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© Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
“Paul Kantner [of The Jefferson Airplane] and I were really good friends. We were folkies, we lived together – this was before I even met Stephen. When I got kicked out of The Byrds, being told dramatically that ‘we’ll do better without you’… [laughs] – I shouldn’t take such pleasure in that…. So I had this boat down in Florida. Everybody could come visit, come sailing. Paul and Stephen showed up at the same time.
“I had that set of changes. They’re pretty unusual, I must say. Stephen added to them, but the main changes I had. We started goofing around with them, and we all wrote the song. Later on, Paul called me up and said that he was having this major duke-out with this horrible guy who was managing the band, and he was freezing everything their names were on. ‘He might injunct the release of your record,’ he told me. So we didn’t put Paul’s name on it for a while. In later versions, we made it very certain that he wrote it with us. Of course, we evened things up with him with a whole mess of cash when the record went huge.
“It’s a post-apocalyptic story. The world has gone to hell. ‘Silver people on the shoreline’ is radiation food. The idea was that we were sort of sailing away from that madness. It’s the song that Jackson [Browne] wrote For Everyman in response to. It’s him saying, ‘Hey, we don’t all have a sailboat to sail away in. We have to stay here and fix it for everybody. That’s a fantasy that you’re writing.’
“The guitar parts… we just played ‘em. We’d try things – ‘Oh, that sounds good.’ It wasn’t an intellectual exercise.”