Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More Than A Woman

Heart Attack
As my devotion to learning about music has grown over the years, I've come to appreciate the Seattle rock scene on a very large level. How could you not? The Washington rock capital has produced too many musical greats to ignore: Nirvana, Band of Horses, Pearl Jam, Modest Mouse, and Death Cab for Cutie to name a few. Struggling artists, instruments and music have turned to gold after beginning in the Seattle music hub - which makes it no surprise that it sent two pretty gals skyrocketing to rock n' roll fame almost 40 years ago, forever reassuring my
utmost faith in that city as a scorching musical breeding ground.

In light of their soon-to-be swoop through all of Canada (check for a date near you, there's guaranteed to be something), I thought it would be worthwhile to shout out to the Mamas of rock n' roll, legends of bombastic vocal ability and temptresses of fans young and old - Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. Yes, they can sing, yes, they were and still are gorgeous, but also - these girls know how to rip an instrument. Thank God that 40 years ago they were given a chance to show us that.

I remember clearly the first time I heard 1975's "Crazy On You" (off Dreamboat Annie) when I was young, and it still is one of the defining moments of my listening experiences. Everything about the electric rock anthem demonstrated to me what it felt like to have your socks knocked off by a piece of music and mind blown by a vocal and instrumental combination. The introduction is forever unforgettable, and future attempts to match it will inevitably fail. Even as a kid, I recognized how the opening acrobatic picking stalled time for 36 seconds, before rushing into a speedy acoustic build-up and setting electric fireworks off into the song. Nancy Wilson, a slender blonde cheerleader-lookalike, tore up the guitar just the same as any buffoon male rock legend. Ann Wilson's seductive vocals coax you into the words, before the shrill chorus oozes an appropriately 1970s message - forget wars and conflict for one night of passion. Check out this performance of "Crazy On You":


Countless other memorable Heart tracks dotted the 1970s, accented by their flipped hair and bellbottom pant-suits, and the female-fronted band (who also partially got their start  in Vancouver) became a respected household rock name. After taking a downward popularity swing in the early 80s, they later returned with hits like "What About Love" and "These Dreams" - resculptured power-rock ballads that applied their guitar and vocal abilities in an obviously 80s-rock way.

Both went on to conquer other solo efforts, a favourite of mine being Nancy Wilson's extensive list of film score compositions for her husband, director Cameron Crowe. Some beautiful pieces by this acoustic goddess are "Elevator Beat" from Vanilla Sky and one of the great loves of my life, "60B" from Elizabethtown. Listen to it - isn't it just preciously perfect? I wish my life was set to 60B, what a sweet life it would be.

Here is a snippet of an interview with Nancy Wilson that highlights the amazing music supervision by Sofia Coppola in her film The Virgin Suicides - where she decided to fittingly use Heart's classic "Magic Man":

Believer Magazine: Another great movie scene is the one in Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides where Josh Hartnett struts through the high school to Heart’s song “Magic Man”—and everyone in America who didn’t already have a crush on him got one. I really felt the power of music, watching that.
Nancy Wilson: That is such a great moment! You know, Sofia contacted me when she was making the film and said, “Listen, I don’t have much of a budget, but would it be OK if I used your song?” She sent a rough cut of the movie and I was so impressed by the way she used the song to make a story point that I said, “Go ahead, it’s yours, no charge.” I also gave her permission to use “Crazy on You.” We didn’t have a manager at the time, so I could get away with handing things out for free. Anything for Sofia. She’s got a musician’s soul.



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