Jefferson Airplane introduce themselves to America on Dick Clark’s ‘American Bandstand’
Jefferson Airplane, to our minds at least, remains one of the most underrated rock acts of all time. The group, fronted by the mercurial magic of Grace Slick, delivered a brand new sound to the stereos of San Francisco in the late sixties, and in 1967, via American Bandstand they delivered it to the nation.
In that year there was one band that was determined to make waves. While The Doors had begun to subvert the rock and roll bounce that The Rolling Stones and The Beatles had brought across the pond through the British invasion, Slick’s Jefferson Airplane delivered an altogether more authentic retaliation.
Just a few short months before the Summer of Love would see nearly 100,000 hippies descend on the San Francisco neighbourhood of Haight-Astbury, Dick Clark introduced the majority of Americans to the swirling world of Jefferson Airplane. But before that Clark had some effortless audience patter to deliver.
With it, he shows off the genuine interest and intrigue that surrounded not only the band but the hippie movement in general. San Francisco was at the time a growing focal point for the counter-culture movement and likely a serious worry for conservative Americans for whom Clark offered a clean-cut link to youth culture. They may have been sated therefore when Clark offered a gentle view of the city’s growing infamy.
He asks an audience member if they’ve ever visited the Californian city, they say they did and enjoyed it, to which Clark replies, “I’ve never yet run in to anybody who ever had anything derogatory to say about it,” he continues, “but there’s a whole new scene now.”
“This is where it’s at, that’s where everything is happening,” Clark continues, “these are the people making it happen, as a matter of fact, they’re probably the most talked-about group in the whole world right now. A little controversial, very interesting sounds, tremendous hitmakers.” In his smooth like honey tone. He asks the audience to greet the band as they get ready to perform ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Somebody To Love’ from Surrealist Pillow.
The band delivers a restricted if not refined performance of their two hits as they are forced to mime through the set. While Jack Casady and Spencer Dryden don’t make much effort to help the mimed performance, but Grace Slick delivers a spellbinding performance that is simply and utterly captivating. She powerfully delivers an impassioned rendition of the track that, if nothing else, proves that Grace Slick is a National treasure.
The performance ends in a juxtaposition to the band’s introduction. While at the top of the performance Clark moved to try and calm the nerves of Middle America when the bonafide ‘hippies’ of San Francisco, by the end of Jefferson Airplane’s set the band look set to scare a whole generation.
The band’s subversive, psychedelic and pulsating sounds are perfectly punctuated during the short interview which followed. Clark, who only has a few minutes to speak to the band, asks a simple question to Paul Kantner, “Do parents have anything to worry about?”
“I think so,” he replies. “Their children are doing things that they didn’t do and they don’t understand.”
Just a few weeks later, the band would be at the centre of the San Franciscan hippie movement, known as The Summer of Love. This was Jefferson Airplane introducing themselves to the American public, on American Bandstand in 1967.