The Jefferson Airplane traces their lineage back to 1965 when vocalist Marty Balin met guitarist Paul Kantner. Lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady, and drummer Skip Spence were quickly added although Spencer Dryden would replace Spence before their first album was completed. The final piece was Signe Toly Anderson who was selected as a second vocalist.
Signe’s tenure with The Airplane would be brief and it and she would be over shadowed by her future replacement Grace Slick who was one of the great vocalists of the sixties and seventies rock era. She would take part on only the group’s debut album. Her reason for leaving was a desire to spend more time with her family.
Collector’s Choice Music has now released a four CD series of live performances by The Jefferson Airplane. The first chronologically is her final performance with the band. On October 15, 1966 she would take part in their two set show at The Fillmore West. The second of those two sets has been resurrected as Live At The Fillmore Auditorium 10/15/66 Late Show – Signe’s Farewell. This show has been circulated as a bootleg for years so it’s nice to finally have it as a cleaned up official release.
There is no doubt that this concert was planned to be her last. She says goodbye at the end but also the very next day the band performed with Grace Slick in her place. She would complete the six person line-up which would be inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1996.
October of 1966 finds The Jefferson Airplane on the road to becoming one of the most influential rock bands of their era. While they had only released one studio LP at this point in their career; their concert skills as one of the premier experimental and improvisational bands of all time had begun to develop.
While it is advertised as Signe’s farewell concert, it is really a complete band effort and her participation is less important than the whole group experience. She only takes a true lead vocal on her signature song “Chauffeur Blues.”
The concert’s importance as a pivital point in the group’s history is ultimately less important than its presentation of the group live at this early stage in their career. A number of unusual songs comprise the 13 track set. An early version of “3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds” which would be released as a studio version on their classic Surrealistic Pillow makes an appearance. It and the old Donovan tune “Fat Angel,” at over seven minutes, are early examples of their developing improvisational skills. Other songs of note are “High Flying Bird,” “Come Up The Years,” and the nine mine opening “Jam.”
This is a release that should please all fans of The Jefferson Airplane and of the psychedelic rock era as well. Signe Anderson has continued to perform off and on and recently made some special appearances with the The Jefferson Starship – Next Generation.
She may not have been Grace Slick but she was an early figure in the American psychedelic music scene and it’s nice to have a live document of her last concert.