Grace Slick: Outside the Looking Glass
Slick’s musical career started in 1965 when, after modeling for the San Francisco-based luxury department store I. Magnin, she formed a band with her then-husband Jerry called The Great Society. The group would open for Airplane. As Great Society was breaking up in 1966—“one of the guys in the group wanted to study sitar in India”—Casady asked Slick to join Airplane. Coincidentally, Airplane’s lead singer, Signe Toley Anderson, was also leaving, to start a family. Slick says that her unequivocal response to Casady was, “You betcha.”
The 1996 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee says she had no idea how big the band’s early hit “Somebody to Love” (co-written with her ex-husband’s brother, Darby and No. 274 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time) would eventually become. “You understand from playing live, even around San Francisco, what people respond to,” she says. “When I went from Great Society to Airplane I brought that and “White Rabbit” with me because people responded [well].”
She still has fond memories of recording the hits in Studio A at RCA in Los Angeles. “I don’t know whether it was a Tuesday or Thursday, but I do remember being in front of the microphone, then listening to the playback on four big Altec speakers in the control room. I remember thinking, ‘My God, that is amazing—they make it sound like I can really sing.’”
There’s also her recollection of first sighting of The Beatles. “Somebody called and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come over and see Ed Sullivan. These guys called The Beatles are on.’ So I went over and they sang “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Now these are 20-year-old people singing “I want to hold your hand.” Until they came out with Rubber Soul, I thought they were silly.”
However, her reaction to The Rolling Stones was just the opposite. “A short time later, I saw the Stones and thought, ‘OK, that’s the stuff right there.’ When you get onstage, you better own it. Some people are not comfortable with that, so they should be doing something else—dinner theater, maybe. I didn’t imitate Mick Jagger’s style, but I knew from the way he was onstage that that was rock and roll.”
Slick and the Airplane went on to become one of the few groups that played the three big rock festivals of the ‘60s. “Altamont was the negative part of the triad that included Woodstock and Monterey,” says Slick. “People say Altamont was the end of the ‘60s. It was unfortunate, yes [the the Hell’s Angels killed an audience member], but at the time we didn’t think of [the festival] as signaling anything.
“We had used Hell’s Angels [for security] in the parks for free concerts before,” she continues. “Paul and I flew over to talk to Jagger beforehand. ‘Hey, they [Hell’s Angels] are really good,’ we said. Well, in retrospect, not with a lot of alcohol and speed going on all day. The fact that nobody got killed at Woodstock is amazing because that was half a million people. We only had 300,000 at Altamont.”
Of the triad, as Slick calls it, Monterey Pop in 1967 was her favorite. “It was much smaller, more manageable. We had not seen a lot of the other performers yet. I’d heard Jimi Hendrix records, but never seen him live. I had never seen the Mamas and the Papas, Ravi Shankar, The Who. We were all standing on the edges of the stage behind little black curtains. We were just as fascinated as the audience was.”
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
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Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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