For years, my wife’s aunt lived in the Seattle area. Sometime in the 1990s, my father-in-law was recounting a visit he’d had with her, and he told us he’d been to a concert while he was there. His sister, he said, was friends with a woman who had two daughters in a band, and he’d gone to see their show. “I think you might have heard of them,” he said. “The Wilson sisters?”
We looked at him blankly for a moment, like cows watching a train go by. Then: “The Wilson sisters? You mean Heart?”
“Yes,” he said, “that’s it.”
Heart arrived in 1976 with “Crazy on You,” one of that summer’s indelible records. Dreamboat Annie was an out-of-left-field smash, and in 1977 the group began working on their second album, to be titled Magazine. Sessions were in progress when Heart’s original label, Mushroom, took out print ads celebrating the success of Dreamboat Annie featuring a provocative photo of Ann and Nancy Wilson together, along with the headline “It was only their first time together.” Upset at the incestuous/lesbian implications (and ready to leave the small label for a better deal at Portrait, a subsidiary of CBS), the Wilsons bolted. Mushroom decided to put out what it had as Magazine, with the following disclaimer: “Mushroom Records regrets that a contractual dispute has made it necessary to complete this album without the cooperation of the group Heart, who have expressly disclaimed artistic involvement in completing this record.”
Bring on the lawyers. The album was yanked for a year (Little Queen came out in the interim on Portrait), but Mushroom eventually won the right to release Magazine officially, after letting Heart finish it. I have read that 5,000 copies of the original were released; I’ve also read 50,000, and I’m guessing it’s the higher number. For one thing, I’ve had a copy since college, and it wasn’t exactly difficult for me to get it. Also, if the record were 5,000-copies rare, I’d expect to find it selling on eBay for a pile, and I don’t—on eBay this week, somebody’s asking $39.97 for a sealed copy of the post-lawsuit version and $74.95 for a sealed picture disc, and none of the listings mentions “original version” or anything like that.
The easiest way to spot the pre-lawsuit version is to look at the track listing—if it shows “Mother Earth Blues/You Shook Me,” you’ve got the rare one. Ann’s Robert Plant impersonation on “You Shook Me” was edited out of the official release. Another significant difference involves the title track, which features an extended coda that lifts verbatim, for some reason, one of the synthesizer lines from “Magic Man.” The pre-lawsuit tracks have a loose, improvisational vibe, the kind of thing that might be expected of a work in progress. I actually prefer the original version of “Heartless,” which has the same backing track but a different vocal, to the one that became the lead single on the official release.
I mention all this because the often-fabulous bootleg site ROIO (based in Singapore) has posted a collection of Heart rarities this week, including the five pre-lawsuit tracks from Magazine, the version of “Unchained Melody” omitted from the one-CD release of their two-record Greatest Hits/Live collection, remixes of “Never” and “Who Will You Run To,” and some other odds and ends. If you’re a geek for that sort of thing, go nuts.