It’s crazy how music stays with us. Songs etch themselves in our hearts forever, and the way they slip into our lives isn’t something we can easily control. I remember the exact moment I started obsessing over Heart; how I felt and what I was going through. I was young, over-reactive and experiencing my first heartbreak. Luckily, I had a very intuitive mother by my side, and her remedy for my sunken, sometimes tear-filled eyes, was blasting Heart’s debut album Dreamboat Annie at full volume.
My mom Sonja is the coolest, toughest rocker chick I know. With her big, blonde, blown-out hair, she was a true Heart fanatic when she was my age. For my 18th birthday, she took me to see the Wilson sisters live at Treasure Island. It felt like a right of passage; the first moment I began to feel such an intense passion for live music. It was so fun to dance and sing together to the songs we were able to bond over just a year or two prior. She surprised me with second row seats and I remember how surreal it felt to be so close to the stage. I felt like I was under hypnoses as Ann Wilson screamed out the lyrics I’d been medicating my sadness with. The entire band rocked so loud I could barely hear myself singing along — which was probably a good thing! The ladies sitting next to us looked at me like I was crazy for knowing every word to every song. They probably didn’t expect someone so young to be that into this kind of music, and that realization in itself was a very special feeling.
Songs etch themselves in our hearts forever, and the way they slip into our lives isn’t something we can easily control.
By listening to the songs from Dreamboat Annie on repeat during this time in my life, I was able to familiarize myself with the healing power of music. I feel very fortunate that I discovered this early on in my life. I needed it then, and I need it now. Exactly one year ago today, I thought I was going to lose my mother forever. After a few days of not feeling herself, I rushed my her to the ER to undergo a three-hour, life-threatening surgery to combat an infection that had taken her over entirely — both physically and mentally. I remember the surgeon coming into the waiting room and telling me there was a good chance she was not going to make it. Whether it was in an hour, a week or a month, she was expected to die. I broke down right in front of him; in complete denial that the condition she had was powerful enough to take her life. I remember feeling petrified and worst of all, alone. What the hell was I going to do without my mom? The only person who taught me how to be unafraid and to always stay true to myself. How was I going to survive without that kind of support? I remember listening to a lot of Heart when she was fighting for her life in the hospital. I even played some for her on my computer when she was in her three week long induced coma. She says she doesn’t remember it, but I like to think it calmed her in some way and maybe even helped her come back to me.
As I look back on this awful situation, I’m trying to imagine myself experiencing it without the things that helped me stay positive: my friends, family and of course, music. It would have been impossible. Especially at that moment, music had its strongest effect on me when I was feeling alone. The songs that make up Dreamboat Annie are comforting and display an edgy sort of softness that the Wilson sisters possessed. The first time I heard it, the freedom I felt allowed my rock and roll spirit to shine through. Listening to it today, I’m reminded of that and am able to learn from it even more. Released in 1975 — first in Vancouver, British Columbia then in the United States seven months later — Dreamboat Annie holds some of the most significant songs of Heart’s career. It was the start of their journey; a long career that is still evolving. Magic Man, my go to karaoke song, is first up on this ten track album. If there’s any song that’s going to get you spellbound for Heart, it’s this one. Ann Wilson has one of the greatest rock and roll voices of all time, and this song proves it. For me, she mirrors the ranges of Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant and Paul Rodgers. No matter how many times I sing this song, I’ll never be able to hit those notes like she does. Fortunately, I have some mad air guitar skills. Even though I’m not the best singer, I can still rock out to just about anything, and Nancy Wilson’s solo kills it in this song. I become so overtaken by the sound, I have to put the microphone in my pocket just so I can have my hands free to jam on my imaginary Gibson.
By listening to the songs from Dreamboat Annie on repeat during this time in my life, I was able to familiarize myself with the healing power of music.
I’ve always idolized Ann and Nancy Wilson’s all or nothing attitude. For them, it’s never seemed to be about their image or success. It’s always been about their music, their fans and their desire to play. Their humbleness shows through their talent, and their music can help bring anyone out of a dark place. Their lyrics always seem to make me jump back and get over whatever sadness is trying to control my life. Before I owned it on vinyl, Dreamboat Annie was one of my favorite CDs to cruise around to in my car. Crazy on You is the best driving song ever. I absolutely love singing along to it, even though it’s not easy to do — not easy at all. The mystical Soul of the Sea is my favorite song lyrically off this album. Its mood is very reminiscent of The Who’s Quadrophenia, especially as the song climaxes:
Mama ocean hold me to you
Rock me on your waves
And tell me…
Is it all true?
Time, time, time, time
Never ask what’s become of us
Dedicate your sorrow
Here and now
To the soul the sea and me
I really love lyrics like these because they make me feel imaginative. I can disappear and escape to that figurative “soul of the sea” without leaving my bed. Love Me Like Music (I’ll Be Your Song) also has fantastic lyrics. Its message is simple and lovely: If you love me like music, I’ll be your song. Nancy’s voice compliments Ann’s lead perfectly in one of my favorite, lesser-known songs off the album: Sing Child. The drumming is wicked, the guitar solos are plentiful, and the mid-section of hard, Jethro Tull-esc flute action, elevates the song to a hard rock level. As a whole, the way the songs are arranged on this album is absolutely beautiful. The most unique part about its sequence are the two different versions of Dreamboat Annie. They each close out a side of the album, the first being dreamy and slow. Then, everything ends with its upbeat reprise, making it feel as if we’ve all awoke from this musical fantasy together, feeling refreshed and fulfilled.
Dreamboat Annie is obviously a very memorable album for me. Some of my recollections are fun, like singing Magic Man on karaoke, and some bring up feelings of sadness, like when I listened to Soul of the Sea at my mom’s bedside in the hospital. If I didn’t learn early on how music can help me through my issues, I really don’t know how I would have remained sane throughout that whole traumatizing experience with my mother. It’s these kinds of realizations that make me want to devote my life to talking about all the good that can come from being a music fan. Heart’s inspiring and healing effect on me personally helped get me through some of the most distressful and most wonderful moments of my life, and I thank my mom most of all for introducing me to them and for teaching me how to be expressive through my love of music.