Jefferson Airplane “Volunteers”

If you want to give some kid an introduction to 1969, this would be a good place to start. The album cover is modeled after an activist newspaper, and the foldout, insert lyric sheet is as well. There is that equal amount of humor, deadly seriousness, surrealism, practicality, insiderishness and outsiderishness in unequal but workable measures. The music, too, of course—that style of vocal harmony, everybody singing, and jamming, and pretty excessive lead guitar that is often impressive once you’re in the mood. If I have time later, I’m going to go back and read some of this stuff, but I’m nearing the end of my time here (as we all are). I am actually pretty unfamiliar with Jefferson Airplane—I know the names (if you came across them for the first time, you might think they were a law firm, or a deli), but not much about them. I probably have had more contact with the band through the movie Gimme Shelter (1970) than any other way. Oh, one really important thing is that this is one of the few records I know of that uses the inside album cover (it’s one of those that fold open) to good use: there is a giant (as big as the album cover, X2) photo of peanut butter and jelly on bread (it looks like crunchy PB and straw-or-raspberry jelly-or-jam, with a liberal amount of butter). So it’s an open-faced, PB&J—and then when you close the album cover back up, it makes a sandwich. Get it?

2 Responses to “Jefferson Airplane “Volunteers””

  1. 1 J Curtis
    December 1, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    I’m happy to see you writing about this record, although I’m a little disappointed that you don’t talk a little more about the music. Over the past few years, this has actually become one of my favorite records. As a teenager, I had Surrealistic Pillow and Crown of Creation and liked them both a lot, but until Paul Kantner passed away at the beginning of 2016, I hadn’t listened to either of them in a pretty long time. But his death spurred me to listen them again, as well as Volunteers, which I had picked up for a dollar somewhere at some point in between, and to my surprise, I liked them all even more than when I was a teen, and started looking into all the other Airplane and Kantner/Grace Slick records of the late 60s/early 70s, most of which are really pretty good. The funny thing is that there are a lot of guests on their records from the awful Grateful Dead, because they were all friends back then, but the Airplane managed to use the Dead talents for good. You’re right, though, that this record would be a good introduction to 1969 (or even just “the 60s”) for a youngster.

    • December 7, 2018 at 7:49 am

      I’m sorry I didn’t have more time with this record, it was the end of my stay in the Northwoods, but maybe I’ll pick up a copy by and by – and eventually write something else about it. There are no rules here… well, no rules about writing about the same record more than once. Right now my main rule is I’m only writing about vinyl records. I just picked up a really great album on CD (I don’t even have a CD player, but have to put it on my computer to listen to) – but I can’t write about it, because I’m sticking to the vinyl rule. My other rule is I’m generally picking what to write about by a random selection (rather than plowing through alphabetically, like I started to do back in ’06. Of course, once in a while I cheat on that one. Anyway, I’ll definitely keep on the lookout for Jefferson Airplane vinyl records – they are still findable.

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