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, acid rock, folk 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]

Volunteers is the fifth studio album by American psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, released in 1969 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 along with the use of profanity. The original album title was Volunteers of Amerika. It was shortened after objections from Volunteers of America.


This was the group's first album recorded entirely 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 Ampex MM-1000 professional 16-track tape recorder 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.[7]

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.[8] 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. It peaked at #13 (becoming the band's fourth Top Twenty record) on the Billboard album chart and received a RIAA gold certification within two months of its release.[9]

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 along with different guitar lines and a different coda, "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 vocals by the Ace of Cups on "The Farm" are 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, and at 373 in a 2012 revised list.[10]

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 LP’s.[11]

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.[11]

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



Year Chart Position
1969 Billboard Pop Albums 13


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


  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. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff (2003). Got a revolution!: the turbulent flight of Jefferson Airplane. Atria Books. p. 197. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Gold & Platinum - March 19, 2010". RIAA. Retrieved 2010-03-19.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ a b Volunteers (Vinyl insert). Jefferson Airplane. New York City: RCA. 1969. LSP-4238.CS1 maint: others (link)