When I saw Jefferson Starship perform at Oreana Winery back in 2010, I was pleasantly surprised that in addition to some choice Jefferson Starship songs like “Count On Me” and “Jane,” the band revisited the Sixties with a wealth of Jefferson Airplane material. Of course, they played the hits “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit,” but also gems like “Crown of Creation,” “Lather,” “Wooden Ships,” Let’s Get Together” and “Volunteers.”
Jefferson Starship will land at the Chumash Casino Resort on Thursday night, and we can look forward to a similar collection of songs from the
Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship years. But you won’t hear pop-oriented and oft-maligned Starship songs like “We Built This City” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” — the current incarnation of the band is based around longtime members Paul Kantner and David Freiberg, who both bailed out before that phase of the journey.
Freiberg, who was a co-founder of the psychedelic band Quicksilver Messenger Service before touring with Jefferson Airplane toward the end of that band’s existence, and who then stayed on when it evolved into Jefferson Starship and is now back with the band, talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming show.
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Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming show?
David Freiberg: Oh, pretty much anything, I guess. If people are expecting to hear specific songs, they’ll probably hear most of them. If they come to hear that song that’s by a band that has Starship in the name without the Jefferson, that won’t happen (laughs). We play pretty much anything. So anything could happen. I never know what the set’s going to be, because Paul (Kantner) will usually make up the setlist. There’s hundreds of songs to choose from (laughs).
JM: If you don’t mind going way back in time …
DF: Well, if my memory’s still there (laughs).
JM: How did you meet Paul Kantner?
DF: I met Paul Kantner at a folk club in San Jose when I was playing there with my partner. I was a folk singer and had a partner named Michaela. We were David & Michaela.
I met him there, and I think she met her husband there actually, also. We just started hanging out then. You know, I’ve realized that this year marks the 50th year — that was 1963, to my best recollection. So this the 50th year I’ve known Paul Kantner, and that’s a pretty long time (laughs).
JM: Before you joined up with Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, you were in Quicksilver Messenger Service. Was there competition, friendly or otherwise, before Quicksilver Messenger Service and the other bands like Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, etc?
DF: I never felt like we were really competing. I mean, I enjoyed going to hear all of the bands play. I was kind of a fan of all the bands, myself. So I don’t think so.
But I guess it was kind of a friendly competition. We had little games we played on each other. I mean, The Grateful Dead raided our house in Indian costumes once, when we were living way out in Point Reyes. So we played to retaliate being cowboys and attack them on the stage at the Fillmore, but somehow it got mishandled. It’s a long
story, but you don’t want to get it here. Pretty funny, though.
JM: Fastforwarding a little bit, you were one of the songwriters for the hit “Jane.” How did that song come together?
DF: The song was written by me and Jim McPherson. I had the changes and the melody, and Jim helped me with the words. So we split that. Then Craig (Chaquico) had such a cool arrangement of it. I mean, he’s responsible for the arrangement of it. And that’s Paul’s little intro lick, that “De-de-de-de de-de-de de-de-de de-de”. So we gave them credit on that. But it’s basically Jim McPherson’s and my song.
It was about a friend of mine, whose name was Jane. Jane Doe to protect the innocent, or guilty, depending on how you want to look at it (laughs).
JM: Do you want the set the record straight on anything? You’ve been doing this a while — are there any stories that you’re just like, “No, that’s not how it happened”?
DF: Oh, that’s hard to say. Memory is very personal (laughs), and some people will remember some things one way and some the other way. And I assume that real truth lies in all of it, probably. But it’s hard to tell.
There were lots of tumultuous times here, with people in and out of the band and everything. Dropping the “Jefferson,” you know? That’s when I left. I mean, that was a mutual decision. It was like (why I quit) Quicksilver. I was kind of useless. I wasn’t doing that kind of thing. If you look at the records, I think you’ll find that the band didn’t write any of the material. It was all outside writers. They were just out shopping for hits. That wasn’t what I grew up doing.
And I’ll tell you, just for the record, I’m having more fun playing with this band than I think I’ve ever had. I mean, I really enjoy everybody in the band. Cathy Richardson is just such a fantastic entertainer and singer. She’s so much fun to be with onstage. And the guy that’s taking Slick (Aguilar)‘s place is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and also one of the best guitar players I’ve ever seen. Jude Gold is just insanely good. You’ll see. Please come to the gig and you’ll see.
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.