Frank Kogan (koganbot) wrote,
Frank Kogan

  • Music:

Unity in kaboom!

I'm implying at the start of my last post that at least some of the Airplane's visceral excitement comes from how the different personalities/musical elements often sound on the verge of falling apart or exploding into conflict. If you put them too close they annihilate each other, too far apart they're inert.

Don't want to make this Airplane versus Bowie and Roxy, given that most observers never notice the many similarities. But with Bowie, I get an emotional kick from his intentions more than his songs (bear in mind, though, that I know his intentions only through the songs, so obv. the latter deserve some of the credit — cf. my liking Springsteen the person more than his music, but of course most of what I know of the person is through the music). He's got a potentially exciting choice of musical elements. Where I'm claiming (not very clearly) that Jefferson Airplane's parts were better "integrated," this is based on my feeling that in Bowie and Roxy the pieces-parts have a clumsy fit but while bumping one another don't generate sparks. They coexist too peacefully.

You shouldn't infer here that aesthetically I prefer confrontation to coexistence. The former is easier to write about, though.

Really, the Airplane's visceral superiority may just be owing to Jack Casady's being a smart, powerful player who takes the bass on convoluted journeys while never losing the groove. But when the Airplane splintered, his and Jorma's particular post-Airplane shard, lifeboat, new craft (my metaphor is splintering too), Hot Tuna, was dull dull dull. (At least the first two albums. I didn't stick with 'em, so they're due a reevaluation.) It's as if they need the challenge of Paul's and Marty's and Grace's chord patterns, rather than Jorma's own more traditionalist and blah ones. (How many soul bass players get to run a slalom course as novel as Paul's "Crown Of Creation"?)

These are all quasi-germs of quasi-ideas that I doubt I'll be able to develop usefully. To continue on half-assedly, an interesting way of looking at Jefferson Airplane is as a precursor to Whitfield's work w/ the Temptations when the latter went "psychedelic," e.g., soul bottom, psychedelic guitar (though I also think of Whitfield as an accidental forerunner of dub, whereas I never heard any "dub space" in Jefferson Airplane). And to Funkadelic, of course. Roxy's Phil Manzanera deserves mention here too, his psychedelic guitar wending its way interestingly through Roxy's architecture.**

*"Spare Chaynge" and "Bear Melt" may be total refutations of my hypothesis, since the former is a pure improvisation centering on Jack and Jorma, and the latter something of an improvisation, and both tracks are great. (I'm overlooking drummer Spencer Dryden here: I haven't really come to any assessment of the guy's work; note that it's his departure after "Mexico" that marks the border between previous Airplane greatness and later Airplane-Starship mediocrity (though "borders" are never so simple and I actually like the post-Dryden Long John Silver more than I dislike it). Also note that I have zero albums by New Riders Of The Purple Sage, whom Dryden joined in 1971.) Subjects for further research are too numerous to detail here, but surely should include KBC Band and SVT (Wikip: "During his SVT tenure, Casady actually taped his fingers together to force himself to simplify his highly articulated playing style"), not to mention three decades' worth of Hot Tuna.

**And let us not forget Rare Earth and He 6!
Tags: jefferson airplane
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