Jefferson Starship onstage at Great America, June 23, 1984, shortly before they became Starship (l-to-r Grace Slick, Mickey Thomas, Pete Sears, Paul Kantner, Craig Chaquico, Donny Baldwin, and David Freiberg)
|Starship featuring Mickey Thomas (1992-present)|
|Origin||San Francisco, California|
|Genres||Arena rock, pop rock, AOR|
John Lee Sanders
Christina Marie Saxton
Starship is an American rock band. Initially a continuation of Jefferson Starship, it underwent a change in musical direction, the subsequent loss of key Jefferson Starship personnel, and a lawsuit settlement that led to a name change.
In June 1984, Paul Kantner, the last remaining founding member of Jefferson Airplane, left Jefferson Starship. In October 1984, Kantner took legal action over the Jefferson Starship name against his former bandmates. In March 1985, Kantner settled out of court and signed an agreement that neither party would use the names "Jefferson" or "Airplane" unless all members of Jefferson Airplane Inc. (Bill Thompson, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady) agreed. The band briefly performed as "Starship Jefferson" while legal proceedings occurred, before settling on the shortened name "Starship".David Freiberg stayed with the band after the lawsuit and attended the first studio sessions for the next album. He became frustrated with the sessions because all the keyboard work in the studio was being done by Peter Wolf (who had played on the sessions for Nuclear Furniture and briefly joined the band on the road for the follow-up tour) and that was the instrument Freiberg was supposed to be playing. Freiberg was dismissed from the band in 1985. The next album was finished with the five remaining members, consisting of Slick, co-lead singer Mickey Thomas, guitarist Craig Chaquiço, bassist Pete Sears, and drummer Donny Baldwin. In 1984, Gabriel Katona (who had previously played in Rare Earth and Player) joined the band to play keyboards and saxophone on the road with them through to the end of the 1986 tour.
The next album, Knee Deep in the Hoopla was released in September 1985 and scored two number-one hits. The first was "We Built This City", written by Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, and Peter Wolf and was engineered by Grammy-winning producer Bill Bottrell and arranged by Bottrell and Jasun Martz; the second was "Sara". The album itself reached No. 7, went platinum, and spawned two more singles: "Tomorrow Doesn't Matter Tonight" (#26), and "Before I Go" (#68). The band had not had a number-one hit record since previous incarnation Jefferson Starship released Red Octopus in 1975.
In 1986, the group recorded "Cut You Down to Size" for the film Youngblood. By the time the sessions for No Protection began, bassist Pete Sears had left the band. Sears went on to play keyboards with former Jefferson Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady in Hot Tuna for ten years. In early 1987, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now", recorded while Sears was still with the band, was featured in the film Mannequin and hit No. 1. At that time, the song made Slick the oldest female vocalist to sing on a number-one Billboard Hot 100 hit, at the age of 47 (she held this record until Cher broke it at the age of 52, in 1999 with "Believe"). No Protection was released in 1987, and also featured the singles "It's Not Over ('Til It's Over)" (#9), and "Beat Patrol" (#46). "Wild Again" (which reached No. 73 on the Billboard singles chart) was also used in the film Cocktail. The last song on the album, "Set the Night to Music", would later become a hit in 1991, re-recorded as a duet by Roberta Flack and Maxi Priest. Following the completion of the album sessions in 1987, Brett Bloomfield was brought in to replace Sears and Mark Morgan joined the band on keyboards.
Slick left Starship in February 1988, going on to join the reformed Jefferson Airplane for an album and tour in 1989, before announcing that she was retiring from music. As Kantner, Sears and Freiberg had left the band, all the new and remaining members were more than a decade younger than she was. Slick has been quoted as saying that "old people don't belong on a rock and roll stage".
With Thomas the sole lead singer, the revamped lineup released Love Among the Cannibals in August 1989 and went on another tour to support the album; recruiting backing singers Christina Marie Saxton and Melisa Kary to fill the gap left by Slick's departure. On September 24, 1989, while the band was in Scranton, Pennsylvania for a show, Baldwin and Thomas got into a violent altercation during which Thomas was seriously injured and required facial surgery, and two titanium plates implanted in his skull. Baldwin resigned from the band immediately afterward. The remainder of the tour was postponed until Thomas had recovered and was able to tour again.
After Thomas was well enough to tour, the band continued to tour in support of Cannibals. Kenny Stavropoulos was recruited to be the band's new drummer. After the Cannibals tour wound up in 1990, Chaquico, the last remaining original Jefferson Starship member, handed in his notice. Thomas attributes the comparative lack of commercial success of the last album to the interruption of the tour, among other factors. Cannibals remains his personal favorite Starship album. Brett Bloomfield, Mark Morgan, and Kenny Stavropoulos also departed the group in 1990. Peter Wolf was added as a member on keyboards at this time. Early the following year, RCA assembled a greatest hits album, Greatest Hits (Ten Years and Change 1979-1991), which featured two new tracks, one with Thomas and Chaquico (recorded before Chaquico had left) and the other featuring only Thomas, Wolf, and session players. A third track originally recorded during this time period, "Keys to the City", was released in October 2012 on the album Playlist: The Very Best of Starship. For a brief period it was thought[by whom?] that Thomas would continue forward as Starship, but manager Bill Thompson then decided it was over and told RCA that the band was done making records. The band was let go by RCA. Starship became inactive. Mickey Thomas briefly pursued other projects at this time.
In early 1992, Thomas revived Starship as "Mickey Thomas' Starship" before changing the name to Starship featuring Mickey Thomas, which has toured steadily ever since. Although Thomas has been supplemented by a mostly new cast of performers, bassist Brett Bloomfield did return to the fold for several years. Melisa Kary and Christina Marie Saxton, who had both performed with the group as backing singers on tour in 1989 through 1990, also had stints as full band members in Starship featuring Mickey Thomas. Darrell Verdusco, formerly of KBC Band, has served as drummer since 1995. Keyboard player Phil Bennett also joined in 1995. The band recorded the album Live at Stanley Cup in 1997. Jeff Adams came aboard on bass in 2000. In 2003, Starship featuring Mickey Thomas released a DVD documentary Starship: Greatest & Latest. The album accompanying this release contained re-recordings by Starship featuring Mickey Thomas of some of the Starship's biggest hits, songs originally from the period of Thomas's tenure in Jefferson Starship, as well as "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," that Thomas sang with the Elvin Bishop Group in 1976. Female vocalist Stephanie Calvert joined the band in 2006. A live album, Layin' it on the Line Live in Las Vegas was released in 2007. Starship featuring Mickey Thomas released the non-album single "Get Out Again" in 2007. In November 2010, Thomas announced on his website that a new Starship album, Loveless Fascination, would be released in the summer or fall of 2011. The album, produced by Jeff Pilson of Foreigner, was eventually released on September 17, 2013. The band performed at the Streamy Awards on September 8, 2014. The non-album single "My Woman" was released in 2016. On February 1st, 2019, Rhino Entertainment acquired the rights to the Starship catalog for all the albums released between 1985 and 1991.
Former Starship trumpet player Max Haskett, who performed with the band from their reformation in 1992 until the following year, died in 1999 as a result of pancreatic cancer. Lead guitarist Erik Torjesen, who performed with the band between 1996 and 2000, died of cancer, aged 34, in 2001. Torjesen's replacement, Mark Abrahamian, died from a heart attack, aged 46, following a concert on September 2, 2012. Abrahamian was replaced as guitarist by John Roth.
Well, because they want me in, and I didn't want to be there because they were doing 'We Built This City' and all. It was at the point where they were going to the studio, and nobody in the band was playing anything. Maybe if they needed a guitar... Craig would play it. It was all producing and it was all hot stuff keyboard players and that is what I was basically playing with them...you know...and that wasn't me. Why have me around? Why should I be around?