February 2, 2016

FREE ADVICE FROM A GUY MARRIED 25 YEARS...:

Cult heroes: Helen Reddy, the 'queen of housewife pop' with a secret dark side (Caroline Sullivan, 2 February 2016, The Guardian)

She was, in Alice Cooper's not unsympathetic words, "the Queen of Housewife Rock" - a term Helen Reddy herself thought apt. In the first half of the 70s, the Australian-American vocalist topped the Billboard easy listening chart eight times and had nine other Top 20 singles, all of them as cushiony and emollient as she herself was unalarming and approachable. Her safeness was ribbed in the Frank Zappa song Honey Don't You Want a Man Like Me?, which runs: "She was an office girl / 'My name is Betty' / Her favourite group was / Helen Reddy" - and he hit the nail on the head. Reddy's instinct for a relatable song made her the "favourite group" of women (and men, even) who valued classicism over coolness. Though Britain never took to her, Reddy's understated voice was a radio mainstay in North America and Australia: she was the world's top-selling female vocalist in 1973 and 1974, and during her career sold 25m albums.

Seeing footage of her playing Vegas in 1976, or clowning around on Carol Burnett's variety show, makes it hard to believe that, midway through her purple patch, Reddy released a trio of singles so odd that the rest of her output seems even more vanilla by contrast. Songs about marginalised women were popular in the early 70s - Cher released her own cluster with Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, Half-Breed and Dark Lady - but Reddy's trilogy of Delta Dawn, Angie Baby and Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress) is among the darkest in pop.

Stranger still, perhaps, just before she began singing about the stigmatised and evidently mentally ill Ruby, Angie and Dawn, Reddy had a huge 1972 hit with I Am Woman, the first avowedly feminist anthem to reach No 1.

...if you get to your front door and you can hear the vacuum cleaner running and Helen Reddy cranking?  Just walk away.

Posted by at February 2, 2016 1:07 PM

  

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