Blows Against The Empire: 50 years later

Front cover of Blows Against the Empire (1970) by Paul Kantner & Jefferson Starship. Photo courtesy of Discogs.

What do you get when you mix rock and roll and science fiction? This premise may sound like the setup of a bad joke, but let me assure you that the answer, Paul Kantner’s “Blows Against The Empire” is no laughing matter. 

“Wave goodbye to Amerika, say hello to the garden!”

Lyrics from “Let’s Go Together” from “Blows Against the Empire” by Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship”

The iconic psych-rock album turns 50 this month, and even though its anniversary hasn’t received much fanfare outside of the cooler segments of the rock-loving boomer crowd, it doesn’t change the fact that Blows is one of the greatest collaborative efforts of the psychedelic era, maybe in music history. This spaced-out rock opera about a bunch of hippies who hijack the spaceship “Amerika” for righteous cosmic adventures was an almost perfect soundtrack for San Francisco during this period. Critic William Ruhlmann states in his AllMusic review of the project that while the music can sometimes be dense and hard to follow,  “… there were enough hooks and harmonies to keep things interesting.” 

Outside of the main players, (Paul Kantner and Grace Slick of Jefferson Starship, nee Airplane) “Blows” featured an unbelievable guest list, filled with luminaries of rock history, such as David Crosby, Graham Nash, Mickey Hart, Jerry Garcia, Jack Casady, and David Friberg, just to name a few. Those names alone make this album one of the sacred texts in rock history, and should be enough to make you want to dive into this far-out cosmic trip. 

You can listen to an extended version of “Blows Against The Empire” with demos and other related rarities HERE. You can also check out William Ruhlmann’s review of the album at https://www.allmusic.com/album/blows-against-the-empire-mw0000024441

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