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Nuclear Furniture: The making of a rock nerd

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by I Should Coco, Apr 15, 2014.

  1. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    "I was out on the river, and in the darkness before me,
    In the light of the domed city, I saw Rose, Lightning Rose;
    She wasn't perfect, but she was semi-perfect,
    And she remembered all about her days at Yale,
    Before they turned it into a sheet of radioactive glass, thirty miles across."

    I'm listening to an LP right now that came out 30 years ago. It marked a confusing and bitter end to one era of rock, and the beginning of the cold, corporate era of mechanical music. Of course I'm talking about ...


    Although Nuclear Furniture was released in May of 1984, yours truly didn't buy it until shortly after Christmas of that year. Like many almost 13-year-old boys, I received a gift certificate to a local record store as a Christmas gift. Unlike 99.9999 percent of those kids in late 1984, I cashed that gift in for the last LP released by Jefferson Starship.

    "Absolute quiet is the final warning — showdown,
    Six minutes and the war is roaring — showdown,
    The voice of reason was buried this morning — showdown,
    Decision for death is the final story — showdown."

    At the time, I knew of two songs on the album: "Layin' it on the Line" and "No Way Out." The first song was a rocker with somewhat interesting lyrics like, "Got U.S. boys on foreign soil, spillin' their blood to keep the peace." The latter was a top-40 synth ballad that, unfortunately, would pave the way for "We Built This City" and the rest of the dreck Mickey Thomas and Starship would put out in 1985 and beyond.

    As the new year of 1985 dawned, however, this seventh-grader had no clue about that post-nuclear future, nor the glorious 1960s past of Jefferson Airplane, which was loosely tied to Jefferson Starship in the persons of Paul Kantner and Grace Slick. My dad recognized Grace's name as he glanced at the band members' names on the back of the album cover, and was a bit disappointed there was no band picture.

    Had there been, it would have looked something like this:


    Now by 1984, Kantner and Slick's time as wannabe rock revolutionaries was long gone. In the 1970s, they had changed Jefferson Starship from the weirdness of "Blows Against the Empire" to the commercial success and excess of songs like "Miracles" and "With Your Love." Their contemporaries from the Airplane had mostly flamed out due to drugs, inflated egos (Marty Balin) or whacked-out jamming (Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen in Hot Tuna).

    But a li'l rebel spirit remained in Kantner, and to my surprise, it dominated Side B of Nuclear Furniture, as Kantner's songs "Connection," "Rose Goes to Yale" and "Champion" (along with Slick's chilling "Showdown") told a tale of a nuclear war and its aftermath. Quite a difference from Thomas and his piercing vocals on tales of young love; that split personality foretold a showdown between Kantner and Thomas, with Kantner taking the "Jefferson" part of the name with him while Thomas took the rest of the band (including, at first, Slick), the synthesizers and the vapid pop hits.

    "Now both sides are gone, no funerals, no priests,
    No crowds singing songs, no heroes in the streets,
    Both sides were wrong, just too stubborn to teach,
    And it was just too long before enough people had the courage to speak
    And say No Showdown."

    Now all this rock history may seem interesting to a few people (OK, a select few) today, but in 1984? To a seventh-grade kid?

    For some reason, Nuclear Furniture — and in particular, the Kantner songs — got under my skin and are now permanently enthroned in the jukebox taking up valuable space within my brain. I began to turn off the radio when shit like Wham, Thompson Twins or Lionel Richie came on, and reached for records by 1960s bands like The Who, The Beatles and, eventually, Jefferson Airplane. For the rest of my teenage years, hours and hours would be spent in my room listening to both new and old LPs, soaking in the music and examining the lyrics and cover art.

    These activities didn't make me popular — playing Nuclear Furniture for my friends got me, at best, polite looks of embarrassment or more often, ridicule — but I enjoyed it immensely (and still do). In a small way, Kantner's call to question authority and make a difference helped shape this contrarian into a journalist and occasional activist. So thanks to him and all the rock stars since who rocked the boat a bit and inspired many of us after we turned off the record player and headed out into the world.

    Somehow it all started with the Nuclear Furniture album. I guess if you've made it through all this rambling, you might as well give it a listen:

    "She was the one, she was the No. 1,
    In this age of madness, this age of the gun,
    Rose was the champion."

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2014
  2. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Remember ... what the Dormouse said.

  3. Bubbler

    Bubbler Active Member

    I love threads like this. Random missives to something forgotten by most, but still loved by one.

    The Layin It On The Line video got some pretty heavy rotation at the time. I dug it back then. Right up my 13-year-old alley.


    Pretty hilarious in retrospect. The Residents!
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