White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane*

March 5, 2021 — Song #64

The song “White Rabbit” was written by Grace Slick after an acid trip on a piano with missing keys. During this acid trip, she said she spent 24 hours straight listening to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain. The song is obviously inspired by Alice in Wonderland and the environment of the time, the song was released in 1967, and it became an anthem for the psychedelic subculture. Slick intended the song to be a commentary on children’s literature and its depictions of drug use. She said her parents were upset that she advocated for marijuana and LSD but as she says in a Washinton Street Journal interview: “They also seemed unaware that many books they read to us as kids had drug use as a subtext. Peter Pan uses fairy dust and can fly, Dorothy and her friends in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” cut through a poppy field and wind up stoned and fast asleep.”

She further adds: “I loved “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” The stuff Alice drank and ate made her high [tall] or brought her down [small]. There were all kinds of drug metaphors in there. The ’60s were very much like that.” Alice in Wonderland, and Alice Through the Looking Glass, do use a lot of psychedelic visual imagery, but surprisingly, there is no evidence that Lewis Carroll himself experimented with drugs. The only recorded drug use was laudanum (a mixture of alcohol and opium) for migraine headaches, which was prescribed by a doctor. He may however have read about different drugs, mushrooms, and so forth, although apparently LSD was only invented later. It is also interesting that opium and cocaine were prescription drugs at the time, and people did use them, so he probably knew about them.

Lewis Carrol, his real name was Charles Dodgson, was a mathematician and a logical, exploring the limits of language, the line between sense and non-sense. His logic workbooks are very fun and entertaining. My all-time favorite writing of his is The Hunting of the Snark. This is a poem that starts: “Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried/As he landed his crew with care/Supporting each man on the top of the tide/By a finger entwined in his hair.” When I was a teen I transcribed the entire poem by hand to one of my many notebooks. Anyway, enough about Lewis Carroll. And by the way I have been listening to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain while writing this, and I can see the connection between this and White Rabbit!

Here are the lyrics and the song:

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small,
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all.
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall.
And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall,
Tell ’em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call.
Call Alice
When she was just small.
When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go

And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low.
Go ask Alice
I think she’ll know.
When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead,
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s “off with her head!”
Remember what the dormouse said:
“Feed your head. Feed your head. Feed your head”

*In 2021, I am writing a short song entry a day. I hope it may be enjoyable for you, please comment if you have any further information on these songs, I would love to hear from you.

PhD in Philosophy, Professor, Artist, Movie Buff.

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