White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane song)
|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|
|Jefferson Airplane singles chronology|
"White Rabbit" is a song written by Grace Slick, and recorded by the American 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 number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was ranked number 478 on Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, Number 87 on Rate Your Music's Top Singles of All Time, and appears on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
“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. Both songs became top ten hits for Jefferson Airplane and have ever since been associated with that band.
Lyrics and composition
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. Characters Slick referenced include Alice, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the White Knight, the Red Queen, and the Dormouse.
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.
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." 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.
The song was covered in the following years:
- 1967 – by the rock band Eric Burdon & The Animals on a TV show
- 1967 – by the jazz guitarist Gábor Szabó and The California Dreamers
- 1968 – by the rock band The Mops for their album Psychedelic Sounds in Japan
- 1971 – by the jazz guitarist George Benson
- 1980 – by the punk band The Last Words
- 1980 – by the punk / gothic rock band The Damned
- 1985 – by the punk band The Zarkons (Formerly known as The Alley Cats)
- 1987 – by the heavy metal band Sanctuary
- 1987 – by the heavy metal band Lizzy Borden
- 1987 – by the synthpop band Act
- 1987 – by the Avant–garde jazz classical band Durutti Column
- 1989 – by the hardcore punk band Slapshot
- 1989 – by the comedy rock band The Frogs
- 1995 – by The Murmurs (MCA Records)
- 1995 – by Mephisto Walz
- 1996 – by the Icelandic singer-songwriter Emilíana Torrini, later used in the soundtrack for 2011 film Sucker Punch
- 1996 – by the Norwegian heavy metal band In the Woods... for their White Rabbit EP and later (2000) included in their Three Times Seven on a Pilgrimage album
- 1999 – by June Tabor in the album On Air (The BBC Sessions), having sung it live with Oysterband since the early 1990s
- 2001 – by the industrial band Collide. A remix version appears in the ending credits of the 2007 film, Resident Evil: Extinction
- 2002 – by Sleater-Kinney at the Majestic Theater in Detroit, Michigan
- 2002 – by Enon for Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again VVA Benefit Compilation
- 2003 – by the performance art / experimental rock group Blue Man Group with vocals by Esthero
- 2003 – by June Tabor and the Oysterband
- 2004 – by My Morning Jacket
- 2005 – by Shakespears Sister for The Best of Shakespears Sister, and later Songs from the Red Room
- 2005 – by the Austin Lounge Lizards
- 2006 – remixed by the psychedelic trance act Fuzzion as Little Girl on the album Black Magic.
- 2006 – by the Brechtian punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls at the Bonnaroo Music Festival
- 2006 – by The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps in their show Volume 2: Through the Looking Glass
- 2006 – by Lana Lane for Gemini album.
- 2007 – by Patti Smith on her cover album Twelve.
- 2007 – by The Vincent Black Shadow at the Warped Tour, later recorded in the studio for the 2008 EP "Head In A Box"
- 2007 – by Trinidad & Tobago rock band, Rango Tango.
- 2007 – by The Crüxshadows on their Birthday EP.
- 2008 – by The Spectacles at the Bowery Ballroom
- 2008 – by Alternative band The Smashing Pumpkins as a tease in Heavy Metal Machine.
- 2009 – by Russian rock-musician Nike Borzov in the soundtrack for his audio-book "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (Russian translation of Hunter S. Thompson's novel) as "Black Rabbit" and "Funky Rabbit".
- 2010 – by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals on the Alice in Wonderland soundtrack "Almost Alice".
- 2010—by The Indecent on their debut album Her Screwed Up Head.
- 2011 – by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, performing live on the NPR show "Fresh Air"
- 2011 – by Emilíana Torrini on the soundtrack Sucker Punch
- 2012 – by Ladyhawke for Triple J's Like a Version segment. Later included on the compilation album.
- 2013 – by British alternative band The Danse Society for their "Scarey Tales" album
- 2013 – by Mayssa Karaa, in Arabic. Recorded for the soundtrack of American Hustle
- 2015 – by German electronic music producer Paul Kalkbrenner
"White Rabbit" has been used in numerous films and television shows.
- In the "A Head in the Polls" episode of the television show Futurama, the character of Richard Nixon's head, while announcing his campaign to become president of Earth and in an attempt to broaden his political appeal, sings, "Remember what the dormouse said: feed your head." Then adds, "I'm meeting you halfway, you stupid hippies."
- 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.
- What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry, by John Markoff, is a book about the development of the personal computer in the context of the collaboration-driven, World War II-era defense research community and the cooperatives and psychedelics of the American counterculture of the 1960s. "What the Dormouse Said" is a reference to a line at the end of the song, "Remember what the dormouse said: feed your head."
- A version, sung in Arabic by Mayssa Karaa, is heard in the 2013 movie American Hustle.
- The song is played in The Simpsons season 10 episode 6, D'oh-in' in the Wind.
- "Top 100 Music Hits, Top 100 Music Charts, Top 100 Songs & The Hot 100". Billboard.com. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". December 9, 2004. Archived from the original on June 26, 2008. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
- "Top Singles of All-time". Rate Your Music. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
- "Darby Slick Puts Original Lyrics Up For Sale". jambands.com.
- "Billboard - Jefferson Airplane". billboard.com.
- 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.
- "Biography - Grace Slick". jeffersonairplane.con.
- "White Rabbit Lyrics". metrolyrics.com.
- 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 
- 1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
- Hoffmann, Frank (1983). The Cash Box Singles Charts, 1950-1981. Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 303.
- Collide - Chasing The Ghost
- Blue Man Group - The Complex
- Fuzzion - Black Magic
- Lana Lane - Gemini
- Naik Borzov - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas soundtrack
- GP&N at the Burlington Waterfront Show, 2009
- Welch, Gillian. "The Fresh Air Interview: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings". NPR. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
- "Filmography by year for Jefferson Airplane". IMDB.com. Retrieved June 14, 2011.
- Lanier, Jaron (July 2010). "Early Computing's Long, Strange Trip. What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry. John Markoff" (Book review). American Scientist (Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society) 93 (4). Scientists' Nightstand > Bookshelf Detail. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
John Markoff's What the Dormouse Said (the title is taken from the lyrics of the Jefferson Airplane song "White Rabbit") tells the story of the important period when the personal computer and the Internet as we know them came into being. He also describes how a new culture of drugs, sex and rock and roll was created at the same time as the computers, sometimes in the same rooms, by some of the same people.
- Song Review: White Rabbit, Allmusic.
- IMDB Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Reference
- Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics