starship - knee deep in the hoopla
Grunt / RCA

[note: this was originally going to be another SONGS THAT SUCK article, focusing on the Starship song “We Built This City”; as I continued writing, though, it became apparent that I couldn’t just stick to the song itself; I had to, in fact, talk about the entire album…sorry – Uncle NecRo]

The 80s was an interesting time for pop music. Not only was this the era where artists and bands like Prince, Madonna, George Michael and others exploded, but this was also the decade where a lot of older classic rock artists that your dad was into had a resurgence on Top 40 radio. Results varied; artists like Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner and Alice Cooper managed to snag a resurgence of popularity, whereas ones like The Grateful Dead, Donny Osmond and Jefferson Starship…not so much.

Speaking of the Jefferson Starship: by the time they got around to releasing their big comeback album–Knee Deep In The Hoopla–they had gone through enough personnel changes that the only remaining original member was Grace Slick, and due to legal issues, the band had to shorten things to just Starship. They had gone from 60s rock n’ roll icons to middle-aged corporate rockers, and released an album full of glossy pop rock with layered synths and electronic beats, with the band decked out like they were the fashion models for the JC Penny Back-to-School Clothing Sale catalog.

I was 11 in the late summer of 1985 when Starship released the single “We Built This City”, and I absolutely loved it. Keep in mind that the majority of my music tastes was dictated to me by Top 40 radio, much like any other preteen of, well, any era, really. I had no idea what the band’s actual legacy was, who they were or that they were once considered rock n’ roll icons to my dad. And since I wasn’t old enough to know any better, I talked my dad into buying me the cassette copy of Knee Deep In The Hoopla when he was visiting my sister and me while on leave from the Navy.

As songs go, “We Built This City” is cringe-worthy, but it isn’t the worst song on the album. That distinction goes to the cut “Rock Myself To Sleep”, personally speaking. Keep in mind, I wanted this album to listen to primarily on the strength of the song “We Built This City”. I didn’t particularly care for the second single released from there, “Sara”, which was also the second single released, although I do like the accompanying video.

It’s a good thing that “We Built This City” was the first song on the album, because that meant that I didn’t have to wade my way through what was essentially a collection of mediocre adult contemporary pop rock to get to it. It was there, leading off the album, and I could just hit “stop” afterwards and be done with it. But, I felt obligated to listen to the album in its entirety at least once. And man, this album is just boring. Full of fluff and filler. Even the song that led to me buying the thing in the first place is, in retrospect, just bad. And not in the Guilty Pleasures kind of way. I can’t hear this song now and not cringe. You can imagine what the rest of the album sounds like.

I’ve recently taken up collecting vinyl records again, with an eye out to collect the albums that I listened to in my childhood through the end of my High School years. I’ve even picked up a mint copy of Make It Big by Wham!. Even though this was part of my childhood, Knee Deep In The Hoopla will never be part of my vinyl collection. Or any format, for that matter.