By the time their first album, Dreamboat Annie, debuted, the rock group Heart had been through about a decade of changes. Changes in the line-up; even changes to the band’s name. From White Heart to Heart to Hocus Pocus and back to just plain Heart. Even though sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson have been at Heart’s core for decades, they didn’t even join the band until a few years before it’s debut album.
Ann joined the band first; Nancy came along two years later; it proved to be Heart’s turning point. “It was just instant magic,” former guitarist Roger Fisher said in VH1’s documentary Behind the Music. “You just knew something was electric there.”
In early 1975, Heart signed with Mushroom Records, a Vancouver-based independent record label. A few months later, the group began recording Dreamboat Annie. February of the following year saw the release of that effort. But the album did not bring immediate success. “It wasn’t really catching on; nothing was happening,” Fisher said. “We said ‘what’s wrong? It’s not supposed to happen this way.’”
While in the midst of a two-week gig in northern Canada, the band was fired. At the same time, they learned that Rod Stewart wanted them to open for him in Montreal. Radio stations there had been playing Dreamboat Annie almost non-stop, so concert-goers were very familiar with Heart’s music. “We came out to a houseful,” Ann Wilson said in the VH1 documentary. “Everyone just kinda went ‘whoa!’” That night, Heart took off in a big way.
The albums opening track – as well as its second single – “Magic Man” is purely autobiographical, according to Ann Wilson. The inspiration for the song was her then-boyfriend and the band’s first manager: Michael Fisher. “’Come on home, girl’ / He said with a smile / ‘You don't have to love me yet / Let's get high awhile / But try to understand / Try to understand / Try, try, try to understand / I'm a magic man.’” “Magic Man” became the band’s first Top 10 hit.
Next up is one of three album tracks of the title cut. “Dreamboat Annie” features Nancy Wilson’s gentle acoustic guitar and is a marvelous showcase for Ann’s beautiful voice. The song is a melancholy one. “Heading out this morning into the sun / Riding on the diamond waves, little darlin' one / Warm wind caress her, her lover it seems / Oh, Annie, dreamboat Annie my little ship of dreams.”
The next track as also the album’s debut single. “Crazy on You” is a hard rocker about dealing with the pressures of that time (the song was written during the Vietnam War era), and leading to a night of passion. “Nowhere to breathe easy...no time to be young / But I tell myself that I'm doing alright / There's nothing left to do tonight but go crazy on you.”
Dreamboat Annie was a huge success. It peaked at Number 7 on U.S. Billboard 200, selling millions of copies and launched the nearly forty-year career of a band some called “the female Led Zeppelin.” In April of 2013, Heart was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, and thirty seven years after their debut, Heart continues to tour.