35 Years Ago: Grace Slick Quits Jefferson Starship After Drunken Germany Show
By the middle of 1978, Jefferson Airplane had upgraded to Starship and were in the process of running out of fuel. The band (including singer Grace Slick) was on tour in Europe to promote the recently released ‘Earth’ album when a stop in Germany deteriorated into a confusing mess. “She’d always had a thing about Germany,” wrote Jeff Tamarkin in the band bio ‘Got a Revolution!’ “All things Deutsche brought out the worst in her.”
During the tour of Europe, Slick had fallen ill. At first, everyone thought her stomach virus was a result of food poisoning. But a doctor diagnosed appendicitis and told Slick she was well enough to perform. A show in Wiesbaden was canceled, but the next night’s concert in Hamburg was still on.
As showtime neared, Slick tore into an alcohol-fueled tantrum, throwing bottles, refusing to get ready for the concert and demanding more booze from room service. By the time the band got onstage, she was in no condition to perform. The show was filmed for the German music program ‘Rockpalast,’ but the episode never aired. Maybe because Slick began taunting the audience, repeatedly asking, “Who won the war?” She also called them Nazis and gave the ‘Heil Hitler!’ salute onstage.
“I’m in Germany and I’m gonna get back at them for Dachau, or some dumb drunken decision,” Slick recalled in Tamarkin’s book. “That’s what that night was about: dumb, drunken decisions. So they started walking out, but they kept coming back, like, Maybe she’ll do something really hideous and we will have missed it. A freak show.” Starship’s publicist, Cynthia Bowman, remembered that “you could just see all the life drain out of the group. It was just a horrible, empty, bad, dark night.”
Following the Hamburg debacle, Slick was asked to resign from the band by guitarist Paul Kantner. She did. But she rejoined Jefferson Starship three years later, just in time for their ‘Modern Times’ album.