Michael Fisher (L), Steve Fossen (C), Roger Fisher (R)
So, Heart has been inducted to the 2013 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While there is no doubt that Ann and Nancy Wilson have been successful, in keeping Heart going, since the original lineup disbanded, there is one thing about Heart’s history, that needs to be acknowledged and, that is, how the band began and who started it.
In the early 1960′s Heart was not Heart, but The Army. The band began with a dream, shared by five men. Don Wilhelm, Ray Schaefer, Steve Fossen, Michael Fisher, and Michael’s brother Roger, were the beginnings of the band. After a few years, Don and Ray left the band and Michael and Roger had already met Heart’s future lead singer, the amazing Ann Wilson. Both brothers had easily recognized Ann’s talent, but Ann’s previous band (Hocus Pocus) had broken up and Ann decided she didn’t want to be in a band, anymore. She had already fallen head over heels for Michael and she hitchhiked to Canada, where Michael was living and dealing with the Vietnam war draft. They lived there, for several years, in what Michael has always called, “a kind of bliss”.
A few years later, Ann’s little sister Nancy, who’d been attending college in Oregon and was becoming an accomplished guitar player in her own right, was persuaded to go to Canada, to see her sister and to make an important decision: Would she remain in college, or join her sister in the band? Thankfully for Heart fans, she chose the latter and Roger and Michael Fisher were only too thrilled to include her. Nancy wanted to do more folksy type songs, but Michael had a vision – to combine the softer side of their music with a more Led Zeppelin-like hard rock vibe and to focus on the feminine and masculine dynamic of the group, as a whole. After several band name changes, they settled on just ‘Heart’ and had already begun to put the material together, for what would become their debut album, Dreamboat Annie. In those days, it wasn’t always just about Ann and Nancy, but the band was a group and all members were viewed as equally important among the band and fans alike, because of what they could produce together, musically. Dreamboat Annie featured Heart’s first successful single, “Crazy On You”, and followed with “Magic Man”, both written about Michael Fisher and how Ann felt about him, at the time.
The 1977 lineup of Heart
Michael Fisher chose to remain in the background, developing a five year plan for the band’s success, from the moment Ann and Nancy joined. He was very much involved in running the sound boards in the studio and had a flair, for knowing how to mix and tweak a song, to make it even better. Meanwhile, during the recording of Dreamboat Annie, Michael Derosier and Howard Leese, along with several other musicians, came together with the then current lineup, to complete the album’s recording, but it wasn’t until the album was released and the band decided to take it on the road, that Howard Leese and Michael DeRosier were made official members of Heart.
With a brand new lineup and a debut album, the world began to get to know Heart. Dreamboat Annie was a huge first success, with Ann and Nancy writing most of the album’s lyrics and everyone contributing to the music. Then, they released Little Queen (1977), which featured a song that has been a fan favorite, from the get-go. The song is “Barracuda” and it features Roger Fisher’s signature guitar riff, one that has yet to be technically matched by any of Heart’s later guitar players. Today, fans can get a remastered copy of Little Queen, which features Roger in the album’s credits, on 8 of the 12 songs.
Also released in 1977 was Magazine, but because of dispute with the band’s label, Mushroom Records, that album was not what the band had in mind. According to Michael Fisher, Little Queen was to be the one and only sophomore album, featuring songs from both albums, and was supposed to be even more epic, than it became. Magazine featured Ann and Nancy as being the primary lyricists on the album and a few cover songs were added, to fulfill the legal requirements that were imposed upon the band, in order to be able to part ways with Mushroom. The band only had a short time to finish the album, but still managed to get one hit from it, which was “Heartless”.
With the debacle and legalities of Magazine behind them, the band soldiered on, to create their fourth album, Dog and Butterfly (1978). By this time, Ann and Nancy had gone off and written some of the best lyrics, along with their childhood friend, Sue Ennis. The album had eight songs on it, produced two hit singles (Straight On and Dog and Butterfly), but Roger was featured on the album’s most epic song, “Mistral Wind”. To this day, Mistral is among the top favorites, of all of Heart’s most long time fans.
Heart lineup, after the Fisher’s departure
By 1980, the band was experiencing several personal problems, especially involving romances between the Fishers and the Wilsons. In fact, Roger did commit an act that he’s always regretted, known among Heart fans as the “Kabong Incident”. He and Nancy were on the outs and Nancy had begun dating the band’s drummer, Michael DeRosier. That, combined with too much partying and the stress of being on tour, led to the incident, where Roger’s guitar wouldn’t stay in tune during a show and he smashed it on the stage. Roger walked off of the stage, as did Ann and Nancy. Now, here’s where the rumors got started. Some have said that Roger threw his guitar backstage, hitting a wall and very close to Nancy’s head. This is true, however, some also believe that he was aiming for Nancy. That is NOT true, at all. Roger has been quoted as saying, “If I had wanted to hit Nancy with my guitar, I would have succeeded, because I have pretty good aim.” The fact is, it was simply an unfortunate incident, but there was never any intention of physically hurting Nancy. Roger is not, and never has been, the woman hitting type.That being said, it was time for Roger to move on. Once Roger left, the band released their fifth album, Bebe Le Strange.
In the meantime, Michael and Ann’s relationship was about to hit the skids, as well. Michael had begun an affair with another woman, which led to end of his romantic relationship with Ann. Since that time, Ann and Michael have remained in contact, mostly through emails and phone calls. Roger has also remained in contact with Ann, with little or no contact with Nancy.
It was difficult for Michael and Roger to come to terms with what they’d done, but they knew they had to do right by Ann and Nancy, as well as, the rest of the band. Regardless of what had happened and the mistakes that were made, nobody was trying to deny the fact that this band deserved to go on and keep being successful. They gave Ann and Nancy 51% ownership, cut their losses, and walked away. Steve Fossen and Michael DeRosier, who’s relationship with Nancy only lasted about a year, also departed, by 1980. Five years and two album flops later, Ann and Nancy had a new lineup and a hit album, the self-titled Heart album of 1985. During the 80′s, Ann and Nancy were trying to stay afloat, having to lose their originality and magic, to cater to the music scene of that time. They got some of it back, during the 90′s, with the album Desire Walks On, and a new band, called Lovemongers, which featured Sue Ennis and Frank Cox. Lovemongers released “Whirlygig” and a Christmas album, but none of the albums of the 90′s did well, commercially, even though they are favorites among some of Heart’s fans.
During the 80′s, Roger, Steve Fossen and Michael DeRosier joined Alias and Roger also started a little known band called Clever Bastards. Today, he is simply known as Roger Fisher, or The Roger Fisher Band. He works with countless musicians, from all over the world, writing and recording music, with his brother running the sound and helping with mixing tracks. Those that appreciate Roger’s talent continued to work with Roger and follow his career, even to this day. Michael Fisher ran his own sound engineering business and continues to do so, with Roger, as Dbash Productions. Fossen and DeRosier are now part of a Heart tribute band, called Heart By Heart, who also plays their own original music and not just Heart’s songs.
The current Heart has come full circle, during the 2000′s, with the releases of Jupiter’s Darling (2004), Red Velvet Car (2010), and Fanatic (2012). This is, in part, due to the never ending soldiering on of Ann and Nancy. It’s because of this turnaround and the demands of Heart’s fans, that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame decided to induct them, after snubbing them in 2012. Even though the current albums and the release of Heart’s memoir, ‘Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll (Charles R. Cross) gained them major attention, it was the original lineup that was inducted. This is because inductions are based on the passing of, at least, 25 years from the release of the debut album, although Heart waited nearly 40 years to enjoy the honor.
Regardless of which lineup a Heart fan prefers, many already know, there was never as musically magical a time for the band, as there was in the 70′s. Still, some fans choose to sweep Roger under the rug, making him out to be an egotistical villain and accusing him of trying to ride on Heart’s coattails, in order to further his own career. Roger has always admitted his mistakes and has never accused Ann or Nancy of any malice or bad behavior. One can even find YouTube videos, proving that point.
The fact remains, without the original vision of the original five men who started the band, Heart would not exist, as we know them. The albums of the 70′s, which the majority of their fans adore the most, would not have seen the light of day. That’s not to say that not everyone would have realized succes, but it’s taken many people within Heart’s various lineups to formulate those successes, since 1976, with Ann and Nancy Wilson being the primary leaders, since 1980. That being said, most agree that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was correct, when they insisted that Heart’s original 70′s lineup be the official inductees. While Ann and Nancy were willing to go along with this, because you don’t turn down that kind of honor, it was clear that they would have preferred to only play with their current lineup. Regardless, Roger Fisher and the rest of the 70′s lineup were gracious and took the high road, choosing to enjoy the moment and remain positive and supportive of Ann and Nancy.
This Summer, Roger plans to release a new album, which promises to take it’s listeners on a spiritual and uplifting journey, and will showcase 40 years of his songwriting skills and musical talent. The album is entitled “All Told” and Roger is taking email submissions on his official website, for those who’d like to pre-order it. Once the album is released, Roger will tour the United States, going where the fans want him and bringing his unmatched energy to the masses.
Since the original lineup’s induction, fans have come out in droves, begging for an original lineup reunion. Of the fans that have done this, all have said it is because of the unmatched magic that the original lineup had. Fans believe that, given the chance, that lineup would produce an incredible album, far more successful than anything Heart has done, since the 80′s. All, but Ann, Nancy and Howard Leese have said they would welcome this reunion, even for just one album and a tour. While it remains to be seen if a reunion would ever happen, Heart fans can still expect to hear new material from the original men. Howard now plays with Paul Rodgers/Bad Company, but released his own album, Secret Weapon, in 2009. It is rumored that Fossen and DeRosier’s band, Heart By Heart, will release an original album, but a release date has not yet been confirmed.
Visit the following links, to get more information on Heart and it’s original band members.
Heart By Heart