We built this city on Rock ‘n’ Roll

It has been a long time since the days when songs like “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” graced the airwaves of radio stations other than classic rock stations.

Now considered classic songs, nostalgic for the substance-fueled, psychedelic era of the late ’60s and early ’70s, many may not realize that Jefferson Airplane still exists, albeit in a different form.

“The band has been around in one form or another for around 45 years or longer,” said frontman Mickey Thomas during a phone interview with the Sun-Gazette.

The band has had a long, somewhat troubled history, derived from the fact that some wanted to keep the name afloat, despite time passing and bandmembers drifting.

So after a few name changes and band members coming and going, Jefferson Airplane has evolved into a newer entity called “Starship featuring Mickey Thomas.”

The band will perform at the Community Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1.

Thomas gave a bit of an explanation to the current band name.

“Including ‘featuring Mickey Thomas’ is because of the long history that has transpired and (also) because of another touring entity called Jefferson Starship … so people are absolutely clear on what they’re going to be seeing and what songs they’re going to hear,” he said.

Thomas has been with the band since 1979, when he was asked to join after bandmembers Marty Balin and Grace Slick left.

A music industry veteran, Thomas has observed the many changes over the course of his career, of which he sees as having good and bad aspects. One of the more difficulties he says is getting the word out about a new album.

“Radio is very youth-oriented, or it’s country or hip-hop and R&B so artists of our type have a hard time getting exposure on the radio,” Thomas said.

“We have to use social media and the Internet a lot more – whatever it takes to get the message out.”

Starship featuring Mickey Thomas released a new album in October called “Loveless Fascination,” which may have went under a lot of people’s radar since it doesn’t get as much radio play.

“That’s the biggest challenge and most frustrating,” he said, adding that it’s one of the best records he’s ever made.

“It can be disappointing when people aren’t hearing it as much as you like. It’s (promoting) a longer running process than it used to be back in the day. (You) used to be able to put out a new single and people would hear it and go out and buy it. It’s a process now – a longer road,” Thomas said.

However, what he does enjoy, is observing the span of generations and new fans who attend a Starship concert.

“We’ve got everyone from a 60-year-old to a 16-year-old,” he said, adding that he has noticed that classic rock has had a sort of resurgence among youth and young adults in the last 15 years or so. He has daughters in their early 20s who enjoy ’80s rock.

Thomas said that audiences of all types will enjoy their upcoming high-energy show at the Community Arts Center.

A very popular part of the show, he said, is when the band does a tribute to the original Jefferson Airplane band; they bring a female vocalist on stage and perform “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” among other classics, “as a homage to the entire history of the band,” Thomas said.

They also will perform music from their new album.

Ticket information regarding the Feb. 1 show can be found at caclive.com. To read more about Starship featuring Mickey Thomas, visit www.starshipcontrol.com.