The Great Society – Someone To Love

8th January 2024 · 1960s, 1966, California, Music

Once upon a time there was a band called Jefferson Airplane fronted by a former model called Grace Slick. But before that Grace was in a band called The Great Society and the Airplane had a singer called Signe Toly.

It was with The Great Society that Grace wrote and first performed the Airplane’s two big hits, White Rabbit and Somebody To Love, the latter becoming their only release during their brief lifetime – under the slightly different title Someone To Love.

The studio version was produced, somewhat surprisingly, by Autumn Records’ in-house producer Sylvester Stewart… better known when he formed his own band soon after that by his stage name of Sly Stone. I say he produced it but he reputedly walked out of the studio in despair at The Great Society’s flimsy grasp of their instruments, needing more than 50 takes to nail a releasable version of the B-side Free Advice.

The live version of Someone To Love, recorded at The Matrix in San Francisco in 1966 when The Great Society headlined above Big Brother & The Holding Company, is longer and looser, as is the extended version of White Rabbit has an appealing ramshackle charm, with Grace playing an Arabia.

The latter begins with Grace playing an Arabian-influenced oboe melody that intertwines with her brother Darby Slick’s serpentine electric guitar during its lengthy intro (more than four minutes) before Grace brings her astonishing vibrato to the party.

It’s loose and sloppy: the rhythm section of her husband Jerry Slick on drums and bassist Bard DuPont is rudimentary at best and the guitars of Darby and David Milner badly need tuning. Somewhere in there is another band member, Peter Van Gelder, on sax and flute.

The Great Society often supported Jefferson Airplane but by the end of 1966 they had disbanded when Grace left to replace Signe in the more established band after Signe had a baby with her husband Jerry Anderson, one of Ken Kesey’s band of Merry Pranksters.