Or, a used match bent to hold a marijuana cigarette that has been smoked too short to hold without burning the hands. This slang term was the origin for the band's name.
This rock group formed on the west coast of the USA during the summer of 1965 in what was called the San Francisco Bay folk boom. Singer Marty Balin recruited another folk musician Paul Kantner and two schoolfriends, blues guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady. Naming their group after the blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson (1897-1929)  they drew inspiration from The Beatles, The Byrds and the Lovin' Spoonful and built a local following at the Matrix Club.
Later in 1965 they signed to Record Corporation of America and recorded an album for release the following year called Jefferson Airplane Takes Off with Skip Spence on drums and female vocalist Signe Toly Anderson. Soon afterwards these two newcomers left, being superseded by jazz drummer Spencer Dryden and Grace Slick, the former singer with another San Francisco group The Great Society. It was Grace who pulled the band clear of the softer folk scene towards a more adventurous and experimental style in which jazz, blues and rock traditions all played a part. Amongst their fans the group's name was further shortened to "the Airplane".
Membership remained stable until 1970 when no fewer than five albums were recorded. The first of these Surrealistic Pillow (1967) included two classic tracks "White Rabbit" (inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland) and the rousing anthem "Somebody to Love" and reached number 6 in the US album chart, as well as a reminder of their earlier incarncation, in Kaukonen's acoustic "Embryonic Journey". After Bathing At Baxters (1967), a concept album based around an LSD experience, further showed their proficiency in psychedelic rock. Crown Of Creation (1968) was a transitionary record, less overblown than ...Baxters, whereas Bless Its Little Pointed Head (1969) captured their live sound, recorded at concerts at the Fillmore and the Fillmore East. In the aftermath of the ending of the San Francisco scene, the band released Volunteers (1969), their most political venture. Balin and Dryden left shortly thereafter. Two albums were released on the band's own label Grunt, these being Bark and Long John Silver before Casedy and Kaukonen also left. The live album 30 Seconds Over Winterland (1973) is now best remembered for its cover art, featuring a squadron of flying toasters.
Solo careers and the attractions of other bands beckoned. In 1989 an album was released by Columbia Broadcasting System. By 1974 Kantner had formed Jefferson Starship with Aynsley Dunbar on percussion and others and at least four albums were recoded under that name. However, following some (potential?) legal challenges the tenuous nature of the link with their radical predecessors was recognised and the band recorded simply as Starship with some commercial success.
The original band, along with the Byrds, The Doors, the Grateful Dead, the Lovin' Spoonful, The Mamas and the Papas, Tommy James and the Shondells and to some degree Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young will always be associated with the more melodic end of the north American rock spectrum and in due course other groups - such as Steely Dan, and The Eagles continued to blend elements of folk, jazz and rock and bring the results to a global audience. Of all these bands, Jefferson Airplane excelled in the psychedelic domain and in their penchant for pretentious track titles, which came to characterise the 1965-75 era.
British bands apparently influenced by the mellow lyricism of the west coast sound included Barclay James Harvest, David Bowie, Curved Air, Family, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, the Moody Blues, the Small Faces, Pentangle and Yes. The Beatles have always stressed the influence that the Beach Boys had on their musical development (especially Pet Sounds) but it seems likely that other music from the west coast also spread eastwards and played a key part in making pop music more symphonic and less predictable than it had been before 1965. The era of trans-Atlantic jet travel ushered in a decade earlier and the ability to send TV broadcasts by satellite also facilitated a faster interplay of musical influences across the Atlantic.
The role of the American Forces Network (AFN) with powerful medium wave radio transmitters situated in West Germany and "pirate radio" ships in the North Sea bringing US hits to the ears of European youth should also be recognised as a force that extended the global reach of West Coast music in the 1964-1972 period.
Record producers who worked with the band included Greg Edward, Rick Jarrard, Matthew Katz, Ron Nevison, Tommy Oliver and Al Schmitt.