Song: “We Built This City” by Starship
Reached #1: November 16, 1985 (their first, 2 weeks)
Once upon a time, there was Jefferson Airplane. And verily, it was good. But then internal politics, romances, and creative differences soured the darlings of the counter-culture.
So they were reborn as Jefferson Starship. And verily, it was… OK. They were more into conceptual albums and had a middling level of success. And then Paul Kantner left, bringing in the lawyers. Finally, it was agreed that the remaining band could call themselves anything that didn’t use the words Jefferson or Airplane.
So they were reborn again as Starship.
They kept former Elvin Bishop Group lead singer Mickey Thomas as lead singer. Grace Slick stayed around, and they did not only this song, but the Mannequin theme “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, two songs as far from the Airplane’s roots as you could get.
Starship nearly ended in 1989, with Slick’s departure and Thomas’ unavailability after a brutal beating – by one of his bandmates. But Thomas healed up, and continues to lead “Starship with Mickey Thomas”.
Jefferson Airplane came back briefly in the late ‘80s before Slick retired from music. Jefferson Starship – The Next Generation arrived in 1992 and continues to tour, with Paul Kantner at the center.
As to “We Built This City”, it has continued to win polls as one of the worst, if not the worst, #1 hit of the ‘80s. Of course, it’s as much because this bit of commercialism is exactly what the band once known for “White Rabbit” shouldn’t have ever done as because of the song itself, which is a harmless little bit of fluff. And do you recall the short-lived phenomenon of every radio station doing their own spoken-word bridge to replace the faux San Francisco DJ?
Tomorrow, the song that first established one of the go-to bands of the ‘80s…
Other songs that reached #1 on November 16:
1959 – “Mr. Blue” by the Fleetwoods (their second, 1 week)
1963 – “Deep Purple” by Nino Tempo & April Stevens (their first, 1 week)
1974 – “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” by John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Nuclear Band (his first, 1 week)