Author Craig Fenton, the man responsible for writing Take Me to a Circus Tent, a definitive and entertaining ride about the Jefferson Airplane, has landed once again. This time he takes a trip upon Jefferson Starshipís unique music machine in his follow-up book titled Have You Seen The Stars Tonite.
Interviewer Steven Rosen: Was this an easier or harder book to write than Take Me to a Circus Tent?
Craig Fenton: There were different facets of each book that would have made the degree of difficulty equal. Take Me to a Circus Tent had 33 actual interviews, not quotes. The sheer number (maybe the most of any rock and roll book) created a myriad of hours for research and the transcriptions. Have You Seen The Stars Tonite with over 700 set lists of Jefferson Starship shows, had a plethora of time to verify the dates, musicians, and often add or correct song titles. It was and will always be an honor to have been involved with both projects.
Were you more a fan of the Jefferson Airplane period or the Jefferson Starship period?
I would use the word fanatic for both bands. For the Airplane it was through their entire career. For the Jefferson Starship it was the classic period of
'74-78 and thankfully Paul Kantnerís re-launch of the band in 1992 to the present. The Mickey Thomas period both as the Jefferson Starship and Starship must never be considered part of the legacy.
What were the best moments in Jefferson Starship history?
The first official show the band did at the Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, Illinois, on March 19, 1974. With Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Papa John Creach, David Freiberg, and John Barbata on the stage it gave immediate credibility to have five performers that played at some time with the Jefferson Airplane. Craig Chaquico and Peter Kaukonen (Jormaís brother) enhanced an already formidable rock outfit. When Pete Sears replaced Peter Kaukonen, the band didnít lose any of its edge. On November 24, 1974, at Marty Balinís favorite venue, Winterland, San Francisco, he joined the band on stage for three songs. This opened the door for his return shortly after. Having Paul, Marty, and Grace together in the studio and on the concert trial escalated an already hot commodity.
As for the Jefferson Starship The Next Generation the opening show at Konocti Harbor in Kelseyville, California, on January 24, 1992, is one of the most important dates in rock and roll history. Paul Kantner took control of the ship. This time former Jefferson Airplane bass player Jack Casady is on board as well as Papa John Creach. A relatively unknown Darby Gould blows people away with her power and passion as the female voice. June 14, 1992 at the Theatre Of The Living Arts (TLA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marty Balin became part of the Next Generation.
3) Does Jefferson Starship still mean something as artists in today's modern world of music?
Even as we approach 2009, the group continues to perform and not simply go through the motions. Paul Kantner and David Freiberg keep the Jefferson Airplane roots flying, and Marty Balin has performed with the Jefferson Starship through parts of 2008. Paul Kantnerís ability to find the perfect female vocalist has never been tarnished. It started with Signe Anderson in 1965, Grace Slick in 1966, Darby Gould in 1992, Diana Mangano in October 93, and Cathy Richardson in 2008. The band went back to the studio in 2008 and released a superlative creation, Tree Of Liberty. The entire CD is filled with brilliant interpretations of folk-rock staples.
Does the Starship still perform?
The Starship plays as Mickey Thomasís Starship, and the real band the Jefferson Starship continue to perform throughout the world. It is imperative that the Jefferson Starship never become inactive with the Starship still playing live gigs.
When was the last time you saw the Jefferson Starship or Airplane perform?
The 1989 Airplane reunion would be the last time I saw the J.A. In 2008 I was able to enjoy the Jefferson Starship.
You spoke to various members of the Airplane/Jefferson Starship for your new book? What was that like?
I am always honored that any member of the Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship would even know I exist. It is a blessing I never take for granted, being able to speak with musicians for a living. Slick Aguilar, Signe Anderson, Marty Balin, Barry Flast, David Freiberg, Darby Gould, Peter Kaukonen, and Pete Sears were some of the fantastic people who were able to provide information this time around. While the interviews were all in the first book, Take Me to a Circus Tent, no better way to check the authenticity then to go to the source. Thank you as always to musicians and the fans!
What made the music of the Jefferson Starship so important?
A band is fortunate if they can find one person skilled at the vocal helm. For the 1974-78 Jefferson Starship to boast Marty, Paul, and Grace helped carry the torch from the Airplane days, but with a different cast around them they set their own path to the top. The improvisation and chemistry will always make the Ď74-78 years shine. In 1992, long after progressive rock radio died and bands were judged by their hair and videos, Paul Kantner was a visionary in returning to the past as he launched the ship into the future.
What were some of the more intriguing facts you uncovered in researching the new book?
The number of musicians who played with the Jefferson Starship at least one song on stage over the years. It shows the respect the band earned. Some of the names that performed a song or two include Gregg Allman, Randy California, David Crosby, Peter Frampton, Robbie Krieger, David LaFlamme, Ray Manzarek, Country Joe McDonald, Todd Rundgren, Pete Seeger, and Leon Wilkeson.
Where did you begin in terms of putting together the new book?
I took the entire process in order. I researched the recorded history of many of the members of the Jefferson Starship past and present, the concerts, the songs that were played. I then compiled information such as what Jefferson Starship songs were played each tour, what were some of the cover songs played, when was the first time a tune got played, were there unique versions, and special guests. Finding at least one photo of every person who ever played in the Jefferson Starship was a project by itself. In fact, coming up with a total of 179 pictures seemed to take a few light years.
How long did it take for you to write?
Have You Seen The Stars Tonite was almost a year coming to fruition. I should point out that had I not had extensive notes prior to the birth of Take Me to a Circus Tent and Have You Seen The Stars Tonite, it could easily have been several years for both.
What would you like fans and readers to come away with after reading the book?
The Jefferson Starship are not simply a spin-off of the Jefferson Airplane. Their musical history has left a permanent mark in the rock and roll universe. Have You Seen The Stars Tonite is set up the same way as Take Me to a Circus Tent. There is something for all readers (thank you) and all level of fans..
Describe the following musicians/events/songs in 25 words each:
Grace Slick - Her vocal ability and stage presence makes her a household word throughout the globe, if only somebody could convince her rock and roll isnít about age, itís a mindset.
Paul Kantner - Misunderstood, great sense of humor, true to his passion, never forgot where he came from, wrote songs without concern for commercial potential.
Marty Balin - One of the best voices in rock history, as comfortable with a ballad as he is with an intense rocker, modest, and always looking forward.
Woodstock - Three days that will live forever, by the time we got to Woodstock we were half a million strong, and a rather decent musical assembly!
"Ride the Tiger" Ė To this day I am blown away by the energy, passion, and the ability to sound relevant in any decade. It could be summer
'75 or 2005 and still shake the stage.
"Miracles" - Marty Balin told me for Take Me to a Circus Tent that this is one of the three most important tunes he ever penned. The Jefferson Airplane actually performed this in 1989. Need I say more?
Who was the true guiding light of the Airplane? Slick? Balin? Kantner?
What made the Airplane so majestic was what each member contributed. Grace had the voice and the charisma, Marty the vocals and his vision of the songs, Paul saw things 360 degrees apart. Separate genius when combined an unstoppable force. Letís call it a tie!
Was the Jefferson Starship as good or better than Airplane?
Let the fans decide. I always looked at the two bands as, while related to a degree, each had a different flight plan and executed it perfectly.
Who will your next book be about?
This is always difficult to answer because I could write about the Beatles, Black Sabbath, Cream, Deep Purple, Doors, ELP, Gentle Giant, Hot Tuna, Nektar, Rolling Stones, Simon/Garfunkel, the Who, Yes, and Yardbirds, but there needs to be a market and a story that hasnít been told.
What is the greatest performance ever of the Jefferson Starship (according to your vast collection of Starship recordings)?
Give me a moment please to think about that. Iím back. A band with the magnitude of the J.S. would have infinite great performances, so if it is okay Iíll pick a favorite: April 5, 2003 Marin Center Exhibit, San Rafael, California - Signe Anderson and Spencer Dryden (we miss you) were on stage for a few songs.
Have You Seen The Stars Tonite
(or at least The New Jefferson Starship Book) by Craig Fenton
Author of the Jefferson Airplane book Have You Seen The Stars Tonite is back with the follow-up
New York, NY, August 09, 2008 -- Have You Seen The Stars Tonite includes 179 photos, 527 pages, over 700 set lists from the Jefferson Starship's live appearances, a list of all the documented songs performed, the first appearance, any special versions, guest appearances, the dates of services of the band members throughout the years, a look at the singles and album releases, documentation of which tunes they played year by year, the Jefferson Airplane songs they performed year by year, and a listing of a good deal of the cover songs played.
Once again, an original Jefferson Airplane member was kind enough to say something nice on the back cover
- Signe Anderson:
ďWhen it comes to the Jefferson Airplane and the Jefferson Starship, Craig Fenton is the source.Ē
As always, Mr. Fenton is available for interviews. Please put Jefferson Airplane or Jefferson Starship in the subject line and send an email to .
Craig Fenton has been archiving Jefferson Airplane music for the past 30+ years. He possesses the largest collection of Jefferson Airplane rarities with the exception of Marty Balin's dad. Craig is a former radio personality for 10 years and is an expert in 1960's and 1970's rock and roll. For a seat on the ultimate Airplane ride, visit Craig's website at www.takemetoacircustent.net.
Contributing reviewer and esteemed music journalist Steven Rosen interviewed Craig Fenton, author of Have You Seen The Stars Tonite: The Jefferson Starship Flight Manual 1974-1978 & J.S. The Next Generation 1992-2007 (see accompanying review), about
his book for curledup.com. Steven Rosen/2008.