White Rabbit

Time can be both a kind, and a cruel, master. As a child, I remember hearing Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and enjoying it as a pop nursery rhyme, particularly enjoying the “feed your head” line. Over forty years later, I still love the song. In part it is due to childhood association, but I certainly do not feel the same way about it as Rolf Harris’s “Two Little Boys” for instance. As an adult I admire the song for being far more clever than I had originally given it credit for.

The drug narrative is only part of it. The simple arrangement, particularly the drum beat, creates an air of summonsing a gathering, as a drummer boy might. It is also calling you to listen to the song:

Grace Slick in Concert

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

When men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she’ll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s “off with her head!”
Remember what the dormouse said:
“Feed your head
Feed your head
Feed your head”

Grace Slick, the lead singer, was a bit of an Earth Mother in appearance making it even more subversive as if she was plotting to undermine the nation’s youth. Now? She is a small grey granny, painting a bit, but long since retired from music and performance and a casualty of drink and drugs. Indeed I have seen Jefferson Starship twice in recent twilight years and was shocked at how the good looks of a youthful Marty Balin have now morphed into those of a drug addled zombie with an unnerving resemblance to Phyllis from Coronation St. I did see Jefferson Airplane in their pomp once, at Knebworth who were stunning, but who had to perform a hastily re-arranged set because Grace was “indisposed”. Overall, I think that Starship/Airplane are much under-rated. The former incarnation boasted the superb ballads “Caroline” and “Miracles” , the surreal “Hyperdrive” ,and the great rocker “Ride the Tiger”, whilst the latter excelled with ”Volunteers”, “Somebody to Love”, “Have You Seen The Saucers” and the cover of “Wooden Ships”, amongst others.

Yet nothing quite matches the hypnotic simplicity and subversive call of Grace Slick on “White Rabbit”.

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