Today after meditation and other morning routines, I scrolled through social media for a few minutes and serendipitously landed on a video of “Barracuda,” the blazing 1977 hit by Heart, a rock band formed in 1967 (as The Army) in Seattle, Washington, USA.

The song actually gets a mention in my post from nearly three years ago on “Dreamboat Annie,” the title track from the band’s 1975 debut album, when Heart primarily had a folk-rock sound. (And I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to post today’s selection… the song is an absolute banger, as Elbow’s lead singer Guy Garvey often says about great songs during his weekly BBC 6 Music program, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour.)

Heart’s second album, Magazine (1977, re-released in 1978), was mired in legal battles and delays due to the contention with Mushroom Records and Heart’s manager Mike Fisher’s attempt to get out of their contract with the firm. The company went ahead with the record, releasing material the band hadn’t approves. A Seattle court ruled that the company had to recall the album but that Heart had to complete an album to fulfil its contract. (Mushroom went out of business in the 1980s, which seems about right, considering their tasteless branding strategy and tactics.)

I don’t think I was aware of the story behind “Barracuda” until a local DJ, Howard Mandshein (of 92.1 CITI-FM fame), referred to it on one of his late-night programs a little after the single was released. Ann Wilson (b. 1950), lead singer and sister to rhythm guitarist and singer Nancy Wilson (b. 1954), wrote the song in her hotel room while on tour; this was after learning that their label, Canadian record company Mushroom Records, had concocted and spread a story that the two were in an incestuous love affair as a misogynistic and salacious attempt to sell records on the sex appeal of the sisters. Ann’s fury is evident in the lyrics, and the band as a whole demonstrates their anger with the hard, driving beat of the song. After getting to know their more folk-driven debut album, the song introduced me to Heart as a hard rock band.

And what an introduction. Ann’s searing vocals are supported by intense guitar-playing and drumming, and an indomitable fist to the sky by Nancy.

“So this ain’t the end, I saw you again today
I had to turn my heart away
Smile like the sun, kisses for everyone
And tales, it never fails

You lying so low in the weeds
I bet you gonna ambush me
You’d have me down, down, down, down on my knees
Now wouldn’t you, Barracuda? Oh

Back over time, we were all trying for free
You met the porpoise and me, uh-huh
No right, no wrong, selling a song, a name
Whisper game

And if the real thing don’t do the trick
You better make up something quick
You gonna burn, burn, burn, burn, burn to the wick
Ooh, Barracuda, oh, yeah

‘Sell me, sell you,’ the porpoise said
Dive down deep now to save my head
You, I think that you got the blues, too
All that night and all the next
Swam without looking back
Made for the western pools, silly, silly fools

The real thing don’t do the trick, no?
You better make up something quick
You gonna burn, burn, burn, burn, burn it to the wick
Oh, Barra-Barracuda, yeah”

“Barracuda,” by Ann Wilson, Roger Fisher, Nancy Wilson, Michael Derosier.
Lyrics retrieved from

Just after Mushroom released the first version of Magazine, Heart, who by then had signed with Portrait Records, issued their third studio album, Little Queen (1977). “Barracuda” was the lead single on Little Queen, which became their second million-selling record. The song has also appeared on numerous compilation and live albums released by Heart.

More recently, the song attracted attention in 2008 when former Vietnam prisoner-of-war, US senator and presidential candidate John McCain (1936-2018) used it as a tribute of sorts to his running mate, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (b. 1964, who claimed to have the high-school basketball moniker “Sarah Barracuda”), at the Republican Party’s national convention that year. Some band members were pleased at the royalties generated by this, but the sisters remained firm; Nancy told the digital magazine Entertainment Weekly, “Sarah Palin’s views and values in no way represent us as American women.” Despite the statement and a cease-and-desist letter from the Wilson sisters, the McCain campaign continued to use the song.

Something I learned today when reading about “Barracuda” is that the guitar riff was inspired by the Scottish band Nazareth’s 1973 hard rock cover of Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell‘s (b. 1943) folk song from 1971, “This Flight Tonight.” Nancy Wilson later revealed that Heart borrowed the riff from that song, having toured as the opening act for Nazareth years earlier. As she said in an interview with, “You borrow from what you love and make it your own. It’s one of those sounds too, it’s one of those guitar tones that I’m still trying to figure out what we did. It’s hard to re-create.”

Though formed in the USA, Heart was long considered a Canadian band, In the 1970s, Ann Wilson moved to Vancouver to follow her love, Mike Fisher, who, at the time was the band manager, and is the brother of past Heart guitarist Roger. (Mike had left the US to avoid the draft into the Vietnam War.)

I feel fortunate to have seen arena shows by Nazareth (around 1976) and Heart, though I didn’t see the latter until 2014 during their Rockin’ Heaven Canada tour. Heart partnered with Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham (1948-1980), playing Heart tunes and, later in the evening, covering Led Zep songs. My sweety and I and a couple of dear friends enjoyed that show.

Heart is a band I’ve enjoyed since first listening to their music in the mid-1970s. Sometime, I will post something from their fourth album, Dog and Butterfly (1978), another favourite, a solid mix of hard rock with a B-side that includes a lot of softer, acoustic folk-rock. It’s a collection that I think represents the evolution and maturing of the band. Interestingly, I didn’t follow their new releases after that record. Heart disbanded in 1998 but has come together for several tours and recordings.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.

Please enjoy the 1977 video of “Barracuda,” a live performance dubbed with the studio track, from the thebandheart YouTube channel (viewed 94 million times since it was posted in 2015):

With my best wishes,


6 thoughts on “Barracuda

    1. Thank you, Bill. There’s a mix of knowledge and memory, plus some research, but thank you. Heart was a big part of my youth and young adulthood.
      In the last hour I listened to the whole album ‘Little Queen’ for the first time in about 40 years and was amazed how I recalled what chords would be coming up through it. The mind and memory are pretty amazing things we’re gifted with.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I absolutely love this song. I was first introduced to it in a class I took about the sixties and seventies. I did know some of the stuff you mentioned because of that but the whole Sarah Palin thing was new to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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