bowie and Roxy having that effect, style choice, a sense of differences and possibilities. And there's no reason in principle that the Bowie-Roxy approach can't produce the better music; I just don't think in this instance — in comparison to the Airplane — it did.

*If someone stumbles upon this post in a couple of years, Bowie died 17 days before Kantner, so obv. both are on my mind.

**I.e., made better music.

Edited at 2016-02-06 05:12 pm (UTC)

As for those elements...

You can hear Jeff Air elements pretty well in the live "Other Side Of This Life" because Casady's bass comes forth really loud and is built with a soul and funk sense of space (that is, is syncopated and will stop occasionally and leave holes for the rest of the music to fall into), though is improvisational and pushes into the melody in a way that soul and funk bass generally don't. Kantner on rhythm guitar likes to go choppy, i.e., kind of funky, "Plastic Fantastic Lover" from the same set being an emphatic example. Meanwhile, Jorma's lead guitar works off of what I'm assuming is a basic Dick Dale/Keith Richards surf'n'blues template, though w/ more beginning-middle-climax development. And with each successive album he's adding more and more amp-overload thickness to his guitar lines, taking in what (I presume) he's hearing from Clapton and Hendrix and Page et al., "We Can Be Together," for instance.*

Anyway, Grace can warble and jab, and Marty can shout and wail, without the listener going "Oh oh oh, look look look, see how warbles and wails go atop soul-and-funk rhythms." The rhythms don't stand apart from the warbles and wails, in fact support and get supported by the rest of the music.

*My favorite example, since it connects supposedly but not actually dissimilar bands, is to assert that Jorma's opening riff on "Have You Seen The Saucers" — coming about nine months after "We Can Be Together" — runs close to Keith's solo in the Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil," though played with 1970s thickness, and anticipating James Williamson's very similar opening riff (recorded a couple years on) to the Stooges' "Search And Destroy," produced by the Thin White Elephant himself.

So then, why am I saying they're as much a coalition as a band?

Nonetheless, they do seem to be going off in multiple psychological directions at once, acid-tongued troll 'n' punk Grace and Kumbaya-and-togetherness Paul singing together/not together, Jorma's compositions containing his own hermetic vocals, Marty's earnestness and Jack's dance supporting each other musically but still on the verge of relocating to opposite worlds, given the chance — and when the band breaks, finally, the different psyches are less interesting by far than they were together.*

*Unless further exploration on my part shows they were just as interesting or more interesting, assuming I ever undertake such exploration. I'd love different ears to tell me how they heard the parts differently, and the post-Airplane parts.

The Only Way To Fly Was To Die

I'd had no idea that Signe Toly Anderson (in the original lineup of the band, replaced by Grace Slick on the second album) died the very same day as Paul Kantner:

Edited at 2016-04-02 06:22 am (UTC)

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