I just found out today that Marty Balin from the Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship will be playing at the Fairfield Arts Center next Saturday, March 2, at 8 pm. The Center is located at 411 Wessel Drive; tickets are $40 orchestra/$35 stadium; you can buy them by phone (513.867.5348), in person at the center, or online at this link. The show is a fundrasiser for Sojourner Recovery Services, an organization that provides substance abuse treatment .
Like I said, that’s the first I heard of this show, so I figure that this is new news for other people as well. Balin was, to the extent that they ever had one, the leader of the Jefferson Airplane early on; definitely he played a central role in forming the band. When I first started buying Airplane albums, they had already morphed into the Starship. I listened to everything from Takes Off (their 1966 debut) to Thirty Seconds Over Winterland (a 1973 live set). Like the Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac, the Airplane was one of those bands where different artists grabbed the spotlight at different times. Sometimes that was due to shifting personnel, but that also occurred when the lineup stayed consistent.
Balin was with the Airplane from the beginning through Volunteers (1969), when, for his fellow band members, music seemed to take a back seat to drugs. I was just getting my groove on with early Airplane when I read an article that the lyricist for the Grateful Dead, Robert Hunter, published in Crawdaddy in 1975. It’s a great piece of writing (to read it all you have to do is google Robert Hunter + crawdaddy). As you might guess, Hunter came across as literate, well-read, sophisticated, and a pretty down to earth guy who was surrounded by the madness that surrounded the Dead…a man of letters typing lyrics from the eye of hurricane. Although we tend to underestimate Hunter’s role in the Dead, it’s obvious from this article that he was an essential member of the group. When asked who he liked as a songwriter, Hunter only mentioned one, saying this: “Some of Marty Balin’s stuff around the Surrealistic Pillow days contains some of the sweetest and most potent statements in the idiom. ‘I’m so full of love I could burst apart and start to cry.’ I mean, what do you want from a man in the way of laying it right up on the table, vulnerable and undressed? Yeah, I guess that’s how I judge a good lyric: vulnerable, unique, universal, graceful and craftsmanly.”
Although I already liked Marty Balin, those words deepened my appreciation. I mean, talk about a ringing endorsement. What a great way to put it: “laying it right up on the table, vulnerable and undressed.” And isn’t he right? I mean, if someone gets behind the mic who wears his heart on his sleeve—and I mean really wearing his heart on his sleeve as opposed to faking it (in other words, the norm)—right away I think that artists deserves some credit.
This blog entry has already run long, but I have more to say about Marty Balin. There are a couple songs I want to highlight, plus I want to talk about a concert he played where the Hells Angels made their presence felt. The Stones were headliners that day. Subscribe to my blog and you’ll get an email with Part 2 of Marty Balin.