Grace Slick - vocals; Marty Balin - vocals, percussion; Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar; Jorma Kaukonen - lead guitar; Jack Casady - bass; Spencer Dryden - drums
For scholars of Jefferson Airplane lore, this run of shows has inspired endless discussion, as it encompasses the most critical transition in the group's history; the departure of original female vocalist, Signe Anderson, and the emergence of Grace Slick as her replacement. The issue of Anderson's final show and Grace Slick's debut has been the source of speculation for nearly four decades.
With the emergence of underground radio in San Francisco, Bill Graham provided local underground stations with several sequences from his personal recordings from this run. These bits and pieces have circulated among collectors ever since. Between those (often mislabeled) fragmentary recordings and the disagreement between first hand recollections in print (including those of band members and historians of the band) it seemed possible that we might never know when exactly the Anderson/Slick transition occurred. That was until now, as Bill Graham's nearly complete and accurately dated master reels of these legendary Jefferson Airplane performances now reveal exactly when the transition occurred. The last four shows with Signe Anderson and the first two shows with Grace Slick are here in outstanding quality, and include Marty Balin's announcement about Signe leaving the band, as well as Signe's actual farewell to the audience. Within days of this run, the band would begin recording much of their classic second album, Surrealistic Pillow. Soon they would experience international recognition and eventually become musical icons of the1960s.
Although Grace performed with Jefferson Airplane earlier in the day for the first time, this sixth and final show of the run is the first real glimpse of her potential within the group context. Like the early show, the band primarily focuses on material they had perfected during Signe Anderson's tenure with the group, but Grace sounds more comfortable here and sings with a confidence level not apparent in the early show. This set would be the last performance of the month and Bill Graham introduces the set accordingly with "The last set of a rather wonderful month for everyone, Jefferson Airplane."
Rather than the usual taped sounds of a jet taking off, this set begins with Jorma and Jack kicking right into the opening notes of "Tobacco Road." Marty takes the lead vocal as usual, but during the chorus, Grace comes in sounding strong and confident. Following the instrumental bridge, as Marty begins the final verses, Grace really begins belting it out. Rather than strictly harmonizing, she weaves her voice in and around Marty's lead vocal. Jorma takes over on the next tune as they kick into a bluesy "Kansas City." Here the group sounds like an embryonic version of Hot Tuna, with Jorma's distinctive guitar front and center.
The next three songs concentrate on material from the first album. Marty sings solo on an excellent version of "And I Like It," but on both "Bringing Me Down" and "High Flying Bird," Grace's vocal cuts through like a knife. The sheer power of her voice is remarkable and the effect it has on the others is fascinating, as they begin to play and sing more aggressively, creating an edgier overall sound. Marty announces the next number as "Thing." This highly improvisational instrumental epitomizes the early psychedelic jamming that emerged in San Francisco. They close the set with a scorching "3/5 of A Mile In 10 Seconds." Here Grace and Marty's voices blend perfectly. The classic Jefferson Airplane sound totally emerges here for the first time and the magic and charisma of this lineup is undeniable.
Following this run, the band would waste no time and head directly into the studio to begin work on their second album. They would continue to jell as a band and begin incorporating some of Grace's material into the mix. It wouldn't be long before they would gain national recognition and begin performing all over North America.
Written by Alan Bershaw