Saturday, June 24, 2017

50 years ago: Jefferson Airplane charted with “White Rabbit”

White Rabbit

Jefferson Airplane

Writer(s): Grace Slick (see lyrics here)

First Charted: June 24, 1967

Peak: 8 US, 6 CB, 3 GR, 7 HR, 1 CL, 94 UK, 12 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 83.9 video, 199.27 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This was “one of the defining songs of the 1967 ‘Summer of Love’” SF and “one of the crucial sounds of the late ‘60s freak scene” DT of the psychedelic rock movement. When St. Louis radio station KSHE switched from an easy listening format to rock in 1967, “White Rabbit” was the first song they played to make it clear they “were aligning themselves with the counterculture.” SF

Grace Slick wrote the “disquietingly catchy” TB song while in her first band, the Great Society. She explained that the music came to her when she “took acid and listened to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain album for 24 hours straight until it burned into my brain.” SS The “insistent, militaristic rhythms and the way the song gradually builds to its menacing peak” TB were loosely based on the classical piece “Bolero” by Maurice Ravel. SJ

The lyrics were famously inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She said, “Our parents read us stories like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz…They all have a place where children get drugs, and are able to fly or see an Emerald City or experience extraordinary animals and people….And our parents are suddenly saying, ‘Why are you taking drugs?’ Well, hello!’” RS500 She said, “I don’t think most people realize the song was aimed at parents who drank and told their kids not to do drugs.” SF It was “a metaphor for the hypocrisy of the straight world.” TC

The FCC came down on the song as drug-related and it was banished from the airwaves, but not until the Nixon administration. Slick has said the song isn’t just about drug use, but “about opening up, looking around, checking out what’s happening…Feeding your head is not necessarily pumping chemicals into it.” SJ It’s about “finding a new awareness whether that be spiritual, political, or sexual.” TC

Jefferson Airplane adapted the song for their second album, Surrealistic Pillow, when Grace Slick came on board. “Jorma Kaukonen brought his acidic, sharp guitar tones to the tune and Spencer Dryden’s staccato drumming made it very unsettling. Most of all, though, there was Slick’s caustic, banshee voice that just tore down the melody. To hear Slick scream ‘feed your head’ is to have a psychedelic experience.” TC


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First posted 4/17/2020; last updated 3/31/2023.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Styx released The Mission

The Mission


Released: June 16, 2017

Peak: 45 US

Sales (in millions): 0.015 US

Genre: classic rock veteran


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Overture (Tommy Shaw) [1:23]
  2. Gone, Gone, Gone (Shaw, Will Evankovich, James “JY” Young) [2:07] (4/21/2017, --)
  3. Hundred Million Miles from Home (Shaw, Evankovich) [3:39]
  4. Trouble at the Big Show (Shaw, Evankovich, Young) [2:30]
  5. Locomotive (Shaw, Evankovich) [5:03]
  6. Radio Silence (Shaw, Evankovich, Lawrence Gowan) [4:17]
  7. The Greater Good (Shaw, Evankovich, Gowan) [4:10]
  8. Time May Bend (Shaw, Evankovich) [2:30]
  9. Ten Thousand Ways (Shaw, Gowan) [1:22]
  10. Red Storm (Shaw, Evankovich) [6:04]
  11. All Systems Stable (Shaw, Evankovich, Gowan, Todd Sucherman) [0:17]
  12. Khedive (Shaw, Gowan) [2:04]
  13. The Outpost (Shaw, Evankovich, Gowan) [3:51]
  14. Mission to Mars (Shaw) [2:43]

Total Running Time: 42:00

The Players:

  • Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitar, mandoline)
  • James “JY” Young (guitar, vocals)
  • Chuck Panozzo (bass)
  • Lawrence Gowan, vocals, keyboards)
  • Ricky Phillips (bass)
  • Todd Sucherman (drums, percussion)


3.826 out of 5.00 (average of 7 ratings)

About the Album:

The Mission was the sixteenth studio album from Styx – their first in twelve years. With sales in the U.S. of only 15,000, this was a far cry from the band’s heyday in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with a string of multi-platinum albums. However, All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine says the album “announces Styx’s return in a grand fashion” AMG as “an unapologetic throwback to the band’s late-‘70s prime.” AMG

Tommy Shaw, a member of the band since the mid-‘70s, crafted most of the songs with singer/songwriter Will Evankovich. In 2015, Shaw composed the guitar riff and a few lines for what became Mission to Mars, the closer on the album. WK This evolved into a concept album about a manned space mission to Mars in the year 2033. The website explains that the “fictional sci-fi tale casts Styx members…as the crew of a nuclear-powered spacecraft named the Khedive, and follows their adventures as they try to reach the red planet.” SR

Ooooh boy. That description makes this sound similar to the eye-rolling, overblown theatrical presentation of 1983’s Kilroy Was Here. That story line was conceived by then-bandmate Dennis DeYoung and Shaw has since loudly voiced his opposition to the direction it took the band. There’s some irony in him going down such a similar path.

However, while it is an “overbaked story,” AMG the songs hold up “because Styx craft these operatic rockers so well.” AMG “These songs could be mistaken for prime Styx, and that’s quite a thing to say for a band that is not only firmly within its status as a legacy act, but one that has gone so long without recording new material.” AMG

The lead single, Gone, Gone, Gone “is a callback to the old school style of Styx” SR which even comes close “to the sound they had on Kilroy Was Here.” SR Interestingly, though, it isn’t Shaw or founding member James “JY” Young who takes the lead on the song, but Lawrence Gowan, who stepped in as the replacement for DeYoung in 1999.

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First posted 5/13/2021; last updated 8/1/2021.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

50 years ago: Aretha Franklin hit #1 with “Respect”


Aretha Franklin

Writer(s): Otis Redding (see lyrics here)

Released: April 10, 1967

First Charted: April 21, 1967

Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 2 GR, 13 HR, 18 RB, 10 UK, 3 CN, 14 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.14 UK, 1.14 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 72.0 video, 374.22 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Respect” was first recorded by Otis Redding backed by Booker T. & the MG’s along with the Memphis Horns. “His strong and gritty style of singing gave this raw version of a gospel-type chorus song a particularly macho feel.” LW It was a 1965 top five R&B hit and “considered among the best Southern blues-soul records of the era,” TB but Aretha Franklin transformed it into an anthem “for black Americans and for women’s political and sexual liberation.” LW It became her signature song in launching her reign as the Queen of Soul.

Aretha had recorded with Columbia Records from 1960-1966. In her years there, she developed neither a signature sound nor much commercial success. When she jumped to Atlantic Records, she was paired with producer Jerry Wexler, who had worked with Wilson Pickett and Dusty Springfield. He backed her with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, which would become legendary, but was then in their infancy. For “Respect,” initially comprised only of verses and no bridge, Wexler blended a King Curtis’ tenor-sax solo with the studio band playing the chord changes from Sam and Dave’s “When Something Is Wrong with My Baby.” RS500

Also giving the song heft was Aretha‘s addition of the “sock it to me” lines SF and the spelling out of the title, an idea which engineer Tom Dowd attributed to Aretha‘s sister Carolyn, who sang backup on the album. “I fell off my chair when I heard that!” RS500

Aretha defiantly demands respect without playing the part of a victim. As Wexler said, “Aretha would never play the part of the scorned woman.” RS500 Mix that with the gospel flavor of the call-and-response vocal arrangement, and a classic was born. Wexler reported Otis’ reaction to Aretha’s version: “He looked at me with a big grin and said, ‘That girl done stole my song.’” TC


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First posted 6/3/2012; last updated 11/24/2022.