Blasting from someone’s car radio last summer, I heard the familiar strains of Magnet and Steel by Walter Egan, a song from his Not Shy album. It reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 (US) and #9 in Canada. “It spent 22 weeks on the American charts.” It was featured in the movies Boogie Nights (1997), Overnight Delivery (1998) and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999).
I’m a sucker for tracks that serve as the title of the album but only via the lyrics. For instance, the Nirvana album Nevermind contains the hit Smells Like Teen Spirit, which features the word Nevermind.”
Likewise, Magnet and Steel has the lyric:
With you I’m not shy, to show the way I feel
With you I might try, my secrets to reveal
For you are a magnet and I am steel…
“In 1976 I was living in Pomona, California and I had a notion to write a song with the ‘stroll’ beat… and so began the rough outline of what was tentatively called ‘Don’t Turn Away Now.’ Now, this was also at the time of putting together my first album, Fundamental Roll, and my two new friends and producers, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks and I were starting the recording process.
“On the night when Stevie did the background vocals for my song ‘Tunnel o’ Love,’ my nascent amorous feelings toward her came into a sharper focus – I was smitten by the kitten, as they say. It was on my drive home at 3 AM from Van Nuys to Pomona that I happened to be behind a metal flake blue Continental with ground effects and a diamond window in back. I was inspired by the car’s license plate: “Not Shy.”
“By the time I pulled into my driveway I had formulated the lyrics and come up with the magnet metaphor. From there the song was finished in 15 minutes.
Egan and Nicks dated briefly when Nicks and Buckingham had broken up.
“It was especially satisfying to have Stevie sing on ‘Magnet,’ since it was about her (and me).”
Listen to Magnet and Steel:
Matthew Sweet here with Buckingham on guitar
Third World here