Why a sudden bio of a 1970s pop star? Because I heard that weird song “Angie Baby” the other day.
Helen Reddy had a lot of popular songs in the 1970s, starting with “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” in 1971. Her big smash, however, was her second hit, “I Am Woman.” It’s a catchy tune, it’s anthemic and it came at just the right time.
I always liked how you could discern just a little bit of her Australian accent in lines like “I am still an embro/With a long, long way to go.”
But I was never much of a Helen Reddy fan. Her music qualified as soft rock, and those two terms never quite fit together for me. Her songs were on the radio, however, so I knew them. I hadn’t heard 1974’s “Angie Baby” in years. When it was on the radio, I mostly ignored it. Until one day, sitting in the back seat of the car by myself — I can’t remember why, but I suspect I was in the parking lot of a grocery store, waiting for Mom to finish shopping. I had the radio on and “Angie Baby” came on. I knew that it was kind of a spooky ballad, but I had never actually listened to the lyrics.
I was drawn to spooky ballads in those days. Songs like Pat Boone’s “Moody River” (“Moody River, your muddy water, took my baby’s life”) and Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” — and even corny ones like “Big John” by Jimmy Dean or “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” by Vicki Lawrence.
Keep in mind I was 13 or 14 years old when “Angie Baby” was a hit. There I was, listening to this story about a girl who’s a little bit nuts, who fantasizes about what she hears on the radio. Right away that’s a little spooky — radio. Invisible waves in the atmosphere are beamed and received how? Then it turns out there’s a neighbor boy “with evil on his mind,” who has been spying on Angie “at night through the window blinds.”
Ew! Creepy! Then he gets into her house, and something strange happens. And the next thing you know, the boy “disappeared” and “everyone thinks he died.”
Except Angie, the crazy girl.
But what exactly happened to that neighbor boy? I never really figured it out. Hearing the song recently made me ponder the question once again.
Here are the lyrics to the song, and here’s the song, as interpreted by a fan:
As it turns out, the guy who wrote “Angie Baby,” Alan O’Day, has even answered a fan’s question about the song. While his response is a neat story about how the song came to be (including that he’d hoped it would be a song for Cher, not Helen Reddy), O’Day doesn’t precisely answer the question of what happened to the boy. He also says he’s aware that some people have interpreted it to mean that the neighbor boy gets magically shrunk down and stuck in the radio, an interpretation that was obviously on the mind of the creator of the above video.
As for Helen Reddy, she’s still out there performing, after having taken ten years off to be a clinical hypnotherapist in Australia. No kidding. Now, she says, she’s happy to perform some of her old hits in a medley, but prefers to sing different songs. She seems especially happy that she doesn’t perform the song “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress),” complaining of the lyrics: “ ‘Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me, oh, leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me. And that’s only one chorus.”