Atlantic City is known for their excellent entertainment options, and one thing they know best is how to secure acts that bring in music artists with fans that span decades. This weekend the ever popular group Starship featuring original member Mickey Thomas, will hit the stage at The Golden Nugget, and fans are going wild.
Entertainment columnist Whitney Ullman chatted with Mickey Thomas just before they started building our city with rock and roll, and he discussed everything from what people can expect during their concert, to the reasoning behind some of their most popular songs. Check it out:
You have fans spanning decades, what can they expect during your show at The Golden Nugget?
THOMAS: More than anything else we have the longevity. Me personally I’ve been involved with the Jefferson Starship/Starship since 1979 and of course a lot of history went down with the band before that, so really it’s the longevity more than anything. The fact that we continue to have successful records all the way from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s and the fact that I’ve still been touring pretty much non-stop all these years, is great.
So do you play new songs or the popular ones from all the decades?
THOMAS: Yea some of the same, some new, we definitely try to include the more recognizable songs from all of the different eras of the band from the 70’s and 80’s. Also at one point in the show, my female vocalist Stephanie and I do a medley which is sort of a musical tribute, where Stephanie gets a chance to do a few of the classic Airplane songs from the 60’s.
Everyone knows the song “We Built This City”, where did the inspiration come from and what’s it all about?
THOMAS: Well there are a lot of opinions and ideas about what the song is all about. To me personally…I kind of thought about it more in esoteric terms. I tried to be abstract, I never thought of the city as one particular city or any particular physical geographical place. I was thinking more in the abstract of the city as being just more than a group of people, the tribes coming together and groovin’ on the music. I always had kind of a Woodstock image in the back of my head, that kind of a city, a temporary city…What attracted me to this song initially were the lyrics and the verse. The kind of anthemic chorus was almost an after thought, it was kind of tacked on to the song after we had decided to do it and after we decided to record it and work on it. Now the guy who wrote the lyrics, Bernie Taupin, if you want a more literal translation, he actually wrote the song as a reaction to the closing of a very famous rock and roll club back in the early 80’s called the Starwood in Los Angeles. So he pretty much wrote it about the Los Angeles music scene as sort of an angry reaction of people trying to close down a famous rock club; because people didn’t agree with a lot of the noise, and music, and a lot of the activity that was going on on the sidewalks outside the club. So his deal was like you can’t tell us what to do, don’t tell us where to go, don’t tell us what to listen to, we built this city on rock and roll type of deal.
You feature various casinos in the video, does it relate to Atlantic City?
THOMAS: The casinos in the video were actually from Las Vegas, but of course since 1985 you have pretty much created or recreated a lot of the Las Vegas skyline right here in Atlantic City with a lot of the same hotels like Caesars, Bally’s, Golden nugget.
Are you finding that your original work is being rediscovered or re-appreciated by a new audience now? Or do you have the same fans from decades ago?
THOMAS: No it’s definitely changing and expanding and we are lucky enough to have a lot of younger fans come on board in recent years, which is really attributed to several things. It has to do with a sort of the generational passing of the baton from one generation to the next. Parents trying to turn their kids onto the same music that they listened to and I think that’s something that our generation – I’m gonna go off on a little side bar here – but I do feel that our generation has in some ways destroyed the generation gap that existed between parents and kids. It’s kind of like when I was a child it wasn’t cool to listen to the same music or like what your parents liked. And in the 60’s and 70’s we went a long way to destroying that barrier. Now we have like 3 different generations of fans in our audience that is grooving on the same music. It’s not just Starship, it’s many classic rock bands that share that same experience. You may have somebody who’s 65 out there with a kid who’s 40 and they may have their kid who is 16 and they are all grooving to the music together. So that’s one factor. Then going back to ‘We Built This City’, the fact that it has appeared in a muppet movie, the fact that it appeared in ‘Rock of Ages’, and there a new campaign for a wireless phone company in England which has gone viral with a little girl singing along to We Built this city, all these kinds of things brought a younger group of fans as well.
Most people want to know would you like to get back together with Grace and do you keep in touch with her?
THOMAS: I keep in touch a little bit, not as much as I should. I should call Grace more often, but it’s not just Grace. I’m kind of like that in general, I don’t keep in touch as much as I should. And a lot of it is being real busy, but you know I always had a great relationship with Grace and it would be wonderful to do something with her again whether it’s on stage or in the studio. But I really think that it’s not going to happen because more than anything Grace is just not really interested in getting back up on the stage because she is so involved with her art and her painting right now. She’s put all of her creative efforts into her art and she’s perfectly happy in her home in Malibu painting. So I don’t really think that will happen, but if the opportunity were to ever arise, I would jump at it because like I said, we always had a great working relationship and she is an amazing person.
What was your inspiration for the song With Your Love?
THOMAS: Gosh, that is just your typical love song really. Kind of an expression of I feel a lot better when I’m with you. I feel a lot stronger and a lot happier when you’re in the middle of being in love, and feeling love and sharing love. It’s just always a better experience than not having love.
Is it hard to hit certain notes than it was decades ago?
THOMAS: No we take great pride that we do all of our songs in the original keys so we
haven’t changed that at all…I would also say that it depends on any particular night, because most nights my voice has been very good to me and very strong and I still have the same range that I’ve always had. But you know when your on the road and touring and have all these other factors come into play, some nights are tougher than others to reach all the notes, but generally speaking it’s all still there.
How did you like doing the vocals on the song “I Fooled Around and Fell in Love” by Elvin Bishop?
THOMAS: I loved doing the vocals on that song, I still love doing that song. That song is in the Starship set and I sing it every night. It’s such an important song for me because it was the first time my voice was on the radio and the first big hit that opened several doors for me . So getting back to your question, I was real excited. As a matter of fact I suggested that we record this song because Elvin had played it for me a couple of years before we were in the studio recording that album, and we were looking for a song to record so I suggested “I Fooled Around and Fell in Love’ because I had a special place in my heart for that song. So that’s how that came about.