My wife and I had the great fortune to see Ann and Nancy Wilson and their Heart mates perform live a few years ago. We decided to splurge and had seats in the second row off to the side. Although, they were not at the start of the career, we were enthralled by one of the greatest rock and roll voices of all time in Ann and her energetic guitar playing sister, Nancy. Anyone who can play “Crazy on You” on the guitar has got to have some energy.
Heart began as a cover band in the Seattle area and gained renown with Ann singing some of Led Zeppelin’s songs better than Robert Plant could. It was a great tribute to both bands, when Heart performed “Stairway to Heaven” to close the Kennedy Center Honors of Led Zeppelin. As an aside, on one of their live albums has Ann singing one of the finest versions of “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers I have ever heard including the original.
Heart is a true kick ass rock and roll band. Their attractive looks may have overshadowed that fact at first, but even if you never saw them, you would like what and how they played. One of their earlier tunes was “Kick it Out” which is vintage rock and roll. Yet, they broke through with “Magic Man” and the aforementioned “Crazy on You” both whose straightforward and highly seasoned double entendre lyrics were cleverly done and gave us teenagers an extra thrill.
Yet, with these lyrics setting the stage, their musicality showed Heart was all about words and music. And, when you have Ann belting out rock and roll songs like only she can, it made a very powerful sound. I will not highlight the three songs I mentioned first, as they are well-known. Yet, I do love them dearly.
I would rather highlight some other songs, a few hits and few that were interesting to me. One of the more lyrical songs they performed is “Dog and Butterfly,” the title song off a great album. Here is a sample of the lyrics.
Well I stumbled upon your secret place
Safe in the trees you had tears on your face
Wrestlin’ with your desires, frozen strangers stealin’ your fires
The message hit my mind, only words that I could find
We see the dog and butterfly up in the air he like to fly
Dog and butterfly below she had to try
She roll back down to the warm soft ground
Laughin’ to the sky, up to the sky dog and butterfly
To me this song is about not reaching your dreams. The dog will never catch the butterfly (his or her dream), but will keep on trying. The idea is to keep trying and learn to laugh at yourself, even if you fail. As, we will all fail more than once.
Another great song of theirs is “Barracuda.” This one is more obvious about a deceitful man who hurt her dearly, but the wordsmithing and tune are excellent.
So this ain’t the end, I saw you again today
Had to turn my heart away
You smiled like the Sun, kisses for everyone
And tales, it never fails!
You lying so low in the weeds
Bet you gonna ambush me
You’d have me down, down, down to my knees
Wouldn’t you, Barracuda?
Another title song, which is terrific, especially when played live is “Dreamboat Annie.” Here is a sample:
Heading out this morning into the sun
Riding on the diamond waves, little darlin’ one
Warm wind caress her
Her lover it seems
Dreamboat Annie, ship of dreams
Dreamboat Annie, little ship of dreams
Nancy usually sang harmony in the chorus to many songs. Her voice is good and she should have sung more lead on occasion. One of her better songs is “These Dreams.” It should not be lost on others, that dreams play a hand in several songs. Here are Nancy’s words.
Is it cloak and dagger?
Could it be spring or fall?
I walk without a cut
Through a stained glass wall
(Weaker in my eyesight)
Weaker in my eyesight
The candle in my grip
(Words that have no form)
And words that have no form
Are fallin’ from my lips
These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life
These dreams that sleep when it’s cold outside
Every moment I’m awake the further I’m away
(Further I’m away)
After some time away from the charts, Heart came back big in the late 1980’s with “Alone” which showed the world that Ann was still a big time voice. This song needs little discussion and is quite apparent in its meaning.
I hear the tickin’ of the clock
I’m lying here the room’s pitch dark
I wonder where you are tonight
No answer on the telephone
And the night goes by so very slow
Oh I hope that it won’t end though, Alone
Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone?
How do I get you alone?
A song that many may not know which I have always enjoyed is “Mistral Wind.” Especially, when played live, this song resonates with me. In addition to dreams, references to the sea are often used in their songs. Here is taste:
No wind when I took the watch, my ship was still waitin’
I lay on that mirrored sky, a restless sail waitin’ I closed my eyes, said the words of will for the gentle breathin’
That moves the sea, make my sails fill
Whisper waves cloud the glass, awake at last like a lover
It rushed around the talkin’ sweet, roll over, roll over, roll over
And in my ear he blew his name, it sound so strange
But I heard it plain mistral, mistral wind
The double entendres abound in this one as well. Sometimes, they are plain-spoken about desire, but they are equally adroit at the subtle. That is part of their great appeal. This final song and the title of the post is in the former category. It is exactly as the title implies. “Straight on for You” may be my favorite Heart song, if I can have only one (a link is below to a late in their career live performance of this song).
Quite some time, I’ve been sittin’ it out. Didn’t take no chances, I was a prisoner of doubt.
I knocked down the wailin’ wall, ain’t no sin. Got the feel of fortune, deal me in
Comin’ straight on for you, you made my mind. Now I’m stronger, now I’m comin’ through. Straight on, straight on for you. Straight on for you.
The song is about taking a chance. A lyric in a later verse describes “what the winner don’t know, the gambler understands.” Initially, she is a prisoner of doubt and won’t dare to take a chance. But, then she realizes, if I want this person to be mine, I better take a chance. I might lose, but by God I better try.
And, that may be the best way to think about life. Earlier, I wrote about a recurring theme of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young of taking a chance and not sitting on the shore (there is that sea analogy again). Ann and Nancy took a chance and still do. They became one of the greatest rock and roll bands ever (a Wikipedia summary can be linked to below). Plus, I think they still have some more they can come “straight on for us” with. Many thanks ladies. You are the best.