When Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane wrote ‘White Rabbit’ they did so knowing that they were at the forefront of a revolution. Slick and her band delivered quite possibly the ultimate drug anthem and they wrapped it all up in a literary allegory.
Below, we’re looking back at the band’s second incarnation, Jefferson Starship, as they took the track on a whole new trip and extended the run time for a very special performance at San Francisco’s Winterland.
There’s perhaps no better venue for Jefferson Starship and their enigmatic singer Grace Slick than San Francisco’s Winterland location. The hub of the counter-culture and the scene of the summer of love was the perfect place to extend the band’s most potent track.
Slick, undeterred by the repercussions was one of the first artists to sneak drug references under the censor’s noses and into pop songs. The track may have later become an anthem for narcotics but Slick says that beyond drugs the song “is about following your curiosity. The White Rabbit is your curiosity”.
The singer also revealed that the song’s references may have been shocking to some but seemed a natural progression to her, suggesting it may well be because of the previous generation’s own experimentations, “Our parents read us stories like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz,” Slick recalled.
She added: “They all have a place where children get drugs, and are able to fly or see an Emerald City or experience extraordinary animals and people… And our parents are suddenly saying, ‘Why are you taking drugs?’ Well, hello!”
While Slick is undoubtedly the star of the show of any performance of the track, this version is particularly great for the license it gives the other musicians in the band to really let loose. What comes around is a ream of solos that accurately match the song’s noodling content.
So take a moment to look back at one Jefferson Starship’s longest and perhaps our favourite performance of ‘White Rabbit’ from 1975 below.