Crazy On You (1976)
It’s hard to conjure just how radical it was in 1976 for two women to front a bona fide Rock-N-Roll band. Not just as singers but as guitarists. Ann and Nancy Wilson were not just Heart’s sparkly, gimmicky baubles but were howling, wailing, impassioned leaders and the band’s driving force. Sure, there were people like Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Grace Slick and Joni Mitchell, but women were not, said the conventional wisdom of the time, supposed to hammer on guitars and scream into the night.
“Crazy On You” is introduced with a 45-second acoustic guitar solo by Nancy Wilson that draws on imposingly diverse influences: Folk; classical guitar and flamenco; the Moody Blues; Led Zepplin I album’s acoustic magic; and Mason Williams. The intro starts out noodling a bit casually, then fires up into an ardent gallop that almost immediately supports and then is overshadowed by the lead guitar riff, which is now part of reverberating Rock legend.
“Crazy On You” – of woman born:
The lyrics are soft and romantic for a few lines then crack open like an egg to let a question about social conditions hatch.
We may still have time
We might still get by
Every time I think about it I want to cry
With the bombs and the devils
And the kids keep coming
Nowhere to breathe easy… no time to be young
But the place to find refuge is in love. Well, more accurately the refuge is in lust, the minutes and hours when one is lost in the magic of another person’s body:
There’s nothing left to do tonight
but go crazy on you
The beginning of each verse is easy-going, verging on Country Rock a la America’s “Horse With No Name” and “Ventura Highway.” But an anxiousness always intrudes that acknowledges the fear that the mellowness – emblematic of the West Coast feel-good vibe of the early to mid-1970s – can’t last, can’t be readily remembered. But a night of wild sex can always be recollected and savored anew.
Amidst the hooky lead guitar and fill in guitar work reminiscent of the Eagles, Nancy Wilson’s rhythm guitar disappears and re-appears stealthily. The drumming is not inspired but rather steadfastly workmanlike and keeps the beat nicely in that fashion.
Ann Wilson’s vocal work is to be admired on all levels. Her emotional range is truly impressive, skipping as it does from whispering sweet nothings to reveling in hot sexual fun. And, as we know, she has a set of pipes as big as the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, where the band hails from.
We get a little of The Mamas and The Papas from her; a little bit of two Janises – Joplin, of course, and Janis Ian, singer of the mid-1960s anti-racist classic, “Society’s Child”; and we get a boatload of a new sensibility borne out of being one of the first women to front up a band.
She has flames coming out of every pore yet somehow retains traditional notions of femininity. Quite the trick.
The lyrics reflect the fluid changes of mood Ann Wilson and Heart mastered.
I was willow last night in my dream
I bent down over a clear running stream
I sang you the song that I heard up above
And you keep me alive with your sweet flowing love
Crazy, crazy on you,
Let me go crazy, crazy on you
- Although it has ended up a lusty love song, and a dance song, “Crazy On You” began in Ann Wilson’s mind as a protest song against the madness of the war in Vietnam.
- Inducted into the Rock-N-Roll Hall Of Fame in 2013, Heart performed in its original configuration for the first time in 30 years. The song they played? “Crazy On You.”