Another high school memory comes from hearing Starship's irresistible and cheery "We Built This City," as my classmate, Brad Liscom, was really into Starship then. I had him copy that song and "Sara," the two singles that became the constantly revamped group's first #1 hits. What makes this album no hoopla are the 80's style synths, Mickey Thomas's soaring vocals and Craig Chaquico's fiery and grinding guitars. True, these made be considered the final surrender and incarnation of Starship into the pop mainstream, but that's what I grew up on.
"We Built This City" embodies the oppression the band feels by the corporate mindset and by police and other authorities, but also rock as the symbol of high school youth. Slick's lines of "Someone always playing corporation games/Who cares they're always changing corporation names" are sadly still relevant today. The mid-song DJ monologue also adds to the mix, with a reference to the Bay Area, Starship's home base, when Les Garland refers to San Francisco as the city that rocks and never stops. Two weeks at #1? Four would be satisfactory for this song, which unseated Jan Hammer's "Miami Vice Theme" before giving way to "Separate Lives" by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin.
Two of the songwriters here include Bernie Taupin, Elton John's songwriting partner, Martin Page, who with Taupin wrote Heart's "These Dreams," and Peter Wolf (more on him later down).
"Sara, Sara, no time is a good time for goodbyes." Set to a steady drum machine, the bittersweet ballad "Sara," is bolstered by Chaquico's guitars and the keyboards, which lend to the sorrowful atmosphere. I recall the video, where Rebecca de Mornay played the title character, a pretty but shallow blonde temptress.
I got peeved when the third single, "Tomorrow Doesn't Matter Tonight," only reached #26. Maybe it was the video for the song, a solid electronic drum beat, Chaquico's solo, or the airy female vocals before the last bits of the choruses take over with a thundering sound, but I was quite taken with this upbeat number.
If the fourth single, "Before I Go," and certain songs throughout sounds like something from Heart's 1985 comeback, well, it's because Peter Wolf (no, not the J.Geils' Band lead singer) but a keyboardist did synth work on that classic album, on which incidentally, Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick did backing vocals on "What About Love." Anyway, this song sounds like a cross between "Nothin' At All" and the future "All I Want To Do" by Heart, with the constant backbeat drum machine and a catchy chorus. Its #68 showing was way too low. At least Top 20, come on!
If I were to choose a candidate for a fifth single, it'd be "Hearts of the World Will Understand," with prominent lead vocals by Slick. Perfect 80's pop, soaring harmony vocals, a mid-song monologue by Slick, and the intense drums and guitars of the group. Next up would be "Rock Myself To Sleep" with its pounding drums, hard-edged guitar chords, and also sung mostly by Grace Slick.
"Love rusts when it rains on romance/Hailstones heavy on this empty heart." Some bombastic synths pepper the somber ballad "Love Rusts," which is accompanied by airy synths and a host of backing vocalists, including Simon Climie of Climie Fisher fame, Martin Page, Ina Wolf, who co-wrote "Sara" with Peter Wolf, and Siedah Garrett, who sang with Michael Jackson on "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" from his Bad album. Some parts of this song have a moody and oppressive aura, due to the bass synths.
Where songs like "Find Your Way Back" and "No Way Out" showed Starship moving closer to the mainstream after years as Jefferson Airplane and then as Jefferson Starship, Knee Deep In The Hoopla finally has the group getting its laurels and being embraced by my generation, by me because of "We Built This City" and due to a sound similar to but less grinding than Heart. So thanks, Brad, wherever you are, for introducing me to them, because I built my collection on rock and rollllllllll.