Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Psychedelic Daze Part Eight: "The Matrix and the Airplane"

Psychedelic Daze Part Eight:
"The Matrix and the Airplane" 

by Don Robertson

This is Part 8 of my 12-part series on the San Francisco countercultural movement of 1965-1969 that created a revolution in music and culture. I was a part of that movement, recording my album Dawn for Mercury Records in San Francisco in 1969.

     The Matrix was a nightclub in San Francisco from 1965 to 1972. It was one of the keys to what eventually became known as the "San Francisco Sound" in rock music. The Matrix opened August 13, 1965 showcasing a new band called Jefferson Airplane that singer Marty Balin had put together as the club's house band. The Matrix was an important place in the formative years of the San Francisco rock music scene, featuring not only rock bands, but blues artists and blues bands, with an occasional jazz artist.

     Lightnin' Hopkins appeared at The Matrix in San Francisco in September 1965, along with the house band, the Jefferson Airplane. 

At the Matrix - The Great Society
     The Album Conspicuous Only in its Absence by The Great Society, featuring Grace Slick, was recorded at the Matrix in 1966, where the Jefferson Airplane was the house band. Soon she left her band to join the Airplane on what would become a phenomenal flight through the "sixties" and beyond. 

White Rabbit, by The Great Society
     “White Rabbit” was written and performed by Grace Slick while she was still with The Great Society. When that band broke up in 1966, Slick was invited to join Jefferson Airplane to replace their departed female singer Signe Toly Anderson, who left the band with the birth of her child. "White Rabbit" was the nickname given to LSD manufacturer Stanley Owsley.

Someone to Love, by The Great Society
     The Great Society made its debut at the Coffee Gallery in San Francisco's North Beach section on October 15, 1965, continuing to perform to the end of 1966. It released only one single during its lifetime, "Someone to Love" (b/w "Free Advice"). The single was issued in February 1966 on Autumn Records' tiny North Beach subsidiary label and made little impact outside of the Bay Area.

"Someone to Love" and "White Rabbit" live in 1967
Conspicuous Only In It's Absence, by The Great Society
     "Conspicuous Only in Its Absence" was released in 1968 by Columbia Records. The album consists of recordings made during a live concert performance by the band at The Matrix club in San Francisco in 1966.

Conspicuous Only in its Absence, by The Great Society
Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore, A Poster by Wes Wilson
     The Jefferson Airplane and The Jaywalkers are featured in this early May, 1966 dance concert poster. Artist Wes Wilson's signature wavy letters come close to filling the paper, and the human head shape is discernible, this time with a gaping maw.

Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, by Jefferson Airplane
     "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" is the debut album of the Jefferson Airplane, released in August 1966. The personnel differs from the later "classic" lineup and the music is more folk-rock than the harder psychedelic sound for which the band later became famous. Signer Toly Anderson was the female vocalist and Skip Spence played drums. Both left the group shortly after the album's release and were replaced by Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden, respectively.
"Let Me In" from Jefferson Airplane's Takes Off album

Jefferson Airplane on American Bandstand
     Jefferson Airplane interviewed by Dick Clark on American Bandstand in 1967:

After Bathing at Baxter's, by Jefferson Airplane
     After Bathing at Baxter's, the third album by the San Francisco rock band Jefferson Airplane, was released in 1967. The cover art is by artist Ron Cobb. The album peaked at #17. Paul Kantner's composition "The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" was released as a single in August 1967, with him as lead singer and Grace Slick, Marty Balin harmonizing, and reached number 42 on the Billboard charts. However, the band's singles never again crossed the halfway mark in the Hot 100.

"The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" by the Jefferson Airplane

After Bathing at Baxter's Rehearsals (1967)
Santana Blues Band at the Matrix
     The band was formed in 1967 in San Francisco as the "Carlos Santana Blues Band." The group's first audition was at the Avalon Ballroom in the late summer of 1967. After the audition, Chet Helms (the promoter of the event), in concert with the Family Dog, told the band that they would never make it in the San Francisco Music Scene playing Latin fusion and suggested Carlos keep his day job washing dishes at Tick Tock's Drive-In on 3rd Street. 

A 1967 Santana Poster
Next in the Series "Psychedelic Daze" is Part Nine - "The Art"