So why is Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?
When I was thirteen or fourteen years old – that era of life when music becomes as central and important to our lives as any other time, I think – I decided I was a “classic rock guy.”
It was the late 1980s (read = I’m old!), and it was the peak of the hair metal era, the Headbanger’s Ball on MTV era. I thought some of this stuff was okay at the time and enjoy much more of it today than I did then.
But in terms of my peers, I didn’t fit in with the hair metal crowd, nor was I really vibing with the occasional kids who were into bands like Erasure or goth-ier things like Sisters of Mercy (the latter of which are pretty great, I later came to discover).
So “classic rock” was where I landed – the music itself playing the largest role, naturally – but even there I had a relatively limited understanding of what that even meant. It’s important to understand too that in the pre-Internet era and the pre-streaming music era, music discovery was way harder than it is today.
There were some good aspects to this, one of which, I think, is that the music collections that we had back then were taking very seriously, and everything that I owned personally – on cassette tape and eventually CDs – got played a ton.
So for all of these reasons, I came to identify most closely with a tiny number of bands under the umbrella of classic rock, and they were Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and Jefferson Airplane. I had some love and appreciation for The Beatles and Bob Dylan, but those five bands were pretty locked in for me as it during high school.
And my love for Jefferson Airplane was most closely associated with Surrealistic Pillow.
When I was a teenager, “Somebody to Love” was my favorite Jefferson Airplane song, but these days it’s “White Rabbit.” It has such a striking and unusual bolero flavor, strange and alluring, with Grace Slick’s powerful and beautiful voice telling us of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’s tripped out journey, that represents some kind of psychedelic journey, some strange kind of trip – both of the body and the mind, if you can dig.
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head
Feed your head
Jefferson Airplane’s vocal harmonies are among the most exciting in rock music history. And “3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds” incorporates those vocals with a genuinely propulsive beat to make for a fantastic hippie rock track.
“Today” is gentle and delicate and wonderful.
Pop culture stuff that has something to do with Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow
This is a band where I have a lot to topics to get into.
There’s Jefferson Airplane’s association with the San Francisco scene in not only the 1960s, but 1967 and its heralded Summer of Love specifically, the peak of the hippie era – and certainly the peak of its innocent and hopefully belief in those two good old words, peace and love.
There’s the band’s connection to the Los Angeles-based Doors, and how it fascinates me how these two very different bands would hang out and even play shows together back in the day (can you imagine catching that kind of billing in SF or LA?).
Then there’s Jefferson Airplane’s lengthy career – as long as The Doors’ career was relatively brief – that spanned different iterations/reboots where they called Jefferson Starship, or simply Starship.
“We Built This City,” by Starship, was a hit in 1985. It’s kind of a great power pop tune, and could not sound more different versus the era of Surrealistic Pillow.
But going back to the Jefferson Airplane era, I want to point out two other incredible songs by the band. The first is “Volunteers,” an absolutely rocking hippie call to (peaceful) arms if there ever was one: got to revolution, got to revolution. Just incredible. And sidenote that the song was featured in the classic movie, Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks.
The other song is “Crown of Creation,” off the album of the same name from 1968, which is one of my favorite hippie rock songs of all time. It’s got a fantastic pulsing beat and slightly unsettling yet gorgeous harmonies from the band.
Jefferson Airplane might have been about peace and love, but they could absolutely (classic) rock.
Some stats & info about Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, SF Bay Area Bands, Folk Rock, Psychedelic Rock
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #471
- All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
- When was Surrealistic Pillow released? 1967
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #403 out of 1,000
Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow on Spotify
A lyrical snippet from Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe
Don’t you want somebody to love? Don’t you need somebody to love?
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.