Oh sure, there was the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, Cream, Zeppelin, Jimi and Janis — the elite golden gods of the glorious first wave of album rock crashing across the shore during the mid to late ‘60s. But, while certainly iconic, for those of us coming of age during the early to mid-‘70s, those artists belonged to our older siblings — we were simply borrowing them. Alice Cooper, Bad Company, Aerosmith, Queen, Elton John, David Bowie and Peter Frampton — that music belonged to us — outright.
Of that equally vital second wave, one of the boldest and brightest bands was the Seattle-birthed brigade, Heart. Although the band’s landmark debut, Dreamboat Annie, dropped in Canada via Mushroom Records in late ‘75, the spectacular 10-song set didn’t truly catch fire until it arrived in the States — 45 years ago today (February 14, 1976).
From the get-go, Heart’s primary artery was the songwriting team of sisters Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson. In fact, the credits placed prominently inside the album cover gatefold indicated clearly that Heart WAS lead vocalist Ann Wilson and guitarist Nancy Wilson, with bassist Steve Fossen and guitarist Roger Fisher. While not credited in the liner notes as part of the band’s official lineup, soon-to-be core, classic-era members; guitarist Howard Leese and drummer Michael Derosier, did make significant Dreamboat Annie contributions.
With the band’s groovy, hot pink signature logo blazoned across the top, the cover of Dreamboat Annie was eye-catching, indeed. With the seemingly semi-nude image of the Wilson sisters (standing shoulder-to-shoulder) occupying enormous real estate, the cover also was considered provocative — particularly during the wholesome John Denver/Karen Carpenter era. And for curious, pimple-faced, rock-crazed male consumers (such as myself), the striking visual fueled the band’s frustrating allure.
But the record made a mighty and magical musical statement. And the songs simply refused to play second fiddle to salacious marketing. Overseen by celebrated producer, Mike Flicker (Poco, Al Stewart, Randy Meisner), Dreamboat Annie stirred an immediate sensation when the super-charged, arena-sized sing-along “Crazy on You” crashed Casey’s Countdown in the spring of ‘76. Truth be told, the track slashed through car radio speakers from coast to coast with such crisp and sunny gusto, to this day, every time I think about it, I (still) want to cry. By the fall, Dreamboat Annie had become a bona blockbuster, as the mystical-sounding, riff-driven, synth-slathered single, “Magic Man” dominated both AM and FM airwaves.
Brimming with brisk banjo, the dream-like title track, as well as the delicate “(Love Me Like Music) I’ll Be Your Song” and the flute-fueled “How Deep it Goes” provided a decidedly lighter yin to the heavier yang of the down-and-dirty “White Lightning & Wine” (More cowbell!) and the funktafied “Sing Child” (Holy Junkie!).
A virtual crash course in dynamics, Dreamboat Annie was balanced beautifully — a magnificent, blameless work, showcasing the band’s wide array of talents and influences — definitely a place to go where the melody’s fine. 25-year-old Ann Wilson proved her powerhouse vocal chops were every bit as praise-worthy as those of ol’ Bobby Plant. For her part, 21-year-old Nancy Wilson stood nose-to-nose with the more experienced boys in the band and delivered in spades. Through her performances on Dreamboat Annie, she paved the way for aspiring female guitarists, while inspiring legions of pickers of both genders — back in the day when there only were two boxes to check.
While their mid-‘80s rebirth was mammoth, Heart’s initial ‘70s run was magical — an era that produced the brilliant works, Little Queen, Dog & Butterfly, Bébé le Strange (Feb. ‘80) and yes, even the oft-maligned Magazine. But even with a catalogue as strong as Heart’s, a convincing argument can still be made that Dreamboat Annie remains the band’s crown achievement.
Dreamboat Annie Track Listing:
1. Magic Man – 5:28
2. Dreamboat Annie (Fantasy Child) – 1:10
3. Crazy on You – 4:53
4. Soul of the Sea – 6:33
5. Dreamboat Annie – 2:02
1. White Lightning & Wine – 3:53
2. (Love Me Like Music) I’ll Be Your Song – 3:20
3. Sing Child – 4:55
4. How Deep It Goes – 3:49
5. Dreamboat Annie (Reprise) – 3:50
Run Time: 40:02
Record Label: Mushroom
Release Date February 14, 1976 (US) / September 1975 (Canada)