Third week in Chelsea - ever watched a band break up?
Even heard a band break up?
I don’t think you have. You have watched a band break up, sure The Beatles did that magnificently in ‘Let it Be’. Maybe its been referred to, or coyly alluded to. However, its certainly never been done as perfectly and beautifully as Jorma Kaukonen did with Jefferson Airplane. A quick and obligatory set up. Jefferson Airplane was a big San Francisco success that gave us ‘Somebody to Love’, and ‘White Rabbit’. It is NOT the band that brought you ‘We Built this City’. That is Jefferson Starship. BIG difference. All the people are different, except Grace Slick. Plus, that was 15 years later after this.
The Airplane had a LOT of people in the band, five. Frankly, it’s too many. See, like every band, they got big and famous and most of them became intolerable, drug addled, assholes. Paul Kantner, I am looking squarely in your direction. Also, according to absolutely everyone who was there (Grace included), Grace became a raging alcoholic monster. Also leading to the strife is ‘who’s band is it really?’ You have NO idea how big this one is. It is what broke up the Beatles, and Guns and Roses.
(recently deceased) Marty Balin started the band. It was his band. I will always think of it as his band. It is true, Grace made them famous, and was the public face of the band. Grace wasn’t even in the band for years. Thing is, once Grace dropped in… it propelled them to greatness. She became the focal point for the band, as all great charismatic front
Jorma is their awesomely talented guitarist, one of like 6 in the band. As the are getting big, Jorma is tired of all of it… the rock star-ness, and egos, and clashes, and drugs. We are lucky that Jorma and Jack (bass player for the band) are still around. And… still touring… together… in their goddamn 70s! Jorma wakes up on day on tour in Manhattan and just kinda snaps. He writes this ode, ‘Third Week in Chelsea’. I won’t bore you with all the lyrics, but they are here.
What I will bore you with is some key lines. Again, usually songwriters cloak their feelings in obtuse metaphors. Not Jorma, god bless ‘im!
So we go on moving trying to make this image realThat what they read in the Rolling Stone has really come to beAnd trying to avoid a taste of that reality
All my friends keep telling me that it would be a shameTo break up such a grand success and tear apart a name
But all I know is what I feel whenever I'm not playin'Emptiness ain't where it's at and neither's feeling pain
Oh man, that smarts. Look at that last time. “My body's getting tired of carryin' another's load’. No subtext there. Funny thing is, he stayed in the band for years after this. But, the writing was on the wall!
This song reads to me like. Like he quit, and the band asked him to stay… and he comes back with this letter. Can’t argue these lyrics.
And that isn’t even my favorite part of the song. Btw, the song is GREAT. That is the most important part. While the lyrics are brilliant, the song stands on its own mightily. My favorite part is that Grace sings the whole song with him. NOTE: this is him deciding to leave the band because Grace has become insufferable. I also don’t doubt that the others ‘load he is carrying’ is another reference to Grace. Grace didn’t play any instruments, which means she didn’t write songs. YET… she is getting all the fame and probably most of the money. What does Grace do when she sees the song? Fire him? Shoot him? Discredit him? No, she embraces it and sings along. Just because of that, I have endless love and respect for Grace. Ok, with all that… let’s have a listen, eh?
This is BIG. He is saying "Grace, you are dead weight and a drunken egomaniac. I'd rather quit than be your errand boy!" Grace's response? "Hey, great point! Can I sing on it?" Final note... this is all obviously just me guessing. However, I know music and this band incredibly well. I fully stand behind my mostly informed (but also totally bitchy and petty) opinion.
*** 'A little Joni Mitchell'. Only a little. On the whole, Grace is still wonderful and thoughtful and almost always on point. Just a little grumpy. Joni Mitchell is FAR past a 'little grumpy'. She hit 'get off my lawn' status like a decade ago, and has only kept going at top speed. Sad to see for the gal who was the inspiration of just about every song written in the 70s. Even Led Zeppelin's 'Going to California' is about Joni.