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Mar 10

STARSHIP – “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”

FT + Popular115 comments • 7,147 views

#590, 9th May 1987, video

Listening to this song you realise that at some point the idea that a rock record should sound like a bunch of people in the same place playing the same music at the same time was completely abandoned by record producers. Not in the name of experimentation, or expanding a record’s sound, but I guess just because that kind of verisimilitude didn’t seem relevant any more. In its way this even seems a more radical shift than genres like dub reggae or techno which were clearly studio constructs from the off.

This is a long way of saying that there’s something quite off about a song like “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”: built for a movie, it has the same oddly flat, perspective-warping quality as a studio set, like it only really exists in the context of the action, when it’s soundtracking something. That eerie dead space is created pretty much entirely by the echo on the percussion: I guess it could also be filled by crowds of people singing along, which is why arena rockers took to this kind of song.

Listened to alone there’s a discrepancy between the size and effort of the sound (colossal) and the emotional take-out from it (pea-sized) that tips me into laughter when Starship try and go up a gear leading into the guitar solo. Maybe if I’d put more hours in with Grace Slick’s earlier work I’d find it in me to despise Starship but for all its vacuous, leaden bigitude, deep in its tiny heart this is affable enough to be harmless.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Alan on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Don’t you need somebody to love? ow, harsh. i’d understand if this was a crazy year and you needed a sacrificial donkey to the god of stats. I like the ridiculous shift after the middle 8 into the solo. it’s the 80s man.

    Never seen the film. It looks like a Police Academy film from the video.

  2. 2
    MBI on 8 Mar 2010 #

    A major major guilty pleasure for me — this is exactly the level of bombastic ’80s cheese that hits me right in the pleasure center of the brain.

    “We Built This City,” meanwhile, hits me right in the gag reflex. I don’t know how my brain makes these distinctions.

  3. 3
    poohugh on 8 Mar 2010 #

    The most comical moment is the urgent ‘What DO they know?’, with the emphasis on the ‘do’ as opposed to the ‘they’.

  4. 4
    Tom on 8 Mar 2010 #

    #2 heh, I almost said something about how I kind of like “We Built This City” – it’s smug boomer self-congratulation but so flagrant about it it’s rather appealing.

    Records not far away from this will get higher marks from me, I’m sure – this one is cheese that’s been left out on the kitchen table a bit too long and has gone all rindy.

  5. 5
    Tracer Hand on 8 Mar 2010 #

    In the right context this song is a 10. At a birthday party, for instance, or a wedding. Or possibly in a fun-looking 80s movie that my parents didn’t let me go see because it literally imagined its heroine as a portable doll.

  6. 6
    Alan on 8 Mar 2010 #

    add to the “hasn’t grace slick aged well” file: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKxd0SAJmRE

  7. 7
    MikeMCSG on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Blimey are we up to this already ? I’d have placed this later into the summer. Shows how work speeds up your life !

    I’ve always had opposing reactions to this. On one hand I’m pleased we have an opportunity to talk about Grace Slick. As well as being a great singer she was the first independent woman in rock but never really gets the kudos for that from critics who prefer to extol junkie Janis. Similarly Jefferson Airplane always seem to be reluctantly acknowledged behind Doors, ‘Dead, Love and the Velvets when discussing that late 60s flowering of US rock.

    On the other hand this is an utter travesty of everything she originally stood for. By this time the twice-mutated band were pretty much finished and she is little more than a guest star on the record. That horrible video with her cavorting with a poodle-headed toy boy with her big hair and shoulder pads sums up everything that was bad about 1987.

    This was a long-delayed second number one (since “When I need You”) for writer Albert Hammond and the first of many for his partner Diane Warren. Both have done better than this- a vacuous song for an even more vacuous film.

  8. 8
    Tom on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Is this really the first Diane Warren #1? Blimes.

  9. 9
    TomLane on 8 Mar 2010 #

    The U.S. matched this at #1. Their 3rd #1 single in America in a 16 month period. Lead singer Mickey Thomas often gets ridiculed for his bomobastic vocals that dominated latter day Starship albums, but I often find myself defending him. Not for forgettable stuff like this, but because he was the lead singer on Elvin Bishop’s 1976 #2 (U.S.) blue-eyed soul classic, “Fooled Around and Fell In Love”. As for his Starship tenure, try 1979’s “Jane” for pure over-the-top lung power that would make Steve Perry blush.

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 8 Mar 2010 #

    This is more enjoyable now than it was at the time. It has a really appealing join-the-dots quality, in confirming your expectations as to what rhyme or bit of arrangement is coming next… The two voices leaven the stodge with a bit of diversity, too.

    The video even makes Mannequin look quite fun, though I imagine that enjoyment might pall over two hours… I’d really like to see the 1968 Journey Into The Unknown episode where a teenage Dennis Waterman falls in love with a mannequin, though. I occasionally hear old people with long memories remember that – Doesn’t he get killed and it end with a shot of the weeping dummy?

  11. 11
    Billy Smart on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Number 2 Watch: A week of Tom Jones’ ‘A Boy From Nowhere’ – the usual slush which, barring details of production and arrangement, could have come from 1967.

  12. 12
    Billy Smart on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Just the one UK promotional appearance;

    WOGAN: with Rob Andrew, Brian Blessed, John & Alan Boon, Gareth Edwards, Starship, Shirley Williams (1986)

  13. 13
    rosie on 8 Mar 2010 #

    It’s a million miles (or parsecs even) from White Rabbit isn’t it!

    Grace Slick was no spring chicken in 1967 of course, so by the time we get here she’s nearly as old as I am now. Neither I nor those I hung out with underestimated Jefferson Airplane. It’s when they went silly and became Jefferson Starship that we left them behind.

    Had White Rabbit hit the top in 1967 it would have been a sure 10 from me. As for this one, I think 4 is perhaps a tad generous.

  14. 14
    jel on 8 Mar 2010 #

    This is one of the best song’s ever written.

    Up there with Kiss’s “Crazy Nights”.

  15. 15
    thefatgit on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Kim Cattrall’s star vehicle was a bit of a turkey, and Starship’s MOR/soft rock workout from Mannequin has Bernard Matthews stamped all over it. Much preferred “We Built This City” for it’s singalong chorus.

  16. 16
    AndyPandy on 8 Mar 2010 #

    As so Grace Slick has so unflinchingly written since (and she is perhaps the only artist I’ve ever heard come out and say this)she finds the whole idea of herself or anyone else over a certain age still doing rock music complately ridiculous but as she hints if someone wants to pay her to do it – the money’s always useful- so what the hell…

  17. 17
    Conrad on 8 Mar 2010 #

    I really dug Jefferson Airplane. Best band name ever?

    In fact I got so into them that I couldn’t stop playing their After Bathing at Baxters album, which remains a real favourite, years after I more or less stopped listening to that genre.

    I gave my copy of Baxters to Exeter Uni’s american music library in my first year in return for a day of sitting taping their records.

    Anyway, this. Well its not good is it? But good on Grace Slick having a number 1.

  18. 18
    MagicFly on 8 Mar 2010 #

    Booming fromage, of course, but for me it’s inextricably linked with a gorgeous, sunkissed day in 1987, as Spring melted into Summer, and Gary Davies introduced it on Top Of The Pops with the words “A perfect song for a day like this…” And every time I hear it I can almost taste that day again, and all those years ahead of me.

  19. 19
    lonepilgrim on 8 Mar 2010 #

    This somehow simultaneously makes me cringe and yet feel strangely nostalgic. I wouldn’t choose to listen to it however so 4 seems about right. I hate ‘We built this city’ mind you.
    I hope Marcello can give us some of the context of Grace Slick’s trajectory from Airplane credibility to Starship schlock. Her persona on a JA spinoff was the Chrome Nun which suggests a glossy and impenetrable facade at odds with the fuzzier, hippie nation vibe of bands like the Grateful Dead and which is apparent in earlier songs such as ‘White Rabbit and ‘Somebody to Love’. While it is beguiling in those performances by the stage of it is not appealing

  20. 20
    johnny on 8 Mar 2010 #

    speaking of grace slick, i saw a tv programme years ago that chronicled an onstage pseduo-breakdown which involved her heckling a german audience with repeated cries of “WHO WON THE WAR?”. searched for on youTube lo these many years, as this seems to be the sort of thing youTube is made for but, alas, no luck. am i just imagining this or does anyone else remember it happening?

  21. 21
    swanstep on 8 Mar 2010 #

    God this song is annoying. I think Tom’s on to something about its airless/suffocating production being the alchemical feature that turns it utterly toxic (at least for many people). Maybe in some objective sense this record deserves a 3, say, but subjectively it’s into ‘minus figures’ (I like the whole of popular music a little less after hearing it).

  22. 22
    taDOW on 9 Mar 2010 #

    love “jane” and “rock band” as much if not more than “white rabbit” and “somebody to love” and “fooled around and fell in love” over all of them. this is pretty awful however, worse than the movie even, worse than the other iran-contra era starship hits. 2 for me.

  23. 23
    nick p on 9 Mar 2010 #

    Didn’t realise this was a Dianne Warren co-write. Bernie Taupin’s lyrics for We Built This City are much better. This song is the reason I’ve never seen Mannequin. I always thought this was earlier than ’87…

  24. 24
    lonepilgrim on 9 Mar 2010 #

    is that Fischerspooner in the video?

  25. 25
    Elsa on 9 Mar 2010 #

    #23: Oh really.. then can you tell us what “Marconi plays the mamba” means?

  26. 26

    “Marconi plays the mamba” = it is possible thru the technology of wireless telegraphy to hear HOT LATIN MUSIC in your NON HOT LATIN HOME

  27. 27
    Mark G on 9 Mar 2010 #

    I never ‘investigated’ the Jeffs, as they never hit the UK in any great way, but I can imagine this sort of thing actually putting off people from going back to hear pillow/baxters/etc.

    Other bands from the sixties may have split up before they went ‘corporate’, or still managed to produce vital stuff for themselves.

    .. and we thought the Stones were past it in 1977!

  28. 28
    Tracer Hand on 9 Mar 2010 #

    @26 that was basically the entire underpinning of my undergraduate thesis paper

  29. 29
    Rory on 9 Mar 2010 #

    This feels like the last gasp at the top of that distinctively hollow and huge mid-’80s sound. There’s something to be thankful for. 4 at best.

    Number three in Australia – our Starship number 1 was “We, Jefferson Starship and/or Airplane, Built This City All By Ourselves, So There”.

  30. 30
    wichita lineman on 9 Mar 2010 #

    J Airplane went off the boil quite dramatically after S Pillow. Baxters has no tunes whatsoever. I think it may be the single worst album released by a major act. Worse than Be Here Now even.

    Another thumbs up for Jane, twinned in manic top-end piano riffery with Toto’s Hold The Line

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