The Albums That Shaped Me: BEBE LE STRANGE

albums-bebeHEART: Bebe le Strange
Year of Release: 1980
Year it Came Into My Life: 1980

“Bebe le Strange”
“Down on Me”
“Silver Wheels”
“Rockin’ Heaven Down”
“Even it Up”
“Strange Night”
“Raised on You”
“Sweet Darlin'”

High school was a crazy time. I grew up in a very rural area, and was also cripplingly shy as a kid, so I didn’t get exposed to a lot of what other kids did. I pretty much stayed in my own little world. It was around ’75-’76 that I started to discover the world of pop music and Top 40 radio. Once I did, I started to connect with the things that other kids identified with. This was also around the time that Heart hit the scene, so I came along just in time to hear all their early big hits as they happened: “Magic Man”, “Crazy On You”, “Barracuda”, etc. So I knew who Heart was, although I didn’t know much about them. In 1978 they released an album called Dog and Butterfly and went on a major American tour. This somehow escaped my notice at first. Until I got to high school, that is, and I started to get to know other kids, most of them older that I was, who took music very seriously and knew the popular music scene on a deeper level than just what was happening on Top 40 radio.

Another Janis influence on me came at this time and it was her love of Heart. But it wasn’t just Janis; there was a lot of buzz about Heart around our school. They were kind of the hot thing for my 10th grade year. We even had a girl who always came to school all glammed up, modeling herself after Ann WilsonD&B had been out for a while, and the band was coming to Lakeland Civic Center. As I had all these people around who were into the band, I became more and more interested. At that point I’d never been to a rock concert before (my first was KISS in ’79), and I was thinking about going to see Heart, but didn’t. All my friends came back to school on Monday talking about the show and how fantastic it was, and what songs the band played, etc. This really started to pique my interest and I regretted having not gone myself. I remember going to the public library near our school and checking out a copy of their first album, Dreamboat Annie. It was so different from anything else I was listening to at the time, and even different from what I expected having heard the two big hits. This introduced me to a whole new sensitivity in pop music, to new textures and styles and deliveries. By the time Bebe came out on Valentine’s Day in 1980, I was fully hooked.

But Bebe was another departure in what I expected from Heart.  It was more streamlined, less acoustic, with a bit of an edge to it, and the arrangements were less lush. But I liked it. The songs were great. They had an energy to them, and the band seemed to be turning a corner into new creative territory. It was rather exciting to witness. I started buying the earlier albums and became pretty obsessed. And when their new tour brought them again to Lakeland Civic Center, I didn’t miss it. I still have very vivid memories from that show.

I’ve remained a huge fan of Heart and have seen them in concert more times than any other band. I’ve seen them in the highs and their lows and they always put on a great show. One of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen by any band was in 2013 when Heart did a big summer tour with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. After Heart played their full show, both bands came out and did a 30-minute Zeppelin tribute that included “Battle of Evermore”, “The Song Remains the Same”, “The Rain Song”, “The Ocean”, “Kashmir” and “Stairway”. It was an incredible thing to witness, and hearing those combined bands play “Kashmir” and “Stairway” was a unique and powerful experience.

They effectively broke up after their 1993 album; Ann and Nancy worked on other projects for a decade. They put together a new Heart line-up and did a big summer tour in 2003. The first Heart new Heart album in over a decade, Jupiter’s Darling, was one of the best albums they’d ever made. They’ve done two since then, Red Velvet Car and Fanatic, both of which are excellent.

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