White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane song)

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This article is about the Jefferson Airplane song. For the Egypt Central song, see White Rabbit (Egypt Central song).
"White Rabbit"
Single by Jefferson Airplane
from the album Surrealistic Pillow
B-side "Plastic Fantastic Lover"
Released June 24, 1967
Format Vinyl record (7") 45 RPM
Recorded November 3, 1966
Genre Psychedelic rock, acid rock
Length 2:31
Label RCA Victor
RCA 9248
Writer(s) Grace Slick
Producer(s) Rick Jarrard
Jefferson Airplane singles chronology
"Somebody to Love"
(1967)
"White Rabbit"
(1967)
"The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil"
(1967)
Music sample

"White Rabbit" is a song written by Grace Slick, and recorded by the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane for their 1967 album, Surrealistic Pillow. It was released as a single and became the band's second top ten success, peaking at #8[1] on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was ranked #478 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,[2] #87 on Rate Your Music's Top Singles of All Time,[3] and appears on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

The name White Rabbit has also been described as a nickname for counterculture era-figure, Owsley Stanley.[4]

History[edit]

“White Rabbit” was written and performed by Grace Slick while she was still with The Great Society. When that band broke up in 1966, Slick was invited to join Jefferson Airplane to replace their departed female singer, Signe Toly Anderson, who left the band with the birth of her child. The first album Slick recorded with Jefferson Airplane was Surrealistic Pillow, and Slick provided two songs from her previous group: her own “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love”, written by her brother-in-law Darby Slick and recorded under the title "Someone to Love" by The Great Society.[5] Both songs became top ten hits[6] for Jefferson Airplane and have ever since been associated with that band.[7]

Lyrics and composition[edit]

1967 trade ad for the single.

One of Grace Slick's earliest songs, written during either late 1965 or early 1966, utilizes imagery found in the fantasy works of Lewis Carroll: 1865's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel Through the Looking-Glass, such as changing size after taking pills or drinking an unknown liquid. Slick had stated the composition was intended to be a slap to parents who would read their children such novels, and then wonder why their children would later use drugs.[8] Characters Slick referenced include Alice, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the White Knight, the Red Queen, and the Dormouse.[9]

For Slick and others in the 1960s, drugs were a part of mind-expanding and social experimentation. With its enigmatic lyrics, "White Rabbit" became one of the first songs to sneak drug references past censors on the radio. Even Marty Balin, Slick's eventual rival in Jefferson Airplane, regarded the song as a "masterpiece". In interviews, Slick has related that Alice in Wonderland was often read to her as a child, and remained a vivid memory well into her adulthood.[2]

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Slick mentioned that in addition to Alice in Wonderland her other inspiration for the song was "the bolero used by Miles Davis and Gil Evans on their 1960 album Sketches of Spain."[10] The song is essentially one long crescendo similar to that of Ravel's famous Boléro. The music combined with the song's lyrics strongly suggests the sensory distortions experienced with hallucinogens, and the song was later used in pop culture to imply or accompany just such a state.[11]

Chart run[edit]

Cashbox[12] (11 weeks): 59, 45, 23, 14, 12, 11, 8, 6, 7, 22, 41

Covers[edit]

The song was covered in the following years:

Sampled[edit]

In media[edit]

"White Rabbit" has been used in numerous films and television shows.[24]

  • A line in the song, Go Ask Alice, was used as the title of a 1971 book about drug addiction by Beatrice Sparks that was adapted two years later into an ABC Movie of the Week.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Top 100 Music Hits, Top 100 Music Charts, Top 100 Songs & The Hot 100". Billboard.com. Retrieved July 8, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". December 9, 2004. Archived from the original on June 26, 2008. Retrieved August 7, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Top Singles of All-time". Rate Your Music. Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  4. ^ Perrone, James E. (2004). Music of the Counterculture Era. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 117 ISBN 0313326894.
  5. ^ "Darby Slick Puts Original Lyrics Up For Sale". jambands.com. 
  6. ^ "Billboard - Jefferson Airplane". billboard.com. 
  7. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff, ed. (2003). Got a revolution!:the turublent flight of Jefferson Airplane. Atria. p. 113. ISBN 0-671-03403-0. Retrieved April 30, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Biography - Grace Slick". jeffersonairplane.con. 
  9. ^ "White Rabbit Lyrics". metrolyrics.com. 
  10. ^ Berkowitz, Kenny. Got a Revolution!: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane. New York: Atrica Books, 2005, p. 153; Wall Street Journal Interview 29 April 2011 [1]
  11. ^ 1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
  12. ^ Hoffmann, Frank (1983). The Cash Box Singles Charts, 1950-1981. Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 303. 
  13. ^ Collide - Chasing The Ghost
  14. ^ Blue Man Group - The Complex
  15. ^ Fuzzion - Black Magic
  16. ^ Lana Lane - Gemini
  17. ^ Naik Borzov - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas soundtrack
  18. ^ GP&N at the Burlington Waterfront Show, 2009
  19. ^ Welch, Gillian. "The Fresh Air Interview: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings". NPR. Retrieved August 7, 2011. 
  20. ^ http://suckerpunchmovie.warnerbros.com/dvd/
  21. ^ http://www.motiondevice.net/
  22. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8C0gM-ShcbA
  23. ^ "Nice & Smooth - Jewel Of The Nile". Discogs.com. 
  24. ^ "Filmography by year for Jefferson Airplane". IMDB.com. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 

External links[edit]