Cardboard sleeve that came with the original vinyl LP release (RCA Victor, 1971)
Bark, released in 1971 as Grunt FTR-1001 (the first album on that label), is one of the late-period albums by Jefferson Airplane, notable for many "firsts" with its major personnel change. It was the first without band founder Marty Balin and the first with violinist Papa John Creach. Drummer Spencer Dryden had also departed, being replaced by Joey Covington. This was the first all new Airplane LP in two years, the previous being Volunteers, released in 1969. It was also the first to be released under the Jefferson Airplane owned Grunt Records label.
Lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen has four songwriting credits on this album, indicative of his growing importance as a composer. At the time of the album's release, he and bassist Jack Casady had already recorded two albums for their spin-off blues group Hot Tuna.
The album was a success upon its release, reaching #11 on the charts and eventually went gold.
Recording for the album began in late 1970. The band at the time consisted of Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Grace Slick, and Joey Covington. Planned tracks included live versions of "Mexico" and "Have You Seen the Saucers?", Balin's "You Wear Your Dresses Too Short" and "Emergency", and Joey Covington's "Bludgeon of a Bluecoat." A tour of the US continued through the end of 1970 with Papa John Creach joining the band on the day of Janis Joplin's death. Balin did not play the October 5th date, but continued with the tour. He was growing increasingly frustrated with the band's drug use, and "playing that messed up cocained music." Jefferson Airplane stopped touring at the end of 1970 as Grace Slick and Paul Kantner were about to have a child. China Kantner was born January 25, 1971 and no more tour dates were scheduled although Hot Tuna continued playing the Fillmore East and Fillmore West in early 1971, and recorded a live album in March, First Pull Up, Then Pull Down. Recording sessions continued on in 1971, but Balin finally left the band in April. The band later admitted that they didn't really know what direction to go in without Balin, and new material was composed and the Balin tracks were thrown out. The recording sessions finally concluded at the beginning of July, featuring a five-member band and Papa John on a few tracks. One of the Balin tracks from this period, "Up or Down" was later released on Early Flight, along with the studio versions of "Mexico" and "Have You Seen the Saucers".
The band launched their own record label, Grunt Records in August, 1971 and Bark was the first release. The band played several dates in August in support of the new release, but no tour was planned. Only one date at San Francisco was played after the album's release. The album climbed the Billboard charts, but the band had already moved on to other projects. They soon returned to the studio, but now working on separate albums for their Grunt Records label. Kantner and Slick worked on Sunfighter, Papa John Creach worked on his eponymous debut album, and Kaukonen and Casady worked on their first Hot Tuna studio album, Burgers. With the exception of a couple of dates in early 1972, the band did not play together again until the recording sessions for Long John Silver.
The original vinylLP release featured an outer paper bag with the "JA" logo as though it were bought in a grocery store. The "JA" logo is an homage to the A&P supermarket chain. The bag was wrapped around the record, which was also inside paper. Inside the bag itself was a cardboard cover for storing the record that featured a fish with human false teeth wrapped in paper and tied with string. Also inside the bag was a lyrics sheet insert, colored as pink "butcher paper." The paper bag became the cover art for the CD releases, and the fish image appeared on the CD itself.