Finally, we get a respite from all the disco, by lurching as far away from the dance hall as possible.
Annie’s Song, by John Denver (his 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 6th – 13th October 1974
I didn’t think I knew this one… Until after ten seconds, when the vocals begin: You fill up my senses, Like a night in a forest… Of course I know this. It’s an easy listening classic. Like the mountains in spring time, Like a walk in the rain… A girl – Annie, we might presume – stimulates John Denver in ways that normally only nature does. You fill up my senses, Come fill me again…
I have to admit, I remain unconvinced by that line. It just sounds… odd. (Yes, I am well aware that my mind is in the gutter.) And I have to admit, I remain unconvinced by this song. By this entire genre of acoustic, singer-songwriter balladry on the whole. It is just not my cup of tea. Whenever one of these #1s comes along, as they will do from time to time, I will endeavour to put my prejudices aside and judge fairly.
It might not be disco, but it is still a very American sounding record. The Billboard charts of the mid-seventies were choc-a-bloc with soft, countryish rock like this. For whatever reason, ‘Annie’s Song’ was one of the few that managed to break through to the top across the Atlantic. (I had my suspicions that this was a posthumous chart-topper, which would maybe have explained why it made it to the top, because I knew that John Denver died in a plane crash. Except that was in 1997…)
As the song progresses, the production becomes more and more overblown. In come strings, and mandolins, and melodic hums from the backing vocalists. The lyrics also become a little OTT: Let me drown in your laughter, Let me die in your arms… Maybe I’m giving myself away as completely unromantic, but he is laying it on a little bit thick.
‘Annie’ was Denver’s wife at the time, and he was inspired to write the song while on a ski-lift in Aspen, Colorado. He claimed he skied back down the mountain and wrote it in an hour. Colorado was the inspiration for much of his music – he used the capital as his stage name, and was named the state’s poet laureate. When he did indeed die in a plane crash, his ashes were scattered across the Rocky Mountains.
What amazes me is that this was John Denver’s one and only hit record in the UK. He was a huge chart star in the States – four number ones to his name – but a bona-fide one-hit wonder in Britain! His most famous songs that aren’t ‘Annie’s Song’ – ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ and ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ – were hits, though, for Olivia Newton-John and Peter, Paul and Mary. A chart quirk, then; and probably the most prolific one-hit wonder in UK chart history!