The fourth instalment in our Classic Covers* series is such a classic, indeed, that it feels futile even to begin to explain the song's significance. But we'll give it try, for our younger viewers.
Kyle Baron, the fan who requested this track, knows our taste in music because he's seen us perform live in Toronto several times. In fact, he's been one of the few hardcore fans who's made the trek out to see us play dive bars and not-too-shabby venues. He gave us a few options - all of which suited Jack E's singing voice perfectly - but this one was the most challenging.
White Rabbit was written by Grace Slick when she was still in The Great Society, somewhere between 1965-1966. She brought it, along with the beloved "Somebody To Love" with her when she joined Jefferson Airplane. The band recorded the two Slick-penned tracks in 1966 and they appeared on the album Surrealistic Pillow the following year. It became a top-ten hit in America, following Somebody To Love on the Billboard charts.
More importantly, the song is widely regarded as a masterpiece, a sonic collusion between folk balladry and psychedelia. The Alice In Wonderland imagery lends a dreamy literary quality, and the bolero-inspired crescendo was at the time unprecedented in rock and roll. The song is often associated with hallucinogenic visionary experiences, and pop culture has had no qualms about depicting it this way (see the bathtub scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). Slick herself, however, has characterized it equally as a call to literary arms. White Rabbit, which took "about an hour" to write, is about "following your curiosity." The White Rabbit, a symbol of childhood curiosity, leads Alice to drugs, which Slick says was "why the song was written. "All major children's books do this. In "Peter Pan," sparkle dust lets you fly. In the "Wizard of Oz," they awaken in a poppy field to see the beautiful Emerald City. Our parents read us stories about chemicals that make it possible to have a good time." Explains that line "The ones that your mother gives you/Don't do anything at all," doesn't it?
White Rabbit has been a part of our repertoire in live performances for years now. It goes without saying that this is a very difficult song to perform and do justice, particularly as a duo with a drumming lead singer. Grace's voice is unparalleled, but Jack E does her best to capture - if not the grace of the original - the feeling in your gut as you listen to it for the first time, and let it carry you away. We didn't polish it up; just recorded a solid take and shot some video of ourselves recording and figured we'd let this one stay as genuine and spontaneous as possible. Just like our live sets. The painting depicted at the end of the video was done by Mr. Ryan Stanley as part of his recent series of fan-commissioned works. Grace Slick is herself, a highly accomplished visual artist and we urge you to visit her art if you haven't already had the pleasure.
Sincere thanks to Kyle Baron, not just for requesting such a powerful, influential, unique, beautiful and appropriate song for us to record, but for being a true fan. Kyle could never have known that Jefferson Airplane's Volunteers was one of Jack E's favourite songs as a child. It is always a pleasure to revisit this music. We hope you enjoy and feel the emotion behind the recorded version of this track, dedicated to you.
Thank you Grace Slick, for teaching Jack E how to sing as a little girl, with lilting beauty, or icy venom and rage whenever required. As adults, we can appreciate now that you were "'singing with the force and anger that women were afraid to express at the time." Thanks Jefferson Airplane for being one of our favourite bands of all time.
*Cursed Arrows are a post-proto-punk duo from Canada. Our Classic Covers Project was initiated during the making of our 2013 full-length original album, SONIC UNION. All songs were performed and recorded by us, specifically by fan request, and remain unreleased outside of Youtube. All videos were shot and edited by Cursed Arrows.
© 2013 Aluminum Monster Productions