Monday, November 11, 2019

Radio Romance: Helen Reddy : "Angie Baby"

It is easy enough to state that this song was a transatlantic hit (#1 in late '74 and here #2 on Radio Luxembourg in February '75); it is also easy enough to state that the songwriter, Alan O'Day, worked on the lyrics for some time, even showing them to his therapist* to get his/her advice on them.

But what is the song about?  No one, even O'Day and Reddy, who you would think would know, don't.  This is actually rather refreshing, as how many songs actually seem to be flattened or reduced by having their meaning/origin explained?  It almost even takes away some of the power - the listener's power - in understanding and interpreting a song.  So my version of this song may not be yours, but here goes...

A girl loves music, loves it so much and thus it takes over her life.  Is she touched, a little crazy in the head?  For some reason she doesn't go to school but gets to stay at home, in her room** listening to her radio all day.  She whirls around with one song, one fantastic partner, after another. She is, as Sister Sledge will later attest, Lost In Music.  Whether she knows this or not isn't stated, but Reddy's voice is always present to hint, to insinuate, to make the case for Angie that she is a "special lady" and not one to be messed with. 

A girl's attachment to music is a strong thing.  The power of music matches her own power, which can be so great and yet so ephemeral, but always is there, and the radio becomes a means of possessing this power in a way, of having means to escape even if you are shut-in at home, it seems in the song for Angie's own good. 

But there's a boy, a ne'er-do-well, who wants Angie and looks in on her and sees only her body, of course.  He doesn't know about her "really nice place to go" but perhaps knows she's a bit "touched."  This boy wants and gets into her room, only to find himself, his very soul, spun around and somehow disappearing into the radio, never to be seen again.  The radio keeps him - he's not dead, exactly, but he can never escape.  She has a lover; she has her radio; she has her land of make-believe...or is it? 

Even here I can say that the radio, that music itself, somehow defends and protects Angie, that she who is so utterly devoted has her just reward, and that the confusing, fuzzy and emotionally and psychologically profound reactions a girl has to music are all here.  The way a guitar and drums and voice can hit your nerves, all your nerves, so that you become altered, even liberated, by what happens to you when you hear them.  The effect is instantaneous and all those radio stations who didn't need any encouragement to play this song (radio stations love songs which mention radios, after all) maybe didn't get the whole subversive sexual undertow here, or maybe they very much did. 

A girl and her radio; a radio romance.

Next up:  it's the Valentine's Day massacre.

*Hardly anything more 70s than doing this, though how much popular culture - through books, music, movies - was about young women who were deemed "odd" or "weird" or flat-out "crazy" in this decade has no doubt been written about, but also sort of written off.  The male/masculine version of the 70s has become the default understanding of the decade, with only a few women accepted as part of that male world, and this goes for all media, really.  I know this is a super-obvious point, but it always bears making.

** How much would I have loved to stay in my room say circa November 1981 and listen to the radio all day? A lot....