What about all those things you’ve never done? There are plenty of them, right? Yup, me too. I’ve never seen the Rolling Stones or the Beatles. Never seen Madonna. Never seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “The Sound of Music” or or any of those “Godfather” movies. Never seen “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Golden Girls” or “Cheers.” Never been to Hawaii, New York, Palm Springs or even Lake Piru. Never been skiing or off-roading. Hate motorcycles. Never eaten quiche, caviar or a breakfast burrito. Never seen the Rams, the Lakers or the Bruins play live. Never had a date with Christina Applegate. And you know what? With one exception, I don’t care.
This week, I’m dropping one item off my “never” list. Because this is a music column, it’s a band that’s named after a torrid fish. It’s rootsy, rocking Hot Tuna. They’ve been around for 20 years, at least.
The two big fish in Hot Tuna are Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, both original members of Jefferson Airplane, that psychedelic Bay Area hippie band that went on to get rich, and not much else, as the Jefferson Starship. But that’s another story.
Kaukonen and Casady formed their first band in 1958 as Washington high school students. But a few years later, they ended up as members of the Jefferson Airplane. Kaukonen was the guitar player; Casady played bass.
“Hot Tuna started basically at the dawn of time,” Kaukonen said in a recent phone interview. “We were both in the Airplane and when we were on the road, we ended up sharing rooms and we’d just sit around and play this bluesy stuff and, gradually, we worked up an act. Sometimes, we’d even open for ourselves--Hot Tuna for the Airplane.”
The first Hot Tuna album was released in 1970 and regular releases followed through the ‘70s. Both left the Airplane in ’73. In 1978, they sort of broke up, then reformed in 1983. Now, Hot Tuna has recently released its first new music in over a decade, “Pair A Dice Found.” It shreds.
“The album seems to be doing real well,” Kaukonen said. “We’re not rich yet, but when an album isn’t doing so well, the record company complains--and, right now, they’re not complaining.
“Lately, I’ve been living in Upstate New York. I never was much of a Bay Area dude except the Raiders will always have a place in my heart. I’m not really in touch with any of the Airplane people anymore. I just bought a farm in Ohio, so I’ll be living there pretty soon. I think I’ll become a Cleveland Indians fan--they have cool hats.”
“Pair A Dice Found” has plenty of raging blues rockers but also a reverential cover of one of the all-time protest songs immortalized by Barry McGuire, P.F. Sloan’s “Eve of Destruction.” They do, however, change the last line “and don’t forget to say grace” into something funny, yet unsuitable for a family newspaper.
“We’re just a blues-rock band,” Kaukonen said. “We play a lot, but probably not for another Airplane reunion. In fact, a lot of people don’t believe that we ever played with them. Maybe we didn’t.”
So if you’ve never heard Hot Tuna, your chance to correct that unfortunate situation will come Saturday at the venerable Ventura Theatre. And, Christina--call me day or night, collect even.