Fresh out of college, I got my first job with an album-oriented rock radio station in Seattle. And when they came through town on their concert tours, the likes of Van Halen, Styx, Sammy Hagar and Cheap Trick would ricochet down our halls.
But there was one band that stood out from the rest because they were homegrown and had female leads. Fronted by Bellevue sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson - young women who not only sang but also wrote their own songs and played their own instruments (an anomaly in the testosterone-fueled world of rock and roll) - Heart was a forerunner of what was to come in terms of Seattle's rebellious dominance of the music scene.
In the 1970s, Heart's climb to super-group status involved exploits and adventures that only now are being brought to light. "Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll" is their new, no-holds-barred memoir. It was written with the assistance of Charles R. Cross, a Seattle-based music journalist who has written best-selling biographies about several rock stars, including locally spawned legends Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.
Sir Elton John provides a blurb for the back cover of "Kicking and Dreaming," so you know it's going to be outrageous, but this tale, which switches back and forth between Ann's and Nancy's perspectives, also recounts their peripatetic childhood in a tight-knit military family, and their earliest influences, from family sing-alongs to movies to school.
When their father retired from the military, the Wilson family settled down in Bellevue. Ann and Nancy experimented with drugs and spiritual activism (supported by their remarkably open-minded parents), but they were especially dedicated to music. Both girls were transfixed by the Beatles, and when the Fab Four came to Seattle in 1966, Ann and Nancy were there.
The event shaped their outlook from then on. The girls wanted to be professional musicians - and at the tender ages of 16 and 12, they formed their first band and called it the Viewpoints.
The sisters talk about how they got to Vancouver a few years later and fell in with the charismatic Fisher brothers (Michael and Roger), performing in an early iteration of Heart and feeding on brown rice, dreams, and little else.
And they share how they were fired from a gig at a crummy club in Calgary only to appear as openers for Rod Stewart four days later at a sold-out arena in Montreal - after that, there was no looking back.
"Kicking and Dreaming" is a brutally candid, name-dropping goldmine of rock and roll excess. It talks about the collaborations and parties and concerts over the years, divulges the stories behind some of Heart's biggest hits, and relates the nuttiness of promoting albums and the surprising isolation of life on the road.
But it also circles back, time and again, to the importance of family and close friends who supported Ann and Nancy through times of joy and crisis.
'Kicking and Dreaming'
Ann and Nancy Wilson with Charles R. Cross
BARBARA LLOYD MCMICHAEL writes a weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at email@example.com