It's about 1969 or 1970 and a rumour goes round the school that a new record shop has opened in Archway selling all albums for £1.75 or £1.99. So I go and check it out, and it's true. Amazing. But what's even more amazing is the racks and racks of albums at 50p and 99p. I hunt through these and find all kinds of gems, including this album. OK, it's a mono copy, so that's probably why it's so cheap, but even so... I'm not sure how much exposure to the Airplane I'd had before then, probably not a lot, but I'd heard of them and this album was a must-buy.
Regrets? You're flimmin joking, mate. Although it's actually not the definitive Airplane album (that's probably Crown Of Creation or Volunteers) it was my favourite for many many years and another regular in my all-time top 3 albums. It's the moment the Airplane took off - freed from the shackles of a rotten drummer and vocalist it didn't take long for Paul, Jorma and Grace to start the mutiny against the fey Marty Balin. And there are some pretty mutinous moments here - not least the 9-minute "A Small Package Of Value" featuring Jorma, Jack and Spencer noodling aimlessly. It's weirdly entertaining but all too often you get the sense that they're not even listening to each other - even so it fits the album nicely.
The standout track for me is "Rejoyce", a Grace Slick tour de force with some lovely bass from Jack and a nice jazzy middle section, but there are lots of treasures here including the formative work of the PERRO chorus (see IICORMN) on tracks like "Young Girl Sunday Blues" and "Saturday Afternoon". "The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil" appears elsewhere in gutsier form - see the box set and the live Fillmore album - but it's a cracking opener anyway with all hands to the helm and let's career full pelt into this and who cares where we'll end up?
The Airplane and early Starship (i.e. up until "Baron Von Tollbooth") were responsible for some of the most stunning music to come out of the USA from 1967-1971 and this is as good a place to start as any. It reeks of psychedelia and acid and you get the feeling that, even more so than the Dead, they were game for anything. Later albums would add Grace's (or was it Nicky Hopkins) clattering piano to the cacophony, and Jorma's fuzz & wah-wah technique isn't fully formed (not is Jack's patent one-man demolition squad of a bass - how the hell did he get that sound, anyway?) but I couldn't live without this album. Actually I probably could, but for a while it seemed I couldn't. Later on I would be delighted by first stereo, then digitally remastered CD versions (BTW don't get the early CD reissue, there are weird pitch wobbles throughout) but when I was 14 this was pretty much as far out as it got. Stunning.
Oh, and whatever you do don't confuse Jefferson Airplane with anything post-Red Octopus and certainly not the drivel that Starship became with all that "We Built This City" shite.