Volunteers (Jefferson Airplane album)

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Jefferson Airplane-Volunteers (album cover).jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 1969
RecordedMarch 28–June 12, 1969[1]
StudioWally Heider Studios, San Francisco
GenrePsychedelic rock, folk rock, country rock
69:36 (2004 reissue)
LabelRCA Victor
ProducerAl Schmitt
Jefferson Airplane chronology
Bless Its Pointed Little Head
The Worst of Jefferson Airplane
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[2]
Robert ChristgauB[3]
Rolling Stone(favorable)[4]
The Rolling Stone Record Guide[5]5/5 stars
The Daily VaultA[6]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[7]

Volunteers is the fifth studio album by American psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, released in 1969 as RCA Victor LSP-4238 and in quadrophonic sound in 1973 as RCA Quadradisc APD1-0320. The album was controversial because of its revolutionary and anti-war lyrics along with the use of profanity. The original album title was Volunteers of Amerika, but it was shortened after objections from Volunteers of America.

This was to be the last album with the group for both Jefferson Airplane 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.


Volunteers was the group's first album recorded entirely in San Francisco, at Wally Heider's 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. The album was among the earliest 16-track recordings, and its back cover shows a picture of the Ampex MM-1000 professional 16-track tape recorder 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 was inspired by a Volunteers of America (a religious charity similar to the Salvation Army) truck that woke singer Marty Balin one morning. The original title was Volunteers of Amerika; spelling "America" as "Amerika" was a common practice used by leftists at the time to emphasize their dissatisfaction with the American government, as it usually references both German fascism and the Kafka novel Amerika. After Volunteers of America objected, the title was shortened to Volunteers.[8]

The album provoked even more controversy with lyrics such as "Up against the wall, motherfucker," which appeared in 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. However, the word "motherfucker" was censored on the album lyric sheet as "fred".[9] RCA Records had refused to allow the word "fuck" on the album until confronted with the fact that the label had already set a precedent on the Hair cast recording album. "Eskimo Blue Day" was also a point of contention, with its chorus line of "doesn't mean shit to a tree" repeated throughout.

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 Hopkins' distinctive piano playing. It also featured the band experimenting with a country rock sound, particularly on "The Farm" and "Song for All Seasons".

Despite its controversies, the album was a commercial success. It peaked at No. 13 (becoming the band's fourth Top 20 record) on the Billboard album chart album chart and received a RIAA gold certification within two months of its release.[10]


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 the "Martha" single.

A specially remixed quadraphonic (four-channel) version of the album was released in 1973 as a vinyl disc using the discrete JVC/RCA CD-4/Quadradisc system, as well as in reel-to-reel and 8-track cartridge tape formats. The quadraphonic mixes are noticeably different from the usual stereo mixes; "Hey Fredrick" has a completely different lead vocal along with different guitar lines and coda, "Volunteers" is a totally different recording, Kaukonen's guitar lines are different on "We Can Be Together", "Wooden Ships" lacks the opening sailboat sound effects and the backing vocals by Ace of Cups on "The Farm" are more prominent. A few tracks from the quadraphonic version were included in the triple-CD box set Jefferson Airplane Loves You, though the CD format's technical limitations necessitated reducing the four-channel recordings to two channels.

The 2004 CD re-release 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 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and at 373 in a 2012 revised list.[11]

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 stereo and quadraphonic LPs.[12]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Quadraphonic Mix LengthLength
1."We Can Be Together"Paul Kantner5:565:48
2."Good Shepherd"traditional, arranged by Jorma Kaukonen4:214:21
3."The Farm"Kantner, Gary Blackman2:323:15
4."Hey Fredrick"Grace Slick9:008:26
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Quadraphonic Mix LengthLength
1."Turn My Life Down"Kaukonen2:542:54
2."Wooden Ships"David Crosby, Kantner, Stephen Stills5:506:24
3."Eskimo Blue Day"Slick, Kantner6:156:31
4."A Song for All Seasons"Spencer Dryden3:283:28
5."Meadowlands"Lev Knipper1:041:04
6."Volunteers"Marty Balin, Kantner2:212:08
2004 CD previously unissued bonus tracks
11."Good Shepherd" (live, recorded November 28–29 at Fillmore East)traditional, arranged by Kaukonen7:20
12."Somebody to Love" (live, recorded November 28–29 at Fillmore East)Darby Slick4:10
13."Plastic Fantastic Lover" (live, recorded November 28–29 at Fillmore East)Balin3:21
14."Wooden Ships" (live, recorded November 28–29 at Fillmore East)Crosby, Kantner, Stills7:00
15."Volunteers" (live, recorded November 28–29 at Fillmore East)Balin, Kantner3:26


Per liner notes.[12]

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 Herb Greene – PB & J photo
  • Produced at Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco



Chart Peak Position Peak Date
Billboard Top LPs 13 December 20, 1969[13]


Title Chart Peak Position Peak Date
"Volunteers" Billboard Hot 100 65 December 20, 1969[14]


  1. ^ "Jefferson Airplane--Volunteers". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-08-27. Recording dates for each track are given in liner notes of CD release--see 14th image.
  2. ^ Newsom, Jim (2011). "Volunteers - Jefferson Airplane | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  3. ^ Christgau, Robert (2011). "Robert Christgau: CG: Jefferson Airplane". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  4. ^ Ward, Ed (21 February 1970). "Records". Rolling Stone. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. (52): 46. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  5. ^ Marsh, Dave; Swenson, John (Editors). The Rolling Stone Record Guide, 1st edition, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1979, p. 190, 599.
  6. ^ Bowling, David (2019). "The Daily Vault Music Reviews : Volunteers". dailyvault.com. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  7. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  8. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff (2003). Got a revolution!: the turbulent flight of Jefferson Airplane. Atria Books. p. 197. ISBN 9780671034030. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Gold & Platinum - March 19, 2010". RIAA. Retrieved 2010-03-19.
  11. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Volunteers (Vinyl insert). Jefferson Airplane. New York City: RCA. 1969. LSP-4238.CS1 maint: others (link)
  13. ^ "Top 200 Albums | Billboard 200 chart". Billboard. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  14. ^ "Top 100 Songs | Billboard Hot 100 Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 2020-01-31.