Exploding into the USA charts in early 1967 with two incredibly powerful singles, “Somebody to Love” & “White Rabbit”, Jefferson Airplane were the most commercially successful of all the “new wave” San Francisco groups for good reason: they could play, they could sing, and they could write unforgettably good songs. And “Surrealistic Pillow”, from which both singles were drawn, shows just how impressive they were before success and group politics took their toll.
Opening with the magnificent “She Has Funny Cars” – with its, for the time, bizarre song structure, driving drums & guitars, and wonderful vocal interactions between Grace Slick & Marty Balin – the album is an almost perfect example of everything that was good about “hippie” music. Moving effortlessly between progressive rock (“Somebody to Love”, “3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds” & “Plastic Fantastic Lover”), wistful introspection (“Today”, “Embryonic Journey” & “Coming Back to Me”) and barrier bending innovation (“She Has Funny Cars”, “D.C.B.A. - 25” & “White Rabbit”) it captured a group at the peak of their powers, born out of and immersed in a world where they were encouraged to push their music into totally new areas. And underpinning it all is the “atmosphere” of San Francisco in its fleeting period when hippie ideals really were musically relevant… nothing from the Airplane, or indeed any of their San Francisco contemporaries, caught the feel of the time & place as well as “Surrealistic Pillow” and, like all classic albums, it remains as interesting and listenable today as it did all those years ago.