A Critical Companion of the Video for Starship's "We Built This City"

Today we will over-analyze the video for Starship's "We Built This City", their 1985 hit, in an effort to understand what the group and those responsible for creating the video may have been thinking:

We open with a pastoral scene; it is dusk, and we are looking out at the hills beyond a rural town. A church steeple in the foreground penetrates the azure sky. All is peaceful.

Suddenly, piercing through the quiet comes a blast of terrifying rock and roll that is sure to shake the very foundations of this tranquil hamlet; the opening lines of Starship's "We Built This City".

Then day turns to night and a giant Mickey Thomas, singer, fades into the foreground, hands in his pockets. He is quickly overshadowed by Grace Slick's enormous floating head. A flying saucer whizzes by in the background. What any of this means is unclear.

The bassist and guitarist, both of whom look like they'd clearly rather be doing other things, replace Thomas and Slick. A pair of drumsticks wave in front of them.

Now we dissolve back to Thomas. He is in good voice as he sings the first verse of the song, and he is joined now onscreen by a pair of random floating heads with 80's haircuts. They look like pictures that could have been ripped from the walls of a nearby salon. We wonder what it means.

Now another person appears in the background, wearing some sort of hat and pantomiming being on the phone. We cut to a young man, wearing sunglasses, frozen. We cut again to a young woman, wearing an expression that looks like she's being yelled at by her dad. Now we're back on Thomas, again surrounded by the floating haircut heads.

We close in again on Thomas, he turns his head to the right. He is replaced onscreen by the turning head of some other haircut model, then another turning head, then yet another and then we quickly cut to, for some reason, the Lincoln Memorial. Where are we going with this?

We cut to another turning head, and now back to the Lincoln memorial, with all the haircut models moving slowly toward it. Mickey Thomas sings the chorus of the song to Lincoln, who suddenly comes to life and begins singing along. What any of this means is unclear.

Mickey Thomas and the haircuts look on, apparently unimpressed by a 40 foot statue suddenly coming to life in front of them. Why the non-reaction? Are they in a state of disbelief? Or are they just a symbol of the ennui of the teenage years?

These questions go unanswered as we cut to Grace Slick in Las Vegas.

The setting, actually, does not appear to be actual Las Vegas but a faux-Las Vegas from future times.

"Someone's always playing corporation games/who cares, they're always changing corporation names" sings Slick, wisely choosing this video as the perfect forum to speak out against corporations.

Not to be outdone by Mickey Thomas, she is also being joined by her own steady gathering of floating heads.

Things slow down a bit for the meantime as we watch Slick sing, intercut with shots from various faux-Las Vegas locales. "Marconi plays the mamba" she sings. Is she talking about Marconi, a pioneer and key figure in inventing radio? But why would Marconi be playing the "mamba"? Does she mean the "mambo"? Mambo is a style of music, as is "samba". Mamba is a snake. Modern mambo had yet to be invented by the time Marconi died. So the only conclusion we can reach here is that a dead man has come back to life and has learned how to play the snake.

Once again anticipation begins to build. We cut to a casino sign that says "Uncle Sam's" with two giant dice hanging underneath. "Uncle Sam's", we think to ourselves. That can't be good. Out of nowhere, the dice begin to fall to the street below. We cut to the haircuts, heads quickly turning to see the falling giant dice.

And now it's chaos.

One of the dice pursues the haircuts down a strip of casinos; they scramble to get clear. Now the mob runs past the buildings to a clearing, and by a foursome that looks on, for some reason unimpressed by the madness. Perhaps they are trying to figure out what the hell "Marconi plays the mamba" means.

The symbolism here is obvious: "Uncle Sam" is obviously the U.S. government, which is trying to kill the youth of America by dropping giant dice on them.

Guitarist and Carvin instruments endorser Craig Chaquico dissolves in and rips a solo that last for six seconds. Now united, Slick and Thomas appear onscreen.

"Who counts the money underneath the bar? Who rides the wrecking ball into our guitars?" Who indeed. Not a very sensible person, that much we can say. It would make more sense to count the money on top of the bar, since there's assuredly more light there. And there's probably better ways to destroy a something as small as a guitar than renting a wrecking ball (I assume that's expensive). Why would you need to ride it? That sounds dangerous.

Now the entire band is playing on top of a skyscraper. The throngs of haircuts watch from below, expressionless. Can they actually see or hear a band playing on top of a skyscraper? It is unclear. Most of the answers we're seeking never materialize: the video ends.