"Vancouver. God, the whole time I was up there, I felt like we were in a dream. I really wanted to get back home."
It is breakfast time at the Wilson house, and Ann is sipping Tab as she tells the story of what happened to her after high school. Nancy and Sue wander in and out of the kitchen. occasionally adding to her monologue.
"It began in Seattle. I met Roger [Fisher] and Steve [Fossen], and we formed a group. I was the 'chick singer' – ha! One night we had a gig playing in Bellingham. which is a college town up north. Mike [Fisher] was in Canada then, times being what they were.
"Before I knew Mike, when he lived here, he went through this 'acid priest' phase. Got into Eastern religion. At one point, he was running around in military fatigues, with his head shaved, giving acid to people. Anyway, we played this club in Bellingham, and Mike sneaked down to see his little brother's new band. He'd heard his brother say there was this chick in the group, and when he walked into rehearsal. there she was, sitting on the dance floor wearing old jeans with this big ciggie hanging out of her mouth, a glass of wine, trying to learn the words to this Janis Joplin song, 'Move Over.' Yeah, man. A tough chick, y'know? Mike kinda went, 'God, who's that!' and stuck around that night. He drank a pitcher of beer, and we started to get to know each other. It was one of those deals where things go gonnnnggggg! He asked me to go up to Canada with him. But I was too scared. The 'tough chick' thing was all a front. I thought he just wanted to, uh, make it or something. But eventually, I just had to move to Canada. I just kind of came to him. It lasted nine years.
"It was really hard times. There I was, I'd followed this man to Canada. We all lived in this one room – this is the story everybody in the band hates now – and ate brown rice. Steve and Roger were married then, and they had their wives there, and Steve had a child. I had to learn to be one of the hens. It just drove me crazy! This middle-class princess from Bellevue had to wash her hair in cold water and be the cook of the house.
"Nancy finally came up. We were so crazy to play together. And when she did, I started to return to myself, 'cause I was getting real far away, really starting to become 'a chick.' Anyway, you get the picture.
"Mike had the business head. He drove our truck. He and Rog and Steve built all the equipment for Heart. It sounds like we were spaced out, but we weren't. We were organized and efficient. We thought, 'Okay, first we'll make enough to buy a truck. Then we'll make enough to buy better equipment. Then make a record. Then, after that, we'll be able to move to the States.' "
She pauses, then continues. "After Dreamboat Annie – with things happening so fast – we got a manager. But Mike and I continued to be patriarch and matriarch of the group. As the years went on, things got more polarized – he handled the technical aspects and I sort of took care of the music. But he would still advise me on the artistic aspects of things, and that eventually turned into a problem. After a while, I stopped wanting to be advised."
From the bedroom, Nancy chimes in, "Me too."
"It was a hard fight. From the beginning, when we all had nothing, and had to really rely on each other, remembering those days makes it hard to wrench apart, to get free. Five years. It was hard. And with Mike and me, it was kind of a Pygmalion story. He was the one person who really encouraged me, who said, 'Come on, Ann, you can do it.' Then his job was finished. It was really hard for both of us to realize that. I left him, but I'd really left him a long time ago."
She sits silently for a moment, then puts down her glass and jumps off her perch on the kitchen stool.
"Come on. Let's go out driving."
Come on, Connie. You can do it. Go. Now!" Sue Ennis barks.
Ann cranes her neck around to make sure, then zips the Rover across three lanes of traffic. She manages this maneuver while maintaining a steady high-third harmony to a four-voice version of "The Cruel War" (the Land-Rover has no radio). Other songs on the four-part hit parade: "Sealed with a Kiss," "99 Bottles of Beer" and "The Name Game." It feels as if we're cruising to summer camp.
"I guess it really has come down to the boys and the girls in Heart," Ann reflects. "We didn't purposely set out that way, but that's the way it's worked out, 'cause the girls write the songs, and we all live together, and we're old friends. We don't try to beat 'em down or anything. We have boys who are very, very good musicians, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're the creators."
Has it ever occurred to her to do without the boys?
"No. Nance and I really like being in a band. If it wasn't these boys, there would be other ones. That's the real truth of it."
She shrugs, downshifts and pulls off the exit ramp for downtown Seattle.
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