Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Music Box: Heart

The year was 1979 and my family had just packed up everything and moved from Detroit to Phoenix. Along with our earth-tone furniture, bentwood chandelier and ping-pong table came Tom Sowa, a single guy (and fellow Polack) who worked with my stepfather who decided that he too could use a fresh start. Our new Southwestern-style house had four bedrooms -- one for my parents, one for oldest brother Bill, one for baby sister Jennifer and one for my brother Terence and me to share -- but also had a loft that overlooked the living areas, which was accessed by a glamorous spiral staircase. This is where Tom set up residence while he looked for work and a home of his own. Having Tom around was suddenly like having the uncle we never had -- my parents' divorce robbed us of the four paternal ones we actually had, and my mom's estrangement from her family of the one on her side -- and Tom's late '70s persona was fun to be around, as he was always ready to pile us kids into his burgundy Pontiac and take us somewhere, which usually involved going to Woolco to buy records or to the tennis courts to hit some balls. Every time I think of that period of my life, the accompanying soundtrack to the vision of Tom driving his Grand Prix on the sidewalk at Mesa Community College ("it's faster to the courts this way," he explained) is "Dog and Butterfly" and "Straight On" by Heart, which played nonstop throughout the spring of 1979. (It's hard to believe that neither of those singles even cracked the Top 10 the way they completely dominated the airwaves for months.)

How I loved those songs and those girls: Ann, with her jet-black hair and killer voice and Nancy, the gorgeous blonde who rocked as hard as any dude with a guitar. Although it didn't take me long to appreciate their earlier brilliance -- "Barracuda," "Magic Man" and "Crazy on You" -- in retrospect, if Joan Jett was the "rocker chick" I didn't appreciate as much as I might have back in the day, Heart was most definitely the underappreciated "rocker chick band." Although my affection continued into the early MTV era -- "Even It Up" was definitely in heavy rotation back when, although I think most of us could have done without that "City's Burning" video being on 24 hours a day! -- it wasn't long before the Pretenders, Divinyls and X began to consume me, and Heart slipped into what I politely refer to as their "Bette Midler years," where they made a ton of money off of slightly inferior but highly commercial material for which no one could judge them.

As with Joan Jett before my rediscovery, these days I tend to rely on the classic Heart "Greatest Hits" package -- the one showcasing the band's fertile 1976 through 1983 period -- while knowing that I really should delve deeper into this rock 'n' roll band's catalogue, which I'm told has some classic LPs buried in it. A fellow fan also tells me that the women are gearing up for the release of their first album in a number of years, "Red Velvet Car," due out in August.

But until then, let's relive the magic, man:

Something for the ears
Changing Skies Lyrics
Lady GaGa
Pretty Boy Swag Lyrics
I Don't Wanna Be A Bride Lyrics
Vanessa Carlton
Uplifiting Lyrics
Still Got It Lyrics
Under Pressure Lyrics
Dr. Dre
Take Me Back Lyrics
Justin Garner
Slip Away Lyrics
U Don't Like Me Lyrics
Lil' Jon
Dream Again Lyrics
Get your own here.

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