A couple of posts ago, when we were looking into names for bands – in particular, possible names to do with the wonders of space – I had one of those light bulb moments, remembering a image, a fragment of lyrics, from a song by Grace Slick and Co. that has really stuck with me over the decades since the early 1970s. It goes “…with her head hooked in(to) Andromeda.” Such a vivid space image! I always pictured an elegant Alphonse Mucha-type hippie lady with beautiful flowing hair and robes, only she’s huge, kind of like that giant galactic baby at the end of 2001- A Space Odyssey. And her head is wreathed with stars. Now that we have the Internet, I easily found the song, “Starship,” and tracked it to the album Blows Against The Empire, credited to Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship. Well, gotta have that! When the new CD arrived and I gave the whole thing a listen, I realized that I used to have that very LP. In fact, I knew it well. Every song from the first note to the last was like an old friend you'd forgotten you used to know and til you bumped into them on the street. How could I have forgotten this terrific album? Well, they say you can’t remember everything. No, wait a minute…they say you can’t have everything. No excuses; I don’t really know why this one had slipped my mind over the years, but I’m very glad to have it back on my shelf.
For the younger readers, I’ll quickly mention that Jefferson Starship is part of a long tradition is rock music. They began the careers as the sub-orbital group Jefferson Airplane, which flew from about 1965 to’73. From 1974 to’84 they were known as Jefferson Starship, then from ’84-90 as just Starship, and finally Jefferson Starship – The Next Generation. You can see the upward and outward trend. With a changing and evolving membership over the years, they have given up some incredible and memorable music. The roster includes such rock luminaries as Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Mickey Thomas…and many others. But sandwiched back in the middle of the Airplane years, Paul Kantner did this little gem of a concept album. Here’s what the liners notes on my CD have to say:
With most of the members of Jefferson Airplane missing in action, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick holed up in a San Francisco studio in 1970 alongside a cast of West Coast rock ‘n’ roll legends like Jerry Garcia and David Crosby to cut what became Kantner’s finest solo work. Fueled by his lifelong obsession with science fiction, Blows Against The Empire is Kantner’s rock space-opera: Young people hijack a starship and establish a brave new world in some distant galaxy, light-years away from the earthbound reality of Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War.
So, if you want to do a little space exploration of your own, I highly recommend this rich, melodic time capsule of the late 60s early 70s. And if anyone has any info on a (possible? alleged?) connection between this album title and the 1980 Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, I’d love to hear about it!
“At first I was iridescent, then I became transparent, finally I was absent.”