White Rabbit (song)
|Single by Jefferson Airplane|
|from the album Surrealistic Pillow|
|B-side||"Plastic Fantastic Lover"|
|Released||June 24, 1967|
|Recorded||November 3, 1966|
|Studio||RCA, Hollywood, California, U.S.|
|Jefferson Airplane singles chronology|
"White Rabbit" is a song written by Grace Slick and recorded by the American rock band Jefferson Airplane for their 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow. It was released as a single and became the band's second top-10 success, peaking at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was ranked number 478 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, Number 116 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. Slick quit them and joined Jefferson Airplane to replace their departing 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. The Great Society's version of "White Rabbit" was much longer than the more aggressive version of Jefferson Airplane. Both songs became top-10 hits for Jefferson Airplane and have ever since been associated with that band.
Lyrics and composition
"White Rabbit" is one of Grace Slick's earliest songs, written during either late 1965 or early 1966. It uses 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 said the composition was supposed to be a slap to parents who read their children such novels and then wondered why their children later used drugs. Characters Slick referenced include Alice, the White Rabbit, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the White Knight, the Red Queen, and the Dormouse. Slick reportedly wrote the song after an acid trip. For Slick, "White Rabbit" "is about following your curiosity. The White Rabbit is your curiosity". For her and others in the 1960s, drugs were a part of mind expansion 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 Ravel's Boléro. Like Boléro, "White Rabbit" is essentially one long crescendo. 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 music video, released in 1967 and directed by horror and thriller movie director Ray Dennis Steckler, features a woman played by Carolyn Brandt, Steckler's frequent collaborator, evocatively moving around a beach, a rock, and through waves while there are other parts intercut of a caterpillar, a chess piece, and the band's album cover while the song plays.
- Grace Slick – vocals
- Jorma Kaukonen – lead guitar
- Paul Kantner – rhythm guitar
- Jack Casady – bass
- Spencer Dryden – drums
Many artists have covered the song. Among the more notable examples are:
- Guitarist George Benson's jazz version from 1971, featuring an electric piano solo by Herbie Hancock.
- A single released in 1980 by punk/gothic rock band the Damned.
- The 1985 cover by the Zarkons, a new name at the time for the Southern California punk bank The Alley Cats.
- The 1987 cover by American metal band Sanctuary on their 1987 debut album Refuge Denied.
- The 1993 cover by industrial rock group Death Method for the various artists compilation album Shut Up Kitty.
- A 1996 version by Icelandic singer-songwriter Emilíana Torrini, used in the soundtrack for the 2011 film Sucker Punch.
- The 2002 album Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again: A Compilation Benefiting American Veterans of the Vietnam War contains a cover by the band Enon.
- Blue Man Group used the song in their stage production and put it into their 2003 album, The Complex.
- Patti Smith covered the song in 2007 on her album Twelve.
- Collide contributed a DnB-remix version for the soundtrack of Resident Evil: Extinction in 2007.
- Ladyhawke performed a cover on Triple J's "Like a Version" radio show in 2012.
- Paul Kalkbrenner used the lyrics in his 2015 remix of the song named "Feed Your Head".
- Joe Hawley of the band Tally Hall covered the song for his solo album Joe Hawley Joe Hawley in 2016.
- Pop-rock singer Pink has covered the song in 2016 for the Disney movie Alice Through the Looking Glass without the version appearing on the soundtrack. Instead, her version appeared as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of her 2017 album, Beautiful Trauma.
- Haley Reinhart covered the song on her 2017 album What's That Sound?.
- Swedish artist Loreen uses to perform the song live.
- Grace Potter and the Nocturnals covered the song on the concept album Almost Alice.
"White Rabbit" has been quoted in various books and featured in numerous films and television shows.
- A line in the song, "Go Ask Alice", was used as the title of a 1971 book about drug addiction by Beatrice Sparks (who wrote the book under the pseudonym "Anonymous"). The book was adapted two years later into an ABC Movie of the Week that features the song in the soundtrack.
- What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry is a 2005 book by John Markoff about the development of the personal computer in the context of the World War II-era defense research community and the psychedelics of the American counterculture of the 1960s. The title is a reference to the ending line of the song, "Remember what the dormouse said. Feed your head."
- In "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," Hunter S. Thompson describes an episode in which Oscar Acosta demands to have a tape player thrown into the bathtub when the song peaks.
Film and Television
- The song was used in the 1986 film Platoon (1986)
- It appears in the 1997 film The Game (1997), both during the film and during the end credits.
- It is used as the final credits theme song in the 2018 indie horror movie Rabbit (2018)
- The song was used in the episode “Jezebels” (Season 1, Episode 8) of the Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
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- "Top Singles of All-time". Rate Your Music. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
- "Darby Slick Puts Original Lyrics Up For Sale". Jambands.com.
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- 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.
- Hughes, Rob (October 29, 2016). "The Story Behind The Song: White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane". TEAMROCK.COM. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
- Myers, Marc. "She Went Chasing Rabbits". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
- Robert Dimery (1 October 2015). 1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die (First ed.). Cassell. ISBN 978-1844038800.
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 1967-08-05. Retrieved 2018-01-14.
- Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
- "Cash Box Top 100 8/12/67". Tropicalglen.com. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Jefferson Airplane" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- "RPM Top 100 Singles of 1967". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
- "Top 100 Hits of 1967/Top 100 Songs of 1967". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
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- Hoffmann, Frank (1983). The Cash Box Singles Charts, 1950–1981. Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 303.
- "The Zarkons - Riders In The Long Black Parade". Discogs.com. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
- "Ladyhawke - 'White Rabbit' (Jefferson Airplane cover triple j's Like A Version)". YouTube. 2012-07-20. Retrieved 2019-03-24.
- "Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland Soundtrack Track List Released". Flavorwire. 2010-01-12. Retrieved 2019-06-15.
- "Go Ask Alice Soundtrack". IMDb.com. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
- 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.
- Thompson, Hunter S.,. Fear and loathing in Las Vegas : a savage journey to the heart of the American dream. Steadman, Ralph (Second Vintage Books ed.). New York. ISBN 0679785892. OCLC 41049769.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)