"White Rabbit" was written by Grace Slick, who based the lyrics on Lewis Carroll's book Alice In Wonderland. Like many young musicians in San Francisco, Slick did a lot of drugs. She saw lots of drug references in Carroll's book, including the pills, the smoking caterpillar, the mushroom, and lots of other images that are generally trippy. She noticed that lots of childrens stories involve a substance of some kind that alters reality, and felt it was time to write a song about it.
Slick got the idea for this after taking LSD and spending hours listening to the Miles Davis album Sketches Of Spain. The Spanish beat she came up with was also influenced by Maurice Ravel's "Bolero."
Slick wrote and performed this when she was in a band called The Great Society. She brought it with her, along with "Somebody To Love," when she joined Jefferson Airplane in 1966.
This was used as the theme song for a 1973 movie called Go Ask Alice.
The UK version of the album didn't have this on it.
This was one of the defining songs of the 1967 "Summer Of Love." As young Americans protested the Vietnam war and took a lot of drugs, this played in the background.
On an original recording by The Great Society, the song is barely recognizable due to Grace's higher voice before several throat operations that lowered her range after each one.
"Go Ask Alice" which is a lyric from this song, inspired an anonymous author to put out a book with that same title. The book was a "diary" of a young girl in the 1960s who had a drug addiction and died. The diary owner's name is never given, and the diary is suspected to be fictional even after it was promoted as true, and the anonymous author is suspected to be Beatrice Sparks, the book's editor.
One pill makes you larger
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 if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall,
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call.
When she was just small.
When the men on the chessboard
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.
When logic and proportion
Have fallen softly 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. Feed your head"