“One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small…”
Sometime in the summer of 2016, this isolated track of Grace Slick’s vocals for “White Rabbit”–probably the most famous Jefferson Airplane song and definitely one of the top ten psychedelic songs of the late ‘60s–popped up YouTube. As these things go, nobody took credit, but everybody on the Internet was thankful.
Drenched in echo, Slick sings with martial precision, completely in command of her vibrato and dipping and rising all through the Phrygian scale (also known as the Spanish or Gypsy scale.) And no wonder, the song was written in 1965 after an LSD trip at her Marin county home where Slick had listened to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain over and over again for 24 hours. Compare the original version to Davis’ track “Solea” to hear what I mean.
Bob Irwin, who was in charge of remastering Jefferson Airplane’s catalog in 2003, was the first to hear Slick’s isolated vocals after many, many years:
When you put up the multi- tracks of the performances to something like “White Rabbit” and isolate Grace’s vocal…you can’t believe the intensity in that vocal. It’s hair-raising, and absolutely unbelievable. I was telling Bill Thompson about that. It’s not that I’m so well-seasoned that nothing surprises me, but boy oh boy, when I put that multi up and I heard Grace’s vocal solo-ed—and it’s absolutely whisper-quiet, there’s not an ounce of leakage in there at all—-you can hear every breath drawn and the intensity and the concentration…
Interestingly, when Slick wrote the song, Airplane hadn’t started. Instead she was in a band called The Great Society, and the original jam version doesn’t do justice to the composition.
Rhythm guitarist David Minor recalled that the song came out of a songwriting request to the other members of the band.
“When we started working, nobody had anything because I couldn’t write any more,” he recalls. “I was too busy keeping up with my various jobs. So Grace’s husband Jerry challenged them: ‘What are you gonna do? Let David write all the songs?’ Y’know, ‘Do something!’. So Darby came back with a couple of songs and Grace came back with White Rabbit.”
When the Great Society fell apart, Jefferson Airplane chose Slick as their singer in 1966 and she brought with her “White Rabbit.” The rest is rock history, and a large part of the now-retired Slick’s income.
via Dangerous Minds
Watch Jazzy Spies: 1969 Psychedelic Sesame Street Animation, Featuring Grace Slick, Teaches Kids to Count
Dick Clark Introduces Jefferson Airplane & the Sounds of Psychedelic San Francisco to America: Yes Parents, You Should Be Afraid (1967)
Jefferson Airplane Plays on a New York Rooftop; Jean-Luc Godard Captures It (1968)
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.
Simply brilliant. Grace is a beautiful talented and under appreciated lady. One of my true musical heroes of the 60s. I must admit to a slight crush on both her and Linda Laflamme at that point in time. Those were the days my friend.
Usually a cliche: hair-raising.
Not this time.
Haunting perfection “amazing Gracie”
WOW! That was one of the most powerful vocal performances I have ever heard. She had herself a hell of a set of pipes.
I liked it.Usually, I don’t like my music messed with.Whether it’s other artists or rehashing.But this was really good and I’m glad I stopped by. Gracie is one iconic legend.Good stuff !!!
I love Grace Slick!
I would put that against any opera singer any day. Great art doesn’t only come from the “classical”.
“With the isolated track out there in the Internet wilderness it wasn’t too long until the remixers came to give it a new home. Here’s one of my favorites:”
So this is why my inbox has exploded the last days.. ;)
Just a little correction I did this remix roughly 17 years ago using the full mix, which is why you can hear bass&drums as well.
PROOF that miss slick had/was/IS the greatest voice in the history of rock!! no one else comes close- pitch-phrasing-delivery- SHE HAS IT ALL
YES YES YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Will have this remix played at my funeral. Gracie the best
I thought Paul Kantner said life was ‘almost perfect’ for two weeks in 1967, not 25 minutes.
But maybe that was Jerry Garcia… (“Then the door shut. BANG!!”)
Grace’s voice was beautiful and unique, and with a good range. Loved her then. Love her now.
From the 1st time i heard this song in NYC 1966 to this very day..Still floored by the power, phrasing, emotion and lyrics of a brilliant artist who leaves nothing on the table..Full out..15….of 10. Tears and years…Thanks lady..
Shocking then and just as shocking now!
Good work Ms Slick thank you.
Wow! Thanks for sharing the iso. ……. Always enjoyed the full version. Amazing Grace!
Grace came to KJR Seattle to promote “miracles” by the Starship in 1976. Couldn’t have been nicer. So gracious and had a new Instamatic camera. She took pictures of the staff and handed each person an instant picture of themselves. Oh yeq, she had one blue contact lens with a dark star in it! One hell of a singer. I WAS just listening to “Triad” by the Airplane and the Byrds version of the song. She just KILLED it. Love her!!!
The range in Grace Slicks voice was unique and beautiful, just can’t be beat.
My all time favorite song by my all time favorite singer.
It still blows me away every time I hear, 53 years later!!!
I wonder how Grace would have sounded backed by big brother and holding company
They mastered the art of backing..not drowning out
Her voice is being run through a echo chamber
Scarcely hair-raising. Just isolated from the recorded song. Yawn.
MountainKeep304. … Oh, wow, man… you are like such a buzzkill, dude.
Perfect control. She has “Intelligent eyes”.
One of the 3 greatest voices in rock along with Linda Ronstadt and Anne Anne Wilson
A couple of yeas ago Iwas listening to early Airplane. It was lots better than I remembered, esp Wooden Ships.
I was often told I resembled
Those are 3 greats, no doubt. How about Cass Elliot?
she was sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much better than Joplin now, I would have loved to hear her duet with jim morrison the two best 60s voices
Yes I would have loved hearing her with
Jimmy Morrison.Now that would have been a duet.Two poets with beautiful tortured
souls.No one today can come even close
I forgot how truly awesome and perfect
pitched her voice is.
Besides her great voice, I LOVE the image of Grace & Janis together! I’d pay to have that one for my wall!
I agree that the Airplane’s version of “White Rabbit” is superior to the Great Society’s version. However, I would argue that the Society’s version of “Somebody to Love” is superior to the Airplane’s. The proof is in the pudding, which is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsS9NJ36tnQ
The greatest ladiy hit Grace and Janis
The greatest ladiy hit Grace and Janis I agree
I played drums in The Flowers of Evil, one of the opening bands for the concert that night at the Coconut Grove in Santa Cruz, Grace’s first gig with the Airplane. We had no idea that she would go on to become one of the great musical icons of all time.
Whooooah? Way too much echo. A great singer, with a great song doesn’t need her voice radically altered by some stoned techie on the soundboard. This only distorts and undermines her amazing natural unaltered pipes. Gracie was co-opted in the studio. JMO
Always interesting and cool to hear and learn of classic and iconic music clips and information. Years later, Grace Slick was interviewed on KISW radio, Seattle, circa 2005ish? I was “lucky” enough to get through on the radio to ask her a question. I asked her if, during her career, there was one particular Musician, musical artist or otherwise notable/famous person she’d always wanted to meet but never got the chance. Disappointingly, she said that she wasn’t interested in discussing her music or performing years, she was there to discuss her painting(s). I was sorely disappointed. Look up her paintings/art now and it seems to mostly center around those very years.
Can anyone tell me. Where can I purchase the chillheimer remix of white rabbit?
Quote – “completely in command of her vibrato” – but it is a glotus vibrato…. either it is on or off, same speed always. A lack of standard vibrato?
Yo this guy s f’d fr.
Yeah but We Built This City On Rock And Roll
I WAS a “hippie” back in those days….White Rabbit was my anthem…The entire album: Surrealistic Pillow spoke volumes…..BUT !! It was, and always will be Graces’s incredible voice in Rabbit !!!
Awesome stuff! How does this old hippie subscribe and share?
thank you for taking the time to both share these (especially the isolated voice which must of us have never heard) as well as telling well, the back story very well and solid!
I would add Sandy Denny, Tina Turner, and Joni Mitchell to your list of the greatest vocalists.
What is the effect on her voice – EMT Plate reverb?. Seems too clean for 1960’s primitive digital technology.
Most amazingly talented singer of all time. Gracie is right up there with janis and the rest of the female vocalist of the 60’s actually #1 in my book
Thanks for sharing, its amazing.
I read your post . Amazing articl.
And you wonder where the opera singers were during the 1960s.