Volunteers (Jefferson Airplane album)

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For other uses, see Volunteer (disambiguation).
Jefferson Airplane-Volunteers (album cover).jpg
Studio album by Jefferson Airplane
Released November 1969
Recorded April 1969 at Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco
Genre Psychedelic rock, acid rock, folk rock
Length 44:19
69:36 (2004 reissue)
Label RCA Victor
Producer Al Schmitt
Jefferson Airplane chronology
Bless Its Pointed Little Head
The Worst of Jefferson Airplane
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau (B)[2]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[3]

Volunteers is a 1969 album by American psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, released as RCA Victor LSP-4238, also released in Quadrophonic in 1973 as RCA Quadradisc APD1-0320, using the discrete CD-4 system from JVC. The album was controversial because of revolutionary and anti-war lyrics as well as profanity in the lyrics. The original album title was Volunteers of Amerika. It was shortened after objections from Volunteers of America.


This was the sixth album recorded by the group and the first to be wholly recorded in San Francisco, at Wally Heider's then state-of-the-art 16-track studio. Guest musicians included Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar, veteran session pianist Nicky Hopkins, future Airplane drummer Joey Covington on percussion, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills. It was one of the earliest 16-track recordings. The back cover of the album shows a picture of the MM-1000 professional 16-track tape recorder built by Ampex which was used to record the album.

The album was marked with strong anti-war and pro-anarchism songs. The theme of nature, communities and ecology was also explored with the songs "The Farm" and "Eskimo Blue Day". The title track was inspired by a "Volunteers of America" garbage truck that woke singer Marty Balin one morning. The album`s original title was Volunteers of Amerika, spoofing Volunteers of America, a religious charity similar to the Salvation Army. The spelling, Amerika, usually references both German fascism and the Kafka novel. After VOA objected, the title was shortened to Volunteers.[4]

The album provoked even more controversy with lyrics such as "Up against the wall, motherfucker" which appeared on the opening song "We Can Be Together". The offending word was mixed lower on the 45 RPM release of that track to partially 'obscure' it, but it was still audible. The word "motherfucker" was censored on the album lyric sheet as "fred", however.[5] At the time RCA Records was refusing to allow the word "fuck" on the album until they were confronted with the fact that they had already set a precedent on the Cast Recording Soundtrack of Hair. "Eskimo Blue Day" was also a point of contention, with its chorus line of "doesn't mean shit to a tree" repeated throughout. Musically, the album is characterized by Jorma Kaukonen's lead guitar parts (the dueling solos on "Hey Fredrick", plus the traditional gospel-blues song "Good Shepherd" and "Wooden Ships") and the distinctive piano-playing of Nicky Hopkins. It also featured the band experimenting with a country-rock sound, particularly in "The Farm" and "Song For All Seasons".

Despite its controversies, the album was a commercial success, becoming the band's fourth top twenty hit record, and went gold within two months of its release.[6]

This was to be the last album with the group for both Jefferson Airplane's founder Marty Balin and drummer Spencer Dryden (although they did both appear on the "Mexico" single released in 1970 and its B-side "Have You Seen the Saucers?") and thus signifies the end of the best-remembered "classic" lineup. It was to be the group's last all-new LP for two years; Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen would now devote more of their energy to their embryonic blues group Hot Tuna, while Paul Kantner and Grace Slick released Blows Against the Empire and Sunfighter with various guest musicians and celebrated the birth of their daughter China in 1971.


Even though the album was released in late 1969, the cover photo dates back to 1967; it features the band wearing disguises and was taken during the filming of a promotional film made for their single "Martha".

A specially remixed Quadraphonic (4 channel) version of the album was also released in 1973. The Quad version was available on LP Record using the discrete JVC / RCA CD-4 / Quadradisc system, and Reel to reel, and 8-track cartridge tape. The Quad mixes are noticeably different from the usual stereo mixes; "Hey Fredrick" has a completely different lead vocal, "Volunteers" is a totally different recording, Kaukonen's guitar lines are different on "We Can Be Together", "Wooden Ships" lacks the 'sailboat sounds' opener, and the backing vocal by the Ace of Cups on "The Farm" is made more prominent. A few tracks from the Quad version were included on the 3-CD box set Jefferson Airplane Loves You, however on the box set the four-channel recordings have been reduced to two channels due to the technical limitations of Compact Disc.

The 2004 CD rerelease features five additional bonus tracks from the group's annual Thanksgiving concert at the Fillmore East, New York in 1969.


In 2003 the album was ranked number 370 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

The album was released again in 2009 along with the entirety of the group's live performance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 as Jefferson Airplane Woodstock Experience.

Track listing[edit]

Credits from original Vinyl LP and Quadraphonic LP[7]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Quadraphonic Mix Length Length
1. "We Can Be Together" Paul Kantner 5:56 5:48
2. "Good Shepherd" traditional, arranged by Jorma Kaukonen 4:21 4:21
3. "The Farm" Kantner, Gary Blackman 2:32 3:15
4. "Hey Fredrick" Grace Slick 9:00 8:26
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Quadraphonic Mix Length Length
1. "Turn My Life Down" Kaukonen 2:54 2:54
2. "Wooden Ships" David Crosby, Kantner, Stephen Stills 5:50 6:24
3. "Eskimo Blue Day" Slick, Kantner 6:15 6:31
4. "A Song for All Seasons" Spencer Dryden 3:28 3:28
5. "Meadowlands" Lev Knipper 1:04 1:04
6. "Volunteers" Marty Balin, Kantner 2:21 2:08
2004 CD previously unissued bonus tracks
No. Title Writer(s) Length
11. "Good Shepherd" (live, recorded November 28–29 at Fillmore East) traditional, arranged by Kaukonen 7:20
12. "Somebody to Love" (live, recorded November 28–29 at Fillmore East) Darby Slick 4:10
13. "Plastic Fantastic Lover" (live, recorded November 28–29 at Fillmore East) Balin 3:21
14. "Wooden Ships" (live, recorded November 28–29 at Fillmore East) Crosby, Kantner, Stills 7:00
15. "Volunteers" (live, recorded November 28–29 at Fillmore East) Balin, Kantner 3:26


Per the Volunteers liner notes.[7]

Additional personnel[edit]


  • Al Schmitt – producer
  • Rich Schmitt – engineer
  • Maurice (Pat Ieraci) – 16-track
  • Gut – album design, ate PB & J
  • Milton Burke – album design
  • Jefferson Airplane – album design
  • Jim Marshall – cover photo
  • Jim Smircich – back photo
  • Littie Herbie Greene – PB & J photo
  • Produced at Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco



Year Chart Position
1969 Billboard Pop Albums 13


Year Single Chart Position
1969 "Volunteers" Billboard Pop Singles 65


  1. ^ Newsom, Jim (2011). "Volunteers - Jefferson Airplane | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 9 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (2011). "Robert Christgau: CG: Jefferson Airplane". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Ward, Ed (2011). "Volunteers by Jefferson Airplane | Rolling Stone Music | Music Reviews". rollingstone.com. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff (2003). Got a revolution!: the turbulent flight of Jefferson Airplane. Atria Books. p. 197. Retrieved 6 December 2011. 
  5. ^ Doggett, Peter (2009). There's a Riot Going on: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars, and the Rise and Fall of the '60s. Canongate U.S. p. 362. ISBN 978-1847671936. 
  6. ^ "Gold & Platinum - March 19, 2010". RIAA. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  7. ^ a b Volunteers (Vinyl insert). Jefferson Airplane. New York City: RCA. 1969. LSP-4238.