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The Friday Flash Review with Jon Deutsch: Heart’s “Crazy On You”

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Friday Flash Reviews is the bit where the TNOCS.com admin picks a category of song to review and the community votes up the song they want reviewed within said category.

This week’s voting category was “Best Rock Song Featuring A Woman Lead Vocal,” and the community picked “Crazy On You” by Heart. 

This is probably a fair choice, but I need to pause a moment to share some what-is-likely surprising information: 

I had never heard this song in its entirety before this week. 

Oh yeah, I hear your gasp. And I feel your incredulousness. And I sense your judgment. 

And all of that is perfectly understandable. Because most, if not all of you weren’t raised by a music nazi.

I was.

Ooh! Storytime!

He’s a lovely fellow, my father. He’s still alive and kicking at 86. And he’s sure mellowed out since the 70s and 80s. But if there were ever to be a biopic on a classical music snob, he ought to be the antihero of that film. 

My father would drill into my young skull the following phrase, on the daily:

“Rock music is noise, Jonathan.

The only real music is classical music*.”

preternatural classical antihero music snob, and also, jon’s dad

No, he didn’t actually pronounce the asterisk, but I’ve added it because there were clear exceptions to his rule that he never created any kind of rubric around other than: “I like that.”

Asterisks included: are you ready for the most bizarre exception list of all time?

Deodato.

The Weavers.

Thelma Houston.

Simon and Garfunkel.

and Synergy (Larry Fast.)

As a young, impressionable lad who looked up to his parents for guidance and wisdom, I thought that, thanks to my dad’s distinctive insights into music, that I actually had the inside scoop on how to be A Better Person™

Turns out, none of this was right. But it took a good while for me to break with my father (which involved a lot of sneaking in music without his knowledge and limiting all “off limits” music to headphone playback).

In fact, the first “rock” song that I really ever heard was “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band. It all went downhill from there (from my dad’s perspective), but if you’re doing the math, you can see that I had absolutely zero exposure to music from the 70s (except for that rando exception list) as a result of my rock music holocaust.

(FYI because it’s 2023:)

(Please interpret and and all hyperbole as attempts at humorous rhetorical flourish and not a comparative history lesson, thank you)

So, that’s a lot of backstory for a review article, right? Yeah, I’m with you.

But trust me: given what I’m about to write for my gut reaction, I think it’s crucial context. 


The Friday Flash “Gut Take” Review

There’s two things “Crazy On You” brings to mind for me: Simon & Garfunkel and Led Zeppelin.

The acoustic intro reminds me a lot of their cover of “Anji.”

And the chorus?

Well, until this week, the chorus is the only piece of this song I’d ever heard before. I’m certain it was in some movie or show that I’ve watched as backdrop audio. It’s one of those choruses that is just imprinted in our musical tapestry in America. I just know it. But, until this week, I would have told you that it was a Zeppelin song.

Yes, that means I thought the singer was Robert Plant.

You may laugh at me now…
… but why did I think it was Zep?

Because it sounds like the eponymous “70s rock song” — that guitar riff sounds absolutely quintessential 70s “classic rock.” And the singing had that Zeppelin falsetto vibe going for it. 

Upon further, closer inspection, of course it’s not a male vocalist whaling in the chorus. But if you took the music nazi journey with me, would you at least have a bit of empathy — if not sympathy — that I got this so entangled with another artist? 

Which brings me to my gut take: it truly sounds like quintessential classic “classic rock” through and through.

If you like that sound, it’s pretty epic. If you’re me and your gut for rock music started with “Centerfold,” you can perhaps excuse me for not feeling it like the rest of the universe does. 

Real talk: it’s frankly a bit indulgent. It has a lot of stuff going on, but I’d argue a bit too much stuff. The intro is cool, but it feels entirely detached from the rest of the song. The “core” part of the song after the intro has a sound structure and approach (except for the detached bridge), and it sounds like…well, the 70s. It sounds like a song that would be on the soundtrack for an 80s movie about Vietnam.

And, whaddaya know? The lyrics seem to intimate that it’s about getting into the thick of sex in order to block out the poisonous Vietnam culture surrounding the narrator. 

It’s a 6/10 for me.
I can tell it’s something special, but I actually don’t think it’s as special as everyone thinks it is. 


The Friday Flash “Deep Dive” Review

Production: 7/10

If a song wanted to absolutely nail the “70s rock sound,” “Crazy On You” accomplished this feat with flying colors. That main guitar riff just oozes 70s rock guitar. There’s all kinds of core 70s elements that come through: the thin organ, the flute, and of course the single-mic drum kit.

It’s all recorded quite pristinely.

And honestly, the performances of the musicians are incredibly in lock-step across all the complex breaks. The drumming is actually pretty on-point and quite engaging. The background vocals are subtly dubbed in, and the guitars own the stage with the vocals, which is just so seventies. 

Songwriting/melody: 8/10

The good folks over at Hooktheory.com do analysis of songwriting, and you can see that this is, technically at least, a pretty normal song with a slightly more complex than average melodic complexity (which I can perceive in the chorus, specifically in how it ends in a cliffhanger), and the bass melody stands out like any good 70s song does. 

The verses are pretty straight-forward and honestly nice but forgettable. The breaks are pretty cool, and while the pre-chorus might be the best part of the melody, the chorus is obviously the breakout element of the song – the counterpoint between the guitar riff and the vocals is really something else. It breaks through, and it sounds distinct and epic nearly 50 years later. Points! 

Vocals: 7/10

Given that this was the favorite pick for best female vocal of a rock song, one would expect that the vocal performance would be world-class. I’m here to report that, as I look across the pantheon of female rock vocal performances, the vocals are obviously quite good, but I think they stop short of greatness.

Sure, the whaling in the chorus is striking, but they are the exception, not the rule, in this song. The majority of the song is just straight-up good singing.

The chorus (and, notably, the end of the bridge, which is quite a vocal rip) is what makes this song feel and sound epic, and certainly credit should be given to that (points!), but there’s only so much a great chorus and a bridge rip can earn a song-wide vocal performance score. 

Lyrics: 7/10

“My love is the evening’ breeze touchin’ your skin / The gentle, sweet singin’ of leaves in the wind.” – I mean, this is so 70s. But it’s good! Wouldn’t it be wild if modern R&B artists decided to crib this style of lyrics for their 21st century jams?

Also, “Let me go crazy, crazy on you” is of course quite a provocative and tantalizing sentiment to hear if you’re a guy who’s into gals.

The not-so-subtle backdrop of the Vietnam era melee also helps set the stage for some need for release. Good stuff. 

Ear Worminess: 10/10

Nearly 50 years since the song was released, this chorus earworm still endures. There’s not much more to say. A half-century of melodic stickiness deserves a bow. 

Final Friday Flash Review Score:

7.8…
rounds its way up to: an 8/10!

TL;DR: 

I love when a detached analysis of a song bumps it up from my gut rating. It goes to show that simply sharing what any given individual thinks of a song isn’t as powerful as an attempt at a detached analysis, which breaking things up into individual dimensions helps enable.

I’m sure that there are some who believe that “Crazy On You” is a 10/10, and I totally get that if that’s you.

But an 8/10 is, in this scale, a superior song amongst all songs. By the same token, it’s not a game-changer, and it’s not amongst the best of all time.

It’s earworm is amongst the best of all time, however, and that certainly helped it reach the level it got in the Deep Dive Review process. 

Cheers!

Let the author know that you liked their article with a “Green Thumb” Upvote! 

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cstolliver
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November 10, 2023 5:26 am

I appreciated the detailed analysis that went into this. My gut reaction yelled “10,” but as I followed through your review I could see where it an 8-9 might be a truer score. I think the album version is closer to a 10 than the single … the gentle intro probably deemed beside the point for Top 40 radio, to me, gives the inevitable guitar crunch even more power. Heart has so many contenders (my finalists would be this, Magic Man, Barracuda and, on the pop side, Never) that it’s hard to pick one. Since this was their AT40 breakthrough it seems most appropriate. Great job.

Last edited 19 days ago by Chuck Small
Virgindog
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November 10, 2023 8:34 am

I never noticed the similarity to “Anji” but your absolutely right. Throw in a little “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” classicism and you’ve got the “Crazy On You” intro.

The initial 6/10 was disappointing but the revised 8/10 was a surprise. I’d give it a 7 myself and like some of their other songs much more, but this was a fun journey from 6 to 8. Nice job!

JJ Live At Leeds
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November 10, 2023 10:53 am

I’ve said before how I had no idea of the Heart backstory. As far as I was aware the arrived fully formed in the mid 80s with a whole lot of hair and (in my opinion) overly polished soft rock sound.

Barracuda put me right in that only a few years ago and led me to realise what I was missing out on with their 70s output.

So I haven’t known Crazy On You all that long but totally agree with it having a classic classic rock sound. It sounds so familiar to me whenever I hear it, like I’ve known it forever rather than just a couple of years. Its also so very 70s but the very best of the 70s. I’d happily give it a 9.5, if only to differentiate it from the perfect 10 I hold for Barracuda.

spacecitymarc
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November 13, 2023 11:31 am
Reply to  JonDeutsch

As I said when I was time-traveling and no one could hear me, “Alone” is the greatest power ballad of the 1980s and the marvel of Ann Wilson’s vocal is that there’s no strain whatsoever; she’s getting that sound from her normal reserves, without pushing at all. It’s an extraordinary vocal. “Crazy On You” is simply a good one, with no flash.

Now, if you’re pitting “Alone” against “Barracuda,” then we’ve got ourselves a bout.

lovethisconcept
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November 10, 2023 12:02 pm

I’m comfortable with the 8 based on your criteria. My gut would have said 7, but that might have been higher if I were just encountering it for the first time. I have been hearing it since the 70’s, and sometimes overfamiliarity can bring a song down a notch or two. Of course, sometimes nostalgia bumps a song up a notch or two. It’s a mixed bag listening to a song for the umpteenth time.

lovethisconcept
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November 10, 2023 12:17 pm

My father was an old time country fan through and through, but, oddly, he also made an exception for Simon and Garfunkel. He never explained, but I always thought that I knew. It was the mention of Joe DiMaggio in “Mrs. Robinson.” He loved DiMaggio, and S&G’s admiration of him made him look at them in a whole different way than he looked at their peers.

mt58
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November 10, 2023 12:17 pm

Of the kazillion classic rock songs that are really fun to play on the guitar, this one is in my personal top 5. So when it come to “Crazy On You,” I’m forever a 10/10 guy.

Sidenote: I’m reminded that my friend Vinny called me sometime after 1:30AM on March 5, 1977 to ask me if I “saw that girl play guitar.”

Yes, I did. And it was pretty fun to watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKJbyK4NTek

Virgindog
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November 10, 2023 12:35 pm
Reply to  mt58

That was really good!

mt58
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November 10, 2023 12:45 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

100% live.

Not an overdub, sweetening track, or real-time autotune in sight. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Pauly Steyreen
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November 10, 2023 3:20 pm
Reply to  mt58

This just gave me chills.

Pauly Steyreen
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November 10, 2023 3:27 pm

There’s a definite through line from Heart to Sheer Mag, one of my favorite rock bands playing. Here’s Sheer Mag’s latest release, ahead of their new album which drops in March.

https://youtu.be/3m1HG5EEcpY?si=XrHFtnovc0krbSxb

cappiethedog
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November 16, 2023 7:36 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

Sheer Mag is on a proper label now. No excuse for any of the late night talk shows not to put this band on national television. Conan O’Brien made an exception for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!

“Fan the Flames” could’ve broken the band big. That was my Thin Lizzy gateway.

Rock’s last stand. That’s the impression I get from watching Tina Halliday.

Phylum of Alexandria
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November 13, 2023 9:11 am

I’m not crazy for (or on) this song, but I’m slowly warming to Heart in general.

One good thing about getting into modernist composers is you can play blistering noise at full volume and then go: “But…it’s classical!” I’m sure your dad would appreciate. 😉

spacecitymarc
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November 13, 2023 11:28 am

It seems that we are different sons of the same (different) father. My father also only listened to classical music. My father also told me that rock music was not real music. My father also had very odd incursions into this forbidden world. (In his case, it was Devo. Devo!) Where was my mother in all of this? Just kind of going along for the ride. She would probably have been more engaged in pop music if there had been any positive reinforcement in the house, but there wasn’t, so she wasn’t. That would change once I was old enough and confident enough in my own listening habits that she could piggyback onto them and start listening to my Bonnie Raitt and Don Henley albums.

Anyway, my parents’ record collection included maybe 10 records that would fit under the category of pop music: four Beatles albums (Sgt. Pepper, Meet The Beatles!, A Hard Day’s Night and Hey Jude), two and a half Simon and Garfunkel albums (Bridge Over Troubled Water, Bookends and the soundtrack to The Graduate), a Neil Diamond or two (included the dreaded You Don’t Bring Me Flowers), a cassette copy of Carole King’s Tapestry that my mother denies to this day that she ever owned and some Sergio Mendes (Brasil ’66 and ’77!). Everything else was either classical or Broadway. We are brave, those of us who cut across the land without a map or royal patronage. Solidarity, brother.

Anyway, “Crazy On You.” I’ve said it for years: The audacity of Robert Plant was in singing like a woman, and the audacity of Ann Wilson was in singing like Robert Plant. “Crazy On You” is no “Barracuda,” but it’s a good one. The production has always felt like its downfall to me; it is very, to use a word my sister coined that I will neglect to define, sweventies. I like it – it’s a sweet 7 – but better production would maybe bump it up to an 8, revving up the power even when it leans back.

The intro is a funny little thing, fitting neatly into the ’70s mini-trend of acoustic compositions tacked onto the start of otherwise compostionally unrelated songs. (See also: Rod Stewart’s “Maggie Mae” and Tesla’s “Love Song,” which wasn’t the ’70s but really might as well have been.) It’s a fun one to play; I can’t say I can do it note-perfect, but it’s bouncy enough that if you kind of blaze through it, any mistakes you make will just get bulldozed and folks will find it hard to fault you, because there’s a whole other thing you’re doing by the time the bit you tanked registers. Love the harmonic chord thrown in almost as punctuation in the middle, almost like an “Are you paying attention? How about now?” It’s also just really goddamned great composing when Nancy Wilson teases the song’s main riff for the very first time but then keeps moving.

Anyhoo. “Crazy On You”: good song. My parents now love Brandi Carlile and Bruce Springsteen and the Chicks and James Taylor. The kids are alright.

Pauly Steyreen
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November 13, 2023 12:25 pm

I wrote a long comment on Friday, and my phone ate it. But the gist of it was, especially in the early years of Heart, Ann Wilson wasn’t just a wailer, but she conveyed a raw desperation and hunger that her later 80’s hits didn’t have quite so abundantly. I think this is what connected with the audience — this sense that she was expressing an emotion so huge, it would consume her if she didn’t release it through the song.

ThinkMusicPhilly
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November 14, 2023 6:43 am
LinkCrawford
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November 14, 2023 6:58 pm

Well, your dad was right about Deodado.
.
“Crazy on You” isn’t my favorite Heart, but it is great. Especially the instrumental bridge. I’ve always loved that.

70s Heart was such an entertaining band. To me, their production, their studio sound is exactly what I want in rock music. And that rhythm section is SO tight. Amazing.

cappiethedog
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November 16, 2023 7:52 pm

I love that Kennedy Center Honors clip. Both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have among themselves, one expression each, throughout the entirety of the song. There is the aging “golden god”, trying not to sob. And Page, he’s trying not to sob on live television, too. A frozen smile is his coping mechanism. And then there is that great reaction shot of a female sitting in their box when “Stairway to Heaven” goes to 11; the surprise unveiling of a second choir of singers. I’m neither a fan of “Stairway to Heaven” nor the band itself, but I love Heart’s cover. I also enjoy watching Robert Plant reacting to a six-year-old drummer named Yoyoka playing “Good Times, Bad Times”. I like Robert Plant.

I’m the non-musician who contributes to this site. I checked out Hooktheory.com. Pretty cool.

I didn’t know that “Crazy on You” was the definitive Heart song. I always thought it was “Magic Man”.

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