357. ‘Annie’s Song’, by John Denver

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!

10 thoughts on “357. ‘Annie’s Song’, by John Denver

  1. Yes, poor ol’ John was on the whole a bit wholesome and sappy. This was a nice one, Leavin On A Jet Plane should have been a warning to him – he insisted on getting a pilot licence and driving fast jets. His best track by far is a tribute to Marine Explorer Jacques Cousteau – Calypso has a bit of oomph to it and cinematic spectacle. After that came out in 1975 he didn’t do much more of note…

  2. This is where I’m begging for The Everly Brothers to please, please, please come back to us, even with one of their whiniest, sappiest songs. I’d rather listen to Don and Phil throw up than listen to any of John Denver’s songs any day of the week. LOL. But please anyone reading this don’t take offense– I’m in no way meaning to insult anyone, it’s just my opinion. I don’t get insulted if people hate the music I love, it’s all just subjective in a way.

    • Not at all, not at all. We all have different tastes, and I’d choose the Everlys over John Denver any day. Funny thing is, I bet if you asked any of the seventies folk/country artists, they’d all count Don and Phil among their biggest influences…

  3. That’s interesting John Denver only had one major hit in the UK considering here in the US he was an instant hit machine for much of the early-mid ’70s and has become so much of an American treasure that his songs “Rocky Mountain High” and “Take Me Home Country Roads” were adopted as the official state songs for Colorado and West Virginia respectively. For a modern comparison, Denver is basically the ’70s Ed Sheeran in how they’re both dorky white guys with acoustic guitars who go against a lot of the conventions and qualities of pop stardom yet become big hitmakers while also playing around as an outsider in another genre with country for John Denver and rap for Ed Sheeran. Technically, Denver was a folk artist but his sound and lyrics weren’t too removed from Nashville and he had country in his songs so the country establishment accepted him to the dismay of some as it always happens when country outsiders get big in the genre.

      • To Denver’s credit, he has better songs in my opinion and I do like some of Sheeran’s music it’s just that as he got really big he’s become all about chasing what’s popular in music abandoning what made him unique in the first place. Tom Breihan first made the comparisons in his last review noting the points above as well as how both artists cut quietly self-effacing figures and went multi-media whenever possible noting Denver’s appearances on the Muppet Show and Sheeran’s appearances in Game of Thrones and Yesterday. Both artists seemed to realize that they were lucky dorks, not natural-born performers. He also mentioned that both Denver and Sheeran got big first as songwriters before getting big on their own which as he says, “In Sheeran’s case, Justin Bieber plays the part of Peter, Paul & Mary. You might groan at that, but Bieber never went to prison for molesting a 14-year-old girl.”

      • Well, quite. Although in the UK Sheeran was already pretty huge before he started writing for Justin Bieber. I think that actually was the tipping point, for me anyway, in that not only were his songs clogging up the charts and the radio, but he was now giving them to the 2nd most popular artist too…

  4. Pingback: 359. ‘Everything I Own’, by Ken Boothe – The UK Number Ones Blog

  5. Pingback: Recap: #331 – #360 – The UK Number Ones Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s