Renaissance is a British folk/rock band fronted by the charismatic Annie Haslam. This band was formed from the ashes of British R&B band The Yardbirds, undergoing several personal changes until they arrived at their most stable lineup, which released this song.
Despite plenty of positive press from music critics, Renaissance wasn't able to expand their audience, and they dissolved in the early '80s. "Northern Lights" was their only song to crack any chart, as it was neatly packaged for a Pop audience, running just 3:29. Fans of the band prefer "Song Of Scheherazade," their 1975 suite that runs more than 24 minutes.
Many people wrongly assumed that this song had something to do with the Aurora Borealis, but that's not the case. Annie Haslam told us: "The song is about leaving the Northern Lights of England... and Roy Wood behind, when I was working over in the US. Hence the lines: "You know it's hard away from you, travelling roads and passing through. It's not for money and it's not for fame, I just can't explain. Sometimes it's lonely." Wood, who was a member of Electric Light Orchestra, was engaged to Haslam for a time. (Annie's website is anniehaslam.com)
Like most Renaissance songs, this was written by the lyricist Betty Thatcher and the band's guitarist Michael Dunford. Thatcher sometimes wrote lyrics based on her conversations with Annie Haslam, and this is an example.
Annie Haslam was engaged to Roy Wood at one time, and she credits the ELO/Move founder with helping make this song a hit. His contribution: he suggested that Annie's voice be tripple-tracked. "I didn't like anybody playing around with my voice, but Roy always had a way of talking me into things, and at the same time teaching me," Haslam told us.