Lex on Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane)

“Somebody To Love.”

The song raced through my head as I reached out to shake her hand.  Royal and I had gone to an art gallery to see Grace Slick’s artwork, and to meet the woman in person.  Her eyes looked just like the hundreds of pictures and interviews that I’ve seen over the years.  At 69, Grace still had the beauty.  As I stood in the line of people wanting to talk briefly with her, I was nervous.

What would I say?

Back in the late 70s, documentaries on rock music were just starting to become the norm.  Invariably, the subject of the late 1960s rock scene was the topic, and “Somebody To Love” by the Jefferson Airplane would pop up in the soundtrack.  I don’t remember the first time I heard the song – it’s like it was embedded into my DNA.  I bought the re-issued single 12 years after it first appeared in early ’67.  Backed with “White Rabbit,” Grace’s signature song, I thought that I knew all there was to know about the woman and the band.

Not so.

As I got older and the music of the 80s grew more artificial with synths and electronic gadgets, I headed back to the music of the 60s and started collecting Airplane records.  After the “Somebody To Love” single, I purchased my first copy of the Airplane’s second album, Surrealistic Pillow. I was blown away by the material that appeared on that album.  Grace’s vocals were a large part of the sound that captured my ears.  Hers was the voice of a siren that shone brightly through the instruments and the two male vocalists.  Besides her soaring lead vocals on “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit,” check out her counter melody vocal lines on “D.B.C.A. 25,” and “She Has Funny Cars.”  And she sings wonderfully, and plays the recorder, on the beautiful and folky “How Do You Feel,” as well as the beautiful “Coming Back To Me.”

How cool is that? Only very, that’s all.

Grace was partially responsible for the experimental sound on the band’s next album, After Bathing At Baxter’s.  The album took some time to grow on me; it was a big departure from their first 2 albums, and was a purely psychedelic experience from the opening guitar wails.  I found Grace’s tunes “Two Heads” and “Rejoyce” were the perfect portals for me to go through to arrive at the heart of this album.  The following album, Crown of Creation, contained Grace’s wistful “Lather,” as well as my favorite Grace song of all, “Greasy Heart.”  Filled with her clever wordplay and a great vibe provided by the band, it struck a chord in my young musical mind.  I just could not stop playing it.

You are your own best toy to play with
Remote control hands
Made for each other
Made in Japan

Woman with a greasy heart
Automatic man
Don’t ever change, people
Your face will hit the fan

I am standing in front of Grace Slick!!!

After hemming and hawing, I said hello and stated out loud, “This is just too surreal for me.”  I told her that I wasn’t rich enough to afford any of her wonderful artwork yet.  I just wanted to tell her thanks for her inspiring work.  I told her that she inspired me to write, to sing, and to draw.  I stuck my hand out to shake hers, and was struck by the warm in her grip.  She smiled at me.

I walked away as giddy as a 14-year-old girl who just met an idol.  I grinned from ear to ear as I turned to Royal and whispered loudly “Wow, Grace Slick.”  And I do mean “WOW!”

Grace, if you should ever read this one day I just want to say that I’m getting closer to buying my favorite pictures from the night my friend and I met you at your art show in Vegas.  The full impact of the distinction between idol and friend registered when I viewed your painting and drawings.  I realized then that some of your art subjects are not just my musical idols; they are your friends and your history.  Please keep being creative as long as you can.  You may not want to sing anymore; that’s fine.  You inspire in more ways than one.  Thank you.

(Lex Neon is also known as Alex Oliver, the quirky and often eccentric musical genius of “sunshine pop / rock” band Poppermost.  Check out their music and Lex’s rock rantings at http://www.poppermost.com/).

Note: Original release date of the ‘currently listening’ album below is listed as September, 1968.

Currently listening:
Crown of Creation
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~ by Poppermost on October 31, 2009.

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