Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Here's more pictures I took.
Posted by Brad at 11:31 PM
Thursday, June 19, 2014
The woman is smart, bold, funny and unfiltered. Her mind, at 74, appears as sharp as it always was, with that withering sense of humor intact. No wonder she was always my favorite rock star. She shied away from no subject and was forthcoming on any topic. Her embrace of the free-thought life-style of the hippie era, her place and stature in the band, her thoughts on her contemporary musicians, her battles with alcohol. Nothing was out of bounds.
Moderated by Scott Goldman, he was prepared with many insightful questions after bringing Grace to the stage. She strode up from the side, long white hair flowing, and stood before the audience as they cheered and applauded. She looked healthy, strong and very happy and with the same striking blue eyes. Asked about her earliest interest in the arts, she confessed that she started drawing at a very early age, maybe 3. While listening to her mother, who had been a semi-professional singer before marriage and motherhood got in the way, go around the house singing "I'll be with you in apple blossom time" she developed an interest in singing. She sang a lot in school, so there was a background in voice there.
She recounted the many moves her family embarked upon, moving from Chicago, to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco all before she was 6. How she was a blonde overweight kid until about 13, when she became tall and thin and auburn haired. She jokes that she's back to being blonde and overweight. After high school she took off for New York City before beginning higher education at Finch College in Florida. A call from a friend urging her to come to San Francisco came after that, and the rest is history.
She covered the years with the band with fascinating tidbits about what piqued her interest as a songwriter. which was the fact that finally they could tackle subject more diverse than just "Oooh, my boyfriend/girlfriend left me" She loved the expanding social and cultural concerns that lyrics were finally able to address. Decrying The Beatles early career: "Christ, you guys are 24 years old and you want to hold somebody's hand?! defined my own exact opinion of their early empty pop songs. "After they took LSD that all changed," she said. The opinion that their music became much more complex and interesting, post acid, is a viewpoint I always held and certainly think it is now pretty universally accepted.
While on tour in Europe with The Doors, each headlining every other gig, they were in Amsterdam and people would come up to them offering drugs. Grace said "Thanks I'll save them for later, whereas Jim Morrison would sit right down on the sidewalk and do them all up. He treated his body as one giant pharmaceutical experiment."
Scott asked her what she thought made her and Janis Joplin so successful and her answer was simple: "We were doing what we really wanted to do." And I will add: and because they were so damned good at what they did.
She said that no one is making good music anymore, but I suspect she has not been exposed to a lot that is not in the mainstream, where her opinion would certainly be valid. I thought to myself, "if only she could be listening to what I hear every night I go out to the clubs, some of which is so rooted in style and substance to the sixties. She does say she still likes The Rolling Stones and thinks Steve Perry is the best rock and roll singer of all time, (to some audible disagreement from the audience) just to test our preconceptions.
It was just great to hear her wit again. Some nuggets:
She is driven crazy by Celine Dion's chest pounding while singing: "Dear, we know where your heart is."
She admitted she really developed a strong self confidence by the age of 25. That would be just about the time she joined the Airplane. Believes that the RCA recording studio on Sunset was the best studio they ever recorded in. Surrealistic Pillow and After Bathing At Baxters were recorded there.
She had choice words for the music she was forced to sing in the last days of a band now called Starship. "We Built This City". "Really?" she said, "What city?, There's no city built on rock and roll. San Francisco was built on gold and trade." Hastening her retirement in 1989.
She began expressing herself through painting not long after that... and has never stopped. She recalled that, during her childhood, her father had a hobby as a stamp collecting, and she would notice that occasionally he become so involved in the process of fastening the stamps to the pages he would forget to breathe and suddenly gasp a small, sudden intake of air. As if the lungs were becoming desperate. She experiences the same sensation when painting. Becoming so lost in the singular focus of the act that breathing seems a break in the concentration. I have to admit I know this sensation.
Eventually they evolved into her first Alice in Wonderland-themed paintings of the White Rabbit, and at an exhibit someone came up to her to try to find out the hidden meaning, or what her intentions were, or what was he not seeing, and she deadpanned in a flat voice "It's a bunny."
Posted by Brad at 1:26 AM
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
It just doesn't seem right not to post something at this aptly named blog in honor of A Conversation with Grace Slick taking place at The Grammy Museum tonight (Tuesday). To this very day I can recall the absolute shock I experience upon listening to the Jefferson Airplane album Surrealistic Pillow for the first time on my 17th birthday (8/19/67). It was the first album I ever heard where every single song was great.
In January 1967, I'd been listening to "My Best Friend" on the radio, which was the first single from that album and loved the song, though I didn't realize that there was a female voice in the mix (all radio was monaural in those days, so it was hard to tell), until "Somebody To Love was released in April and I became curious who this powerful voice belonged to. It was the release of "White Rabbit" in late June (Summer of Love) '67 that clinched it for me.
Over the course of their career, Jefferson Airplane repeatedly pushed the boundaries of rock and roll and I happily went along for the ride. Each subsequent album stretched and pulled and pushed my musical tastes into areas I would never have considered and it was always thrilling to hear where Grace would take her voice on each new record. They also became more political as I became more political and seeing them in concert was always an adventure.
Posted by Brad at 8:41 AM
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Just had to post a note about the upcoming show on Friday, May 23 at The Saban Theatre. As the name of this blog indicates, and anyone who knows me knows, this is an extra special treat for me as I have been following Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship since 1967. Whatever the band's make up, I'm still looking forward to hearing whatever they choose to play live again after all these years. The last time I saw Jefferson Starship was in 1977 at Boston Garden, not long before I moved to the West Coast, and they were performing material from both entities and the band was in tip top shape. By the time I was living in Los Angeles they were hugely popular and played only stadiums (which I refused to attend), so that's why it been 38 years. I'll let you know how this turns out.
Posted by Brad at 8:00 AM
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Tuesday night, April 1, was the first night that Aaron Embry introduced his new material during a bi-weekly residency at Hollywood's Hotel Cafe which will continue throughout the rest of this month. He performed for an audience full of friends and acquaintances in a set that sounded as intimate and comforting as sitting around a fireplace in someone's home. His eagerness to get these songs out there was matched by his wide-eyed shyness about singing lyrics that are even more personal and deeply felt than much that has come before. The small figure on the stage suddenly swamped the place as he sang and sustained a total grip on the audience.
The unabashed delight he takes from singing a line like, simply, "I love you Nikki" to his wife, he explained, becomes a declaration that strengthens their bond each time he says it. Revealing a window into his creative process, he shared stories about each song. Especially touching was the sing-song rhymes and burbling vocals for the song dedicated to daughter, Mayla. It was so personal it felt like eavesdropping.
As a finale, he put down his guitar and moved over to the piano for a couple of more familiar song which, nonetheless, were beautifully delivered with a freshness and clarity that made them feel new. On April 15th and 29th, Aaron Embry will be returning to Hotel Cafe to further develop the live performances of this material and I expect to be there every step of the way.
Posted by Brad at 7:00 PM
Friday, March 21, 2014
The title song, "Past Life", was next and represented precisely and flawlessly revealing the newer, almost upbeat, attitude that permeates most of the album. With many of the formerly orchestral passages replaced by funky dance beats and some prerecorded backgrounds, it surprised me to hear that it is so effective and engaging...and powerful in a live setting.
"Neither Here Nor There" from A Church To Fit Our Needs came next and was brilliantly rearranged for a five piece band sounding every bit as complex and dense as the fully orchestrated version. That took me by surprise and I realized then that his was going to be an astonishing show. From that moment on it all became a blur of new and old material, all performed for maximum impact, and lifting me higher and higher.
Posted by Brad at 11:07 PM