of Skip Spence and Signe Toly Anderson, from the forthcoming
book Rising Toward the Flame
by Bob Harvey
Harvey was the first bass player in Jefferson Airplane, throughout
the band's first several months in 1965, before being replaced
by Jack Casady. Bob had previously played with a bluegrass group
called the Slippery Rock String Band before hooking up with
Marty Balin and Paul Kantner and landing in the Airplane.
Still making music today, Bob has been writing his memoirs of
his time in the Airplane. In the following excerpt he recalls
two of the band's legendary early members, drummer Skip Spence
(who replaced the first drummer, Jerry Peloquin) and vocalist
Signe Toly Anderson, who preceded Grace Slick as the female
voice of the band.
is not an outtake or expanded story from Got a Revolution!
(and some of the details conflict with other accounts I've
been told of this particular event), but I thought it was worth
including here. This story will appear, along with many
others from Bob, in a book he is writing called Rising Toward
For more information on Bob Harvey and his current activities
visit his San
Francisco Blue web site.
Skip Spence was a blythe spirit. He knew how to listen--and
watch. The story that is told about the manner in which Skip
joined Jefferson Airplane is most unlikely and very true. I
liked Jerry Peloquin because he was supportive of my bass playing.
He kept telling Kantner that, "Harvey keeps the beat and
that is what's important." But we all knew his days were
numbered. It was simply that he didn't get high--period.
It was the night that Jerry Peloquin and Paul Kantner's mutual
disdain came to a boiling point. Paul had absolutely no concern
for other people's feelings. If you did nothing to aggravate
him, he ignored you. If you irritated him, he would put you
down with comments that could cut to the bone. The band was
having an afternoon rehearsal before the 9 o'clock show. Paul
didn't like the drum part in the chorus of "Midnight Hour."
Paul stopped the song right in the middle of the chorus and
said, "Stop playing that lame-ass polka beat. Go back to
Wisconsin with the Kilbasso Kings--that's where you belong."
Jerry Peloquin was built well and weighed a good 45 lbs. more
than Paul Kantner, plus he had been in the Marine Corps. He
jumped up from his drums and said, "Kantner, you wouldn't
know a good beat if somebody clubbed you with it," and
he punched Paul Kantner square in the mouth, knocking him flat
on his ass."
courtesy Jacky Sarti)
Paul stayed down. Jerry said, "Fuck all of you pretend
musicians. I've been in jazz and rock and roll. I was making
a living at it when you were still a bunch of snot-nosed kids.
Take this stupid shit and stick it up your ass--I'm out of here."
Jerry stomped out the door of the Matrix and we never saw him
again. Marty Balin looked down at John Cipollina (rhythm guitar
for Quicksilver) and said, "Do you know a drummer?"
John shook his head and said, "No." He looked over
at David Freiberg (later of Jefferson Starship), but David shrugged
Skip Spence was standing by the bar. That was the first time
he had visited the Matrix. He was there with John Cipollina
and his girlfriend Angie. Skip looked like he belonged in a
band for sure. Close to six feet tall, handsome, with dark blond
shoulder length hair. Marty looked down from the stage, spotted
Spence and said, "That cat looks like the quintessential
hippy--that's my drummer. He left the stage, walked up to Skipper
and said. "You're my drummer."
Skip, who had witnessed the scene with Peloquin, looked at Marty
and said, "Cool, but I'm not a drummer."
Marty's response was, "Sure you are. I have a feeling you're
the one--you're our new drummer. Get up there and let's run
through our set. We're on in a couple of hours."
Surprisingly, Skip held the beat pretty well. Marty and Paul
looked at each other and Paul shrugged as if to say, "Whatever,
man, it's your call." It wasn't exciting rhythm on the
drums, but it was passable and [manager] Matthew Katz said,
"Isn't that some shit, Marty picks 'em with extra sensory
Skip Spence was easy to like, amiable--he was a team player.
He did whatever he was told. He had a good sense of humor and
he was one of those rare people who can pick up practically
any instrument and sound like he knows what he's doing. Within
days, Skip had all the songs down cold and everybody was happy.
Matthew Katz asked Marty how he knew. Marty just shrugged and
said, "I just have a feeling about people."
Skip was basically a street person. He didn't have a car and
he was crashing with one lady or another, mostly over in the
Haight-Ashbury. The women were drawn to Skip like moths to the
flame. I liked hanging out with Skipper. We didn't talk all
that much, but he was easy to be around and he always had good
dope. We wrote one song together called "Hurting for People"
Airplane 1966--l. to r.: Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Signe
Anderson, Paul Kantner, Marty Balin, Skip Spence
Hurting for People
Hurting for people/got no time to wait
Hurting for people/got no time to hate
Don't tell me what love ought to be
Cause it just aint
It's just a need to communicate
Say what you want, I'll give it to you
All I can take/is what your willing to
Take the path you can't resist
Go thru the door it's easiest
Go find someone/you'll learn to see
Go find someone/and learn to be
You'll find that love is just reaching out
While someone else is reaching in
Open your heart/for it's the key
Open your heart/and you'll be free
You'll find that love is just reaching out
While someone else is reaching in
Signe Toly was a little girl with a really big voice. I first
met Signe while visiting her brother John Toly, who was the doorman
at the "Drinking Gourd." The Slippery Rock String Band
was appearing at the Gourd on Friday nights. Between sets I'd
hang out with John and drink my free beer.
John was the first person in my life to ask me about dope. He
said, "Do you get high?" I told him no. He invited me
back to his apartment after the show and proceeded to turn me
on. Signe came over while we were smoking and she joined in. In
the Jefferson Airplane box set (Jefferson Airplane Loves You)
on page three of the booklet, there is a picture of the original
Harvey (second from left), with the Slippery Rock String Band,
courtesy Bob Harvey)
Jerry Peloquin is seated on the ground in front of Signe. I was
squatting down next to Jerry and Signe had her left hand on my
shoulder. She was a very friendly and quiet person, but her singing
voice made up for any quietness--a strong and at times quite husky
contralto that filled the Matrix. I considered her my friend and
for a time we were quite close. Then she met Jerry Anderson. I
never liked Jerry. On one level I was jealous. I would have loved
to be with Signe. Jerry was blond and blue-eyed, good looking
and told wild stories that made him sound like someone who loved
living on the edge.
Signe was away from the apartment, John Toly, Jerry Anderson and
I would get stoned. It was usual that Anderson would pull out
something special, like a Thai stick, or a block of hash--something
to show us that he was "really into it"--dope, that
is. He would regale John and I with stories of his trips to the
Far East, where he made a contact in Singapore for opium and heroin.
He said, "My dealer was some kind of commissioner of police.
He would take me to his house and invite some beautiful women
to join us. An assistant would get us both ready for intravenous
injection, then the commissioner and I would mount up on two of
the girls. Mine was a gorgeous white Russian by the name of Martina.
The goal was to time the injection and the "rush" with
the moment that we came in our sex partners. What an ubelievable
After Signe and Jerry moved in together, she became more distant
and didn't come over to join in like she had before. I felt like
Jerry Anderson was not a positive influence on Signe. I was afraid
he would get her into heroin. Plus I just missed her friendship.
Peloquin (l) and Bob Harvey reunited in 2002 after not having
seen each other since they left Jefferson Airplane