|Single by Helen Reddy|
|from the album Free and Easy|
|B-side||"I Think I'll Write a Song"|
|Released||October 7, 1974|
|Genre||Blue-eyed soul, soft rock|
|Helen Reddy singles chronology|
"Angie Baby" is a popular song that was written by American Alan O'Day, and became a hit for Australian singer Helen Reddy. The song reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart at the end of December 1974 and became one of Reddy's biggest-selling singles. The song also topped the U.S. adult contemporary chart, Reddy's fifth #1 on this chart.
The song's cryptic lyrics have inspired a number of listener theories as to what the song is really about. Reddy has refused to comment on what the true storyline of the song is, partly because she has said she enjoys hearing other listeners' interpretations. Reddy has also said that "Angie Baby" was the one song she never had to push radio stations into playing.
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The song tells the story of Angie, a young "crazy" girl who "lives [her] life in the songs" she hears on "rock and roll radio;" her mental disturbances led to her being removed from school and having no friends, leaving her to spend most of her time listening to the radio. One day, a young man "with evil on his mind" arrives at Angie's house, but once he enters Angie's room he is disoriented by the loud music. The song then takes a decidedly surrealistic turn when, as Angie turns the volume of the radio down, the boy begins to disappear. The closing verse describes the disappearance of the boy, and the townsfolk's speculation as to what became of him, and that nobody bothers to get an explanation from Angie in regard to the boy's whereabouts because of her insanity.
In an article he wrote in 2006, Singer/songwriter Alan O'Day said the song took three months to write. Originally it was loosely based on the character in the Beatles’ "Lady Madonna." In order to make the character more interesting, he decided to make her abnormal, and he thought of a young next door neighbor girl he had known who had seemed "socially retarded." O'Day said he also thought of his own childhood, since as an only child who was often ill, many of his days were spent in bed with a radio to keep him company. He named the character Angie, possibly inspired by the Rolling Stones' song "Angie". Originally the character was portrayed as mentally "slow," but while writing the song, O'Day showed it to his therapist, who pointed out that the character's reactions in the song were not those of a mentally disabled person, so O'Day changed the lyric from "slow" to "touched," and the character's image changed from being mentally disabled to being "crazy." This expanded to her living in a dream world of lovers, inspired by the songs on her radio. When a "neighbor boy with evil on his mind" tries to enter her room to take advantage of the girl, he is instead drawn into her reality, with weird and unexpected consequences. The intent was to show that the Angie character had more power than he or the listener expected; she shrank him down into her radio, where he remained as her slave whenever she desired him to come out.
Interpretation of lyrics
Not everyone understood the meaning of O'Day's lyrics at the time, and after the song was released, it inspired a great deal of speculation on its true meaning. The song was compared to Bobbie Gentry’s "Ode to Billie Joe" (which had a mystery about "something" thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge). Some also thought of it as a "Women's Lib" song along the line of Reddy's other hits, like her other #1's, "I Am Woman" and "Delta Dawn," though O'Day says that that was not his intent, and that he was not consciously making a public statement.
O'Day revealed in 1998 that the "crazy" heroine in the song had "magic power" and "special abilities", and that he had deliberately blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. However, he still declined to give a detailed explanation of what happened to the boy in the song. Reddy herself had joked that the boy had become "a sound wave," an explanation that O'Day later refuted.
Jeff Wald, who at the time was Reddy's husband and manager, would recall being bowled over upon first hearing the demo of "Angie Baby": "I heard 'Angie...' at 11 am...By noon, Helen had heard it. By three, we were beginning to put an arrangement together. Eight days later it was on the street. Her biggest hit. It had story, melody, everything." 
"Angie Baby" became Helen Reddy's first charting single in the British Isles reaching #5 in both the UK and Ireland in February 1975; Reddy would chart again once in both nations with "I Can't Say Goodbye to You" - (#43 UK/ #16 Ireland) - in 1981. "Angie Baby" was also Reddy's final major hit in her native Australia at #13 while affording Reddy her sole charting single in Italy at #36.
The song was also featured as the sole Helen Reddy track as part of a promotional-only compilation album issued by Capitol Records entitled "The Greatest Music Ever Sold" (Capitol SPRO-8511/8512), which was distributed to record stores during the 1976 Holiday season as part of Capitol's "Greatest Music Ever Sold" campaign, promoting 15 "Best Of" albums that were released by the record label.
In 1975 a Finnish rendering of the song retaining the English title was recorded by Cascade and also by Päivi Paunu while Zandra - the duo of Örjan Englund and Liza Öhman - recorded a Swedish rendering which renamed the title character "Carolina". Alan O' Day recorded his composition for his 1977 album Appetizers. "Angie Baby" has also been recorded by Barbara Dickson.
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications)
- "The Story Behind the #1 Hit: Alan O'Day and Angie Baby". Just Plain Folks. Archived from the original on 2012-02-05. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
- Fred Bronson's Book of Number One Hits, (2003 edition).
- Los Angeles Times 21 February 1977 View section p. 12
- "Chart Archive". Retrieved 7 February 2013.[dead link]
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