Thursday, December 6, 2012

146. Surrealistic Pillow. Spiritually Guided

Album: Surrealistic Pillow
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Genre: Rock
Year: 1967


  1. She Has Funny Cars
  2. Somebody to Love
  3. My Best Friend
  4. Today
  5. Comin' Back to Me
  6. 3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds
  7. D.C.B.A.–25
  8. How Do You Feel
  9. Embryonic Journey
  10. White Rabbit
  11. Plastic Fantastic Lover

Surrealistic Pillow is the second album by Jefferson Airplane and the first to feature the classic line up with Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden which means it features one of rock's great bassists (Jack Cassady), one of its great guitarists (Jorma Kaukonen) and on of rock's great female vocalists (Grace Slick). As if that wasn't enough this album also benefits from the presence of Jerry Garcia who is credited with occasional guitar work and as Spiritual Advisor. Every recording session ever could benefit from having Garcia present. Hell I'd go so far as to say pretty much every event in human history could have benefited from some more Jerry. In fact I'm sure there would have been less war in our history if Garcia had been allowed to show up to peace talks.

I could go on about Jerry Garcia but I should probably talk more about Grace Slick because she's awesome. Slick has a fantastic voice and is one of the greatest females to ever front a band but she's also an underrated songwriter. The two giant songs here are Somebody to Love and White Rabbit which are both brilliant pieces of writing and wonderfully trippy. White Rabbit is unlike anything else going and creates such an atmosphere it's immediately used as instant aural drug shorthand in movies and TV shows.

The other true great in Jefferson Airplane is Jorma Kaukonen who is one of the most under rated rock guitarists. He can play beautiful acoustic music but is also a great electric blues player, a talent for which he deserves more credit. While Surrealistic Pillow showcases Jorma's outstanding acoustic talent on Embryonic Journey it lacks any opportunities for him to really shine on electric. For a recording session with two great guitar players in attendance it's not a very guitary album.

Unlike Volunteers, their later album which occurs much lower on the countdown, there's not a huge amount of great song-writing on Surrealistic Pillow. If you take out Somebody to Love and Rabbit there isn't a huge amount to write home about. There's some fine playing and nice vocals but nothing especially memorable. It's one of those releases which exists here because of the hits, not the consistency of song-writing. If it was all as good as those two songs it would be in the top twenty, if they weren't included it wouldn't be here at all.

Surrealistic Pillow is a great listen and has two brilliant songs but is less than the sum of its parts even without the addition of the great man with the beard.

Highlight: Somebody to Love and White Rabbit
Lowlight: How do you Feel

Influenced by: Jerry Garcia
Influenced: Acid rock

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "There's been some controversy regarding Jerry Garcia's role in the making of the album. Garcia is credited on the album sleeve as "Musical and Spiritual Advisor", and Kantner, Balin, Slick, Kaukonen, Jack Casady, and Spencer Dryden all confirm that Garcia was prominently involved in the recording sessions. However, producer Rick Jarrard, along with longtime Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship associate Pat "Maurice" Ieraci, agree that Garcia played no guitar on the album and that he wasn't present at any of the album's recording sessions."

-I have to say that as someone who has heard hours and hours of Jerry Garcia I didn't recognise his music on the album anywhere.

So would this pillow help you rest easy or keep you up nights? Let me know below.


  1. Aside from the two hits, it's a good album - not great - but a good solid album. Of those tracks, I like D.C.B.A.-25 as it sounds very stylistically similar to The Byrds.

  2. 3 cheers for Grace Slick. She is great. She was pretty old at the time too. Nearly 30 no less. Great band ,some good albums. Who needs Persian rugs to get high?