The Story of ‘Jane,’ Jefferson Starship’s Contribution to ‘Cocaine Bear’
The first music you’ll hear in the new comedy-horror movie Cocaine Bear is the song “Jane,” released in 1979 by Jefferson Starship. It’s a track that represents big changes in the history of a band renowned for them.
Formerly Jefferson Airplane, the group had lost vocalists Grace Slick and Marty Balin in the run-up to their fifth album, Freedom at Point Zero. They hired former Journey drummer Aynsley Dunbar and, up front, gambled on singer Mickey Thomas – who wasn’t even sure he wanted to be in a rock band.
“I had recently left the Elvin Bishop Band, which was all about the blues and soul music and R&B and country and every other kind of roots or organic music you could think of,” Thomas told Something Else in 2013. “But I was flattered to get the call, and I at least owed them the courtesy of going over there and seeing what’s up.” Despite a series of positive jam sessions, he still felt “rather hesitant” until, months later, deciding: “As crazy as this is, and as unlikely as it would be that this would work, there’s something there.” He called the results “a meeting of styles that created something original."
Listen to Jefferson Starship’s ‘Jane’
“Jane” proved to be the perfect showcase for Thomas’ talents, pointing the band towards the stadium rock sound that would see them through the ‘80s as Starship, complete with more legal and lineup turmoil. But that hadn’t been bassist David Freiberg’s intention when he came up with the idea. “Actually, when [co-writer] Jim McPherson and I wrote ‘Jane,’ I was trying for the style of the Rolling Stones baroque period of the '60s,” he admitted in an undated interview. Guitarist Craig Chaquico intervened: “[He] came up with the great hard rock arrangement, and thank goodness for that!” Of the subject matter, Freiberg said: “Let us say that it was loosely about an old girlfriend of mine whose name wasn’t Jane.”
To power the story of a wayward love interest who seems determined to self-destruct her relationship with the narrator, Chaquico came up with a driving riff-led vibe. “I remember arguing over the guitar solo with our manager at that time,” he said in 2012. “[H]e came in with a stopwatch and [argued] the guitar solo was too long. It will never get played on the radio, right?” But he continued: “The band backed me up, and we left the solo the way that it is, but our manager swore it would never be a hit. So, every time I hear it on the radio, it puts a smile on my face, because I knew I had to fight for every second of it! … We pushed the envelope, and it actually did get played – thank God.”
“Jane” peaked at No. 14. Along with its spot in Cocaine Bear, it was used in the opening scene of the 2001 movie Wet Hot American Summer and its two associated Netflix series. It’s also heard in the Grand Theft Auto IV game and Rock Band 4. The song also currently serves as the entrance music for All Elite Wrestling star Orange Cassidy, who based his character on Paul Rudd's performance in Wet Hot American Summer. The band released a re-recorded version in 2021.
Watch Orange Cassidy's 'Jane' Ring Entrance
Listen to Starship’s 2021 Re-Recording of ‘Jane’
Watch a ‘Cocaine Bear’ Trailer