Posted by: caitlinmonahan | December 21, 2011

Jefferson Airplane “White Rabbit”


This popular song from the 1960’s has an interesting take on Lewis Carroll’s classic story. Because of the popularity of drug culture in the sixties and the video’s definite psychedelic feel, Jefferson Airplane appeared to be using imagery from Alice in Wonderland to create a song and video that simulated an acid trip. I like this song very much, but now that I know the “real” Alice I know that the lyrics of this song are a manipulation of the original story from the 1800’s, long before the invention of such psychedelic drugs as acid. These are the lyrics:

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

When men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving slow
Go ask Alice
I think she’ll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s “off with her head!”
Remember what the dormouse said;
“Keep your head”

It is very interesting to see the use of the events in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a vignette of drug use. Jefferson Airplane talks about taking pills, which Alice does not do, and they allude to taking “some kind of mushroom”, both of which are drug references that were not in the original Alice. Basically, the lyrics of this song are saying, if you’ve taken drugs and are experiencing a trip in which you chase rabbits and encounter hookah-smoking caterpillars, then go talk to Alice, because she’s done those drugs before and knows all about that trip.

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