Tuesday, August 07, 2007

MUSIC | Heart Plays The Soundtrack to My 14 Year Old Self

When rock band Heart released their album, Brigade in 1990, I was just another insecure 14 year-old who heard them on the radio and bought the cassette. Remember the days before CDs, when we played music on the plastic cassette tapes that had to be rewound?

The biggest hit single on the album was "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You" - which spent two weeks at Number Two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, but just couldn't break through to Number One. The song was about a woman who had a one-night stand with a younger lover. The next morning, she left him a note that says, "I am the flower you are the seed". How botanical.

The lyrics were a little veiled, but the lovers met one day:

Then it happened one day,
we came round the same way
You can imagine his surprise
when he saw his own eyes
I said "please, please understand
I'm in love with another man
And what he couldn't give me
was the one little thing that you can"

In fact, she had used the young man to help her conceive a child; her husband/lover was not able to give her one. And the day she met the young man again, she was with her child, a child with her lover's eyes.

That year, the Methodist school where I was studying was trying to raise money to upgrade the facilities. As part of the fund-raising endeavours, we were allowed to make song dedications through the school PA system for a small fee. However, there was a list of prohibited songs - heavy metal music, seen as Satanic music by the school authorities, were not allowed. Also on the banned list was Heart's "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You."

At 14 I wasn't much of a rebel, but I was cynical enough to laugh at the absurdity of the school authorities trying to ban a song that was being played on the airwaves every single day. Heart dared to sing about (adulterous, anonymous S.E.X.) and they were not coy about it. The school was trying to create a hot-house environment of purity and innocence for the students. They tried to do it by keeping out the elements that didn't fit in their idea of education. I love my alma matar but I found their methods a little misguided. People are having sex in the real world. Banning all reference to it, not addressing it, not educating your students about it was wrong. I didn't know it then, but I was slowly influenced by the gutsy subversive powers of rock music.

On a whim, or maybe a temporary insanity led on by my developing punkhood, I dedicated a song to MYSELF. The song I chose was "Stranded," from the same album as "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You." The song was played over the school PA system and I couldn't stop grinning when I heard it. Someone (probably a student, maybe one of the prefects) later reported to the teachers that the song was by the same people who sang about having S.E.X. Feathers were ruffled and ALL subsequent songs by Heart was banned soon after. I did wonder how the PA crew had a copy of Brigade in their music collection in the first place.

This minor episode of teenage infraction came to be important as it was one of the many evidence that the Powers That Be are fallible. I was able to get away with subverting an ill-considered decision. The idea that the teachers could be wrong, could be deceived, became more significant down the years as I began to seriously consider my own spiritual beliefs. I found myself no longer as willing to accept on blind-faith and blind-authority, the dogma my teachers were drilling into me on a daily basis. It was not that I did not believe in God - just not their version of God.

I paid for these doubts in my own way. But I still love the music by Heart. Their music became, quite by accident, part of the soundtrack of my growing pains. Now that I am a little older (but maybe not that much wiser), I find out the sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson have not stopped working on music. Nancy Wilson is married to director Cameron Crowe, and helped work on the music for Elizabethtown.

Meanwhile, Ann Wilson - vocalist and rhythm guitarist of Heart - will release her first solo album on 11 September 2007. Entitled, Hope & Glory, it is produced by Ben Mink, who also worked with k.d. lang and Feist. The album includes covers of singles by Led Zeppelin, with guest artistes like Elton John, Shawn Colvin, Alison Krauss, k.d. lang, Rufus Wainwright and Gretchen Wilson. The album is already on my To Check Out List.

Visit Ann Wilson @ MySpace

Meanwhile, a bit of nostalgia for that 14 year old that never left:

Hmm. Back in those days they had really BIG hair, huh?

5 comments:

Nymeth said...

I love Nancy Wilson's score for both Elizabethtown and Almost Famous! I didn't know Heart was the band she was in before.

I agree that banning all references to a subject is not the best way to help young people deal with it.

Kim said...

I remember this song. I couldn't appreciate then the pains it must have given teenage boys to hear the Heart-stricken teenage girls belting out "All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You" while singing along to the radio.

Now, I'm amazed boys actually survive adolescence.

Ex Libris said...

Likewise, Heart was the soundtrack to my 19 year old self with their album 'Dreamboat Annie'. Very talented musicians, those Wilson sisters.

jean pierre said...

i remember this one too :)

i saw it as a story at the time and the most heartfelt kind. i kept trying to fill the gaps of the years and imagining the "what ifs" in my mind...

i love that you dedicated that song to yourself! and yeah, its interesting that they knew that it came from the same album... hmmm...!

Dark Orpheus said...

Nymeth I have the soundtrack to Elizabethtown. There's some great music in that film :) I think Cameron Crowe is one of those directors that knows how to use the soundtrack. Anthony Mighella is another one - esp. the way Mighella uses Jazz to convey character in Talented Mr Ripley.

Kim "Now, I'm amazed boys actually survive adolescence" - sometimes they barely survive.

The songs back in those days are actually quite suggestive. I'm amazed we got away with a lot. Remember "I Touch Myself" by Divinyls? Some of the girls used to sing it in class. Did we even know what it means?

Ex Libris Yeah, the Wilson sisters have been around a long time. I was surprised they're still making music. Makes me want to go buy a compilation of their best hits.

Jean Pierre Yes, and I got away with that song too. But I still wonder who ratted on that song. My prime suspect is one of the prefects. Those Nazi scums. ;p