Friday, January 29, 2016

Another Icon Gone

January has been an exceptionally rough month for classic rock and rollers ...  

Paul Kantner, founder, vocalist and rhythm guitarist with Jefferson Airplane / Starship and its successor, the KBC Band, died Thursday (January 28) after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week of multiple organ failure and septic shock. The San Francisco native was 74. 

The Airplane formed when Paul and Marty Balin met at a San Francisco nightclub and decided to form a folk / rock group. With the addition of guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, drummer Skip Spence (soon replaced by Spencer Dryden) and bass player Jack Casady, they came to the attention of Bill Graham, who managed and promoted the group in his Fillmore club. It was upon the replacement of original lead singer Signe Anderson with Grace Slick that the group took off, charting with "Somebody To Love" (#5 - 1967") and "White Rabbit" (#8 - 1967), both of which Grace had written and performed with her previous group, the Great Society.  

Jefferson Airplane's performances at the Monterey Pop Festival, the infamous Altamont Raceway Festival and at Woodstock solidified their reputation as rock superstars. From 1969 to 1975, Paul and Grace were in a relationship, which resulted in the birth of their daughter China (nee "god"). In 1974, the name of their group was changed to Jefferson Starship and hits continued, like "Miracles" (#3 - 1975), "Count On Me" (#8 - 1976) and "Jane" (#14 - 1980).

Paul suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1980, but made a full recovery. The group, however, split in 1985, with Grace Slick remaining in the newly-renamed Starship, and Paul, Marty and Jack then forming the KBC Band. KBC had one chart single, "It's Not You, It's Not Me" (#89) in 1986 (while Starship went on to three #1 hits). The Airplane was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.  
-- Ron Smith 

How sad ... Jefferson Starship are appearing at The Arcada Theatre this Saturday Night.  We're told that the show will go on as planned and will now feature a special tribute to Paul Kantner.  Meanwhile, The Jefferson Airplane were already scheduled to receive the 2016 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in just a couple of weeks.  (February 15th)  kk  

FH Reader Brad Joblin tells us that he is very shaken by the loss of Paul Kantner.  In fond memory, he sends us this wonderful photo he took of Paul in 2012 at The Ridgefield Playhouse in Connecticut, where Paul and Jefferson Starship played many times ... and tells us that this is truly one of his favorite photos ever taken.  (Also pictured is lead female vocalist ... and Chicagoan ... Cathy Richardson, who has participated with Forgotten Hits from time to time in the past.)

Photo by Brad Joblin (c) 2012.  
Exclusive to Forgotten Hits 
All Rights Reserved

Noted author and rock music historian Harvey Kubernik sent this into us for inclusion in Forgotten Hits ...  

I just received the very sad news about Paul Kantner.
I have my own 1978, 2012 and 2014 archive interviews with Paul.   
Paul and his interview quotes will appear in my upcoming next book "1967 - The Complete Rock History of the Summer of Love" due in very early 2017.     
Harvey Kubernik    

Harvey Kubernik and Paul Kantner  
C 2016 and 2010 Harvey Kubernik    
Harvey Kubernik recorded Paul Kantner in the studio and interviewed him over a dozen times for print periodicals and his own books going back to the late ‘70s. 

Here are some Kubernik / Kantner archive interviews and quotes from Paul.     

Paul Kantner:  "Jefferson Airplane had played at the September, 1966, Monterey Jazz Festival. We were invited because we were the new hip band. They were stretching out that year, which was the nature of the times. Thank God, what a great nature. [Jimmy Rushing, Muddy Waters, Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton, Paul Butterfield Blues Band]. When we played the Monterey Jazz Festival, [critic] Leonard Feather wrote that we sounded 'like all the delicacy and finesse of a mule knocking down a picket fence.' By the time we did the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, we had a record deal with RCA and an album out that we recorded in Hollywood.  

"I like bouncing ideas off people who like to work together. There's a little magic in a band when people decide to put their heads and minds to one thing and it works. It becomes more than the people involved.  

"With the Airplane we thought we could do it all," he says. "It was a reaction against the corporate structure trying to impose certain limits on you. We revolted against that, which was the other extreme, which is doing it totally ourselves. And it was like putting a five-year-old in an automobile reeling down the street. It may make it down the street but the car may get a few dents along the way. 

Paul Kantner:  "Jefferson Airplane had the fortune or misfortune of discovering Fender Twin Reverb amps and LSD in the same week while in college. That’s a great step forward.  One of the reason I started a band was to meet girls. And to this day it beats giving guitar lessons at a guitar store. I did that, too. 

“We went into it our normal selves. That’s why I like to leave ourselves open. Again, getting to the heart of the matter. The point is if you find something that makes you joyful take note of it. Amplify it if you can. Tell other people about it. That’s what San Francisco was about. Both musically, idealistically, and metaphorically and every other way. That’s what we did here.”  

Paul Kantner:  "We put it out in the universe and see where it lands. Sometimes you keep a little control over where it lands more often than not. I like things going out connecting with other things. I’m very much on collaboration as a writer and a player. I like collaborating. I like the friction that happens and the fire that occurs as a result of that friction that comes out in music in other way that comes from collaborating in other levels. There was a message there but we didn’t blare it out. We just tried to show by example what you could get away with basically. We tried to propose a real alternate quantum. And did. 

"Enjoying our day. And that’s all we tried to put across.
On our first U.S. tour we were in cities where all the kids came in prom gowns and tuxedos. Then we came back to Iowa a year later and they were having nude mud love-ins and everybody had their faces painted."  

Paul Kantner:  "I wrote just regular songs and then got a little out there like we all did on ‘After Bathing At Baxter’s.’ Still one of my favorite albums just for the stretch that went from ‘Surrealistic Pillow’ to ‘Baxter’s.’ We just went to the inth degree. As such, it is a rather difficult and faulted album. Many faults on it, But the push and the drift and the pail is what I enjoy about that album. There’s all sorts of stuff on it. Mistakes become part of the arrangement. As jazz people used to say. Or as Jorma used to say, ‘when you make a mistake on a guitar repeat it.’ Everybody thinks it’s part of the arrangement.”   

Paul Kantner: "In 1966, 67 there was all sorts of music going on. That became that because of what we did in San Francisco and encouraged Bill Graham. He really had all those strange combination of acts on the bill. We didn’t think of them as opening acts. We just thought of them as other acts that are really good. We encouraged Bill to book them.”  

Paul Kantner: "As far as San Francisco being suspect of L.A. and Hollywood people, we always tried to get above that if possible as a general rule. People didn’t like the Doors. ‘Cause they were from L.A. (laughs). I rejected the suspicions of L.A. as a general rule. I throughly enjoyed L.A. and New York. I could make myself comfortable in either one of those cities. I liked San Francisco a lot. 

“So many things were going on you didn’t take that kind of notice of them. You just assumed that was going on. All right! And go with it. We didn’t analyze it. We didn’t think to wonder about it. It was just another thing that was going on along with the music, the clothes, the book stores, the poets, the artists, there was a plethora of things and you did not have time basically to take it all in. It existed. It’s part of a whole.     

“In San Francisco we had no restrictions. We never thought about being in an independent record label for cred. It came to us. All we had to do was roll with it. I liken it to white water rafting. There was so much going on you didn’t worry about what was around the next curve. Or what are you going to do on the third curve. ‘Cause you are right in the river.”    

Here's how The San Francisco Chronicle and Rolling Stone Magazine covered the news ...