590. ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’, by Starship

Question: has a song ever been written specifically with karaoke in mind? Songs are written for movie themes, for radio play, for their stream-ability… So what about a song for karaoke bars?

Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, by Starship (their 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, from 3rd – 31st May 1987

For if ever a song were written for drunk people who shouldn’t be let anywhere near a microphone, ‘tis this one. It’s a duet, for a start, and one that’s pretty easy to sing. It’s got a steady, thumping, drum-led pace. It’s got moments for wannabe rock stars to let loose – woah-oahs and heys, that sort of thing – and a solo that begs to be air-guitared along to. Above all, it’s got the sort of message that appeals to people on their third cocktail of the evening. We can build this thing together, Standing strong forever, Nothing’s gonna stop us now…

I’d say that this record is a bit of a bellwether hit: a test of how much you can tolerate the worst excesses of the 1980s. If you can stomach it, this is a classic of its kind. Yes it’s cheesy, ridiculous, over the top… the little break between the bridge and the solo is perhaps the precise moment the ‘80s peaked (these moments keep coming along, and the decade keeps outdoing itself)… but it’s great fun. And it’s from one of the archetypal eighties movies, ‘Mannequin’, in which Kim Cattrall plays a store-front dummy that comes to life. Hi-jinks ensue, presumably (I’ve never seen it…) On the other hand, if you see the eighties as a decade of style (and hair) over substance, in which true musicianship got lost behind synthesisers and shoulder pads, then ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ is presumably high on your list of worst offenders.

A lot of the hate probably stems from what the band Starship once was. Few acts have had a longer journey from their original incarnation to their most successful line-up. Jefferson Airplane, ground-breaking ‘60s psychedelic act, with two tracks on Rolling Stone’s 500 Best Songs Ever, split in two. One half became Jefferson Starship, a more commercial sounding, but still well-respected rock band. Due to legal threats from the other members of Airplane, they had to drop the ‘Jefferson’ in 1984. By the time this happened, none of the original members remained, apart from the female lead on this song, Grace Slick, who had recently returned to the fold. So far, so Sugababes… (Though the three bands chopped and changed members so much I may be mistaken on this, and am happy to be proven wrong…)

So, even though Starship no longer shared a name, and barely any band members, with their predecessors, they seem to have been a shorthand for the way popular music had degenerated since the late sixties. Coming at this as someone who neither lived through it, nor has listened to much (OK, any) Jefferson Airplane, I can kind of get the hate. (Sugababes MK III had some decent songs, but they weren’t a patch on MK I.) But at the same time: it is snobbery.

Where people’s ire should be directed is the truly horrific ‘We Built This City’, Starship’s debut #12 hit, from 1985. That is a song that I cannot abide, one that takes every truly hideous ‘80s production technique in the book and turns them all up to eleven. ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’, though…? I’ve belted this out at karaoke nights, and would do so again, happily. In the UK, this was Starship’s only Top 10 hit, though they had more success in the States. When the hits finally dried up in the early nineties, there was one final regeneration for this most Dr Who of rock groups… Into ‘Starship featuring Mickey Thomas’ (the lead male vocalist on ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us’), which they still tour under today.

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28 thoughts on “590. ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’, by Starship

  1. Oh. Good god. I grew up listening to Jefferson Airplane/Starship. So much talent there. As a band, they are, literally as old as I am. Their debut album was the year I was born. Airplane/Starship wove a tapestry of music, spanning three generations. Their second album was the explosion…Somebody to Love & White Rabbit. Slick’s voice was so unique. The very last Airplane album in 1989 had some collaboration with Toto members.

    1974 was the turning point. They reformed into Jefferson Starship and the music changed. Slick wasn’t nearly as prominent as Marty Balin, then they picked up Mickey Thomas in 1979 and their sound changed, again. I found it fascinating that, at one time, Aynsley Dunbar was their drummer from ’79 to about 1983. From ’92 until 2009, their drummer was Prairie Prince. What is notable about that is, Prince was Journey’s first drummer, before leaving to join The Tubes. Aynsley Dunbar was Journey’s second drummer.

    I distinctly remember when their sound changed, the third time, in 1979 with “Jane.” Thomas had a hell of a voice and Jane was a powerhouse song.

    Starship still exists as “featuring Mickey Thomas.” Paul Kantner made sure in 1984 that “Jefferson” would never be attached to the name without approval from all original “Airplane” members.

    Once they became Starship, they sucked.

    The last song they put out that I loved was “Find Your Way Back.”

    • Thanks for the lengthy bio! I found it very hard to get my head around all the line-up changes, the splits, the departures and the returns, between the three bands… I find it bizarre that some of the same people who were involved in the psychedelic sixties version of the band feature on this cheese-fest!

      • Musicians gotta eat, particularly as they get older when younger musicians show up on the scene. “Principles” can turn on a dime. People love power & fame…and money.

  2. I thought this band got worse and worse as it went. When they lost Balin they lost me…yes Mickey Thomas has a great voice and Jane was ok…but their songs sound like the are trying to write a hit song…nothing organic about them. We Built This City is just plain bad…It was voted the worse song of the 80s haha… as bad as it is…I can think of worse.
    If I had a vote…it would be The Safety Dance…

  3. Pingback: 595. ‘La Bamba’, by Los Lobos | The UK Number Ones Blog

  4. Now how did I miss this post when it came out (thank you AOL…not). I liked this at the time, though it did become rather too inescapable as time went on. It sometimes occurs to me that we much prefer records when they hit a glass barrier that stops them reaching the Top 20, but if they go all the way to No. 1 we hate them for being successful. But I think I’d sooner listen to this again than the ubiquitous, how-can-you-avoid-them Madonna and Michael Jackson who absolutely dominated the era. And it was after all co-written by Albert Hammond, who I can forgive anything for being a one-hit wonder with ‘The Free Electric Band’ in 1973. It only reached No, 19 and we loved to – had it been a No. 12 hit we might have soon got sick of it – funny old thing, success…

    • This post is one of my least viewed of recent weeks… wonder if somethign went wrong in the posting of it? Anyway, I do like it, and I don’t think it suffers from ’80s overkill now in the way that some other soft-rock songs do (cough… Journey, Bon Jovi… cough cough)

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