On 19 January, 1980, “Jane” by Jefferson Starship peaked at #14.
Few classic rock bands can do what The Beatles did: start out strong and popular and continually reinvent themselves while increasingly getting better and smarter as they go. Instead, most top-tier bands start out strong and innovative, lose the innovation part and become simply solid if repetitive, and then either call it quits or peter out in a whimper of embarrassingly trite dreck. Very few bands signal each stage the way Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship did by literally changing their name every time they deteriorated in quality. 1980 finds them as Jefferson Starship, in their solid but not particularly impressive stage, performing the guitar-laden cowbell rocker “Jane“.
For what it’s worth, this is the style of classic rock that Foreigner and Journey were aspiring to recreate, and bands like Def Leppard were using as a launching point for creating metal. “Jane” falls just this side of the line that delineates hard rock, what with its gentle lead-in keyboard, which meant it was going to get some mainstream radio play as well and being featured on the rock stations on the left side of the AM dial. It was enough mainstream radio play to get “Jane” all the way into the top 15 — no mean feat amid all the generic disco and easy listening clogging up the airwaves.
“Jane” has a little bit of charm to it beyond its obvious rockingness. It’s about a guy who thinks a girl’s playing hard-to-get, which in of itself isn’t all that special. But the variation in the tone of the music complements the story nicely enough to make it feel like an actual story. That gentle lead-in suggests this guy isn’t just frustrated with Jane because she’s not putting out — it suggests that there’s genuine sentiment underneath all that leather-clad angst. And the little dancy interlude that starts at 1:40, about all those nights they were spending together because she didn’t know better… doesn’t it sound like suddenly the song has moved to a discotheque where those nights together took place? It’s cleverer than the standard rockin’ angst song of its time, and for that it’s memorable.