Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

When the Airplane Landed

Oct 31, 2022

 I braved the monsoon rains last week to attend the regular meeting of the Vancouver Historical Society where Gregory Betts was speaking about the Grateful Dead and their visits to the city back in the 1960s and '70s. You can watch the lecture yourself here on YouTube.

What I remember about the music of those years was not the Dead -- I was out of town for their concerts -- but the Jefferson Airplane. For me, the Airplane's unheralded appearance at UBC in early 1966 was the beginning of the Age of Aquarius.

They say that if you can remember the Sixties you weren't there. But I'm pretty sure I remember arriving on campus the morning of January 14 to find people distributing small buttons, "The Airplane has landed". Nobody I knew had any idea what this meant but we were told to show up at Brock Hall to find out. When we arrived, there was the Airplane on stage. When they began to play it was music like we'd never heard before. Yes, it blew my mind.

At this point the band had not released a record, had not performed north of the border before, had not even added Grace Slick yet. (Signe Anderson was the lead singer.) All of this was about to change, but we saw them first.

Sic transit gloria. Many years later, sometime in the early '90s, I was back in Brock Hall registering for my UBC alumni card so that I could get borrowing privileges at the library. While the young woman filled out the paperwork I told her that I had once seen the Jefferson Airplane right where we were conducting our business. She looked at me with a blank expression and I realized that she had no idea what I was talking about. I left before I could embarrass myself further.