Surrealistic Pillow

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Surrealistic Pillow
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 1, 1967 (1967-02-01)[1]
RecordedOctober 31 – November 22, 1966
StudioRCA Victor, Hollywood
Genre
Length33:40
LabelRCA Victor
ProducerRick Jarrard[7]
Jefferson Airplane chronology
Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
(1966)
Surrealistic Pillow
(1967)
After Bathing at Baxter's
(1967)
Singles from Surrealistic Pillow
  1. "My Best Friend"
    Released: December 1966[8]
  2. "Somebody to Love"
    Released: February 1967
  3. "White Rabbit"
    Released: June 1967

Surrealistic Pillow is the second studio album by the American rock band Jefferson Airplane, released by RCA Victor on February 1, 1967. It is the first album by the band with vocalist Grace Slick and drummer Spencer Dryden. The album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[9] It is considered to be one of the most influential and quintessential works of the early psychedelic rock era and the 1960s counterculture.[10][11][12][13]

"My Best Friend" was released as the first single in December 1966, but reached only No. 103 on the Billboard Bubbling Under chart. Two singles were released later in the year; "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" peaked respectively at number five and number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and are the band's only top 40 hits on that chart. "Today" was not released as a single but was played often on college radio and rock stations and remains one of their most popular songs. It was also recorded by jazz saxophonist Tom Scott for his 1967 album The Honeysuckle Breeze; this version was sampled in the song "They Reminisce Over You" by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth.

A live version of "Plastic Fantastic Lover" was released as a single in 1969. Billboard described it as "heavy hard rock."[14] Cash Box wrote that it "features the team's more commercial-than-controversial style" and has "a solid instrumental track and very fine vocal."[15] Record World wrote it was one of the band's favorites.[16]

Background[edit]

The initial line-up fell apart after Signe Toly Anderson was replaced by Grace Slick

Original drummer Alexander "Skip" Spence left the band in mid-1966. He was soon replaced by Dryden, an experienced Los Angeles jazz drummer and the half-nephew of Charlie Chaplin. New female vocalist Slick, formerly with another San Francisco rock band the Great Society, joined the Airplane in the fall of 1966. Slick, Dryden, male lead vocalist-guitarist-songwriter and founder of band Marty Balin, guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Paul Kantner, lead guitarist (and occasional vocalist) Jorma Kaukonen, and bassist Jack Casady formed the core of the best-known line-up of the group, which remained stable until Dryden's departure in early 1970.

Some controversy exists as to the role of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia in the making of the album. His reputed presence on several tracks is denied by producer Rick Jarrard,[17] but he is credited on the RCA label copy[17] and received credits on the Flight Log compilation[18] and the Jefferson Airplane Loves You box set.[19] In the sleeve notes for Early Flight, a 1974 compilation album of previously unreleased material, manager Bill Thompson writes only that Garcia was "listed as 'spiritual advisor' on the album cover [and] played one of the guitars" on "In the Morning", a Kaukonen composition that was released on Early Flight and subsequently included on the 2003 reissue of Surrealistic Pillow. Garcia himself recalled in a mid-1967 interview that he played the high lead on "Today" in addition to playing guitar on two other songs ("Plastic Fantastic Lover" and "Comin' Back to Me") and rearranging "Somebody to Love". He also played on "J.P.P. McStep B. Blues" (included on Early Flight and the 2003 reissue) and may have played on "How Do You Feel". Kaukonen has opined that Garcia was essentially the producer who arranged the songs for the group. More recently, in his biography, he says, "I used to think about him as co-producer, but now that I really know what a producer is, the producer of that record was Rick Jarrard. Jerry was a combination arranger, musician, and sage counsel."[20] A comment by Garcia about the music being "as surrealistic as a pillow is soft" also reportedly inspired the album title.[21][22]

Production[edit]

Jefferson Airplane's fusion of folk rock and psychedelia was original at the time, in line with musical developments pioneered by the Byrds, the Beach Boys, the Mamas & the Papas, Bob Dylan, the Yardbirds, and the Beatles, among other mid-1960s rock bands. Surrealistic Pillow was the first blockbuster psychedelic album by a band from San Francisco, announcing to the world the active bohemian scene that had developed there starting with the Beats during the 1950s, extending and changing through the 1960s into the Haight-Ashbury counterculture. Subsequent exposure generated by the Airplane and others wrought great changes to that counterculture, and by 1968 the ensuing national media attention had precipitated a very different San Francisco scene than had existed in 1966. San Francisco photographer Herb Greene photographed the band for the album's cover art.[23]

Release and reception[edit]

A promotional poster for the single "White Rabbit"

The album was originally released on LP record by RCA Victor in different stereo (LSP-3766) and mono (LPM-3766) editions.[1] The stereo mixes include heavier use of reverberation effects than the mono. The mono version was deleted in the late 1960s and remained unavailable until 2001. The first United Kingdom release replaced some of the original songs with tracks from the group's first US LP, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[2]
The Absolute Sound[26]
The Daily VaultA−[25]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[27]
The Village VoiceB+[24]

In 2003, the album was ranked number 146 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time",[28] maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list, and dropping to number 471 in the 2020 revised list.[29][30] It was voted number 174 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[4]

In January 2017, "Somebody to Love" received a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America, while "White Rabbit" received a platinum certification.[9]

Reissues[edit]

The first compact disc releases were in Japan in 1987 and the U.S. in 1988. A 2001 re-issue by RCA was released as a limited edition gold CD and contained both the stereo and mono recordings. Both mixes were later included as part of the Ignition box set on a standard aluminum CD.

Another stereo reissue appeared on August 19, 2003, with six bonus tracks, including the mono A-sides of "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit". The 2003 reissue was produced by Bob Irwin.

Track listing[edit]

Original release[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."She Has Funny Cars"Jorma Kaukonen, Marty Balin3:03
2."Somebody to Love"Darby Slick2:54
3."My Best Friend"Skip Spence2:59
4."Today"Marty Balin, Paul Kantner2:57
5."Comin' Back to Me"Marty Balin5:18
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds"Marty Balin3:39
2."D.C.B.A.–25"Paul Kantner2:33
3."How Do You Feel"Tom Mastin3:26
4."Embryonic Journey"Jorma Kaukonen1:51
5."White Rabbit"Grace Slick2:27
6."Plastic Fantastic Lover"Marty Balin2:33
2003 reissue bonus tracks
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
12."In the Morning"Jorma Kaukonen6:21
13."J.P.P. McStep B. Blues"Skip Spence2:37
14."Go to Her"Paul Kantner, Irving Estes4:02
15."Come Back Baby"Traditional; arranged by Jorma Kaukonen2:56
16."Somebody to Love" (mono single version)Darby Slick2:58
17."White Rabbit" (mono single version; song ends at 2:33; 2:40 begins "D. C. B. A.-25" [alternate backing track])Grace Slick5:21

1967 UK release[edit]

Side one

  1. "My Best Friend"
  2. "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds"
  3. "D.C.B.A. – 25"
  4. "How Do You Feel"
  5. "Embryonic Journey"
  6. "Don't Slip Away" (Balin, Spence)[n 1]

Side two

  1. "Come Up the Years" (Balin, Kantner)[n 1]
  2. "Chauffeur Blues" (Lester Melrose)[n 1]
  3. "Today"
  4. "Comin' Back to Me"
  5. "Somebody to Love"

Personnel[edit]

Jefferson Airplane
  • Marty Balin – vocals, guitar, album design, lead vocals on "Today", "Comin' Back to Me" and "Plastic Fantastic Lover", co-lead vocals on "She Has Funny Cars", "My Best Friend", "Go to Her" and "3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds"
  • Jack Casady – bass guitar, fuzz bass, rhythm guitar
  • Spencer Dryden – drums, percussion
  • Paul Kantner – rhythm guitar, vocals, lead vocals on "How Do You Feel", co-lead vocals on "My Best Friend", "D. C. B. A.-25" and "Go to Her"
  • Jorma Kaukonen – lead guitar, lead vocals on "Come Back Baby" and "In the Morning"
  • Grace Slick – vocals, piano, organ, recorder, lead vocals on "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit", co-lead vocals on "She Has Funny Cars", "My Best Friend", "D. C. B. A.-25", "Go to Her" and "3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds"
  • Signe Toly Anderson – lead vocals on "Chauffeur Blues" (UK only)
  • Skip Spence – drums on "Don't Slip Away", "Come Up the Years" and "Chauffeur Blues" (UK only)
Additional personnel

Charts[edit]

Chart (1967) Peak
position
Finnish Albums (The Official Finnish Charts)[32] 14
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[33] 20
US Billboard 200[34] 3

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[35]
2003 release
Silver 60,000
United States (RIAA)[36] Platinum 1,000,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c These tracks were originally issued in the U.S. on Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. "Jefferson Airplane: Surrealistic Pillow > Review" at AllMusic. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  2. ^ "Review: Surrealistic Pillow // Jefferson Airplane". Audioxide. November 9, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 94. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  4. ^ Huxley, Martin (1995). Psychedelia: the long strange trip. Friedman/Fairfax. p. 21. ISBN 978-1567992274.
  5. ^ "The 50 best psychedelic rock albums of the Summer of Love". BrooklynVegan. June 16, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  6. ^ "Welcome to the Studio". jeffersonairplane.com. Archived from the original on 2017-05-06. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  7. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (1995). The Great Rock Discography. Canongate Press. p. 430. ISBN 9780862415419.
  8. ^ a b "Gold & Platinum". RIAA.
  9. ^ Talevski, Nick (7 April 2010). Rock Obituaries – Knocking on Heaven's Door. Omnibus Press. pp. 144–. ISBN 978-0-85712-117-2.
  10. ^ Martin Charles Strong (2006). The Essential Rock Discography. Canongate. pp. 559–. ISBN 978-1-84195-860-6.
  11. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Jefferson Airplane: Surrealstic Pillow". Allmusic.com. All Media Network, LLC. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  12. ^ James E. Perone (2004). Music of the Counterculture Era. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 117–. ISBN 978-0-313-32689-9.
  13. ^ "Spotlight Singles" (PDF). Billboard. May 24, 1969. p. 76. Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  14. ^ "CashBox Record Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. May 10, 1969. p. 24. Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  15. ^ "Single Picks of the Week" (PDF). Record World. May 10, 1969. p. 1. Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Tamarakin, Jeff (2003). Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-03403-0.
  17. ^ a b Flight Log (Vinyl booklet). Jefferson Airplane. San Francisco: Grunt Records. 1977. CYL2-1255.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  18. ^ a b Jefferson Airplane Loves You (booklet). Jefferson Airplane. New York City: RCA. 1992. 61110.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  19. ^ Kaukonen, Jorma (2018). Been So Long: My Life and Music. New York: St Martin's Press. p. 115.
  20. ^ Ashes, Light Into (December 28, 2010). "Grateful Dead Guide: Jerry Garcia & Surrealistic Pillow".
  21. ^ "Jerry Garcia's Middle Finger: Garcia on Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow". Jgmf. December 21, 2010.
  22. ^ Surrealistic Pillow (Vinyl back). Jefferson Airplane. New York City: RCA Records. 1967. LSP-3766.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  23. ^ Christgau, Robert (December 20, 1976). "Christgau's Consumer Guide to 1967". The Village Voice. New York. p. 69. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  24. ^ Clutterbuck, Jeff (2019). "The Daily Vault Music Reviews : Surrealistic Pillow". dailyvault.com. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  25. ^ Gader, Neil (2019). "Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow". theabsolutesound.com. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  26. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  27. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. p. 2. Archived from the original on December 14, 2006.
  28. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  29. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2020-09-22. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  30. ^ a b Early Flight (Vinyl gatefold). Jefferson Airplane. New York City: RCA Records. 1974. CYL1-0437.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  31. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  32. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow". Hung Medien. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  33. ^ "Jefferson Airplane Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  34. ^ "British album certifications – Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  35. ^ "American album certifications – Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved October 11, 2019.

External links[edit]