It’s Valentine’s Day, so here we go with the syrupy sentiments and heart-shaped candies with phrases like “I’m Yours” and “Be True.” It’s a holiday for lovers, and a time for those heavily-rotated commercials featuring Hoodie-Footie sleepwear from the Pajamagram people.
On the flipside, Valentine’s Day is an observance and testament to the mythic power of Eros, the Greek god of sexual attraction. Enter now into the realm of Eros, as interpreted by five platinum-selling classic rock bands.
Love is a many-splendored thing, and there are plenty of songs that will echo the sentiment that made February 14 a significant day on the calendar.
But what about Valentine’s “Night”?
5. “Shakin” — Eddie Money
The first time I saw Eddie Money he was on a small stage in a storied Berkeley half dive-half breeding ground called the Longbranch Saloon. The next time I saw Eddie Money he was lifting weights in the weight room at Laney Community College in Oakland, California. In other words, Eddie Money, known to his friends as Eddie Mahoney, was just like the rest of us, a struggling longhair rocker trying to make his way in the post-sixties environment.
Then Bill Graham Presents took a liking to him, and the rest is pop history. Riding a tremendous tailwind courtesy of the breakout hit “Baby Hold On to Me,” Mahoney became Money full time and unleashed a string of FM hits whose companion videos received maximum exposure on MTV.
On “Shakin,” a familiar-sounding tune is transported by the tasty guitar fills of John Nelson, who also paid his dues at the Longbranch. Nelson’s riffing lends an edge of instrumental hotness to Eddie’s joyride with a wild crazy chick who seems open to any number of possibilities.
4. “Magic Man” — Heart
When compiling listicles — which still generate clicks despite widespread disparagement — I try to avoid the obvious choices. But in matters of sexual attraction, sometimes obvious is the way to go. In appreciation of the sexual interests of those of the female persuasion, we highlight Heart’s breakout blockbuster, “Magic Man.”
When the Wilson sisters catapulted out of Seattle in the mid-seventies, it was largely on the strength of lead vocalist Ann’s melodic tone and visceral phrasing.
In an arena replete with bands mining crunch-rock and a hard-edged post-hippie ethos, Heart stood out for sister Nancy’s harmonic background vocals and the talented interplay between the two guitarists. The happy family that was the original Heart line-up soon fell on hard times. But Heart the rock institution lived long and prospered. It all began with the “magic man.”
3. “Hot Legs” — Rod Stewart
Before rooster-cropped British Small Faces’ singer Rod Stewart went disco and turned a lot of rock fans off, he laid down a track that stands any test of time. “Hot Legs” contains nary a smidgen of traditional Valentine’s Day sentiment, unless your idea of sentiment is enthusiastically acknowledging the physical attributes of a potential love mate.
Whoever had the idea for Stewart and company to invade a shi*hole (we can say that now, right?) California town and turn hardscrabble citizens into delighted extras should have won a Grammy.
The dust kicked up by guitarist Billy Peek as he railroads through the lead break is as authentic as his Chuck Berry-esque chops. The rampant male chauvinism that drives the song becomes celebratory as the band blows Dodge.
2. “Turbo Lover” — Judas Priest
I’m your turbo lover,
Tell me there’s no other…”
Set aside for a moment, if you must, Rob Halford’s homosexuality. I did, about forty-eight hours after my favorite metal vocalist came out as gay in the late nineties. It is possible to be concerned about changes to the definition of marriage and other sexual orientation-related issues facing traditionalist Judeo-Christian culture and still appreciate the work of a talented artist.
“Turbo Lover,” the title track from Turbo, Priest’s follow-up to the monumental Defenders of the Faith, is utterly devoid of any romantic Valentine’s Day allusions. What’s left is a stripped-down ode to getting it on.
Augmenting the debauchery is a synthesized guitar blaring like a nuclear warning siren over the beaches of Oahu. And a blistering old-school solo by committed heterosexual and lead guitarist Glenn Tipton.
Who’s your turbo lover?
1. “Rock Candy” — Montrose
Is it possible to be hit over the head with a sledgehammer and still be able to experience sexual arousal? If the original Sammy Hagar-fronted Montrose has anything to say about it, the answer is a resounding yes.
When all the lovey-dovey Valentine’s Day stuff is over and it’s time to stop knocking cause the van’s rocking, Ronnie and Sammy “get ‘er done” in a slam-bam manner that leaves little to the imagination.
The Rock Candy riff is one of hard rock’s heaviest, a power-chordal explosion that turned heads in an era dominated by British heavy-hitters like Led Zeppelin and The Who, and made rock stars out of a group of Nor-Cal proto-headbangers.