Shag Carpet: Jefferson Starship, “Miracles”

Hideous, isn’t it?

Well, every decade has an unfashionable side to it, but bless the 1970’s for being so blatant about it. When has there been another time when the brown/orange/yellow color scheme actually seemed like a good idea, when mustaches came in two sizes: pornic and ultra-pornic, and music tried to skirt that finest of lines between morally acceptable and major freaky deaky?

Into the breach came the reformatted Jefferson Starship, ditching the Airplane and riding those smooth, smooth AM slipstreams into the soft-rock stratosphere.

Bizarrely, this story begins almost Simpsons-like, with yours truly taking a leisurely bikeride through Red Bank, New Jersey about seven years ago. I had my trusty portable CD player with me; it would be many years later before I fell headlong into the digital player realm. On the disc was a handful of tracks burned from the hard drive, with no particular order of importance.

It was a really hot day, the Diet Dr. Pepper I drank was seriously making me think about throwing up over the bridge, but that mellow glory that was Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” was gonna pull me through. The album from whence it came, Red Octopus, was the best-selling recording to come from the collective, either in the Airplane or just-plain Starship eras. In 1975, even though the song only reached #3, it was inescapable.

But it was on this humid, ninety degree day, with a belly full of rancid Diet Dr. Pepper when I finally truly, really heard the words.

 

I had a taste of the real world
When I went down on you, girl.

Whaaaaaat?

When I start dancin’ inside ya
Oh baby, you make me wanna sing

Not that we should be all that shocked that Marty Balin is singing those lines to Grace Slick, mind you. Numerous bios, auto-bios, tell-alls and such have laid claim to Slick being passed around the Airplane more often than the fat kid when they’re picking the softball team. Yes, I was that fat kid. The point is that there were some wild nights among that mellow batch of former-psyches, so the assertion that “Miracles” is mostly about screwing around should not surprise.

Baby, we’re sure doin’ it tonight
Everytime you come by, let me try
Pretty, please sugar on it
That’s how I like it

I did eventually throw up over the bridge, but it was the Diet Dr. Pepper, not the song that caused that. Really, as far as explicit lyrics go, this stuff is still pretty tame, especially in light of more modern fare. After all, Notorious B.I.G. did say that, when the dinner and dancing was done, he wasn’t going to be asking “pretty, please sugar on it.”

And who could argue that the song wasn’t as plush as velvet pajamas? None that I know of. No, my reaction found my mind cast back to the summer of 1975, on another long ride, this time in the family station wagon, my sister and I in the back seat, my mom and dad up front, flipping the radio dial, settling on this song, and singing along.

Oh…dear…God.

This starts a chain of thoughts that leads to the ultimate conclusion that, of course, you big dummy, your parents did it. You’re the genetic proof of it! That is actually the real reason why people had kids in the ’70s; to prove they actually got some. (Still can’t think of anything quite as unsexy though.)

So to them I say, good for you, you little hornballs. I hope it was fun because, Lord knows, once I was out the both of you had to resort to doing it on the sly.

Back to the song. I’ll cop to the fact that I’m a sucker for string backups. When done right, they can make a bad song tolerable and a good song great. I’m not sure “Miracles” would be half the track it is without that lushness behind it, and I’m confident in saying that, if the song is in your head, it is that last chorus with the strings, harmonies and what-all that is the part kicking around.

I’m also 80% confident that my parents were probably grooving on the sanitized single edit, not the jammies-shedding album cut…but that remaining 20% chance still makes me want to go see my shrink.

 

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  • http://jabartlett.wordpress.com jabartlett

    I love the explicitness of “Miracles” as reflection of the rest of the decade’s excesses, like those you mention in your first paragraph. In the 70s, people didn’t just do things, they did them large, noisy, and in vomitous color patterns where appropriate. “Miracles” has that lustrous, slightly buzzed vibe that would sometimes cause you to plunge into something you’d regret later—say, loving the one you’re with, as Stephen Stills put it. As an artifact of its sexual/historical moment, “Miracles” is primo.

  • smf2271

    Well, but you’d think that if people were trying to prove they got some, the baby boom would’ve continued into the ’70s, but in fact it was just the opposite, wasn’t it?  Maybe what happened was that they proved it after one child, and then they had nothing more to prove.

    I make no bones about loving pre-Mickey Thomas Starship, I may be one of the few people out there who listen to “Red Octopus” and “Spitfire” more than “Surrealistic Pillow” and “Volunteers.”  Something about the lush ’70s-ness of it all just gets me every time.

    Examples of “the short kid” like me who were always picked SECOND to last (thanks to the existence of the fat kid) have you and your counterparts to thank for all eternity.

  • smf2271

    Well, but you’d think that if people were trying to prove they got some, the baby boom would’ve continued into the ’70s, but in fact it was just the opposite, wasn’t it?  Maybe what happened was that they proved it after one child, and then they had nothing more to prove.

    I make no bones about loving pre-Mickey Thomas Starship, I may be one of the few people out there who listen to “Red Octopus” and “Spitfire” more than “Surrealistic Pillow” and “Volunteers.”  Something about the lush ’70s-ness of it all just gets me every time.

    Examples of “the short kid” like me who were always picked SECOND to last (thanks to the existence of the fat kid) have you and your counterparts to thank for all eternity.

  • smf2271

    Well, but you’d think that if people were trying to prove they got some, the baby boom would’ve continued into the ’70s, but in fact it was just the opposite, wasn’t it?  Maybe what happened was that they proved it after one child, and then they had nothing more to prove.

    I make no bones about loving pre-Mickey Thomas Starship, I may be one of the few people out there who listen to “Red Octopus” and “Spitfire” more than “Surrealistic Pillow” and “Volunteers.”  Something about the lush ’70s-ness of it all just gets me every time.

    Examples of “the short kid” like me who were always picked SECOND to last (thanks to the existence of the fat kid) have you and your counterparts to thank for all eternity.

  • smf2271

    Well, but you’d think that if people were trying to prove they got some, the baby boom would’ve continued into the ’70s, but in fact it was just the opposite, wasn’t it?  Maybe what happened was that they proved it after one child, and then they had nothing more to prove.

    I make no bones about loving pre-Mickey Thomas Starship, I may be one of the few people out there who listen to “Red Octopus” and “Spitfire” more than “Surrealistic Pillow” and “Volunteers.”  Something about the lush ’70s-ness of it all just gets me every time.

    Examples of “the short kid” like me who were always picked SECOND to last (thanks to the existence of the fat kid) have you and your counterparts to thank for all eternity.

  • smf2271

    Well, but you’d think that if people were trying to prove they got some, the baby boom would’ve continued into the ’70s, but in fact it was just the opposite, wasn’t it?  Maybe what happened was that they proved it after one child, and then they had nothing more to prove.

    I make no bones about loving pre-Mickey Thomas Starship, I may be one of the few people out there who listen to “Red Octopus” and “Spitfire” more than “Surrealistic Pillow” and “Volunteers.”  Something about the lush ’70s-ness of it all just gets me every time.

    Examples of “the short kid” like me who were always picked SECOND to last (thanks to the existence of the fat kid) have you and your counterparts to thank for all eternity.

  • smf2271

    Well, but you’d think that if people were trying to prove they got some, the baby boom would’ve continued into the ’70s, but in fact it was just the opposite, wasn’t it?  Maybe what happened was that they proved it after one child, and then they had nothing more to prove.

    I make no bones about loving pre-Mickey Thomas Starship, I may be one of the few people out there who listen to “Red Octopus” and “Spitfire” more than “Surrealistic Pillow” and “Volunteers.”  Something about the lush ’70s-ness of it all just gets me every time.

    Examples of “the short kid” like me who were always picked SECOND to last (thanks to the existence of the fat kid) have you and your counterparts to thank for all eternity.

  • smf2271

    Well, but you’d think that if people were trying to prove they got some, the baby boom would’ve continued into the ’70s, but in fact it was just the opposite, wasn’t it?  Maybe what happened was that they proved it after one child, and then they had nothing more to prove.

    I make no bones about loving pre-Mickey Thomas Starship, I may be one of the few people out there who listen to “Red Octopus” and “Spitfire” more than “Surrealistic Pillow” and “Volunteers.”  Something about the lush ’70s-ness of it all just gets me every time.

    Examples of “the short kid” like me who were always picked SECOND to last (thanks to the existence of the fat kid) have you and your counterparts to thank for all eternity.

  • Anonymous

    First a clarification: Marty was the only member of the Airplane that didn’t sleep with Grace. They both said as much in the Air/ship edition of Behind the Music, which makes it gospel.

    That glitch aside, I welcome this series with open arms…or rather, an open-neck collar and Taurus pendant. (Open arms are Death by Power Ballad territory.) I can’t wait to see how many guesses I have for future editions come to life.

  • http://www.fourtracktestimony.com 4tracktestimony

    Diet Dr. Pepper is the perfect beverage equivalent of “Miracles!”  I didn’t know the lyrics before reading you post, yet they gave me the grodie-shivers all the same. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/hcurtisshannon Curt Shannon

    This song always seemed like the slimy, creepy cousin of “Caroline,” which came out the year before, and was really a decent song IMHO. (Both were co-written and sung by Balin.) Since I only heard “Miracles” on car speakers and never through a good stereo, I never realized how smarmy it really was. Until now. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hcurtisshannon Curt Shannon

    This song always seemed like the slimy, creepy cousin of “Caroline,” which came out the year before, and was really a decent song IMHO. (Both were co-written and sung by Balin.) Since I only heard “Miracles” on car speakers and never through a good stereo, I never realized how smarmy it really was. Until now. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hcurtisshannon Curt Shannon

    This song always seemed like the slimy, creepy cousin of “Caroline,” which came out the year before, and was really a decent song IMHO. (Both were co-written and sung by Balin.) Since I only heard “Miracles” on car speakers and never through a good stereo, I never realized how smarmy it really was. Until now. Thanks.

  • Tommy

    Now Grace Slick likes pulling shotguns on “trespassing” police officers. Well, that was a few years ago, maybe she’s mellowed out a bit. This one sure sticks in your head, though, and beats the hell out of the songs the later line-up released- if I never hear “We Built This City Again,” it will be too soon. Ugh. This is a good song, though, and it’s too bad they never made an “official” video for it. Watch “Yacht Rock” online- you’ll laugh your ass off!!