|The Great Society|
Grace Slick, Jerry Slick, David Miner, Bard Dupont and Darby Slick in 1965.
|Origin||San Francisco, California, United States|
|Genres||Psychedelic rock,acid rock|
|Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Starship|
Peter van Gelder
The Great Society (also known as The Great!! Society!!) was a 1960s San Francisco rock band that existed from 1965 to 1966, and was closely associated with the burgeoning Bay Area acid rock scene. Best known as the original group of model-turned-singer Grace Slick, the initial line-up of the band also featured her then-husband Jerry Slick on drums, his brother Darby Slick on guitar, David Miner on vocals and guitar, Bard DuPont on bass, and Peter van Gelder on flute, bass, and saxophone. Miner and DuPont would not remain with the band for the duration of its existence.
In the late summer of 1965, Grace, Darby, and Jerry were inspired by The Beatles to start their own group, assembling it fairly quickly. Grace has also said that seeing Jefferson Airplane perform for the first time was an influence as well. The band made its debut at the Coffee Gallery in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood on October 15, 1965 and continued to perform throughout 1966.
The band released only one single during its lifetime, the Darby Slick-penned "Someone to Love" (b/w "Free Advice"). The single was issued in February 1966 on Autumn Records' tiny Northbeach subsidiary label and made little impact outside of the Bay Area. While signed to Autumn Records, the band worked with the label's staff producer, Sylvester Stewart (better known as Sly Stone), who at the time was still in the process of forming his own band, Sly and the Family Stone. Purportedly, Stewart would eventually walk out as the band's producer after it took The Great Society over fifty takes to record a version of the song "Free Advice" that was suitable for release.
Momentum for the band began to build as they started opening for Jefferson Airplane and other successful local bands, with Columbia Records offering The Great Society a recording contract. However, by the time the contract arrived in the mail, Grace had decided to replace departing vocalist Signe Toly Anderson in the Airplane. Since Grace had been both the visual and musical focal point, the band could not survive without her and disbanded in the fall of 1966. Grace and Jerry Slick would soon divorce as well.
The Airplane recorded "Someone to Love" (retitled as "Somebody to Love") and Grace's own "White Rabbit" for Surrealistic Pillow. Both songs were released as singles in 1967, reaching No. 5 and No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 respectively. To capitalize on Grace's fame with the Airplane, Columbia Records released tapes of live performances by The Great Society, on the 1968 albums Conspicuous Only in its Absence and How It Was. All of those performances were recorded at The Matrix, a small nightclub in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco, whose house band was the Airplane. These two albums were later repackaged as a double LP titled Collector's Item in 1971. This double album has been issued twice on CD, once by Edsel Records in 1989 (under the title Live at the Matrix) and again in 2008 under its original title. In 1995 Sundazed Records released the Born to Be Burned compilation, featuring both sides of the band's debut single along with a number of previously unreleased studio recordings. (There is an error on the Sundazed CD; Track 1 is listed as being the issued take of "Free Advice" on the Northbeach single. This is wrong; the issued take is in fact track 16, with a slight edit at the end.)
"The Great Society" was a popular name for musical groups in the 1960s, due to the popularity of the term as used by the then President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson's administration for his Great Society. On one occasion, in Fort Worth, Texas, The Great Society (with Grace Slick) and a similarly named four-man group performed on opposite sides of the city on the same evening.
|Album||Label||Year Released||Year Recorded||Details|
|Conspicuous Only in Its Absence1||Columbia||1968||1966||Live recordings released following the success of Jefferson Airplane|
|How It Was||Columbia||1968||1966||Additional live recordings released following the success of Jefferson Airplane|
|Collector's Item||Columbia||1971||1966||2-LP reissue of the previous two Columbia albums|
|Live at the Matrix||Edsel/Demon||1989||1966||British reissue of the same live material previously released on Columbia|
|Born to Be Burned||Sundazed||1995||1965||Archival material including previously unreleased studio recordings from the sessions that produced their Northbeach single|