Since my earliest days, I’ve been a fan of Ann and Nancy Wilson, otherwise known as Heart. Admittedly, I still much prefer their original incarnation in the 1970s and early 1980s, before their second wave of success as an overproduced, Power Ballad-ish hit machine.
Partly, that’s because I actually prefer the earlier music. And partly, that’s because I’d discovered enough of my kink side by the late 1970s that the Wilson Sisters fit right in.
Those early album covers might not have been especially kinky in and of themselves, but the things my puberty-addled mind pictured the Wilsons doing to me in that wagon certainly were. Not to mention they both looked amazing in stripes.
It all really kicked into gear for me when Heart played my hometown while on tour for Bebe Le Strange, an album that practically lived on my turntable. Our rag of a local newspaper printed a publicity photo of the band that included Ann in a certain leather outfit. Everything below the hips had been cropped out, of course, but I knew, with that fierce early teenage certainty, that Ann Wilson was wearing a catsuit. Or some kind of full-body leather outfit, something close enough to make no difference, at least to me. My young, hormone-soaked mind allowed no other possibility. And from that moment on, Heart and kink were intertwined for me. Especially given the you-are-so-going-to-get-it glower from Nancy in that same photo.
I was too young (to be allowed) to go to that concert, unfortunately. Even if I hadn’t been, my Hal Lindsey-believing, 700 Club-watching grandmother would have made my divorced single mother’s life (and, by extension, mine) miserable if I had. So, all fantasies were instead fueled by photographs, album covers, and the occasional music video or TV appearance. Those were more than enough, though.
Just as a person’s kinks can be bound up and entangled in other things, so was my formative kink of Heart, and of Ann Wilson in particular. Ann was essentially my first celebrity crush, and I crushed hard. She was also my first fantasy girlfriend, and those daydreams were where I first began considering the idea of kink not just as a fantasy scene but also as part of a relationship—an unrealistic, hopeless, age-inappropriate relationship to be sure, but at least Ann and her sister were on the same planet I was, unlike those Prison Moon Amazons on Space: 1999. So that definitely counted as progress in in my book.
My Ann Wilson crush also led me to realize that kink, especially Femdom, didn’t have to be all leather and bondage. Those daydreams were also the time I started to understand that mood, attitude, tone of voice, and just sheer presence could have every bit the same effect. Yes, some of those came out of my own head and already-existing subconscious brew of other formative kinks, but her stage presence gave me a lot of raw material to work with as well.
Admit it. You were expecting “Barracuda,” weren’t you?
Heart has also been an example of how a kink charge can change over time, especially when you follow a career literally for decades. The kink side of Heart’s appeal definitely dipped for me during their second, even more successful incarnation. Partly, it was because that 1980s Goth Baroque Hairspray with a Shade of Miami Vice-ish look didn’t really appeal to me even then. And partly, it was because I’d matured (stop laughing) enough to feel some real sympathy that the Wilson Sisters, despite all their talent, were being put in music videos that did anything and everything, to the point of actually squeezing the video frame, to hide Ann’s now-heavier body. Or that showed Nancy emerging like some Rock’n’Roll Terminator Aphrodite out of an industrial mold filled with liquid gold while Ann appears from behind a welder’s mask. Seriously. Or that only showed Ann from the shoulders up or in full-band shots from a distance while lingering on full-body shots of a very bouncy Nancy, and to the point where even I started feeling uncomfortable. Objects of previous kink fantasies or not, they deserved far better than all of this.
First crushes never last, of course. Not even kink crushes. But sometimes you stay friends—or fans. And I am still a fan. Even without the blockbuster sales or the sometimes-stealthy kink charge of decades ago, the occasional albums Heart still puts out, like Fanatic or Jupiters Darling, are flat-out winners. Ann Wilson still has one of the finest voices around—at 65—and can put damn near any of today's younger singers to shame. And Nancy Wilson’s Live at McCabe’s Guitar Shop continues finding its way into my CD player on a regular basis. I would go see either one (though preferably both) of them in a second, if they ever play my town again.
And I still have those formative kink memories, which helped mold the kinkster of a certain age I am today.