Song Of The Day 8/27/2016: Jefferson Starship – “Stairway to Cleveland”

You know how Time magazine's Person Of The Year doesn't always go to a good person? It's just the person who had the most influence in the news of the year in question. Adolf Hitler was Time's Man Of The Year in 1938, for example. He wasn't a positive influence on world events, but he had the biggest. It doesn't sit well with me either, but that's what happened. Well, same principle goes for Song Of The Day. No, I'm not comparing Jefferson Starship to Hitler. Everyone in Jefferson Airplane/Starship/Boomerang espoused the total opposite of everything Hitler stood for and their clothes were more comfortable than his. It's just that today's SOTD isn't a song I like, although I learned the other day I can tolerate it. I do find it fascinating. Well, diverting. But not very good. Although I appreciate its scruffy, come-from-behind, ragamuffin spirit. It's still not good. Oh, crap, am I protesting too much?

"Stairway to Cleveland" was an example of a kind of song bands have to really be careful about putting out there: the pitfall-rich Retort To Music Critics. In their various guises -- Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, just plain generic Starship -- the San Francisco band weren't ever really a critic's darling, except for some of their '60s singles and the Volunteers album. It's a long way from "White Rabbit" to "With Your Love." The recently deceased main Jeff Paul Kantner had seen a negative review of their work in Rolling Stone and reportedly gotten some blowback from fans over the hard-rock direction of their album Freedom at Point Zero (which contained an okay hit single called "Jane").

Kantner felt frustrated at the high expectations attached to the latest iteration of Jefferson Starship, shown in the picture above expressing their extreme disapproval of that off-color joke you just told. So in response he penned "Stairway to Cleveland," a sarcastic jigsaw a la "Subterranean Homesick Blues," or a mean version of "Give Peace a Chance." I'm not sure what the game plan is with "Stairway to Cleveland" -- is the choral jibber-jabber meant to represent the nonstop barrage of complaints about J.S.'s forfeiture of meaning? Are they suggestions about what they should really be addressing in their lyrics? (Note the sneering tone with which they snarl "The Economic Price Index!") It's awkward at best, but it doesn't really matter because the final payoff is a defiant Mickey Thomas, yelling back at the unsatisfied masses, "Fuck you! We do what we want!" Welly well well, sir Mick, point taken. Later on Starship completed their devastating psychic assault on goodness and humanity by recording "We Built This City."

You know who also had a hard time with critics? Hitler. Ba-BING!

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