White Rabbit (song)

"White Rabbit" is a song written by Grace Slick and recorded by the American rock band Jefferson Airplane for their 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow. It was released as a single and became the band's second top-10 success, peaking at number eight[2] on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was ranked number 478 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,[3] Number 116 on Rate Your Music's Top Singles of All Time,[4] and appears on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

"White Rabbit"
White Rabbit label.jpg
Single by Jefferson Airplane
from the album Surrealistic Pillow
B-side"Plastic Fantastic Lover"
ReleasedJune 24, 1967 (1967-06-24)
RecordedNovember 3, 1966 (1966-11-03)
StudioRCA, Hollywood, California, U.S.
GenrePsychedelic rock[1]
Length2:31
LabelRCA Victor
Songwriter(s)Grace Slick
Producer(s)Rick Jarrard
Jefferson Airplane singles chronology
"Somebody to Love"
(1967)
"White Rabbit"
(1967)
"The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil"
(1967)
Audio sample
Music videos
White Rabbit on YouTube, by Jefferson Airplane with Grace Slick on vocals. RCA Records 74-160269, stereo, single (1967). (2:31 minutes, HQ)
White Rabbit on YouTube, by Jefferson Airplane with Grace Slick on vocals. From the album Surrealistic Pillow, stereo (1967). (2:32 minutes, HQ with lyrics)
White Rabbit on YouTube, by Jefferson Airplane with Grace Slick on vocals. From the album Surrealistic Pillow (1967). (2:38 minutes, 8D Audio "multidirectional", with lyrics)
White Rabbit on YouTube, by Jefferson Airplane with Grace Slick on vocals. Live from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967). (2:29 minutes)
White Rabbit on YouTube, by Jefferson Starship with Cathy Richardson on lead vocals, Paul Kantner, David Freiberg, Donny Baldwin, Slick Aguilar, Chris Smith, Marty Balin. Live from the 2012 PBS Special, My Music: 60s Pop, Rock and Soul. (2:45 minutes)

HistoryEdit

"White Rabbit" was written and performed by Grace Slick while she was still with the Great Society. Slick quit them and joined Jefferson Airplane to replace their departing female singer, Signe Toly Anderson, who left the band with the birth of her child. The first album Slick recorded with Jefferson Airplane was Surrealistic Pillow, and Slick provided two songs from her previous group: her own "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love", written by her brother-in-law Darby Slick and recorded under the title "Someone to Love" by the Great Society.[5] The Great Society's version of "White Rabbit" was much longer than the more aggressive version of Jefferson Airplane. Both songs became top-10 hits[6] for Jefferson Airplane and have ever since been associated with that band.[7]

Lyrics and compositionEdit

 
1967 trade ad for the single

"White Rabbit" is one of Grace Slick's earliest songs, written during December 1965 or January 1966.[8] It uses imagery found in the fantasy works of Lewis Carroll—1865's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel Through the Looking-Glass—such as changing size after taking pills or drinking an unknown liquid.

Slick wrote the lyrics first, then composed the music at the piano, moving between minor and major chords for the verses and chorus. She said that the music was heavily influenced by Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, particularly Davis' treatment of the Concierto de Aranjuez. She later said: "Writing weird stuff about Alice backed by a dark Spanish march was in step with what was going on in San Francisco then. We were all trying to get as far away from the expected as possible."[8]

Slick said the composition was supposed to be a slap to parents who read their children such novels and then wondered why their children later used drugs.[9] Characters Slick referenced include Alice, the White Rabbit, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the White Knight, the Red Queen, and the Dormouse.[10] Slick reportedly wrote the song after an acid trip.[11]

For Slick, "White Rabbit" "is about following your curiosity. The White Rabbit is your curiosity".[12] For her and others in the 1960s, drugs were a part of mind expansion and social experimentation. With its enigmatic lyrics, "White Rabbit" became one of the first songs to sneak drug references past censors on the radio. Even Marty Balin, Slick's eventual rival in Jefferson Airplane, regarded the song as a "masterpiece". In interviews, Slick has related that Alice in Wonderland was often read to her as a child and remained a vivid memory well into her adulthood.[3]

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Slick mentioned that, in addition to Alice in Wonderland, her other inspiration for the song was Ravel's Boléro. Like Boléro, "White Rabbit" is essentially one long crescendo. The music combined with the song's lyrics strongly suggests the sensory distortions experienced with hallucinogens, and the song was later used in pop culture to imply or accompany just such a state.[13]

The song was first played by the Great Society in a bar in San Francisco in early 1966, and later when they opened the bill for bigger bands like the Grateful Dead. They made a series of demo records for Autumn Records, where they were assisted by Sly Stone. Grace Slick said: "We were so bad that Sly eventually played all the instruments so the demo would sound OK." When Slick joined Jefferson Airplane later in 1966, she taught the song to the band, who recorded it for their album Surrealistic Pillow.[8]

Chart historyEdit

Cashbox[21] (11 weeks): 59, 45, 23, 14, 12, 11, 8, 6, 7, 22, 41

PersonnelEdit

CoversEdit

Many artists have covered the song. Among the more notable examples are:

References in pop cultureEdit

Jefferson Airplane's version of White Rabbit is used in the "Underworld" bunker smoking scene in Platoon (film), written and directed by Oliver Stone, which was released in 1986.[25]

In the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Dr. Gonzo, high on LSD, is listening to "White Rabbit" in the bathtub. He asks Raoul Duke to throw the tape player into the bathtub when the song "peaks" but Duke refuses and throws in a grapefruit instead.

In the 1999 Futurama episode "A Head in the Polls" Richard Nixon sings an alternate version of "White Rabbit". In 1969, Nixon hosted a tea party for graduates of Finch College, and Slick was invited under her former name of Grace Wing. She brought a known political protester as her guest, and planned to spike Nixon's tea with 600 micrograms of LSD. He comments that he is meeting those 'stupid hippies' halfway by singing a song about an LSD trip written by a woman who attempted to drug him with it.

Featured in a full length commercial for the Xbox 360 game Lost Odyssey.

Jefferson Airplane's version appears in a 2020 TV commercial for Celebrity Cruises and in a 2015 feature film documenting the life of American chess Grandmaster Bobby Fischer titled Pawn Sacrifice.

Appears in "American Dad" Season 5, episode 1, when Steve is on his way to rescue his father Stan in a Vietnam war reanactment.

Used in the 1997 David Fincher film The Game starring Michael Douglas during the scene where Nicholas Van Orton ( Douglas ) comes home to find his mansion vandalised by CRS and photos and police reports of his father's suicide in the clown's mouth. Jefferson Airplane's version was featured in a scene in the first episode of the Netflix show Stranger Things.

It was used in an episode of "Warehouse 13" on the SyFy network. Pete and Myka go to Las Vegas to fetch an artifact, the Jubilee Grand Casino Chip, that is helping a married couple to win at the Casinos, but the mission goes awry because the real Myka is trapped in Lewis Carroll's Looking Glass with some help from Studio 54 Disco Ball.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Myers, Marc (May 31, 2016). "How Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick Wrote 'White Rabbit'". International Times. Archived from the original on August 6, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  2. ^ "Top 100 Music Hits, Top 100 Music Charts, Top 100 Songs & The Hot 100". Billboard.com. Archived from the original on July 13, 2014. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". December 9, 2004. Archived from the original on June 22, 2008. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  4. ^ "Top Singles of All-time". Rate Your Music. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  5. ^ "Darby Slick Puts Original Lyrics Up For Sale". Jambands.com. Archived from the original on 2015-02-04. Retrieved 2015-02-03.
  6. ^ "Billboard – Jefferson Airplane". Billboard.com. Archived from the original on 2015-09-01. Retrieved 2015-01-31.
  7. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff, ed. (2003). Got a revolution!:the turublent flight of Jefferson Airplane. Atria. p. 113. ISBN 0-671-03403-0. Archived from the original on July 1, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c Myers, Marc (2016). Anatomy of a Song. Grove Press. p. 92-99. ISBN 978-1-61185-525-8.
  9. ^ "Biography – Grace Slick". Jeffersonairplane.com. Archived from the original on 2017-05-07. Retrieved 2015-01-31.
  10. ^ "White Rabbit Lyrics". Metrolyrics.com. Archived from the original on 2015-02-16. Retrieved 2015-01-31.
  11. ^ Hughes, Rob (October 29, 2016). "The Story Behind The Song: White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane". TEAMROCK.COM. Archived from the original on August 2, 2017. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
  12. ^ Myers, Marc. "She Went Chasing Rabbits". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on January 8, 2015. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  13. ^ Robert Dimery (1 October 2015). 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die (First ed.). Cassell. ISBN 978-1844038800.
  14. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 1967-08-05. Archived from the original on 2018-01-14. Retrieved 2018-01-14.
  15. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  16. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 8/12/67". Tropicalglen.com. Archived from the original on 28 November 2018. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  17. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Jefferson Airplane" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  18. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles of 1967". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 12 August 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  19. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1967/Top 100 Songs of 1967". Musicoutfitters.com. Archived from the original on 23 March 2019. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  20. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1967". Tropicalglen.com. Archived from the original on 7 September 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  21. ^ Hoffmann, Frank (1983). The Cash Box Singles Charts, 1950–1981. Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 303.
  22. ^ "The Zarkons - Riders In The Long Black Parade". Discogs.com. Archived from the original on 25 September 2018. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  23. ^ "Ladyhawke - 'White Rabbit' (Jefferson Airplane cover triple j's Like A Version)". YouTube. 2012-07-20. Archived from the original on 2019-05-14. Retrieved 2019-03-24.
  24. ^ "Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland Soundtrack Track List Released". Flavorwire. 2010-01-12. Archived from the original on 2019-06-05. Retrieved 2019-06-15.
  25. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZTsYYHCYGY

External linksEdit