Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Meaning of 'Angie'

"With no loving in our souls
And no money in our coats
You can't say we're satisfied
But Angie, Angie,
You can't say we never tried."

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

My life followed an unusual pattern in 1973 — well, it was an out–of–the–ordinary pattern for me, to say the least.

That summer, my parents decided to take part in a program in which the college where my father taught was a participant.

Under this arrangement, students could enroll in summer college courses being offered at the University of Graz in Graz, Austria. My parents could receive significant discounts on airfare and accommodations if they took classes as well, which they did, but they didn't seem to take their classes seriously. It was mostly a low–cost way for the family to take a trip to Europe.

Faculty members from other schools did the same thing. I remember becoming friends that summer with a couple of boys my age whose fathers were teachers in Nebraska. I even visited them in Nebraska once after we returned to the United States.

Speaking of which, we returned to America in early to mid–August, as I recall, and my family had to pack our things quickly because my father was about to begin a four–month sabbatical in Nashville, and we had little time to get everything ready for our move.

Consequently, August of 1973 is a blur for me now. But all I have to do is hear a song that was on the radio in those days, and I am instantly transported back to that time.

And one of the most prominent songs was released on this day in 1973 — "Angie" by the Rolling Stones.

It was on the Stones' "Goats Head Soup" album. No other song on the album could compete with it as far as public popularity was concerned. "Angie" raced to the top of the Billboard charts; "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)," its closest competition from the album, made it to #15 the following year.

I remember at the time there was considerable speculation about the subject of the song. Was it about David Bowie's first wife, whose name was Angela? Was it about actress Angie Dickinson? Or was it about bandmate Keith Richards' newborn daughter (whose name was Dandelion Angela)?

(Personally, whenever I heard "Angie," I thought of a beautiful classmate of mine whose name was Angela — and who inspired my earliest adolescent fantasies. Matter of fact, I still think of her when I hear it — and I have seen a few recent pictures of her on Facebook. She's still capable of inspiring fantasies — or song lyrics.)

Richards wrote nearly all of the song, and he said it was about heroin and his attempts to stop using it.

Kind of a reverse twist on the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" explanation, huh? In case you aren't familiar with it, speculation held that that title was a play on the abbreviation LSD, and it was a drug–inspired song.

John Lennon popped that balloon, though, by explaining that the title came from a piece of artwork done by his young son at school.

That's the way the '60s and early '70s were, though. Everyone was looking for hidden meanings in everything — and the speculation was almost always wrong. (That observation never fails to remind me of a line that George Carlin used when doing his disc jockey act — "In a few minutes, we'll be listening to the new John Lennon single, which, if you play it backwards at slow speed, it screws up your needle ...")

I suppose, though, like most songs, "Angie" means whatever the listener thinks it means.

Personally, I never attached any special meaning to "Angie," other than a little harmless fantasizing about my classmate Angela, but I had a friend in college who always thought of her mother when she heard it (she thought of her father, a truck driver, whenever she heard Elton John's "Rocket Man").

To each his own, I guess.