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Christmas Memories Made by Vintage Rock Music Stars

Updated on December 2, 2019
kenneth avery profile image

I love food and I love to cook, but sometimes, the first love takes over my second love. But not in this case.

Now Back in That Stormy Year of 1965

when Jefferson Airplane rock band formed in San Francisco, California that evolved into one of the pioneering bands of psychedelic rock. In 1965, the group defined the San Francisco Sound and was first from the Bay Area to achieve international commercial success. Jefferson Airplane headlined in (rock festivals) at the Monterey (1967), Woodstock (1969), Altamont (1969), and the first Isle of Wight Festival (1968) in England. Airplane's 1967 break-out album Surrealistic Pillow ranks on the short list of the most significant recordings of the Summer of Love.

Original and latter Airplane members consisted of: Signe Toly Anderson; Marty Balin; Bob Harvey; Paul Kanter; Jorma Kaukonen; Jerry Peloquin; Skip Spence; Jack Casady; Spence Dryden; Grace Slick; Mickey Thompson; Joey Covington; John Barbata and David Freiberg.

I would add the last members of Jefferson Starship here, but my complete focus is not about them, but the Jefferson Airplane, their lives in and out of controversy, inner-group fighting, split-up's and the eventual come back. And how now in 2019, I am getting a very sad, nostalgic feeling about the starting and stopping of a band like the Airplane and a couple of more great groups, who also tasted fame and then let (I assume) pride and self-gratification split-up a super-sounding group such as Cream.

Now Say Hello to Cream, a British rock band who formed in 1966. The band consisted of three multi-talented guys: bassist, Jack Bruce, guitarist, Eric Clapton, and drummer, Ginger Baker. Bruce was the prolific songwriter and vocalist, although Clapton and Baker also sang and chose the songs to use in their LPs and concerts. Cream formed from members of once-successful bands, they are known as the world’s first supergroup. Cream was highly-respected for the instrumental as well as the popular appeal from the band and each of their members.

Original members of Jefferson Airplane.
Original members of Jefferson Airplane. | Source

What Do These Facts

mean to you? Sadness. Pure, unadulterated sadness. There’s no other way to feel about a wonderfully-talented band being discovered, given a lucrative record contract, go on tour, the tons of cash start pouring in, the band is wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. Then, after five years, there are harsh rumors saying that this band is talking break-up for a number of reasons—with creative differences being the Monster with One Head.

Such are the break-up’s of (only two) of Rock Music’s most-talented and yes, popular, rockers, Jefferson Airplane and Cream. Sure. There are a lot more, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but I selfishly-wanted to pinpoint the two LPs that I had when I was a teenager. I have to be honest. I have both LPs that I speak of. I play them at each opportunity. Again, to be honest. My wife, who is a big Gospel Music fan and music, does not appreciate my style of music, and that’s cool. I do. But I do not push my like’s and dislike’s on her. Shoot! Truth be told, there are lots of Gospel songs that I like. But she does not show any emotion when I bring that up.

Like most super band’s, their success, popularity, notoriety, and riches depend on each member of their management company to coincide with the record label that they signed to honor in their studio as well as concert work. When one member of their management, legal, and PR company fails for some unknown reason, failure and static are not far off. This can also be applied to each of the band’s members as in Cream’s case, three visible singers and musicians and the Jefferson Airplane with nine members, sometimes less due to excessive egotism brought on by one or two jealous-driven members starting an ill rumor that spread and then the ultimate: the eventual break-up.

Then the break-up that is sometimes lurking around the next rock, is not so subtle. Take any band of six, all great friends from high school—running the streets, drinking the booze, and chasing the girls, the passage from the Rites of Teenage to Adult Life. That simple. The band has talked about forming a band for years, but never had to confidence.

That was until one of the group just stood up and said in a loud voice, let’s go for it. What have we to lose? That would apply to new rock bands once said while the adrenaline is surging in their veins. Magic? Not hardly. Real life always walks with silent footsteps.

From left: Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and Eric Clapton.
From left: Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and Eric Clapton. | Source

I Suppose That You Wonder

why I did not lead-off by talking about the Life and Times and Painful Break-up of The Fab Four? Simple. Although I do own a few of these guys’ LPs, and I am knocking them, but the Airplane and Cream, to me, seem a lot more personable and people whom I would love to meet and share a gallon of black coffee and then leave as friends. Simple.

From all that I have researched, the Jefferson Airplane imploded with such antics as Grace Slick and Marty Balin having torrid love affairs that caused friction among other male band members and that spelled trouble with four feet. Of course there was the ever-present use of drugs or many times drugs were abused for whatever reason, the best one I suppose was to be more creative. But then there came the Airplane’s burn-out by Slick who did sign to do a certain concert and when it was show time she would wait alone and then get on stage because there was so much animosity among the band members that creativity was at null scales and the band were at stand-still.

Seemingly endless lawsuits from and about Airplane members not living-up to contracts, being absent for weeks while high, and the reasons why the Jefferson Airplane crashed in 1972, when Jefferson Airplane effectively divided into into two groups. Kaukonen and Casady went full-time to their own band, Hot Tuna. Slick, Kantner, and the other members of Jefferson Airplane recruited new members and regrouped as Jefferson Starship in 1974, with Marty Balin eventually joining them.

Then, when Starship had reached the so-called pinnacle of success, Slick swore-off drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol and moved to somewhere in Arizona and she was seen one time on some feature show on TV giving a very-serious interview about her life before, during and after the Airplane and Starship. Slick, then and probably now, is a very-successful children’s books author and illustrator living alone but very happy.

Jefferson Airplane and Cream

cannot be compared to what degree of trouble that the bands had to not only be successful but managing the tough part of staying successful. Cream drummer, Ginger Baker, and bassist, Jack Bruce were known for their spats and perpetual arguing about who knows what and this took it’s tool on the threesome of Cream, Eric Clapton, the master guitarist, who was many times the “third wheel” to Baker and Bruce’s constant bickering. So something or someone had to give.

So breaking-up appeared to be the only sensible move for the band. Cream agreed that they would break-up in May 1968 during a tour of the US. Later, July, an official announcement was made that the band would break-up after a farewell tour of the US and after playing two concerts in London. Sure. Bruce, Baker, and Clapton were not saints. They were in reality, very creative hard-rocking, hard-working living-out their successes upon stages and in recording studios, but the truth remained, when the three parted-ways, there was that invisible, but strong feeling of sadness felt when Cream called it a day.

A Good Fact: Jefferson Airplane and Cream

were the “A” and”B” side of this piece, but now for a bit of peace. I give you. Franki Valli and the Four Seasons who formed in 1960 and worked, sang, wrote, and toured until 1977 not because of the big fights, jealousy, or any form of abuse. The foursome were more liken that of a family of four brothers and to some, they were. In fact, it was said that these four guys could not be any closer if they were brothers in the flesh.

But with age and success looming each year, one day, Valli answered the door and he asked for a group meeting to get everything on the table and clear whatever friction that might be in the air. The truth is, there was none to write home about. The Four Seasons sang and did concerts with and without Valli and as their style of music began to fade, not die, the Seasons and Valli re-organized the band several times with newer guys who could hold a tune and be professional on and off the stage. It worked well.

When Valli found himself to be the existing member of The Four Seasons, (after their final reunion tour was dubbed a major success), the band went to the dark night, but not gently. Valli continued to perform once in a while, but now he enjoys a life of peace and enjoying the fruits of his labor and those of the Four Seasons’ input and memories helped to keep all five of them happy and embracing their talents.

I am using this one group to show you that the Jefferson Airplane, Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience although did suffer emotionally, mentally as well as physically, Valli and the Four Seasons knew how to deal with the problems that face bands with success and fortune. In short, they knew where the ground was laid for their feet to be planted up on it.

I Make My Point About Sadness

concerning the memories of forgotten days that seemed like they were merely rocks that skimmed over a countryside lake. I never really took the time to enjoy those gifts called each day. But then again, who does? I’m sorry. When I face certain painful memories of the times that (these) groups were on the radio and even in my home on my record player, I get easily-swayed from the main point. Of course, I have always been a daydreamer since I was 11. That I could not change.

Many is the time in my wild, teenage years, I didn’t even savor each lyric of the songs that the Jefferson Airplane, Cream, and Franki Valli and the Four Seasons I had on my speakers. Instead, I would get to our telephone and let the music waft through our living room while I did my best to make a few valuable points with a pretty girl that I would call in my high school class. Not one girl ever commented on my choice of songs and that is strange because the girls themselves were “out there,” but not in a dope-driven way. They just talked and acted cool, but man, how pretty they were. I guess that trait is all that I cared about while “Somebody to Love,” by the Jefferson Airplane blasted through the air.

Now days when I hear the music from the Jefferson Airplane, not Starship. There is a big difference. Or I happen to put “Crossroads,” an old Robert Johnson ragtime blues song adapted by Cream, I always get very nostalgic because I find myself wondering where these guys, Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton are and what they are doing. I heard that drummer, Ginger Baker, passed away from lung cancer. Then I became much sadder. That I cannot change.

I even get really nostalgic when I hear Franki Valli and the Four Season’s hit, “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” I have to wonder . . .if any, did any of the girlfriends shed any, and I do mean any, tears when she and I broken up? I guess that I will always have those sad, depressed moments that will always be tied to the songs by the three groups in this hub. I suppose that I have two choices: to either embrace these feelings of depression and questions and wonderment I have concerning the band members today or I can simply sell these three fantastic LPs and forget that they ever existed. I can’t do that with my memory.

But I Tell You This

about the upcoming Christmas Shopping Season: if you are in my age bracket, 66, and were born somewhere in the early 1950’s, (me, 1953), and you had a love for my type of music, then you should check these vintage songs and bands. I know all about each LP and band. I guess I had to because when you are a teenage guy with no social life all you really have are moments filled with Rock Music by the Jefferson Airplane, Cream, and Franki Valli and the Four Seasons. Today, they fill a certain niche in my heart. You probably have a special niche for special songs and memoirs in your heart too.

There are few things that these special Rock Bands can be used for except placed on a turntable and get with a few good friends and sit around when you (like me) can really listen and savor each note of these groups.

But that may be the only thing that these special LPs can be used for . . .except being really special Christmas gifts for the Nostalgic Rock Music Lover on your list.

I knew that I would come up with a reason if I sat here and thought about it long enough.

December 2, 2019_______________________________________

© 2019 Kenneth Avery


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