Welcome to my new musical series for 2021, “30 Days, 30 Songs.” Follow me this year as I blatantly steal this Instagram challenge all in the name of good music and good fun. Every other week, I’ll cover one or two or more topics from the list (see here for a refresher), allowing them to percolate over musical memories, nostalgia, and whatever else comes to mind in the moment. And now, gimme a beat boys to free my soul, I wanna get lost in this rock and roll!
Day 18: A song from the year you were born
Okay, a song released in the year I was born is “Magic Man” by Heart.
I am an unabashed fan of Heart. From their beautiful debut album, Dreamboat Annie, on which “Magic Man” first appeared, to their turns towards pop(ish) rock in the 80s and 90s, this is a band that can do no wrong.
My introduction to Heart occurred in the 1980s, mostly thanks to MTV, which was a sneaky watch considering that my parents didn’t take kindly to the channel. The first time I ever heard or saw them was in the rather unforgettable video for “What About Love.”
This would have been been released in…what…1985, 1986? Somewhere during MTV’s kindergarten phase, when making music videos was a weird and wild pursuit. At this point. Heart was wearing its hair-metal façade, and the oddball juxtaposition two sexy gals (and a few sexy bandmates) in studded latex and lace while surrounded by hot metal and fire is…a thing. It’s east enough to find interviews with the band in which the Wilson sisters discuss what marketing themselves had to look like at the time, at least according to their record label. Regardless of how problematic it was — Ann’s well on film with stories of how the record execs did everything they could to hide her weight, which you can plainly see in this video (and it certainly became more blatant in later videos when she’s reduced to little more than a singing head at times) — Heart persevered. I became hooked on their string of hits in the mid to late 1980s; and when my own musical tastes started to look to the past in late high school/early college, that’s when I discovered Heart’s past, too.
I suppose that I could have picked one of Dreamboat Annie‘s other massive hits, “Crazy on You…”
…as it was with this song that I first remember hearing “classic” Heart on the radio. But, it wasn’t released as single in the right year, so…them’s the rules. While “Crazy on You” is a straight-ahead rock song that doesn’t let go until the end, “Magic Man” is more serpentine in its journey into the muddy world of seduction. The song trades a driving beat for some brilliant guitar licks that tease the listener along throughout the story.
The version of “Magic Man” linked above is of the original version of the song, which contains an instrumental portion that’s often cut from the radio version. It’s easy to forget that Heart isn’t just the forceful duo of Ann and Nancy Wilson. “Magic Man” gave everyone in the band, especially that amazing keyboardist (John Hannah, but I could be mistaken) at that time a moment to shine.
These days, while I can tune into Heart through a multitude of apps, not to mention my own iPod, I don’t hear much of them on the radio, even the classic rack station, anymore. However, whenever I do catch the stray radio DJ who throws them into rotation, the song of choice tends to be “Magic Man.” I guess that’s high praise. Not that the band needs it.