Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"White Rabbit" (1967)

80. Jefferson Airplane, "White Rabbit" (July 1, 1967, #8)

"One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small, and the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all." Well—I think we all know what this song is about, now don't we? And I don't want to hear a word about Lewis Carroll, even if the whimsical mathematician did supply most of the familiar nouns, proper and otherwise. Context, certainly in this case, is everything. Just like the '70s, as previously discussed, provided a hospitable setting for the ludicrous sexcapades of Roxy Music and Lou Reed, so the '60s made the bed for hallucinogenic, mind-expanding drugs and various psychic explorations, and in such straightforward fashion that a song like this could actually find itself all over the radio. It's a bit mind-boggling all in its own right. The strength of this song, aside from its startling subject matter, is the bold way it rips a page out of Ravel's Bolero playbook, putting together a quietly throbbing bass, gentle warping guitar tones, and a somber, almost military tattoo on the snare drum, pa rum pum pum pum, until the thing blows open across the last minute. Over and out. Done. There's really not many pop songs like it. Grace Slick, who wrote it, has her giant voice under virtually perfect control, as big as an arena when she needs to make it so, warbling the garbled tale as she rides the wave of the slow crescendo, which builds and continues building for the entire two and a half minutes that the song lasts. The basic idea is summarized at the end: "Feed your head. Feed your head. Feed your head." Is it really so much to ask anyone to get behind?


  1. It's Keep your head, not feed your head

  2. Actually while it is keep your head in the book, in the song it is indeed feed your head. If you listen to some of the live stuff the song is slowed down a bit and she clearly says feed your head.