Starship: Knee Deep In The Hoopla (1985)

Starlog 10.0: A WOLF IN SHIP’S CLOTHING. Kaptain Kantner abandoned ‘Ship after Nuclear Furniture. David Freiberg freaked when it became clear that Peter Wolf was running the show. So what was left for the remaining members of the now-shortened Starship to do but stumble into a second miracle? Not since Red Octopus had the Starship brand enjoyed commercial success on this scale. Knee Deep In The Hoopla spawned two #1 singles: “We Built This City” and “Sara.” The first has often been cited as one of the worst songs from the 80s, but it really is an amazing piece of product. (Negative reaction likely has as much to do with the fact that MTV overplayed the video because of a general dearth of music videos. It’s a wonder people can still listen to Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”) That the band relies almost completely on outside songwriters is a disappointment, but the songwriters themselves aren’t disappointing: Bernie Taupin, Michael Bolton, Kimberley Rew, Peter Wolf. With top-shelf material and a competent band to play them, Wolf set about adding layers of synthesizers to create an immaculate-sounding pop record. Yes, it has absolutely nothing to do with the psychedelic and groundbreaking work of Jefferson Airplane. Neither did Red Octopus, Spitfire or anything after. Jefferson Starship was always a commercial enterprise, and the wonder of Knee Deep In The Hoopla isn’t that the band has completely sold out, but that they waited so long to do it. Peter Wolf deserves a lot of credit for turning a recipe for rock disaster (a band without a leader, professionally penned songs) into a runaway success. The hoopla surrounding the album at the time likely turned a lot of people off, but there’s little denying that, song for song, this is one of the best albums that Starship (in any guise) has released. That is, by the way, what we in these parts call a back-handed compliment. I’ll pick Airplane over Starship every time, and would suggest you spend your Jeffersons accordingly.

The Songs
A1. We Built This City (Bernie Taupin/Martin Page/Dennis Lambert/Peter Wolf) 4:53
A2. Sara (Ina Wolf/Peter Wolf) 4:48
A3. Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter Tonight (Steven Cristol/Robin Randall) 3:41
A4. Rock Myself To Sleep (Kimberley Rew/Vince De La Cruz) 3:24
A5. Desperate Heart (Randy Goodrum/Michael Bolton) 4:04
B1. Private Room (Craig Chaquico/Mickey Thomas) 4:51
B2. Before I Go (David Roberts) 5:30
B3. Hearts of The World (Will Understand) (Stephen Broughton Lunt/Arthur Stead) 4;21
B4. Love Rusts (Bernie Taupin/Martin Page) 4:57

Arrangements by Peter Wolf.

The Players
Donny Baldwin (drums, electronic drums & vocals), Craig Chaquico (guitars), Pete Sears (bass guitar & synth bass), Grace Slick (vocals), Mickey Thomas (vocals)with Peter Beckett (additional background vocal on tracks 3 & 9), Simon Climie (additional background vocal on track 9), J.C. Crowley (additional background vocal on tracks 3 & 9), Lorraine Devon (additional background vocal on track 9), Kevin Dubrow (additional vocal on track 4), Les Garland (DJ voice on track 1), Siedah Garrett (additional background vocal on tracks 3 & 9), Phillip Ingram (additional background vocal on track 9), Dave Jenkins (additional background vocal on track 5), Martin Page (additional background vocal on track 9), Chris Sutton (additional background vocal on track 9), Oren Waters (additional background vocal on track 9), Ina Wolf (additional background vocal on tracks 3 & 9). Produced by Peter Wolf & Jeremy Smith; engineered by Jeremy Smith; additional engineering by Tom Size. Track 1 mixed by Bill Bottrell. Executive producer: Dennis Lambert.

The Plastic
Originally released on elpee, cassette and compact disc on October 1985 in the US (Grunt, BXL1/PCD1-5488) and UK (RCA); reached #7 on the US charts (RIAA certified platinum on December 27, 1985). Re-released on CD on September 1989 in the UK. Art & design by Ted Raess/Raess Design; photography by Bill Robbins.

1 thought on “Starship: Knee Deep In The Hoopla (1985)

  1. Now, it doesn’t seem quite as bad as it did at the time. Maybe not totally bad, but at least disappointing. In retrospect, “No Way Out” can be seen as the inflection point, and they tipped all the way over. Still, as 80’s pop songs go, some aren’t too bad. “We Built This City” is catchy, fun danceable and a bit unusual. “Rock Myself to Sleep” (a Katrina and the Waves cover, also done by April Wine), both instrumentally and in the way Grace cynically sings the vocal, sounds a lot like the stuff on her “Welcome to the Wrecking Ball” album. “Private Room”, the one original, is an OK little funk jam. “Sara” is a guilty pleasure along the lines of “No Way Out”. The finale, “Love Rusts” borders on 80’s post-prog and is saved by the duet vocals. The other tracks, though, are anonymous garbage. This music doesn’t rotate through my listening habits much, but it’s OK once every five years or so,

    A friend of mine talked me into going to see the band at the start of the tour because he wanted to see Grace. They were OPENING for NIGHT RANGER (I know, I know!). They did two tracks from the album, “We Built This City” and “Rock Myself to Sleep”. They were received quite well. Soon, they would eclipse Night Ranger. Speaking of which, that was the ONLY rock show that I ever walked out on. Enough said.

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