The Story Behind The Song: Jefferson Airplane and Frank Zappa combine on ‘Would You Like A Snack’
If there is any band that encapsulates the hippie era in its true essence, it is Jefferson Airplane. Placed in the heart of the San Francisco music scene, they helped create the summer of love and, when many bands were leaving the dream behind, they remained devotees to the free love revolution and would continue to explore it through their psychedelic and folk pastiche songs.
This would certainly be the case with their fourth album Crown of Creation. The album, while not of the groundbreaking quality of their seminal 1967 Surrealistic Pillow, Crown of Creation, which came out the following year, is full of some hidden gems for the open-minded and does nod its proverbial head to the sound that had created their engaging hits, ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Somebody to Love’.
You wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find some of the key ingredients of the signature sound that would solidify them as a mainstay act of the hippie counterculture rooted within the record. Some of these moments come in the form of the record’s technicolour charm presented on a ruby stone platter; while pleasantly delivered through accessibility, the songs on Crown of Creation still offer the classic Jefferson Airplane experience — a direct challenge to open your mind.
Grace Slick’s voice is enigmatic, hypnotic, and still remains one of the most recognisable vocals in rock music. It is no wonder then that she is able to offer a powerful vocal delivery and with it, a humorous story of a theatrical episode of a woman who is on her menstrual cycle and in need of a snack — all of this can be heard on the peculiar track, ‘Would You Like A Snack’.
Originally, Grace Slick wanted Frank Zappa to produce Crown of Creation. While he was unavailable at the time, Zappa did seem to be interested, as he ended up co-writing the bizarre collage of a song, ‘Would You Like A Snack’, with Slick. While the song was not initially released on the album, the track was recorded at RCA studios in Hollywood back in 1968 during sessions for the album, with Frank Zappa credited as the ‘the leader’; Al Schmitt produced the track.
According to Dangerous Minds, also present at the sessions, were members of Zappa’s band, Mothers of Invention: Ian Underwood on piano and woodwinds, Don Preston on keyboards, and Art Tripp on drums and percussions.
‘Would You Like A Snack’ would remain hidden in the Jefferson Airplane vault until 1992 when it was unveiled on the Jefferson Airplane Loves You CD box set. The song is now included on remastered versions of Crown of Creation.
Pauline Butcher wrote in Freak Out! – My Life With Frank Zappa, that Zappa did in fact play a huge part in writing the track and getting the song recorded. He composed the music on the piano, after which Grace Slick would write the lyrics and belt the tune out:
“Seeing Frank in the studio was a new experience. I watched spellbound while the beautiful piece he’d written that afternoon gradually metamorphosed into something else. After Ian and Art had laid down piano, vibes and drum tracks, Spence Dryden, drummer with Jefferson Airplane, added extra drum rolls and then Grace Slick wailed and half-spoke her part with a clarinet accompaniment.
“Then, naturally, Frank had to add his weird noises, making us all laugh with his funny hand signals conducting a chorus of grunts, snorts, burps and snarls. I felt privileged to see the complete creative process, even though what had started as a very pretty piece that afternoon ended up sounding like no music at all.”
There aren’t many acts who could combine to create such an abstract song but if you gave us two choices we’d always pick Jefferson Airplane and Frank Zappa. While the group may have been smart enough to remove the subversive song from their album, the true intensity of their sound can be heard from the very first notes.