Music/Popular Culture

Tournament of Rock IV: the Starship pod

Tournament of Rock IV: Monsters of Corporate Rock!The results for pod #9 are in, and we have another rout: Phil Collins takes better than 70% of the vote as the seeded entry wins again (that’s seven out of nine the seeds have won). Pil advances to the round of 16.

Next, pod #10. Have you ever wondered what this city was built on?

      • #3 Seed: Starship
      • Eric Clapton (solo career)
      • Kenny Loggins
      • Sheryl Crow
      • Metallica


Starship was a band created by the settlement of a lawsuit. Notwithstanding this curious beginning, the group went on to a series of hits in the mid-’80s, including the chart-toppers “We Built This City,” “Sara,” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” in a polished, mainstream pop/rock style before splitting up in the early ’90s. Starship was the remaining sextet of musicians that, with Paul Kantner, had made up Jefferson Starship until the rhythm guitarist/singer’s exit from that band in June 1984. Kantner, a founding member of Jefferson Airplane, the precursor to Jefferson Starship, had also helped found Jefferson Starship in 1974. Ten years later, Kantner decried the band’s tilt toward commercial rock and decided that it was time for the group to dissolve. His bandmates disagreed, and Kantner sued over money and the ownership of the band’s name in October 1984. The suit was settled in March 1985, resulting in a cash payment to Kantner and the agreement that the name “Jefferson Starship” would be retired, while the band would change its name to simply Starship (with that name owned by singer Grace Slick and manager Bill Thompson).

Jim: Only the hippest will get this obscure reference, but I don’t care: “If you feel like making money/If you feel like selling out/Make money selling out….” Once the Crown of Creation as Jefferson Airplane – then they fooled around and hired Mickey Thomas….depresses the hell out of me…..

fikshun: Exactly which city was built on your so-called rock-n-roll? Cleveland? Aurora, Illinois? Colorado Springs?

Me: #6 on the Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen list. I saw Starship at Carowinds (amusement park near Charlotte) in the summer of 1985. No, no – wait, hear me out. I got to spend the day at the park free with an exceptionally hot chick I was dating. And the opener was The Outfield, a band I really liked (still do). Given how the evening ended with said hot date – hint, hint – it was, on the whole, a really good day. Despite Mickey Fucking Thomas. Despite the fact that the only thing Craig Chaquico had apparently practiced in years was posing shirtless in front of the mirror. Despite the fact that Grace had let herself be reduced to Mickey Fucking Thomas’s backup singer. Despite the pointless five-minute synthesizer intro wank to “White Rabbit.” And despite the fact that they both opened and closed the show with … go on, take a guess … “We Built This City.” But like I say, the date? Yeah, she was REALLY hot. I’ll relive that day again just as soon as somebody invents me a hot tub time machine. Except this time I might leave early. Say, just after The Outfield finishes their set.

Eric Clapton

By the time Eric Clapton launched his solo career with the release of his self-titled debut album in mid-1970, he was long established as one of the world’s major rock stars due to his group affiliations — the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, and Blind Faith — which had demonstrated his claim to being the best rock guitarist of his generation… Clapton did not launch a sustained solo career until July 1974, when he released 461 Ocean Boulevard, which topped the charts and spawned the number one single “I Shot the Sheriff.” The persona Clapton established over the next decade was less that of guitar hero than arena rock star with a weakness for ballads.

Jim: A true guitar legend…The guy helps a lot of people with his rehab centers…but if you’re God, you don’t make records with Babyface and John Mayer…you just don’t…

Me: I just reviewed the Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen list and somehow Clapton isn’t on it. WTF?

Bonesparkle: Robert Johnson and a really emo 14 year-old girl are shooting craps for his soul.

Kenny Loggins

Loggins & Messina broke up in 1976, and Loggins retained a strong following in the years immediately after. He went on to solo stardom with such million-selling albums as Celebrate Me Home, Nightwatch (which included the hit “Whenever I Call You Friend”), and Keep the Fire, all in the cheerful, sensitive style he had displayed in Loggins & Messina. Loggins also became known as the king of the movie soundtrack song, scoring Top Ten hits with “I’m Alright” (from Caddyshack), “Footloose” (from Footloose), “Danger Zone” (from Top Gun), and “Nobody’s Fool” (from Caddyshack II).

Jim: Great folk rock songwriter with Jim Messina – then, he got Footloose in the Danger Zone…but He’s Alright…at least that’s What a Fool Believes….

Bonesparkle: Anyone associated with Caddyshack gets a mulligan. Anyone associated with Caddyshack 2 has to give it back.

fikshun: How many of Kenny’s greatest hits weren’t  done to promote movies?

Me: Whether he proves to be our favorite corporate performer or not, there may never have been an artist who was more purely and comprehensively mainstream from one end of his career to the other. Kenny Loggins was born to be a prostitute.

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow’s fresh, updated spin on classic roots rock made her one of the most popular mainstream rockers of the ’90s. Her albums were loose and eclectic on the surface, yet were generally tied together by polished, professional songcraft. Crow’s sunny, good-time rockers and world-weary ballads were radio staples for much of the ’90s, and she was a perennial favorite at Grammy time. Although her songwriting style was firmly anchored to the rock tradition, she wasn’t a slave to it — her free-associative, reference-laden poetry could hardly have been the product of any era but the ’90s. Her production not only kept pace with contemporary trends, but sometimes even pushed the envelope of what sounds could be heard on a classicist rock album, especially on her self-titled sophomore effort.

Jim: Record execs meeting: “Hey, let’s find a hot chick who writes competent 3rd-generation roots rock and sell her like a piece of meat.” Done…

Bonesparkle: Sheryl was once named #1 on the Love Losers list. She’s dated Eric Clapton, Owen Wilson, Kid Rock, Lance Armstrong, Ryan Seacrest and Hank Azaria, and these are just the famous ones. My theory is that her relationships are all going swimmingly until she ties them up and strips to Tuesday Night Music Club. At that point they all scream the safe word, rip out the headboard and break for the door. Except for maybe Kid Rock, who wants to do a rap/rock cover of “All I Wanna Do.” At which point she breaks for the door.


Metallica spent most of 2000 embroiled in controversy by spearheading a legal assault against Napster, a file-sharing service that allowed users to download music files from each other’s computers. Aggressively targeting copyright infringement of their own material, the band notoriously had over 300,000 users kicked off the service, creating a widespread debate over the availability of digital music that raged for most of the year… In July [2001], Metallica surprisingly dropped their lawsuit against Napster, perhaps sensing that their controversial stance did more bad than good to their “band of the people” image.

fikshun: Napster. That about covers it, doesn’t it?

Jim: Metal band takes itself way too seriously…hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…no, wait, I mean, really…hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha….I’m serious, dammit! Metal band takes itself…hahahahahahaha…..

Me: #7 on the Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen list. I give them credit for being an important lesson for naïve music fans everywhere. See, before the Napster affair broke their legions of fans saw Metallica as the real fuckin’ deal. Authentic and taking no shit from no man. Then Lars and James drop to their knees for the RIAA, making clear that they by god were whores. The whole raging metalhead thing was an image. Pure marketing.

Bonesparkle: You know how Avril Lavigne was Punk? That’s how James and Pay Lars are Metal.

Click to vote.

The rules.

Image Credit: 80s on Speed

5 replies »

  1. I never cared for Clapton’s solo stuff much, which always seemed very odd to me as I loved The Blues Breakers, Cream, and Blind Faith. I sure wish Blind Faith had done more.

    Loggins has to be THE most corporate singer ever.

    Starship has to be THE mightiest who has fallen the farthest.

    • Starship ranks really high on the mightiest who has fallen list, no doubt. Depends on where you start the clock, though. Airplane to Starship was huge. By the latter stages of the Jeff Starship they had trailed off a good bit. “Jane” was a great tune, but it was mostly downhill after 1976 or so….

  2. This one is interesting because of two really iconic figures involved–Clapton and the memory of Jefferson Airplane. Both were transformative artists at the time. Airplane, however, never recovered when Jorma and Jack Cassidy left to form Hot Tuna and stay with the blues. And Clapton never really completely recovered after Layla–he never had anyone to spur him on the way Duane Allman did on Layla, or the way Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker did with Cream. Frankly, that seems to be his choice. He’s never gotten back together with John Mayall the way Peter Green (a better, but not as influential guitarist) has. But he has gotten back together with Cream a couple of times, which pleased a whole lot of people. And in between all the crap he has continued to make real music–From the Cradle is a fine album by any standard.

    Starship, on the other hand, became a waste of time by the 1980s. I’ll vote for them.