The music industry has certainly seen its share of cover-ups. Sure, we all know that Paul McCartney is long dead, Michael Jackson is alive and diddling, and The Buggles were an insidious extension of the CIA’s MKUltra program; but that's just the fin of this dastardly porpoise. What qualifies me to unearth the various truths the Illuminati have long sought to conceal within the popular tunes of our time? Well, my signature look once led an overzealous child to exclaim, “Look, mommy! That man ate Giorgio Tsoukalos!”(I can neither confirm nor deny the consumption of Tsoukalos’ flesh, but if such an event did occur, rest assured it was in service to the endless and tasty pursuit of knowledge.) I feel that meaningless chestnut uniquely qualifies me to lead our expedition into music history’s most implausible reaches, an expedition I've hastily dubbed disclosure.
Today we look at the pivotal role Grace Slick played in ending the Cold War. How did Slick come to transform herself from toothless anti-Vietnam folk musician into one of the most influential artists in American history? What allowed her to transcend her myriad peers, forever mired in the change they failed to insight? Hundreds of suspiciously rejected FOIA requests have provided precious few answers; but most believe the Starship era’s origins lie in Altamont, California, where the hippies took a long overdue shower - in the blood of the innocent. Slick left Altamont a changed woman. She’d seen exactly what it was that her contemporaries sought to commune with: The bone-wielding Neanderthal within. It had become apparent that “free love” would forever be accompanied by free carnage. So it was that Slick swore allegiance to a more noble freedom: The free market. Less than a year later, the first Starship album was released.
Jefferson Starship (1970-78)
1970’s Blows Against the Empire was the first of two socio-politically incendiary albums released under the Jefferson Starship moniker. Its politics amounted to little more than an irreverent jab at the Brezhnev Doctrine; but it set the stage for 1975’s Red Octopus, which depicted Communism as a many-tentacled horror, its grip ever tightening ‘round the beating heart of humanity. Slick’s blatant lyrical allegation of Soviet complicity in the oil embargo flew in the face of the détente policy favored by the recently deposed Nixon administration, and firmly established Starship as an aggressively anti-Soviet voice in the American political arena.
Slick was forced to leave Jefferson Starship in 1978 after an attempt was made on her life during a concert in Germany. She exhibited classic signs of blood poisoning, and it was later confirmed that a toxic substance had indeed been introduced to her system. Details of the incident are decidedly murky, but it seems more than mere coincidence that Slick’s noxious night occurred in Germany, the epicenter of the conflict between Eastern and Western political ideals. While Slick was largely absent from the music world for the next 7 years, she was anything but idle.
The Reagan Years (1979-86)
Embittered by her brush with death, Slick turned to the aged Ronald Reagan, whom she viewed as an ideal conduit for her vitriol. The stain of Altamont and her homogametic nature made running for office a dubious proposition, so she began to work closely with Reagan in developing a series of policies that came to be known as the Reagan Doctrine. Reagan’s pledge to relegate Communism to the “ash heap of history” was exactly what the masses craved, and he swept into the White House in 1980. With Reagan at the helm of the good ship America, Slick had the resources to implement her economic and military dogma. After surviving an attempt on his life in 1981, Reagan ceded virtually all control to Slick. The deterioration of his mental and physical condition relegated him to the role of figurehead. Slick adopted a radical economic policy focusing on deregulation and supply-side economics in an attempt to temporarily bolster the American economy, drawing stark contrast to the increasingly insolvent Soviets. This philosophy has come to be known as slickle-down economics, or Slickonomics, and is revered and reviled in seemingly equal measure by the pundits of today. The strategy was undeniably successful in sowing civil unrest among the Soviet populace and, when implemented in conjunction with a vast increase in military spending, left the once mighty USSR with bloodied lip.
Slick drove her heel further into the lean bicep of Mother Russia with the announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative. The Starship missile defense system, as it came to be known, would have neutered the vast Soviet arsenal, effectively ending our decades-long pissing contest. The vast expense of this proposal led Slick back to the recording studio, where she sought to take a page from the enemy’s unholy playbook: Propaganda. Out of that came 1985’s Knee Deep in the Hoopla, an apt metaphor for America’s geopolitical position at the time, which exists primarily as a vehicle for the nationalist anthem We Built This City. We Built This City is a noteworthy piece of propaganda in that it encourages repeated exposure to its admittedly mild reinforcement of American values. The seemingly bizarre chorus of “Marconi plays the mamba/Listen to the radio/Don’t you remember/We built this city/We built this city on rock and roll,” becomes overtly transparent upon further analysis. The city is an obvious representation of America, while rock and roll is meant to represent all that is Western culture. The inspired decision to subtly command the audience to tune in again and again for their indoctrination is a perfect example of that intangible quality that differentiated Slick from her peers, and made her the ideal person to lead America to thunderous victory. The most obtuse line involves the father of radio, Guglielmo Marconi, and his dance of choice, the mamba. Perhaps this is most easily interpreted as the Eastern bloc’s being made to ‘dance’ in tune to our transatlantic transmissions. It’s no coincidence that Slick’s involvement with the album was minimal. Slick was so entrenched in the day to day operation of this great nation, that she left this Starship venture in the capable hands of top adviser Mickey Thomas. She would resume a more active role with the band as she sought to deliver the coup de grace to Gorbachev and the red menace in February of 1987.
As Reagan’s second term hurtled towards its conclusion, Slick saw her opportunity to rid the world of an inferior ethos growing ever smaller. With her policies already in place, she stepped away from the Reagan administration to work on a project she hoped would spur a boon in consumerism that no Communist state could possibly withstand. She began to work in earnest on what would become the crown jewel of the New Wave era, 1987’s No Protection. The album’s title served as a clear threat to the waning USSR, declaring that they’d run out of options and would soon be at the mercy of the West’s bloodthirsty hounds. A good deal of the album reflects a conflicted disposition toward the end of a conflict that had defined such a large portion of her life. Wings of a Lie provides the best example of this stating, “I’m getting close to paradise/Who knows to what I’m holding on/So many ways it can go wrong/All my heart needs to know/Is it time to let go?” But this wistful sentiment is eventually buried beneath Slick’s taunting damnation of our erstwhile challenger. Babylon takes exquisite pleasure in highlighting the parallels between Nebuchadnezzar’s fallen empire and the Soviet state, opining, “Babylon/Is it true your streets were paved with gold/And did you play beneath the stars/Babylon/Did you know it would all come down to/How you played the dealer’s cards/It’s over/You rate two pages in some book/Your legacy/Lost in the night/And still you sing/Your song for those who will take heed/Here’s what I really want to know/Did you see the writing on the wall?” The high point of the album, and Slick’s storied career, is the triumphant Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, which jubilantly predicts what America could accomplish, freed of certain... encumbrances: “Let the world around us/Just fall apart/Baby we can make it if we’re heart to heart/And we can build this dream together/Standing strong forever/Nothing’s gonna stop us now.” That song came to embody the reunification of Germany and, more significantly, was attached to a quirky little film entitled Mannequin.
Project Mannequin (1987)
In the 1960s, Grace Slick ruled San Francisco. In the early 80s her reign spread to Washington D.C. In 1987, Slick set her sights on Moscow, by way of Hollywood, California. Mannequin was less a film than it was pure, distilled Capitalism. The script had been in the works for decades, stemming from a treatment penned by Ayn Rand herself, and honed by Heritage Foundation operatives into the ultimate weapon in the subversion of the Marxist mindset. It was initially intended as a tool to “reinvigorate” disenfranchised veterans who had lost faith in the vision of our Founding Fathers, but Slick saw a higher purpose. Mannequin would beam America directly into the Soviet Union, by way of the hearts and minds of its downtrodden citizenry. The script was, in reality, a complex allegory for the Cold War itself, with America depicted as the Prince & Co. department store, which provides our young and handsome protagonist with every opportunity for happiness. His bliss is constantly obstructed by the sinister new department store Illustra, here meant to represent the USSR. Illustra feels entitled to our protagonist’s services and seeks to seize his property as its own. This veritable superman bests wave after wave of Illustran obstacles, including a decidedly Krushchevian security guard intent on destroying him at all costs. In lieu of a literal arms race, Prince & Co. and Illustra engage in an escalation of window dressing, in which our protagonist’s ingenuity and stick-to-itiveness prevail. Our champion finds true love and boundless joy at Prince & Co., and much shopping is done by all. Consumerism rules the day. The average Soviet citizen would invariably come to identify American life with the breezy fun of Mannequin, and they would in turn demand to experience that carefree lifestyle for themselves, replete with musical montages and mirthful props. This film was the key to the fulfillment of Slick’s Manifest Destiny, and to her atonement for the tragic events of Altamont all those years past.
So it was that a second, more virulent, form of McCarthyism gripped the nation: Andrew McCarthyism, which proved much more effective than it’s progenitor in eradicating the red scourge. The Pretty in Pink star was meticulously selected to head the Mannequin project, and soon became the heart’s desire of adolescents the world over. McCarthy’s boyish exuberance lent him a whimsy that Slick deemed essential in appealing to the regimented youth of the enemy. McCarthy’s posture and manner of dress read distinctly American, yet his decidedly Northern European complexion and facial features allowed most Russian women to consider him a suitable mate. Andrew McCarthy‘s depiction of Jonathan Switcher found a place in all of our hearts, a place that had been predetermined by the NSA to have been theretofore occupied by Vladimir Lenin in the average Russian peasant. Yet it was another character entirely that broke the back of the red camel.
Hollywood Montrose doesn’t appear in any draft of the Mannequin project. This character was culled directly from the mind of Grace Slick and inserted just prior to filming. Flighty and fashion obsessed, Hollywood Montrose is the sort of gross caricature of American consumerism that you’d expect to find in a poorly produced Soviet propaganda piece. So what possible reason could Slick have had for including such a brash misrepresentation of our sacred ideology? Her theory held that Montrose’s presence would not interfere with the film’s overall tone, but would rather broaden the appeal to varying demographics. By using Montrose sparingly, the filmmakers were able to keep the focus on McCarthy’s love affair with objects, while simultaneously utilizing Montrose’s Hollywood flamboyancy to appeal to that part of the Soviet culture that was starved for individual expression. Meshach Taylor’s ostentatious performance made Hollywood Montrose an international icon. The character was in fact bigger than the film itself, bursting forth into music videos, public appearances, a sequel, and a sitcom. Montrose became so popular in the Eastern bloc that the production arm of Russia’s industrial complex became bogged down in the manufacture of his signature novelty sunglasses, pushing their economy past the breaking point.
Slick never returned to Washington. She was content to sit idly by while Reagan tore down the Berlin Wall, brick by oppressive brick. Nor did she return to Starship. They released 1989’s Love Among the Cannibals to little fanfare, then simply ceased to exist. Slick has never sought credit for the change she engineered. The West had won. She’d bested her demons and slain the Red Octopus. What’s left is simply to enjoy a life well-lived. Some of you may think all of this seems a bit far-fetched, but ask yourself: Is it really more outlandish than the senile star of Bedtime for Bonzo single-handedly beating back the Soviet hordes?