Friday, July 8, 2011

#146 Surrealistic Pillow - Jefferson Airplane

"When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead"

-- this post is going to try to mimic that quote from "White Rabbit" (as an excuse for very poor editing.)

This album was deceptively deep.  I began to write something about it a few days ago but deleted it all.  I listened to Surrealistic Pillow once on my way to work and once on my way back and came home and sat down in front of my computer and I was completely blank.  I really didn't have anything to say except, "oh, I've heard 'Somebody to Love' before, but I didn't know it was Jefferson Airplane..."  Great, like that shit is entertaining.  I was so bored editing that sentence that I was on the verge of just skipping this one altogether for the time being.

And the only other interesting point I could add was: The pictures of the band members are wardrobe directions for obnoxious hipster types found in alternative coffee shops presently (for those of you unaware of this countercounterculture, please see this youtube video for clarification: where the dirty hipsters are)

But then the next day, I thought I'd give them another shot.

It might be important information to tell you that my drive to work is 1.5 hours, and I drive on a one lane Texas highway to a very small town where the sheriff really does have a handlebar mustache and a cowboy hat (ok that part wasn't important information, albeit true, but the part about my long drive is important).

So I'm driving, and there is nobody on this single lane highway and I've got Surrealistic Pillow jamming at near max volume with the windows down at 104 degrees outside (I love the heat) and I let myself zone out, and then fall into a sort of trance as I listen to Grace Slick's vibrating voice...........

And other than the fact that I'm thinking, f*ck, if I had as cool of a name as Grace Slick, I'd get away with murder--it occurs to me in an instant that what this band is doing is mirroring a mushroom trip, or some other type of psychedelic experience from beginning to end.  Each song is meticulously placed to show varying stages of lucidity, reality, ontological discovery, effervescent love, being one with everything and yet being completely alone and trapped in your mind, having been here before and yet having never been here, and then BAM you get "White Rabbit" which shows how figuring out other layers of consciousness affect one's ego... and then a coming down or *back to reality* (if you choose to believe that altered states are different from reality) with "Plastic Fantastic Lover."  Which shows, imo, that what is "real" in our world is incredibly fake, and beneath all the shiny plastic, you're left with societal norms but maybe no substance... and further poses the question - just because your conscious discovery happened to you alone in your head, isn't that more important than what you currently perceive?

Wow, all this in an album I was about to just write off as an "eh, it was alright" album.  Timothy Leary would have rolled over in his grave had he read what I originally wrote.

The lyrics of ALL the songs go both ways.  To those of you not looking to fall down rabbit holes, you might think many of them are normal love songs - but for those of you who chase rabbits you might see songs like "My Best Friend" as those moments when you are in perfect camaraderie with people you barely know, trying to find your car the night of perfect debauchery.  Or you may perceive "Today" as the type of song that represents those feelings of oneness with the universe.  When in a typical day, upon second look, makes you realize that a whole life is trapped inside of a bug, or that beauty is found in a small pebble or a rainbow (please see this AWESOME youtube video for an additional example: Double Rainbow) when you may not have noticed these things before.

"Comin' Back to Me" is haunting to hear.  It reminds me of those moments when you are unable to be fully connected to another and discovering that sense of aloneness.  But you could also see it as a love song if you weren't chasing rabbits.

I've read that this album was so groundbreaking for its time (1967) because it reflected the counterculture of rabbit chasers who didn't have a large amount of alternative music yet for their conscious-altering ideas.

This album has made me think more than any other album I've ever listened to and I can't even really explain why or how.  It has made me think of that great short story by Denis Johnson "Car Crash While Hitchhiking" where the narrator wants to know what it might be like to scream in horror.  It also reminded me of the Matrix when Neo chases the white rabbit tattoed girl.. and all of this imbedded escapism, being and time, and many other glimmers of rapid neuron firings inside my meatbag's brain as I'm reminded of moments where I feel connected to everything and nothing all at once. . .

Feed your head.  Feed your head.  Feed your head.


Psychedelic scholars have long tried to pin down just what the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia did on this album (he is credited as "musical and spiritual adviser"). But the real trip is the Airplane's concise sorcery, a hallucinatory distillation of folk-blues vocals, garage-rock guitar and crisp pop songwriting. The effects were felt nationwide. Grace Slick's vocal showcases, "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love," made Surrealistic Pillow a commercial smash during San Francisco's Summer of Love, and Marty Balin's spectral "Today" is still the greatest ballad of that city's glory days.


  1. As this is the last post i'll leave the links here, and once you have used them you can just erase this comment :)
    Joni Mitchel's Blue -
    The Byrds Younger Than Yesterday -

    You asked for this Albums in the Albums i Need list.

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