Sandy's Reviews > Got a Revolution!: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane

Got a Revolution! by Jeff Tamarkin
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Aug 18, 11

Read in September, 2005

I had waited impatiently for many years for someone to tackle a complete history of one of my favorite bands, Jefferson Airplane, and when I finally saw the book in my local store, and then the author's name on the book itself, I knew right away that all would be well. I had enjoyed Jeff Tamarkin's wonderfully well-written, impeccably researched, enthusiastic and informative liner notes for various Airplane and Hot Tuna CDs for quite a while, and sensed that he was the perfect man to handle this job. Happily, that indeed turns out to be the case, and his Airplane history, "Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane," featuring all those qualities that made his liner notes such a joy, is the volume that I and many others had been waiting for.

Tamarkin not only gives us a thorough history of this seminal San Francisco group--starting in 1965, when Marty Balin (nee Martyn Buchwald) decided to put a new kind of band together--but also follows it through its dissolution in 1972 and on to its various offshoots (Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna, KBC Band, etc.). Covering the pre-hippy days of the mid-'60s, through the Nixonian years and right on to J.A.'s reunion in 1989, Tamarkin also gives us a concise primer of a fascinating period of recent history. The book is replete with details of the band's principals but not exhaustingly so; that is, it never gets bogged down with excess back story, but rather gives us all the info we need to understand all the band members as fully fleshed-out people, limiting their back biographies to quick 10-page chapters. I have been a fan of Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Spencer Dryden and especially Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady for almost 40 years now, and still found an incredible amount of unknown information about them in this fast-moving history. (Spencer Dryden was Charlie Chaplin's nephew?!?! Who knew?) With chapters arranged in cliffhanger fashion, with a fascinating cast of characters and with many astounding stories, this book really does pull a reader in. And yet, Tamarkin does not yield to the temptation to sensationalize his tale. Indeed, to his credit, he admits right up front that there remain many "Airplane mysteries," and lets it go at that. Yes, there are many juicy stories (I love the one about Jack sitting in the mud puddle on DMT, and Grace's escapades in Germany...not to mention that Reality D. Blipcrotch episode!), but many readers, I suspect, will be surprised that this book remains fairly levelheaded, with a minimum of wild sex and drug anecdotes. The anecdotes ARE there, but only enough to give us a feel for the time, place and characters. (One gets the feeling that Tamarkin could regale us with even juicier tidbits over a few drinks one evening.) The author has been given access to virtually every principal character in the Jefferson Airplane story, and the hundreds of hours of insider interviews have helped make this history practically definitive.

On another note, I myself work as a copy editor and proofreader, and thus am happy to report that the book has also been put together virtually faultlessly. I only counted four typos in its entire 400+-page length, and all those were of the punctuational variety. The rare photographs on display are truly special (I just love the one of Jorma in his Cub Scout uniform!), and the book's index is perfectly composed and quite handy when keeping track of the history's large cast of characters. If there is one complaint that I would lodge--and it is a very minor one--it is that in the book's final third, more space has been given over to the exploits of Jefferson Starship than Hot Tuna. As a fan who has seen Tuna some hundred times in concert at this point, but who has never had much use for post-"Dragonfly" Starship, I would have wished for a little more parity here, but I suppose it could be argued that Starship was composed of more JA members than was Tuna, so I'm willing to let the point slide. Besides, this is a mere personal quibble. The fact remains, Jeff Tamarkin has done all fans of Jefferson Airplane a tremendous service with his wonderful book. I have read it twice already, and will surely refer to it often in the years to come. Thanks, Jeff!
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