Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Feed Your Head

Feb 2, 2016

By a strange coincidence, two members of the acid rock band Jefferson Airplane died on the same day last week. Signe Toly Anderson was the group's co-lead singer for a brief period before being replaced by the more notorious Gracie Slick. And Paul Kantner was one of its founders.

To me it has always seemed that the Sixties came to Vancouver on the wings of the Airplane. In January 1966 I was attending my first year at UBC, innocent of LSD, bell bottoms or even the meaning of the word psychedelic. I arrived on campus one Friday morning to discover all sorts of people wearing a lapel button that read "The Airplane Has Landed." None of my friends had the faintest idea what it meant but word spread that we should show up at Brock Hall, then the student building, at noon if we wanted to find out.

It turned out to be Jefferson Airplane's first performance north of the border. The band had only formed in San Francisco a few months earlier and had not even released their first album yet. I'd never heard of them. But the sound was, in the vernacular of the day, mind blowing and in that hour the counter culture swept into Vancouver. More than the Airplane had landed.

Several decades later I was back at UBC applying for an alumni library card. The office of the alumni association was in Brock Hall, still standing after all the years, and as I waited for the paper work to be done I mentioned to the young woman that I'd once attended a show by the Jefferson Airplane right where we were conducting our business.

I should have known better.

"Oh," she said, no idea what I was talking about, looking at me as if I'd just confided that Glen Miller was a personal friend.

Sic transit...