"White Rabbit" is a song from Jefferson Airplane's 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow. It was released as a single and became the band's second top ten success, peaking at #8[1] on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was ranked #478 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,[2] #75 on Rate Your Music's Top Singles of All Time,[3] and appears on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

History[edit source | editbeta]Edit

“White Rabbit” was written by Grace Slick while she was still with The Great Society. When that band broke up in 1966, Slick was invited to join Jefferson Airplane to replace their departed female singer Signe Toly Anderson, who left the band with the birth of her child. The first album Slick recorded with Jefferson Airplane wasSurrealistic Pillow, and Slick provided two songs from her previous group: her own “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love”, written by her brother-in-law Darby Slickand recorded under the title "Someone to Love" by The Great Society. Both songs became breakout successes for Jefferson Airplane and have ever since been associated with that band.[4]

Lyrics and composition[edit source | editbeta]Edit

[1][2]1967 trade ad for the single.

One of Grace Slick's earliest songs, written during either late 1965 or early 1966, uses imagery found in the fantasy works of Lewis Carroll: 1865's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel Through the Looking-Glass, such as changing size after taking pills or drinking an unknown liquid. It is commonly thought that these are also references to the hallucinatory effects of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. Characters referenced include Alice, the hookah-smoking caterpillarthe White Knight, the Red Queen, and the Dormouse.

For Slick and others in the 1960s, drugs were a part of mind-expanding and social experimentation. With its enigmatic lyrics, "White Rabbit" became one of the first songs to sneak drug references past censors on the radio. Even Marty Balin, Slick's eventual rival in Jefferson Airplane, regarded the song as a "masterpiece". In interviews, Slick has related that Alice in Wonderland was often read to her as a child and remained a vivid memory into her adult years.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Slick mentioned that in addition to Alice in Wonderland her other inspiration for the song was "the bolero used by Miles Davis and Gil Evans on their 1960 album Sketches of Spain."[5] The song is essentially one long crescendo similar to that of Ravel's famous Boléro. However, Bolero is not on the Sketches of Spain album. The music combined with the song's lyrics strongly suggests the sensory distortions experienced with hallucinogens, and the song was later used in pop culture to imply or accompany just such a state.

Genesis[edit source | editbeta]Edit

While the Red Queen and the White Knight are both mentioned in the song, the references differ from Lewis Carroll's original text, wherein the White Knight does not talk backwards and it is the Queen of Hearts, not the Red Queen, who says "Off with her head!"

The last lines of the song are: "Remember what the Dormouse said. Feed your head. Feed your head." Although commonly interpreted as quoting the Dormouse, the lines may instead refer to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter XI: "Who Stole the Tarts", wherein a very nervous Mad Hatter is called to testify:

'But what did the Dormouse say?' one of the jury asked. 'That I can't remember', said the Hatter.

Chart run[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Cashbox[6] (11 weeks): 59, 45, 23, 14, 12, 11, 8, 6, 7, 22, 41

Covers[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song was covered in the following years:

Sampled[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In media[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"White Rabbit" has been used in numerous films and television shows.[16]

  • A line in the song, Go Ask Alice, was used as the title of a 1971 book about drug addiction by Beatrice Sparks that was adapted two years later into an ABC Movie of the Week.
  • The song is played twice during season 1, episode 7 of The Sopranos, "Down Neck": first while Tony Soprano takes his Prozac and remembers his childhood, and again over the end credits.
  • The Battlefield: Vietnam main menu song consists of the bass line of White Rabbit, with voice tracks of Lyndon B. Johnson and Hanoi Hannah.
  • The song is featured on the soundtrack to the 2008 video game Shaun White Snowboarding.
  • The song is played throughout a trailer for the video game Lost Odyssey.[17]
  • Played during season 5, episode 1 of American Dad! ("In Country...Club").
  • The song is used twice in the movie The Game (1997), once when Nicholas Van Orten (Michael Douglas) comes home to find his home vandalized with graffiti, and after the movie when the end credits are rolling.
  • In the 1998 film, and in the book that the film is based on, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the climax of the song is played when Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro) is sitting in a water-filled bathtub and attempts to bring the tape player that's playing the song in with him, as he wants to "hear" the song better.
  • The song is used in season 10, episode 6 of The Simpsons ("D'oh-in in the Wind") during a montage of Springfielders drinking hallucinogenic vegetable juice produced by Homer.
  • The song is used in the 1986 Academy Award-winning film Platoon during a scene when a group of soldiers bond while taking hallucinogenic drugs.
  • In season 2, episode 7 of Futurama ("A Head in the Polls"), Richard Nixon's head sings the last line of the song while strumming a guitar and promptly declares, "I'm meeting you halfway, you stupid hippies."
  • The song is heard in the background of an episode in Everybody Hates Chris.
  • The song is heard in the Brian Jones biopic Stoned (2005) when Jones ingests LSD for the first time.
  • In the series Supernatural, the song is played in an episode called "Hunted".
  • The song is used in the first season of Warehouse 13 in the episode, "Duped" as Alice returns to destroy a mirror.
  • The song is in the 1998 film "Hideous Kinky" based on the autobiographical novel by Esther Freud from 1992.
  • It is hypothesized that the song was used as inspiration for the Wonderland characters in the ABC series Once Upon a Time. Jefferson is the name of the Mad Hatter and his daughter is named Grace.
  • This song is used in the reality show The Osbournes in the season 4 episode 1, "Kelly Interrupted" where she is taken to rehab.
  • The song is used in the video game Conflict: Vietnam.
  • This song is used in the Daria episode "Road Worriers" when Helen and Jake get frisky with each other when they're home by themselves while the girls are going to Alternapalooza.
  • The song is heard briefly in the Blossom season two episode "The Joint".
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