Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Dinosaurs, Friends of Extinction

One night recently I was reading about the final stages of Jefferson Starship and the subsequent career of Starship in  “Got a Revolution”, a book chronicling the history of Jefferson Airplane, while dinosaurslistening to Dinosaurs’ “Friends of Extinction”.  While both involved music being made in the 1980s by musicians who came to national prominence in the first wave of San Francisco bands in the mid-to-late 1960s, the contrast between the two couldn’t have been more stark.  Late Jefferson Starship and especially Starship involved the remnants of Jefferson Airplane desperately chasing radio play, full stadiums and number one singles and producing mostly garbage as a result.  Dinosaurs was an extraordinary collection of refugees from the great San Francisco bands playing for fun who produced some terrific music that sounds as good now as it must have done to live audiences then.  Unlike the later versions of the Airplane that were all about marketing themselves and making even more money, Dinosaurs were not a “serious” band.  Which is to say they were more interested in playing music and having fun than in being a commercial success.  As guitarist Barry Melton says in the liner notes, as soon as they felt like they were doing it for money, they quit.  Even the band names, Starship and Dinosaurs, look to different ends of evolutionary history.

Dinosaurs had a revolving cast of players throughout it’s lifespan but it always looked like a psychedelic San Francisco supergroup.  The core group was composed of Melton – the “Fish” in Country Joe and the Fish, Peter Albin – Big Brother and the Holding Company’s bass player, Spencer Dryden – drummer for the classic Jefferson Airplane lineup, and John Cipollina – lead guitar player for Quicksilver Messenger Service.  They were quickly joined by Robert Hunter – lyricist, vocalist and harmonica player with the Grateful Dead, who stayed a brief time and then was replaced by Merle Suanders – keyboard player who recorded some albums with the Dead’s Jerry Garcia.  When Cipollina passed away in 1989 Dinosaurs quit but then decided to come back with Papa John Creach – vocalist and violinist with later version of the Airplane and Jefferson Starship.  All of these musicians appear on “Friends of Extinction”.  Other musicians who played with the band for periods of time who aren’t on the CD include Greg Elmore – Quicksilver’s drummer, Jerry Miller – guitar player with Moby Grape, David Getz – drummer with Big Brother and David LaFlamme – singer and violin player with It’s A Beautiful Day.  Wow.

“Friends of Extinction” is a two disc collection that includes the only album the band released as disc one and a collection of live recordings from different venues as disc two.  The liner notes are filled with statements about the band not being as good on their studio album as they were live and the live tracks that were included on their album along with the additional live recordings on disc two bear this out.  The studio recordings aren’t bad but the live material, especially the extended jams are what really shine.  Recording quality is not always good, as is to be expected with a band that played for fun without major label support, although it’s better than I expected it would be.  These are not studio-polished recordings and the singing, especially on some of the live tracks, is occasionally, uhhh, a bit “off”.  No matter.  The playing and enthusiasm overwhelm the technical shortcomings.  For me the highlights are the jams featuring John Cipollina’s unique and accomplished guitar such as “Mona” from disc one and “The Dance” and “Closer” from disc two but there is a lot here for fans of San Francisco’s acid rock unadulturated by commercial concerns.

Music from This CD can be heard on Tuned In To Music Podcast 011 – 1960s San Francisco (Part 3) The Second Wave


08/14/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | ,


  1. […] Quicksilver disapproved, he quit and ended up playing with a number of different groups such as Dinosaurs, Raven, Terry and the Pirates, Fish & Chips and many others.  One of the first was Copperhead […]

    Pingback by Copperhead, Copperhead « Tuned In To Music | 09/02/2007 | Reply

  2. […] US labels that includes albums like Sons of Champlin’s Loosen Up Naturally, Dinosaurs’ Friends of Extinction, and “Copperhead” featuring Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cippolina.  […]

    Pingback by Review: Joy of Cooking, Joy of Cooking « Tuned In To Music | 09/25/2007 | Reply

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