Runaway by Jefferson Starship (Grunt, 1978)


The entity of airplanes and starships gets a lot of undeserved flack in the annals of pop-rock. The fact of the matter is they had a 22-year career hitting the Top 40 amid name changes, personnel changes, and music changes. Who could have predicted that they would have 3 #1 hits in the late ’80s? (Say what you want about We Built This City, I think Sara is a beautiful song) Having a career like that means that they must have had a knack for understanding and embracing the ever-evolving pop landscape, knowing what their audience wanted and, of course, being extremely lucky.

Runaway, their 2nd single from the LP Earth, was their 4th Top 40 hit of the late 70s, a glossy yet mellow shot of AOR pop, that became their stock in trade – smoothly loping along with a George Harrison-esque guitar lick with a beat for easy nodding. Yes, for those that traded in their tabs for Js, Jefferson Starship had you covered. Man, I dug this song as a kid.

But here’s the problem with AM radio. I have always heard/remembered the lyrics a certain way, and I just recently found out I was wrong. I always heard the first line as:

You don’t know how much I miss you
But I love you like a son

Well, when coupled with :

I’d like to put my arms around you and run run run runaway

It felt like a guy getting close to someone who needed a father figure. It could be a boy’s uncle whose dad is away at war. I guess it also is a little creepy, especially if its a stranger talking to some kid.

I read that the lines are actually:

You don’t know how much I love you
but I love you like the sun
I’d like to put my arms around you
and we could run run run, runaway

That doesn’t seem as interesting to me. I love you like the sun? Who are you, George Hamilton? I started wondering what made me hear it that way. What was going on in my life at that time? Was I looking for a different dad or one that would ‘love me like a son.’? Then again, I always thought Marty said he was ‘sittin’, munchin on a flower‘ rather than just watchin all the flowers. Still do. I can’t hear it any other way. So what do I know?

The song was written by someone named N. Q. Dewey. I can’t find anything else written or recorded by this guy, and he doesn’t get special thanks on Earth’s liner notes, so I wonder if this a pseudonym. Maybe it was the zodiac killer. JS was from San Fran…

Any time this comes on the radio, I crank it up, praying for the extended album version. And by the time Marty repeats the first verse with that ache in his voice, I realize that I want to be this guy’s kid and runaway wherever. Maybe I’ll change my name to Jefferson…

Miracles by Jefferson Starship (Grunt, 1975)

In the early 70s, Marty Balin was kicking around unemployed, an ex-member of Jefferson Airplane. Paul Kantner, Jefferson’s guitarist was putting together a new version of the group and asked Marty if he had any songs. He had held back one song he was working on for a while and eventually brought it to Kantner, a tune called Caroline. When finally asked to join the new incarnation of Jefferson Airplane full time in 1975, now called Jefferson Starship, Marty wrote them a tune he thought would take them to the top. Everyone hated it. The song was Miracles.

The band relented though and recorded the tune for their new album, Red Octopus. [classy, huh?] The song shot up the charts to #3 and the album went to #1. Marty was back and became their new main lead singer. All for a song which Marty says was inspired by the love of his girlfriend and the love for Indian Guru, Sathya Sia Baba. That’s it, Marty? Are you sure you didn’t get any inspiration from this:

Sound familiar? This song, If Only You Believe, written by Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter was recorded by the Free Movement in 1972 and by Gayle McCormick for her debut LP in 1971. [Ironically Lambert was the co-writer on We Built This City, a #1 hit in 1985 for (Jefferson) Starship, so even though Dennis eventually got paid, Marty was gone by then, by the way.

The album version of this song is nearly 7 minutes, but they edited the 45 down to 3 1/2 minutes. Good thing too, cause it gave the producer an excuse to edit out all the creepy bits of this song. Marty talked about his love a little too explicitly. Now I’m not a prude by any means. It’s just that it comes off sleazy and not very erotic when he, without irony or sensuality, talks about dancin’ inside ya after he’s had a taste of the real world when he’s goes down on you. Wow why did the band think this song was weird? Thankfully the 45 leaves the line about you ripple like a river when I touch you.

All I can picture when I hear lines like that is this guy:

I don’t mean to disparage Marty’s ‘love’, especially when he hears windmills & rainbows, but didn’t that drive Don Quixote insane? Maybe Marty is hanging out in the Netherlands eating Skittles. Who knows?

I am very glad I have the 45 in my memory rather than Plato’s Retreat version. It makes me think of buying puzzles at Child World and running home to put them together on the basement floor while my mom had friends over for ‘tea’ upstairs. If only I could have existed on the stars. I heard it was so easy.