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6.15-MARTHA (Jefferson Airplane)

Paul Kantner
Paul Kantner

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[Intro]

Martha she listens for the ticking of my footsteps, patiently.
She sifts the hairy air that's warm and wood-swept, pleasantly.

     She does as she pleases, she listens for me.

Martha she calls to me from a feather in the meadow: "Fly to me."
You can dance and sing and walk with me
And dreams will fade and shadows grow in weed.

     She does as she pleases, she waits there for me.
     She does as she pleases, her heels rise for me.

[Break]

My love she talks to winking windows as she murmurs (to her feet), thoughtfully.
She separates in laughter to my side, caught for me.

     [Chorus]

Martha she keeps her heart in a broken clock
And it's waiting there for me.
She weaves apart through a token lock;
What a great thing to be free!

She weeps time, and starts unspoken,
But when the gate swings,
There she'll be, there she'll be:

In green sun, on blue earth, under warm running shower.


Of all the songs included on After Bathing at Baxter's, Martha is closest to the sound associated with the Summer of Love classic album Surrealistic Pillow. But Martha wasn't like the hits that came from Pillow, and when the Jefferson Airplane attempted Martha as a single release, even accompanied with a psychedelic video that appeared on the Perry Como Show, it failed to make the Top 40. Maybe people interested in the Jefferson Airplane already had the album, or poor sales could signify a waning interest in experimental music on the radio. (The Rolling Stones' contemporary single, She's a Rainbow charted, but it was a poor showing for such a well composed song.) The acoustic guitar and flute accompaniment are deceiving in Martha's introduction, for the lovely sound of a folk song is later interspersed with rude bursts of guitar from Jorma Kaukonen. By 1969, and the release of songs like the Jefferson Airplane's Good Shepherd, the ear was more accustomed to Kaukonen's rasping electric guitar as an accent to an acoustic song. But I can't think of anyone else playing like that at the time. Eric Clapton does something like it in We're Going Wrong from the Cream album Disraeli Gears, but his tone is warmer, more like a vocal improvisation than Kaukonen's flying sparks.

The lyrics yearn for an independent woman who "does as she pleases", somewhat like the woman in the Rolling Stones' Ruby Tuesday. But whereas Ruby Tuesday admires a woman's mutability, her prerogative to be unreasonable, Martha is praised for her innocence, her laughter, her closeness to nature, and for the masculine pride the singer enjoys in knowing that she, who is free, waits for him. (In Ruby Tuesday, the woman is leaving the singer.) The lyrics also suggest that the woman being admired is really a girl: "her heels rise for me" could be a girl reaching up to embrace the neck of her lover. In the final moments the song halts and becomes a three breath incantation, evoking Martha standing splendid and lustrous in verdant nature.

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