The Story of the Heart Song ‘Barracuda’
Heart was on an upward trajectory as they started writing their real second album, Little Queen. The band that had existed in one form or another since 1967, under the names Hocus Pocus and White Heart, now had a consolidated formation centered around Led Zeppelin-loving sisters Anne and Nancy Wilson, and signed to Mushroom Records. Their first album, Annie Dream Boat, had produced two big hits in “Crazy On You” and “Magic Man”, and the album reached No. 7 on the Billboard 200, eventually going platinum in the United States.
Mushroom Records took a cheeky direction when promoting the group: they took the album cover from Annie Dream Boat and superimposed the message “This was only our first time!” The implied incestuous deal was a complete affront to the Wilson sisters, who were trying to renegotiate their royalty rates, and the group demanded to be released from their contract. Mushroom refused, releasing their current album Magazine without the permission of the group. Heart responded by quickly recording another album, Little Queen, and publish it on Portrait Records less than a month later Magazine.
The Mushroom announcement turned out to be traumatic for the Wilson sisters, especially as journalists and music industry professionals continued to talk about it around them. A radio promoter’s comment after a concert in Detroit sparked a furious reaction from Ann Wilson. “It was during the ‘meet and greet after the show’,” Wilson explained in the episode of Heart of Behind the music, “And one of those record company geeks, in a little red satin 70s Heart satin rock and roll jacket, walks up and says, ‘So Annie, how are you baby? How is your lover? ‘”
Wilson initially thought he was referring to Mike Fisher, the band’s manager and brother of guitarist Roger Fisher, with whom Wilson was in a relationship. But the promoter objected, saying, “No, no, no, not Michael. Your sister! You and your sister. And that made me so mad.
The entire episode finds the Wilson sisters in constant struggle against the sexism of the music industry. As the group entered the ’80s, music video makers began to focus on Nancy’s slimmer physique, often hiding Ann in the shadows. Reviews of otherwise stellar concerts would instead focus on Ann’s weight and the sister’s heavily makeup appearance. The reality was that Heart couldn’t win by meeting or rebelling against the industry’s expectations, which ultimately makes ‘Barracuda’ all the more resonant.
In response to the ignorant remark, Ann Wilson retreated to her hotel room and channeled her fury into her words. As producer Mike Flicker recalled in a 1999 interview with To mix together Magazine, “” Barracuda “was conceptually created out of a lot of this bullshit from the recording industry. “Barracuda” could be anyone, from the local promotion manager to the president of a record company. It’s the barracuda.
“This stuff now seems small,” Ann would later tell Dan Rather. “But back then, when you’re just starting out and there’s no precedent for respecting women in rock, it was hurtful.” Later in the same interview, Ann recalls a comment she received from her mother when she first said she wanted to be a musician. “Suddenly my mother’s face came up saying, ‘Don’t get into show business. It’s so ugly. It’s so full of shady people who will misunderstand you. And I said, ‘Ugh, you’re so right’… If I had had a gun, I would have reacted differently to this guy. Thank goodness I didn’t.
For her part, Nancy understood the rage emanating from Ann’s words and sought to pair them with a sufficiently aggressive guitar part. The inspiration was rooted in another strong woman in the music industry, although she wasn’t necessarily synonymous with “righteous anger”: Joni Mitchell.
“We opened for a group called Nazareth in Europe and also for Queen,” Wilson said. Audio wire in 2019. “Nazareth had a hit with a Joni Mitchell song they covered called ‘This Flight Tonight’ which had a bit of that riff. So we kind of borrowed that. And we turned him into ‘Barracuda.’ And we saw the guys from Nazareth later and they were pissed off. “You took our riff! “
“But that’s kind of what everyone else,” explained Wilson. “You borrow what you love and you create your own. It’s also one of those sounds, it’s one of those guitar sounds that I’m still trying to figure out what we’ve been doing. It’s hard to recreate. The tone, unlike Wilson’s previous reliance on the acoustic guitar, was hip, electric and aggressive, as Howard Leese played on the recording.
Heart would continue to fight the rampant sexism of the music industry throughout her career, so perhaps it’s fitting that their most relentless attack ultimately turns out to be their signature song. ‘Barracuda’ narrowly missed the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it would be the band’s calling card both in the years before their dominance on MTV and as they tried to reestablish their hard rock edge afterwards. the ’80s. Today, it remains one of Heart’s best-known songs, and is a testament to her power to ward off ignorant sleazy and misogyny.