Monday, 7 July 2008

Angie Baby – Helen Reddy

Forget Jamie and his Magic Torch, this is all about Angie and her Magic Radio…

This song was released in 1974, and to me it really sums up that sort of childhood period of listening to the radio late at night under the covers. I used to have a Pepsi can portable radio, and although I didn’t keep boys inside it (nice trick, Angie) I did like to listen to it when the room was lit only by moonlight.

Angie Baby is a narrative about a girl that is ‘touched’ – and that is the crucial point of this song, that the girl in question is perhaps a bit magical, a bit gifted in the strange sense of the word. Originally the song-writer, Alan O’Day, used the word ‘slow', which would have given the song a completely different feel. Making the girl in question a bit otherworldly adds an extra layer of interest and complexity to the lyrics.

This song caused a lot of speculation about the meaning when it first came out – everyone apparently wanted a detailed explanation of what happened to the boy in the song. Surely it was obvious – Angie put him in her special radio and brought him out to play on occasions – who needs Ann Summers? So then of course Women’s Lib loved it, although that could have been more because of the nature of some of Helen Reddy’s other songs.

Helen’s vocals suit this song perfectly; she has a lovely twang to her voice that softens the delivery, yet pronunciation is crystal clear. And the melody – there is a lounge-band atmosphere with this song that I really like; I can almost imagine the instrumental version being softly played in an expensive 1970s cocktail lounge, full of women in sequin dresses and men in wide-lapel suits, clinking glasses amidst a riot of orange / brown décor.

And to think this could have been recorded by Cher…

More info here, and a rather delightful video set to this song below.


I was very sad to hear that Alan O'Day died in May 2013, and feel very blessed that he took time to comment on this blog post. I especially love how he says below that 'Angie' would have approved of my interpretation - that is such a special gift and one I will always treasure. Thank you, Alan. x

I was recently (October 2013) emailed by James Collins, one half of the band Wahl Collins, who, with Alan's blessing, recorded a cover version of Angie Baby. It's really good - go check out their YouTube video:


Unknown said...

Hey Jayne,
Thanks, I enjoyed your creative comments about my song.

Angie would have approved as well.

Thanks & Best wishes,
Alan O'Day

Jayne said...

Alan, that has really made my day - thank you so much for letting me know! I am ever so pleased you liked my comments, your song really is hauntingly beautiful. Thank you for it!

music obsessive said...

Do you know, I'd completely forgotten about this. I was about 18 at the time and Helen Reddy wasn't really on my agenda then! I seem to remember thinking that she had probably killed the boy and buried him under the floorboards - it had that slightly sinister feel to it.

Another good choice - where will it all end?

Unknown said...

Hey Musicobsessive,
Under the floorboards? Whoa, you're pretty creative yourself!

Actually, one reason the song was a hit was the speculation about what happened to the boy. And I thought I was being clear in my lyric! Well whoops....

Jayne said...

Yes, I agree with the slighty sinister feel to the song. It's probably why I like it so much - the lyrics take an unexpected twist!

Glad you are thinking these are all good choices - so now the pressure is on, isn't it?! I am enjoying these posts - and I have just checked tomorrow's offering has a vid on youtube - whoop! It has!

Unknown said...

Jayne (& NN fans),

I enjoyed the discussion about my song "Angie Baby" back in July. So pardon the commercial - -
Sept 15th is the release date of my new CD as an artist, "I HEAR VOICES". There will be links to audio clips and purchase info on my website,, starting this coming Monday (check out the title song, and "Guide Me"!). And would you please help me spread the word?

Thanks so much,


Jayne said...

Commercial granted Alan! I wish you well with the new CD :)

music obsessive said...

Is this the longest time to get a comment in?

Bearing in mind you comments about pan's people recently, I couldn't resist this one:

Jayne said...

Hahahahaha - oh I am still giggling - what a find! That is a classic Pan's People dance routine. I think there should be a revival!

Max said...

People like to ask, "What happened to the boy? Did he die?"

There IS NO actual boy, and therefore no one actually dies. Angie is a loner who constantly listens to the radio in her bedroom, increasing the volume on her favorite songs and dancing with fantasy lovers at will. In one particular fantasy, she has herself dancing with a boy who (in her mind) has spent time spying through her bedroom window before he gets up the courage one night to knock on the front door and offer to be her dance partner. Once a song comes on the radio that she won't dance to, she turns the volume back down as part of her routine, not needing anyone until the next danceable tune gets played.

Songwriter Alan O'Day devotes an entire verse to the effects on the boy when she does this, but those lines are nothing more than typical song development, utilizing multiple rhymes, sound-a-likes, and imagery. Since the boy isn't real, none of the effects described are actually happening, The line "toward the radio he's bound" describes his sudden awareness that the dancing has ended as quickly as it began, and that the radio is more important to Angie than he is. In Angie's mind, he vaporizes into nothing as quickly as he appeared. That's the way it is with all of her dance 'lovers.'

There are no actual newspaper headlines either. This is referring to the fact that she goes to her (alternative) school the next day, creating her own verbal 'headlines' by telling people about a peeping Tom who 'came over' to dance with her 'while her parents were gone.' Since Angie has a reputation for making up wild, far-fetched stories, her school mates often play along by asking probing questions, just to see what she'll say. When they ask what happened to the boy, she says "he's dead," implying that she killed him when done with him, but without explicitly admitting it. "I'm like a black widow spider," she tells them, enforcing everyone's opinion that she's a nutcase with a vivid imagination who tries to toy with people's heads.