Ah, how many Camaros had this blasting out of their cars on a long summer day? Hold Your Head Up was one of the classic rock songs that was played heavily throughout the 70s, so much so that you could have as strong an association with in 1979 as when it peaked in 1972.
Argent was formed by keyboardist Rod Argent, who had enjoyed success during the British Invasion of the 60s with The Zombies. Their last LP, Odyssey & Oracle, came out in 1968 after the band broke up and moved on to other projects. That was about the time that Rod formed Argent. But in 1969, Time of The Season was released and hit #3 in the late Spring of 1969 and Rod had a decision to make – get the band back together or see what happens with Argent. He chose the second option, pocketed the cash and ventured down the path of progressive rock.
There were 3 songwriters in Argent and 3 different singers in the group. One of the singer/songwriters was guitarist Russ Ballard, who sings on this one. His song, Liar, from Argent’s first LP was covered by Three Dog Night, who has a hit with it in 1971. Ballard has actually written many hits for rock artists throughout the 70s & 80s, but never had one of his own songs become hits with Argent or solo. Even more amazing to me, was that this was Top 5 hits was Argent’s only charting single.
Hold Your Head Up was written by Rod & Chris White, former Zombie cohort and Argent producer. The album version is almost double the length of the 45 and while both are awesome, you get a different feel from each. Many have wondered about the song’s meaning, whether it’s merely a motivational speech or a reminder to be true to yourself. I have always thought it was a nod of thanks to all the Vietnam veterans who were coming home, getting tons of grief, being spat on, anything but a hero’s welcome.
The songs starts with a rolling organ lick, a signal, a call to arms. Then the bass comes in, playing on a single note on the beat, double with the bass drum and a snare hit on the four. It feels like the start of a parade, but not exactly a happy one. This very serious intro gets some guitar added to the mix in very tailored guitar chords. Everything is very nice and neat and orderly. As the vocals come in and it almost sounds like Russ is singing behind you. It’s the perfect soundtrack to marching down the street in front of an audience of everyone who wronged you. You can’t look down or side to side, only head your head straight and high.
And if it’s bad
Don’t let it get you down, you can take it
And if it hurts
Don’t let them see you cry, you can make it
Hold your head up, hold your head up
Hold your head up, hold your head high
And if they stare
Just let them burn their eyes on you moving
And if they shout
Don’t let them change a thing that you’re doing
That’s it. Those are the lyrics. Simple and to the point. Almost like a sergeant giving direct orders. If this, then that. How many soldiers heard this song on their trip back from Saigon and thought Argent was their only friend?
Actually in these days of a thousand eyes and ears, of serial conformity, of people talking and reveling in others’ misfortunes, we need some Argent around here now.
Let it rip….