Thursday, September 01, 2016

Starship, "We Built This City"

GQ's story about the making of "We Built This City" is an instant classic and might be the funniest oral history I've ever read.  At least half of it reads like parody.  I'm not even 100% sure that it isn't.

I remember that Blender list from '04 that named it as the worst song ever.  Up until that point, I don't recall it being ridiculed more than any one of dozens of silly and dated 80's synth rock songs.  But somehow the worst song ever moniker took on a life of its own.  The "We Built This Starbucks" remake/rewrite didn't help either.

For me, "We Built This City" falls into a rare category along with songs like Phil Collins' "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" -- a song that I absolutely despised in the 80's but have come around to thinking it's sort of awesome.  The bridge is epic!

The "selling out" tropes are hilarious, for a number of reasons beyond the usual (i.e. the idea of maintaining some kind of arbitrarily defined integrity and refusing to "sell out" is tired and meaningless now):

1) The most embarrassing thing about the song isn't the music, it's the clothes that Grace Slick is wearing on the single cover.  It's mind boggling that anyone over the age of 15, even in the 80's, would agree to be photographed wearing that.

2) There's nothing more safe and conservative, in the 21st century, than lionizing late 60's psychedelia and hippie culture.  So Grace Slick and her "we want to make hits and rake in money and then we'll shit on our music and complain that there was no 'integrity' in the 80's" attitude can take a hike.

3) Jefferson Airplane's legacy (that some people would go out of their way to defend and protect) comes down to two songs that predated their classic lineup (Grace Slick brought them from her previous band).  At least Starship were genuinely huge for about two years and had three number one hits.

The hero of the piece is of course Starship guitarist Craig Chaquico, who delivers all the best lines and may in fact be a fake Twitter account rather than a real life washed up 80's rock star, I can't be sure.  Choosing between his best lines is tough, but I have to go with "Marconi's the guy who invented the radio, and his style of music was the mamba.  But listen to the radio now.  Do you hear any mamba?  That's how I look at the lyric: things change.  I could be totally wrong."

1 comment:

Chris Pellnat said...

Yep, time does amazing things in terms of casting things in a different light. Used to hate disco too....