David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 113: Jefferson Starship (Runaway)

August 17, 2020

I suppose I was destined to end up in 8-track memory. I don't remember owning a whole lot of 8-tracks. I can remember having Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones, The Best of The Raspberries, Blondie's Parallel Lines, Saturday Night Fever, and Jefferson Starship's Earth, at least, on 8-track. My portable 8-track player is well captured in this picture from a Spring Break camping trip:

It's not easy to tell, especially among the hunky 19- or 20-year olds eating such fine food, but the 8-track in that beautiful blue package is a mix tape. I quickly used 8-tracks to make my own mix tapes (I am guessing, looking at that motley crew in the picture, that this particular mix tape had The Cars, Dire Straits, or Warren Zevon). Without a doubt, my obsession about song lengths probably came from these 8-track mix tapes (well before I did the same with cassettes) so that I could plan down to the second songs for each "program", which seemed the industry name for the sections all linked by the least musical "clunk" ever. I was smart enough, I told myself, to avoid the god-awful song breaks that came from every album released on 8-track.

At least The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers just gave you the songs and let the damn breaks come where they may.  As you can see, both "Wild Horses" and "Sister Morphine" lost a little something in continuity, but the whole album was still presented as intended. I suppose with an album as exceptional as Sticky Fingers, it made sense to leave sequencing alone, as if to tell the idiot with the 8-track, "dude, if you don't want better quality in your music purchases, that ain't our problem."

 

Needless to say, once the 8-track became obsolete (months? days? hours?) I eventually bought album copies of every 8-track I mention in the opening paragraph, save one: Jefferson Starship's Earth. There are two great songs on Earth, both hits, with "Count On Me" and "Runaway." I can't remember any other song from Earth. Maybe it was a detriment that Jefferson Starship did some re-sequencing of the album to keep the "mid-song interruption" to just one song.  See the 8-track sequence:

"Count On Me" on the album is in the classic two-hole, the place where so many bands stuck their catchiest hit, but for the 8-track is relegated to the third spot, leading off the second program, while the song everyone in the band thought would sound best coming after "Count On Me" now comes before it. Otherwise, the rest of the songs are in order. Other than that, Tsar Nicholas, your boy is really healthy. 

For me, even worse, though, is that the other hit song, "Runaway," gets interrupted as the tape moved from program 3 to program 4. I am sure when the album was first released, they had no idea "Runaway" would be the second single from the album, but little else on this CD is that listenable. This wasn't no Sticky Fingers; change up the order and let "Show Yourself" or the really infantile "Skateboard," be on the chopping block.

I don't remember where "Runaway" got the abrupt click, but gauging from the running times of the programs, it may have been right as Marty Balin is singing "oh, if you knew how much I need you/oh, and I need you like the air," which, if so, would  have been best to try and cover that hackneyed line. However, I seem to remember the break coming more during Craig Chaquico's exquisite little guitar bit between the second and third sections of the song. Many times, the decision-makers seem to cut these songs during instrumental breaks, which really sucked for all the world's air guitarists.

Any break in "Runaway" is a disgrace because the song really is a "runaway," a song that exists because of its own momentum.  Grace Slick and the others help fuel powerful vocals, ranging from group harmonies to lead singer Marty Balin's drawled "sun is coming and it's getting wahmer/tell me Spring is just around the cahner," but mostly just through the on-going running, "run, run, run, run away." The song truly is ear worm territory, and you can't cut the worm in half (well, maybe you can). When Balin announces "one more time/just one more time," I am surprised that is not where the record company decided to break the song.

Look, for many of us, "Count On Me" and "Runaway" are the last hoorah for Jefferson Starship nee Airplane. Within a couple more years they will dump the Jefferson and just be Starship and build a city that everyone mocks. I was never a huge fan regardless of the decade, and still think "Miracles" is their best song overall.  Just makes me wonder what happened to all of these hideous 8-track tapes.

In full disclosure, these pictures are not of my actual 8-tracks. Those got tossed long ago. They are pictures from someone selling them on E-bay. Why oh why would someone want to buy 8-tracks? Some kind of sick practical joke? Maybe environmentalists have these, trying to save earth by not adding Earth to some garbage dump somewhere.

"Runaway." Jefferson Starship. Earth. Grunt. 1978. Link here.

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Day 114: Brandi Carlile "The Story."->

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