Editor’s Note: This post about White Rabbit lyrics has been sitting in my rough drafts for some time. With the news of the passing of Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner, the latest untimely death this Month The Music Died (Lemmy, Bowie, Glenn Frey, Kantner…ay yi yi! Paul and Ringo, PLEASE take care of yourselves!!!), now seems as good a time as any to dust the post off and hit Publish.
The song White Rabbit may be featured in every single movie I have ever seen about the sixties. Usually it’s in a far-out sequence with lava lamps and groovy dancing, or in a trippy montage featuring heavy drug use. It turns out that’s pretty appropriate! Although there is no evidence that Alice author Lewis Carroll ever took recreational drugs, the song’s author Grace Slick was a veritable superfan of such substances.
Apparently, one fateful day Grace Slick took LSD for twenty-four hours while listening to one Miles Davis album over and over, then wrote White Rabbit in an hour. This scenario does not give the impression that Grace had a dog-eared copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland next to her that she was eagerly pawing through to ensure lyrical authenticity. But it’s still really, really fun to interpret the White Rabbit lyrics. And by “interpret the White Rabbit lyrics” I mean “copy and paste the lyrics and add sassy comments.”
Before we get started, let’s get a few things straight: First, the White Rabbit lyrics reference both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Which are two different books, with many different characters. Second, the song is actually called White Rabbit. It is not called Go Ask Alice.
White Rabbit Lyrics
– written by Grace Slick, performed by her bands Jefferson Airplane and The Great Society
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 you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah-smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
When she was just small
Get up and tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she’ll know
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
Feed your head
Feed your head
This ending wail, of course, is the biggest conundrum of the whole song. The Dormouse never once said “Feed your head,” much less repeated it like a mantra. If one carefully inspects his entire oral contributions to the Mad Tea-Party, nothing comes close to resembling “Feed your head.” So what in the world could Grace Slick have had on her mind, besides copious amounts of hallucinogenics? Hold onto your lava lamps, because I have this long standing rock and roll mystery figured out!
The Dormouse is of course heavily featured in Chapter 7 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, A Mad Tea-Party. But many folks forget, he pops up later in the book as well. In Chapter 11 Who Stole the Tarts? the Dormouse enters the courtroom arm-in-arm with the March Hare (adorable) when the Hatter is called as a witness. As Hatter is being questioned by the Judge/King, this memorable exchange happens:
‘Of course twinkling begins with a T!’ said the King sharply. ‘Do you take me for a dunce? Go on!’
‘I’m a poor man,’ the Hatter went on, ‘and most things twinkled after that—only the March Hare said—’
‘I didn’t!’ the March Hare interrupted in a great hurry.
‘You did!’ said the Hatter.
‘I deny it!’ said the March Hare.
‘He denies it,’ said the King: ‘leave out that part.’
‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep.
‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’
‘But what did the Dormouse say?’ one of the jury asked.
‘That I can’t remember,’ said the Hatter.
‘You must remember,’ remarked the King, ‘or I’ll have you executed.’
The miserable Hatter dropped his teacup and bread-and-butter, and went down on one knee. ‘I’m a poor man, your Majesty,’ he began.
‘You’re a very poor speaker,’ said the King.
Aha! Here we have a major Alice in Wonderland character unable to remember what the Dormouse said. THIS has to be what inspired Grace Slick! (Aside from the aforementioned absurd amounts of opiates, etc, etc.) In her face melting, piano pounding state, Gracie must have had a moment of acid-induced clarity, channeled the spirit of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and realized of course! The Dormouse wants us to feed our heads with creativity! With original ideas containing both logic and nonsense and Carrollian brain twisters and thoughtful ideas!
Or, feed our heads with drugs. She was probably talking about drugs.
Give the White Rabbit lyrics a listen. What do you think?