The Wilson Sisters’ Shoulders’ Blades

The other night I read a new essay at a show at the Ash Street Saloon with Heart cover band, Heartworm (comprised of Portland writer friends Kerry Cohen, Greg Robillard, Laurel Hermanson, and others). The band asked me and a few others to write something that we could read while the band improvised behind us. So me, B Frayn Masters, Brian Tibbetts, Monica Storrs, and Reuben Nisenfeld all took turns rockin’ some stories and poems out for the audience before the fake Wilson sisters came out to belt out the hits.

I actually loved Heart when I was a kid and Little Queen was the first album I ever bought. So I wrote about that experience.

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I told the band to play “something Ren Faire-ish” and they nailed it. Here’s what I read…

Wilson Sisters’ Shoulders’ Blades

Was I really a ten-year-old influenced by two sisters in Ren Faire clothing? Staring at me steamy-eyed, the blonde and brunette. The velvet and lace. The slight suggestion that maybe they were wearing a corset and push-up bra underneath their clothes and capes.

Yes.

I was influenced and I forked over the $5.99 at the Grigg’s department store in Pasco, Washington to buy Heart’s Little Queen, my first ever record.

I wanted to be in that photo on the front of the album, with those women, even if I were just another one of the guys in the background. I figured they were the rest of the band, but they were just peasants compared to the two sisters, Ann and Nancy Wilson. I could see the dejected look in their eyes like co-stars, like studio musicians, like guys who still rented their apartments in Tacoma.

What the hell were they doing back there anyway? Feeding the horses? Cooking some chili? Stoking a pathetic campfire? Did they at least have a bag of marshmallows nearby? And wasn’t that goat dangerously close to our precious lady heroes?

I wanted to serve those beautiful rock-n-roll ladies in other ways. In ten-year-old boy ways. I wanted to polish that hand mirror; I wanted to comb that straight black hair, that wavy blonde hair; I wanted to rub their shoulders with my little hands.

Heart’s first album, Dreamboat Annie (1976)

Because shoulders were the sexiest things in the world when I was ten. I wanted to rub my nose on them, the Wilson sisters’ shoulders’ blades. I wanted to skate my tongue across them like a skateboard made of tongue and drool. I wanted to give them hickies there.

I was in love with many shoulders around that time—Linda Ronstadt’s, Farrah Fawcett’s, Joyce DeWitt’s, the prize girls from The Price Is Right.

I think I had this Linda Ronstadt poster

But the Wilson sisters’ shoulders were like the shoulders of angels… and devils—rock star women like none other.

They made music and that made me want them more. I was obsessed with music as a kid and would sit in my room for hours with headphones on, rocking back and forth on my black mushroom chair, burning a divot in my red shag carpet. I’d let my mind wander around in the music, even though I couldn’t really fathom the obtuse, somewhat mystical lyrics of those early Heart songs. But I would imagine myself the drummer, watching them from behind and trying to keep the beat while they juked around the stage.

I looked at the tiny details of the Little Queen album cover and I later became even more fascinated with the back cover photo. I’d stare into Ann Wilson’s eyes and into the crystal ball she holds in her left hand. I daydreamed about what could be in that treasure chest. I wondered if the guy with the bow and arrows was about to shoot some intruder… or maybe the goat. I coveted the cool red jacket of the one guy who I didn’t even notice on the front cover (he was almost blocked out by the Wilson sisters’ beautiful hair). It’s funny how you become infatuated or haunted by the nuances of classic album covers.

That music may have been the first thing I thought was sexy—those women belting out rockers like Barracuda, the funky swagger of the title track, the soaring harmonies of Say Hello, and the two sad songs with the word “cry” in the title: Cry to Me and Go On Cry.

They weren’t just women with beautiful shoulders. They were artists. I was genuinely influenced. I was swayed. I was moved.

***

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By the way, this Erotic City (Prince covers) band was pretty dang awesome.

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Me with the guys from Heartworm. Photo by Charles King. Not pictured: Ann and Nancy Wilson.

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