Singer-songwriter Alan O’Day achieved a major feat that few singer-songwriters have accomplished. He both wrote a number one hit that someone else took to the top of the charts, as well as wrote and sang his own number one hit. O’Day wrote “Angie Baby”, a 1974 number one hit for Helen Reddy as well scored his own number one hit in July 1977 with “Undercover Angel”.
“Angie Baby” was the last number one hit of 1974, topping the charts on December 28 for one week. The song entered the Top 40 on November 2 and remained in the Top 40 for 13 weeks. Alan O’Day first offered the song to Cher who had recently scored a Top 40 hit with his “Train of Thought”, but she turned it down. It was not the first number one song that Cher had passed up because she had been offered and passed on “The Nights the Lights Went Out in Georgia”, which went on to be a number one hit for Vicki Lawrence in 1973.
“Lady Madonna” was the inspiration for O’Day to write “Angie Baby”. He told Billboard magazine, “’Lady Madonna’ just killed me. I thought, well I’m gonna write a song about somebody who’s growing up with the radio playing in the background of her life, with this rock and roll time we live in ….. there are songs for all of our emotions, and the radio really speaks for us in a way that nothing else does.”
Many years later, O’Day stated in an interview, “Back in 1974, I was trying to write a song loosely based on the character in the Beatles’ ‘Lady Madonna’. My ‘heroine’was initially a typical modern woman, dealing with the complexities of juggling family and work. And my gut told me the character I was creating had a major problem: She was boring.”
O’Day himself spent a few years as a sick kid who looked to the songs on the radio for companionship. He originally wrote the song as if the Angie character was a high school aged girl who was socially awkward or slightly retarded. Over the course of three months he decided to make her “crazy”, a girl who was taken out of school for psychological issues. While the song opens as the plausible story of a teenage girl with no friends who spends her time listening to the radio, it turns into a surreal sexual fantasy horror in which the boy next door is abducted and used as her secret lover. The song’s surreal fantasy, which has been compared to that of the 1977 number one hit “Hotel California” by The Eagles, is open to interpretation and has been speculated upon since its release. O’Day has never revealed his own view of what happens at the end of the song. Similarly, Helen Reddy herself has always refused to comment on the song’s true meaning and lets others draw their own conclusions.
Between 1971 and 1977, Helen Reddy had fourteen entries onto the Top 40 section of the Billboard Hot 100. Her first entry was “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”, which scored the number thirteen position in 1971, from the soundtrack of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Her next chart entry was her signature song “I Am Woman”, which topped the charts for one week in December 1972. Another song, “Delta Dawn”, was number one for one week in September 1973. Her other top ten hits were “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)” # 3 in 1974, “You And Me Against The Wind” # 9 in 1974, and “Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady” # 8 in 1975.
After “Angie Baby”, Reddy only scored in the top ten once more with “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady” in 1975. On July 18 of that year she became the first and the only permanent host of “The Midnight Special.” As Beatle fans know all to well, Reddy appeared in the final scene of the horrendous 1978 movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band along with Alan O’Day and many other successful recording artists in which this group, introduced as “Our Guests at Heartland”, sing the title track of the movie along with the cast.