Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Jeff Tamarkin (jefftamarkin) Tue 5 Aug 03 08:11
Oh, Joyce, do you REALLY want to go there? OK, here's my take. Marty is, at heart, an old-fashioned guy, i.e., monogamous. From what I can tell from stories others have told me, he really didn't sleep around much. He was married young and then had a steady girlfriend through most of the Airplane years, then he had another steady girlfriend through most of the '70s until whenever. Then he met his second wife and he's still with her. That doesn't mean he didn't take a dip now and then, but I think he's basically a shy, withdrawn person with a lot of stuff on his mind, and he just didn't go for the kind of musical beds the others did. He was more into hanging out by himself--he didn't really hang with the other band members outside of work either. When he tells the story now of not wanting to sleep with Grace, he of course amplifies it with a lot of macho posturing, all that "I wouldn't let Grace Slick blow me" and "she came at my door with an axe screaming 'Why won't you fuck me, Marty!'" stuff. Grace's response when I asked her about this was simply, "Maybe he thinks I'm disgusting." She didn't deny wanting to sleep with him back then, but I think Marty likes to blow it up to more of a big deal than it was. From what I can gather, Grace didn't really sleep around all that much either, and when she did it was almost always with people from within the JA organization or other musicians. She wasn't much for doing strangers or fans or anything like that. And the Jim Morrison story in her book is, from all indications, completely fabricated. I think she has now even admitted that she made it up because her publisher wanted more sex.
Jeff Tamarkin (jefftamarkin) Tue 5 Aug 03 08:14
>Its great that you talk about who wrote what and how. I think I had pictures of Marty's stuff, for example, being pretty but sometimes sorta wimpy and then you noted that he wrote "If You Feel" one of my favorites and pretty blang blam. And, Volunteers, AND Crown of Creation...< Well, "Crown" is mostly Paul but yeah, Marty did certainly rock out. "Plastic Fantastic Lover" is him, "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds," and several others. He kind of gets the same bad rap that McCartney does with the Beatles for writing the "silly love songs." But it was Paul who did songs like "I'm Down" and "Helter Skelter."
David Gans (tnf) Tue 5 Aug 03 08:16
Speaking of Grace, talk to us about her musicianship -- a quality that seems to get lost in all the controversies.
Joyce Richards (joyceincali) Tue 5 Aug 03 09:53
Well, Joe is a good guy, so the apple probably doesn't fall far from the tree.
Jeff Tamarkin (jefftamarkin) Tue 5 Aug 03 11:42
>Speaking of Grace, talk to us about her musicianship -- a quality that seems to get lost in all the controversies.< It does indeed, in large part due to her own self-deprecation. But she played piano, guitar, recorder and I think even a bit of drums in Great Society, and carried some of that over to the Airplane. I think her piano work is especially noteworthy. She wasn't what you'd call a schooled musician, although that was encouraged by her mother and Grace did take lessons--she mostly picked it up naturally. She thinks of her musicianship as somewhat simplistic but I've always liked what she played. And to write songs like "rejoyce" and "Eskimo Blue Day" she had to have some amount of formal training--that's pretty complex stuff. She still plays the piano on her own and I hope if she ever decides to come out of retirement she might do something with all of that experience. Re: Joyce's statement, for those who don't know who Joe is, that's Marty's dad, Joe Buchwald, still going strong in his late 80s. Joe was really Marty's confidante and business adviser throughout his career, and is a pretty remarkable guy in his own right.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 5 Aug 03 13:39
Grace also palyed that lovely recorder part on "Comin' back to Me," right?
AreWeReally? (arewereally) Tue 5 Aug 03 14:45
I loved the piano from the early Jefferson Airplane recordings, was Grace the piano player on those albums?
from BART SWINDALL (tnf) Tue 5 Aug 03 22:18
Bart Swindall writes: I stumbled into the Well by accident, but I'm glad I did. For 1O years I was the archivist at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre, which I first saw when I attended what turned out to be JA's final concert in 1972. They were my favorite band then, and despite the changes of names and personnel, there has never been an album without something memorable. I spent a long time hunting--unsuccessfully--for photos of that last concert for my archives, and almost as long waiting for somebody to write this book. Any chance you'll be in Chicago for a reading?
Jeff Tamarkin (jefftamarkin) Wed 6 Aug 03 05:03
Hi Bart. Unfortunately it doesn't look like I'll make it to Chicago. Right now the only reading scheduled is in NYC tomorrow (Thurs) and hopefully one in boston soon. I don't know of any photos of that Chicago concert in '72. It actually wasn't their last though. They did a few more after that on the West Coast, wrapping it up Sept. 21-22, 1972 at Winterland in SF. Re: Grace. That was her playing the lovely recorder on "Comin' back to Me." And most of the piano on the early records would be her, until Nicky Hopkins came along in '69.
tambourine verde (barb-albq) Wed 6 Aug 03 09:57
I think her piano on Blows Against the Empire is transcendent. Droning, pounding, passionate. I too think her musical talents get lost in all the wild woman coverage. Though I must admit that aspect of her personality was very, shall we say inspiring, to many women of that era, including me.
Adam Powell (rocket) Wed 6 Aug 03 13:21
Jeff, I'm really enjoying this stuff. You mention a transition to coke during the recording of the third album, and how the band broke into factions at that time. This mirrors HS thompson's observations that when the drugs shifted from pot and acid to coke and heroin in 67-68, the hippie scene imploded. How did that dynamic manifest within the Airplane? Balin doesn't strike me as a coke fiend...
Jeff Tamarkin (jefftamarkin) Wed 6 Aug 03 14:48
Hi Adam, No, Marty was vehemently anti-coke. I don't know if he ever did it or not, but once Paul and Grace started getting heavily into it, he withdrew even further from the band. He just didn't like what it was doing to them and to the music. Jorma and Jack, meanwhile, were much more into speed, which had a vibe not unlike coke but even edgier. Marty was more of a dope smoking, boozing occasionally acid taking kind of guy, not into the heavier stuff at all. Spencer, meanwhile, was mostly a drinker and he pulled Grace further into that as well. I don't think the drug shift can be solely blamed for what happened within the band though. The personalities were so different and the egos were just so strong that it was inevitable that they would pull apart from one another. And also, their musical leanings were different before they came together, and while those difference contributed to the uniqueness of their sound, eventually everyone sort of drifted away from the center and back toward their own preferences, so by '70 or so they no longer had even that common goal to hold onto. Barbara--Yes, Grace's piano work on Blows is magnificent. She really shines on all of the solo and duo albums from that period--Sunfighter, Baron Von Tollbooth, her own Manhole, etc.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 6 Aug 03 14:49
Tell us about MAURICE. How ddiid he get that name,a nd what diid he do for the band?
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 6 Aug 03 17:09
Jeff, what do you think of the new CD editions of the Airplane's first four albums? They each have a few bonus tracks, but really not so many, or such exciting ones, that it gets even a fan like me too intent on rushing out to get them. To your knowledge, are there any major reserves of unreleased '60s Airplane material -- studio or live -- that would be worthwhile to release?
Jeff Tamarkin (jefftamarkin) Wed 6 Aug 03 18:35
OK, Maurice. Real name is Pat Ieraci. He's originally from Brooklyn and moved to Los Angeles in the late '50s to work in the record biz. Landed at RCA where he did a number of different things. He worked with Dave Hassinger, the engineer, and was present for such landmark recordings as the Stones' "Satisfaction" (I know they weren't on RCA, but they recorded it at RCA Studios). Also the first ead album later on (Pat thought they were obnoxious). When RCA sent producer Al Schmitt up to San Francisco in '65 to scout out this new band with the funny name Jefferson Airplane, Pat helped convince the older A&R guy at the label, Neely Plumb, to sing them. By 1967 (Baxter's album), RCA assigned Pat to help with the various chores relating to production of the Airplane--he was NOT a producer himself, he was a production coordinator. he was the guy that kept track of which musicians played on what, what the band spent money on, and much, much more. The Airplane really liked him and someone in the band, he doesn't remember who, said "You don't look Italian, you look French." So they bought him a beret, cigarette holder, ascot, etc., and christened him "Maurice." He stayed with the organization until 1984 when Kantner left, and was truly invaluable in keeping things in order in the studio. He would be the guy who made sure everyone got to the studio on time and that the tapes were carefully logged, sent out for mastering t the right place, etc. Aside from that, personally I can say that he's truly one of the nicest, funniest and most enjoyable people I met while doing this book. I spent a fantastic day with him and his family at their home outside of L.A. and he showed me his very considerable archives. I think he was a vital part of the Airplane/Starship story.
Jeff Tamarkin (jefftamarkin) Wed 6 Aug 03 18:43
Hi Richie, welcome. Sorry I missed your Booksmith reading--hope it went well. Enjoying your new book lots. As far as the new RCA reissues, I think the sound is honestly the best it's ever been on these albums. I wish I could say that there were tons more tapes in the vault that could be used for bonus tracks, but there just ain't. This is the third generation of reissue people at RCA looking for stuff, and this time the search is being headed up by Bob Irwin, who really knows his way around a tape vault. If Bob doesn't find stuff, it's just not there. he's come up with a few little gems, but not as much as we would hope for. That isn't to say it doesn't exist. Marty's father, for example, has a room full of tapes, allegedly including live material recorded at the Matrix. Unfortunately he wants more for these than BMG is willing to spend, and the question of who really owns them has never been explored. There are, of course, also tons of live recordings but the Airplane never made the kind of coordinated effort that the Dead did to tape all their shows in pristine quality. Studio outtakes and unreleased tracks are surprisingly few. The Airplane, as is well known, were not exactly workaholics, and they didn't love the studio. So there wasn't a lot of leftover material. You might find some demos and alternat versions and stuff like that, but generally they just recorded what they intended to use for an album. Some fans have put together lists of songs that allegedly exist (Paul's "Revolutionary Upstairs Maid" being one of the most elusive) but they haven't turned up. It remains to be seen what Bob will come up with for the other JA albums, which will be reissued next year. personally I'm hoping for the master tapes of the gigs that Bless Its Pointed Little Head was culled from. They recorded all of the shows at those gigs, so there has to be complete concerts someplace. Still you never know what will turn up. Bob did come up with a few things that no one knew existed for these albums, so there must be more someplace.
an oceanic sofa of bliss (sd) Thu 7 Aug 03 08:07
so what was the mysterious reference to Ansley Dunbar's strange proclivities about? what could be to strange for our intrepid heroes? it sounded like there was an untold story surrounding his departure.
Are We Really? (arewereally) Thu 7 Aug 03 10:49
"When the truth is found... to be lies, and all the joy, within you dies"
Jeff Tamarkin (jefftamarkin) Fri 8 Aug 03 05:55
I'm not really at liberty to say why Aynsley Dunbar was kicked out of the band. Paul has talked about it more openly than I'm willing to, but he has a right to because it involves a member of his family. The incident seems to be something that most everyone within the Starship organization agrees happened, but it was not something I could put in the book in graphic detail since it never became a matter of public record. I would have set myself up for legal problems if I spelled it out in the book.
Berliner (captward) Fri 8 Aug 03 06:19
I heard a lot of chatter about Dunbar when I lived in Marin. Trust me, Jeff's right.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 8 Aug 03 07:53
Not long before the book was published, Signe Anderson was briefly in the news because of some hard times she was going through, including being faced with possible eviction if I remember right. How's she doing now?
Jeff Tamarkin (jefftamarkin) Fri 8 Aug 03 08:23
Richie--I haven't spoken to Signe in a few months but last I heard she was back on her feet. A couple of benefits in the Bay Area brought her some much-needed cash and she was able to remain in her home. Signe's a real survivor and she's been handed a lot more stress in her life than most of us could bare. Hi, Ed--Yeah, it's not a pretty picture. I did attempt to get Dunbar for an interview for the book but he avoided me. I think he knew what i'd be asking about.
David Gault (dgault) Fri 8 Aug 03 10:27
<scribbled by tnf Fri 8 Aug 03 14:30>
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 8 Aug 03 12:26
Jeff, this has been a great trip. It's time for us to take the pill to make this topic smaller, while we feature a new conversation just starting up. That doesn't mean you have to leave, of course. Hang around, if you like, 'cause clearly everyone is enjoying talking with you about the Airplane. This conversation continues as long as we make it. Which is a way of saying, "Thanks!" Thanks, too, to everyone who stopped in to question, murmur, gossip, or otherwise add to things here. Bless all your little heads, pointed and otherwise. Me, I'm holding out hope for masters that make for release of a CD set of an Airplane concert front to back.
Jeff Tamarkin (jefftamarkin) Fri 8 Aug 03 14:24
Sure, I'll hang around as long as there's interest. Been a lot of fun for me too. Thanks for the opportunity to do this. No word on a full JA concert coming to disc but I'm hoping that when BMG gets to remastering Bless its Pointed Little Head later in the year they find the complete masters that were used for that set and decide to make it an expanded edition.
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