Revisit the time Jean-Luc Godard filmed Jefferson Airplane performing live on a New York rooftop, 1968
On a chilly Tuesday morning at around 7am on November 19th 1968, pioneering psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane carried their gear to the roof of nine-story Schuyler Hotel located close to New York’s chaotic Times Square.
The free gig, which took place before The Beatles decided to perform their now-iconic show atop Apple Record headquarters in London, attracted the same kind of reaction but its legacy has proven to be less memorable despite some very well known attendees—most notably the now critically acclaimed filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard.
Godard, famed for his films such as Bande à part, Pierrot le Fou and more, had alternative rock and roll music running through his veins on the day that Jefferson Airplane picked up their instruments on that day in 1968 having recently released his Rolling Stones documentary Sympathy for the Devil just a matter of weeks before.
Detailing how Godard came to be in control of the camera on that day, Richard Brody says: “He took over from the specialists and operated the camera from the window of Leacock-Pennebaker’s office on West Forty-fifth street, shooting the band on the roof of the Schuyler Hotel across the street,” in a study published as part of his Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard project.
“(Pennebaker recalled him to be an amateurish cameraman who could not avoid the beginner’s pitfall of frequent zooming in and out.) The performance took place without a permit, at standard rock volume: as singer Grace Slick later wrote, “We did it, deciding that the cost of getting out of jail would be less than hiring a publicist.”
Without a permit and music so loud it could be heard for a considerable distance, the band went into their plan with no fear, as lead singer Grace Slick once explained: “We did it, deciding that the cost of getting out of jail would be less than hiring a publicist.”
Remembering the moment, Jefferson Airplane founding member Paul Kantner once fondly reminisced in an interview: “Just for a while there, maybe for about 25 minutes in 1967, everything was perfect.”