When someone mentions Starship, the ‘80s hits “We Built This City” (featured in “Glee” and “Rock of Ages”), “Sara,” “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” (featured in the Kristen Wiig/Bill Hader movie “The Skeleton Twins”) and “It’s Not Over (‘Til It’s Over)” probably come immediately to mind.
But did you know that lead singer Mickey Thomas’ body of work also includes Jefferson Starship’s 1979 classic rocker “Jane” and their subsequent tasty ‘80s rock nuggets “No Way Out,” “Find Your Way Back,” “Winds of Change” and “Layin’ It on the Line?”
Also, that’s Thomas’ tenor on the “Guardians of the Galaxy” “Awesome Mix, Vol. 1” mixtape song “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” by Elvin Bishop. He sang in the Elvin Bishop Band prior to joining Jefferson Starship.
“I was the lucky guy that got to record that one in 1976,” Thomas said in a phone interview, adding that the song has sometimes been used as an ironic background song in movies like “The Devil’s Rejects” and “Summer of Sam.”
“At the time I recorded it as a young man, I could relate to it ... sowing your wild oats and playing the field. Chauvinism was alive and well, especially in rock ‘n’ roll. The song works because he (the narrator singing) has an awareness,” he said.
Starship featuring Mickey Thomas even does a mid-set medley of “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” starring singer Stephanie Calvert, that pays tribute to the root band that started it all back in the 1960s — Jefferson Airplane.
Thomas shared that the band also plays a medley of Jefferson Starship signature ‘70s hits “Miracles” and “Count on Me.”
Check it out at Valley Forge Casino’s Valley Forge Music Fair June 2.
In 1979 Thomas was about to fly to Miami to record a solo album when he got the fateful call from Jefferson Starship, who had parted ways with Grace Slick (she would rejoin later) and Marty Balin, and had just signed on former Journey drummer Aynsley Dunbar. Because of the ongoing “soap opera” that was Jefferson Starship, “I was kinda like: ‘I don’t see how this is gonna work’,” said Thomas. That was, until he heard the new-sound ideas that became the band’s gold-selling album “Freedom at Point Zero.”
Thomas’ relationship with the late Paul Kantner was sometimes stormy. “He could be an ornery person at times,” he said. Kantner left Jefferson Starship in 1984. By then, Thomas said, “everybody had been referring to the band as ‘Starship’.”
“When I got the news about Paul’s passing (in January 2016), it affected me more deeply than I thought it would,” Thomas said, noting that he hadn’t seen Kantner in 20 years. “I started thinking just about the good times on the road and in the studio.”
Thomas also fondly remembers his long talks with Grace Slick. “Grace is a person that doesn’t care much for small talk, so conversations had to have some substance,” he said. After Slick got clean and sober in the ‘80s, “I used to kid her: ‘If you ever fall off the wagon, I wanna party with you,’ because I had heard some stories.”
Although no other band members from the ‘70s or ‘80s remain in Starship, Thomas said that almost everyone in his current band has been performing with him for the last 11-25 years.
When asked how he maintains his vocal range, Thomas recalled a conversation he had with Sammy Hagar when they collaborated on Hagar’s 1998 album “Marching to Mars.” “Man, singing is hard now. We set the bar high for ourselves,” he told Hagar, looking back over the high notes they both hit over their respective careers.
“I owe it to my parents for giving me good genes,” Thomas said, also giving credit to his tour regimen of rest, vocal exercises while taking hot showers, and eating lemon slices.