Today’s Song Of The Day takes us back to 1967 when counterculture and the Vietnam War were defining the lives of the youth generation. With the mystery and negativity surrounding the politics of the war, along with the intrigue and increased use of drugs, it was inevitable that a song like Jefferson Airplane‘s “White Rabbit” would become a defining track for the late 60’s. The song, inspired by the story Alice In Wonderland, takes us on a psychedelic trip that creeps us out and at the same time gives us some musical satisfaction that is hard to achieve in acid rock.
With soldier-esque drumming, possibly a reference to The Vietnam War, “White Rabbit” begins with a spooky bass line that sets the listener up for what is sure to be a trippy aural experience. Lead singer Grace Slick‘s (who wrote Jefferson Airplane’s biggest hit “Somebody To Love”) vocals sneak into the instrumental with some equally haunting lyrics:
One pill makes you larger, and one makes you small. / And the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all. / Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall.
Seemingly not too dangerous of lyrics and seemingly just a play off the children’s story, Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” was one of the earliest examples of mainstream music sneaking in drug references onto radio. While no explicit drug references are made, possibly to make sure the song could be played on radio, the constant references to pills, hookah smoking caterpillars, and possibly the most obvious line “and you’ve just had some kind of mushroom,” all give indication of what the band was truly making references toward. Perhaps the Alice reference was the fallback for the drug references?
Regardless the song was allowed to make an impact, despite its clear psychedelic suggestions, and remains an anthem of the late 60’s as well as an excellent piece of music showing the power of a haunting, powerful female vocalist that has only been mastered by few artists throughout the decades.
The (hilariously) titled greatest hits collection of Jefferson Airplane’s first six albums The Worst of Jefferson Airplane featuring “White Rabbit” is available now (iTunes)
What do you think of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit?” Do you have any other favorite songs from the 1960’s? Tell me in the comments, I always respond.
EXTRA: “White Rabbit” Live from the iconic concert festival Woodstock, enjoy!