Two of them
Kenny Loggins makes an old friend new again
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Kenny Loggins was a young songwriter yearning for solo success — and finding it, with his early acoustic hit “House at Pooh Corner” — when he met the more seasoned Jim Messina, assigned to produce Loggins’ first album in 1972. The solo act became a duo showpiece for both men, and Loggins and Messina was a huge success over six consecutive albums that melded folk, rock, calypso and R&B in the musical melting pot of the early ’70s. When their partnership ended in 1976, Loggins went on to find his own success, first as a high-charting soul-pop crooner, then as the king of film soundtrack hits (“Caddyshack,” “Footloose,” “Top Gun”). The pair reunited for a tour in 2005, and their latest outing brings them to Wenatchee’s Town Toyota Center on Thursday night. Loggins’ newest album of family music, a collection of covers and new songs called “All Join In,” is set for release later this year. It features Messina performing with Loggins on the Beatles’ “Two of Us.”
Go! Magazine: Coming back to work with Jim, have you found that your approach to the duo format had changed after so many years?
Kenny Loggins: It’s taken me a while on this tour to begin to get comfortable as part of a duo. It’s quite difficult. You have to figure out when you move forward, when you take the spotlight, and when you step back. We’ve sort of been using the rebirth of our friendship as a guiding light — just trying to help each other, so that if Jimmy’s busy putting on a special guitar, making a change, then I’ll step up and do an intro. Or if he is ready and feels he has something to say, then he’ll take the intro. We’re playing real loose with it, and it’s really working — the idea being the cooperation of two friends helping each other get into and get through it. Plus working with an incredible band really helps, because it’s like driving a Lamborghini — you sit there and shift the gears and see what happens.
Go!: When I talked with Jim last week, he said that you had to be coaxed to work on your own material, because you were busy and attentive to the Loggins and Messina material, moreso than your own.
If You Go
What: Loggins and Messina, rock
Where: Town Toyota Center, 1300 Walla Walla Ave.. Wenatchee
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29
Cost: $33.50 to $72.50
Tickets and information: 1-866-973-9611 or towntoyotacenter.com
On the Web: logginsandmessina.com
Loggins: It’s just that I wasn’t that worried about my own material. I knew my solo stuff was pretty easy. How tough is “Danny’s Song?” I knew that we were gonna get that stuff together quickly, and the more complicated stuff like “Angry Eyes” or “You Need a Man,” I wanted to drop in and really bring a lot of creativity to. I think he perceived it that way, but I was just as focused on my own material. I just have confidence, because I know it so well. I know that I can move through my own material really quickly, and the stuff that we hadn’t performed in many years had to be looked at carefully. ... For me, it’s more alive and more vital if I’m creatively involved in every aspect of the music.
Go!: You mentioned that these tours have come together at the same time that your friendship with Jim was being reinvigorated. Was that friendship in need of repair?
Loggins: Oh, I think it was. By the time Loggins and Messina broke up in ’76 ... remember, I had come to Jimmy to make a solo album, so I was chomping at the bit to get out there and prove myself as an individual. It was important to me. Plus, when you’re 22, 23, 24, you’re in search of who you are, musically and in your ego. I’d find that we’d be drawn to the same clothes and the same women. I was like, “This is not good.” We became highly competitive with each other, and Loggins and Messina, even though it was ostensibly a duo and should have been two equal partners, Jimmy was also the producer and this sort of mentor of mine. So right from the beginning, it was set up to break up. And then my writing changed dramatically, as we went along. I began writing more of the material that would become “Celebrate Me Home,” which was considerably different from the Loggins and Messina material.
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Sittin' in again, again: An interview with Jim Messina
Go!: I found it interesting that the Beatles’ “Two of Us” was chosen for your new album, and that you worked with Jim to create that. That was a Lennon and McCartney piece that emerged in a fairly tense period in their relationship, and probably described their relationship almost autobiographically. Did it suit you in that respect?
Loggins: Well, “Two of Us” was actually written by them early on in their careers. It was one of the first things they wrote, they just didn’t record it. So it has a level of innocence to it, musically — it wasn’t highly sophisticated, like what McCartney began to do much later. But I was making a family album that children would like too, so I was looking for lighthearted material. It was Jesse Seidenberg, my co-producer, who suggested “Two of Us,” because he thought it could be seen as a couple of young boys who get on their bikes and head off on a great adventure. In that context, I thought it would be pretty interesting if Jimmy would be willing to sing it with me. Luckily, he was. It’s been getting good response. It isn’t the most childlike of tunes on the album, because of the nature of it being that kind of Lennon and McCartney tune, but it works, and it has a lighthearted quality on the record.
Go!: What led you to think about a family recording at this point?
Loggins: I was approached by David Agnew of Disney Records, who’d raised his kids with my “Return to Pooh Corner” album, which is now 16 years old. He said, “Could you make that same kind of record that parents would love as much as children -- make an uptempo version?” We started kicking around what kind of material that would be, and I decided that it would be really fun to record classic rock tunes from my childhood, as well as tunes that I felt were contemporary but had a childlike quality — like Feist’s “1, 2, 3, 4” and Mika’s “Lollipop.” But everything that I picked has a certain quality of simplicity, like Nilsson’s “Puppy Song,” Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” and a couple of Beatles tunes.
Go!: So you get to make a sort of personal statement while keeping the audience in mind.
Loggins: I have to like the tunes. That’s one of my bottom-line rules. You pick a Donovan song, like “First There Is a Mountain,” and certain songs like that one, I can take a lot of liberties with. Other songs like Nilsson’s “Puppy Song,” I stayed pretty true to the original. ... Disney just did a lot of marketing research on the album, to figure out how we were gonna go about getting it out there. “Mountain” tested well with all the age groups, children adults, male female.
On the Record
Loggins and Messina
“Sittin’ In” (1972)
“Loggins & Messina” (1972)
“Full Sail” (1973)
“Mother Lode” (1974)
“So Fine” (1975)
“Native Sons” (1976)
“Sittin’ In Again at Santa Barbara Bowl” (2005)
"Celebrate Me Home" (1977)
"Keep the Fire" (1979)
"High Adventure" (1982)
"Vox Humana" (1985)
"Back to Avalon" (1988)
"Leap of Faith" (1991)
"Return to Pooh Corner" (1994)
"The Unimaginable Life" (1997)
"More Songs from Pooh Corner" (2000)
"It's About Time" (2003)
"How About Now" (2008)
Go!: A lot of your best known songs sort of spin out of moments of reflection, where a person is contemplating a certain situation. I think that may be why you took inspiration from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, because those stories have their own reflective moment. Does that make sense to you?
Loggins: Yeah, I think so. I think my version was based on the last chapter of “House at Pooh Corner,” where Christoper Robin leaves the Thirty Acre Wood, and has to explain to Winnie the Pooh that he’s growing up and leaving, where all the other characters don’t grow up. That was what the song pivots on. I think that’s why it reaches people. It has a bittersweet quality to it. ... “How can this end?”
Go!: I think the ending of “Caddyshack,” with “I’m Alright,” may have been the moment that made the soundtrack explosion of the ’80s really take off. Do you think that’s where it kind of changed for movies, and for you?
Loggins: I think you could see it that way. It certainly was for me. Streisand did “A Star is Born” before that. That was kind of a cattle-call of writers, to try and bring in modern material. I think the fact that she leaned on Paul Williams was kind of counterproductive to what she was trying to do. But that’s when I met (film producer) Jon Peters, and it was my relationship with Jon that took me into “Caddyshack.” Movies weren’t really utilizing, effectively at any rate, pop music, until that time. ... And then it went right from there into “Footloose.” “Footloose” was basically a favor for a friend. My friend Dean Pitchford had written the screenplay and asked me if I’d help him cement his position as a songwriter with Paramount. So I wrote a couple of songs with Dean as a favor to him. It turned out to be a favor for me.
Go!: When you and Jim were working together, country-rock was a coming thing, and Jim had done a lot to influence that. But there’s been distinct separation for quite some time, at least in the marketplace.
Loggins: Yeah, I think so.
Go!: So is there hope for a reunification there?
Loggins: I don’t know. It would be interesting. Country music has never really accepted Loggins and Messina. We’ve been neither fish nor fowl when it comes to being country or pop. We kind of stride between the two. But a lot of country acts will cop to Loggins and Messina as being one of their influences. I know early on, Clint Black and Garth Brooks both cited Loggins and Messina as being an influence on where they went with their style. ... There was a movement, probably because of Buffalo Springfield, of integrating country into rock ’n’ roll, and it went pretty far before it finally gave way to Led Zeppelin, and rock took it back.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123
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