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The Great Society

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The Great Society


The giants of the Haight-Ashbury scene were Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. But there were other pioneers, important ones, including the Charlatans, Mystery Trend and the Great Society. Rock history has turned that last band into a perennial footnote -- that is, it was singer Grace Slick's group before she jumped ship to the Airplane. Unfortunately, this overlooks just how innovative the Great Society really were. Inspired by the Yardbirds' use of mod fuzz and Middle Eastern sounds, the group explored raw guitar distortion, metronomic grooves and droning vocals and ended up sounding unlike anything else in 1965 and '66. The only other bands comparable were the Velvet Underground, Love and the Doors -- how's that for company? Although Slick played a major role in the Great Society's sound, it's her then brother-in-law Darby (he actually wrote the hippie anthem "Somebody to Love") who should have received the bulk of the credit. The guy's searing axework and manipulation of feedback laid the groundwork for acid-rock guitar. Too bad the band, which was about to sign to Columbia Records, couldn't weather Slick's departure in late '66. The Great Society folded soon thereafter.
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