“Young man is angry, girl is afraid
She want to get high and he want to get paid
She had to jump up, he had to sit down
When they heard those words about the trouble downtown
He had to shout, she had to cry
He wanted to kill and she wanted to die
Grab for the dial, tune out the fright
But he turns left and she turns right
She look for love songs, he buys the drive
But all they can pull is bad news in tonight”
— Lyrics to City’s Burning
Though, at first listen, this might seem to be just another song about the difficulties of city life, Ann Wilson has said that the song was actually inspired by the death of John Lennon. The song tells the story of a couple who hear about Lennon’s death and who each has a different reaction. The man is angry and wants to take his anger out to the streets. The woman is frightened and wants to deal with it by getting high.
City Burning is one of Heart’s more underrated songs. It peaked at 15 on the U.S. charts but it seems like it should have gone higher. The song’s energy and anger is still relevant today.
The song’s popularity was probably not helped by this pedestrian music video. The weird pixilation at the start of the video is especially distracting. Of course, in 1982, music videos were still relatively new and bands like Heart, that were formed long before the creation of MTV, were still figuring out how to present themselves visually. As primitive as this video looks, it’s not that different from a lot of the videos that came out in 1982.