Review of Jefferson Airplane book- Take Me to a Circus Tent by author Craig Fenton.
Being a born skeptic it takes a lot to convince me that something is of merit. I don’t let a few words sway me. I was intrigued by reading a few 5 star reviews and gained further respect when superlative praise came for Mr. Fenton from founding group member Marty Balin.
Balin is quoted on the back cover as stating “Craig Fenton knows so much about the Jefferson Airplane and Family, I was asking him the questions.” I needed my own eyes to be the final judge.
The cover that Mr. Fenton proudly displays to Take Me to a Circus Tent is the original photo to the Jefferson Airplane’s second album Surrealistic Pillow. Mr. Fenton employed the services of one of San Francisco’s most well known photographers Herb Greene. He is responsible for the magnificent shot that was used for the album and after having CD’s shrink the priceless picture to an overgrown postage stamp it was a sight for sore eyes to see the classic group photo in 8.5 x 11 view.
To Mr. Fenton’s credit he not only presents the consumer with over 540 pages but does it without superfluous clutter. The book is actually several themes giving the buyer a reason that the positive responses are found everywhere beginning with Amazon.
Mr. Fenton takes us through over 120 live Jefferson Airplane appearances and documents the songs played, first and last time the tune would be heard on a concert stage, any special guests that landed, if a particular version was different on a given night, and if there had been misinformation about the show. He also presents us with what is found in the Jefferson Airplane studio vault. Mr. Fenton unveils 60 or so unreleased songs, alternate versions, jams, demos, etc. He sets the record straight on which tunes were censored and gives us insight on the versions that didn’t make it to the public. The detail is not only mind blowing but meticulous and coming from a writer yes but a fanatical fan.
Take Me to a Circus Tent is just getting warmed up. There are three other portions that will have you enthralled. As you flip the pages there are over ninety photos in the book. These aren’t the run of the mill same old yawn now pictures. He has two shots as rare as anything you have seen from the band. There are many photos from both the Great Society with Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane that have not seen the light of day. Herb Greene’s camera is all over the book.
Mr. Fenton was a former radio disc-jockey. It is evident when time for the interview section. By the way there are over thirty transcripted interviews with members of the Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and some San Francisco friends. Mr. Fenton’s relaxed approach and impeccable knowledge of the groups helps bring out many things not previously in print. You’ll find out a singer that tried out before Signe Anderson got the job and the gentleman that played guitar during her audition. We find out what Hot Tuna member became part of a Jefferson Airplane song and wasn’t credited, and even which Great Society song the Airplane turned down to record (They did say yes twice).
Mr. Fenton’s section of questions and answers on the Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna, SVT, KBC, and Wooden Ships feeds us enough information to digest for years.
Take Me to a Circus Tent is something special and wonderful under the big top.
The book is available through Amazon and a simple Google search will give you Mr. Fenton’s website and blog.