To celebrate the life of the late Marty Balin, vocalist and founding member of Jefferson Airplane, we’re sharing a classic performance of the band from 1966 in their hometown of San Francisco. Read Paste’s full obituary here.
Jefferson Airplane were one of the defining bands of the counterculture and the ‘60s. They were one of the first Southern California bands to achieve international success and to lead the charge for American psychedelic rock. In 1966, the band was touring in support of their debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, and on Oct. 2, they performed at the historic and now-defunct Fillmore West.
The show featured Balin, vocalist Signe Anderson, vocalist and guitarist Paul Kantner, guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady and drummer Spencer Dryden. A few weeks after this show, Anderson departed the band. This tour featured Jefferson Airplane opening for Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Muddy Waters.
Wolfgang’s Alan Bershaw noted the show’s memorable moments.
Following Bill Graham’s introduction, they begin in humorous form, with a brief nod to The Rolling Stones’ ”(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” before launching into an engaging improvisational jam. This jam is utterly unique and displays the band’s growing confidence and willingness to create new music on the fly. The band is certainly reaching for new territory here. They would continue to experiment by opening with improvisations relatively often in the weeks to come.
The “Tobacco Road” that follows has considerably more dynamic instrumentation than its studio counterpart, with Casady, unlike the majority of bass players, clearly becoming a major force in the groups overall sound. In addition to several other tracks from the group’s debut album, we’re also treated to an embryonic takes on Marty Balin’s “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Go to Her,” both new additions to the band’s ever-growing live repertoire.
Played for the first time two nights before, Donovan’s homage to San Francisco and Jefferson Airplane in particular, “Fat Angel” is given its second live reading. It again features Paul playing acoustic guitar and while not as spacey or evolved as this number would inevitably become, it’s a sure sign that the group’s approach is diversifying and becoming far more adventurous. After acknowledging the other bands that will be performing on the bill, they close with “High Flying Bird,” before relinquishing the stage to Muddy Waters Blues Band.
Listen to Jefferson Airplane perform in San Francisco circa 1966 below.