ANDERSON — It was a soggy day in England when young Dewey Bunnell sat down with his guitar to pen a tune he called “Desert Song.” The haunting tune we know as “A Horse with No Name” bumped Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” off the number one spot on the charts in 1972. It clinched the young folk rock band, America, an enduring place in musical history.
“A Horse with No Name” remains an unforgettable song, resurging lately in the Golden Globe winning movie “American Hustle” and television’s “Breaking Bad.” It's among the hits America will deliver in Anderson on March 7 at Hoosier Park.
The song wasn’t about heroin. It didn’t spring from a psychedelic adventure. The sounds, the imagery and the almost awkwardly simple lyrics of “A Horse with No Name,” came from a much simpler place. Homesickness.
“It was just a travelogue…. pining a little bit for the great southwest,” said Bunnell. As an American teenager then living in England, with its fair share of rain, Bunnell was thinking of the warmer, drier climes of home, including places like New Mexico and California. “It was reminiscing about the sights and sounds of the desert.”
At the time, Bunnell and his friends, Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek, were living in England because their fathers were stationed there.
“We were Air Force kids,” said Bunnell. He and his family moved to the base in England in1966, during “the whole British invasion thing.” The teens attended high school together. Even better, they often took the tube into the center of London where they got plenty of exposure to British live music, including performers like Traffic and the Rolling Stones.
“That was really terrific,” said Bunnell.
Bunnell was also honing his self-taught skills as a musician. He recalled that as a child his folks listened to the music of artists like Della Reese, Patsy Cline, Johnny Mathis and Elvis Presley. By the time Bunnell was 12, the Beach Boys had arrived. It was also the era of the Beatles.