That leaves behind you a smiling fool,
It’s that I know you’re a song come true
And I’ll follow you to till the ends meet.”
—“Till the Ends Meet”, Loggins and Messina (1972)
“Nothing like 30 years to be the great leveler,” Kenny Loggins notes on the website set up for the Loggins and Messina 2005 reunion tour that saw one of the most successful duos of the 1970s hitting the road, playing the hits, and rekindling the friendship that started it all. Loggins calls it “legacy music”, the songs co-created with Jim Messina, like “Danny’s Song”, “Be Free”, and “Sailin’ the Wind”; songs that outlast musical changes and industry shifts. It’s always an easy return to optimism and truth to relax with Full Sail (1973) or the original Sittin’ In (1972). Despite 16 million album sales, Loggins and Messina earned their legacy with this truth: two songwriters with the uncanny ability to turn basic human hopes into songs with sophisticated melodies and earnest lyrics.
It’s no secret that ego clashes were at the heart of Loggins and Messina’s 1976 split. Loggins says on the website: “The inevitable thing when you grow through a mentor is you have to leave and go off on your own. Our relationship had become teacher-student, father-son, big brother little brother [sic] and eventually it was not healthy for me. I had a lot to prove to myself and, subconsciously I think, I had a lot to prove to Jimmy too.” Both Kenny and Jim are open about the falling-out, suggesting the water of the past is well and truly under the bridge. They arrived at the “Sittin’ in Again Reunion Tour” with decades of experience to draw from, including the apparent connecting vibe that friendship, like good music, can outlive the worst battles. The five-month, 40-date tour ended in October of last year, sealed and memorialized with a DVD of the tour showstopper in Santa Barbara.
| Referenced DVD:
Loggins and Messina Live: Sittin’ in Again at the Santa Barbara Bowl
DVD Release Date: 15 November 2005
The show is great; it looks excellent, and the quality—from the sound to the sleek, bright colors—is superb. Loggins and Messina (with full backing band) perform their most memorable album tracks and hits, from the perennials including “Danny’s Song” and “House at Pooh Corner”, to the beautiful but lesser-known Sittin’ In album trilogy, “A Love Song”, and Messina’s ever-brilliant “Changes” and “Same Old Wine”. It’s 146 minutes of music and fun chatter. Audience shots of smiling men and women singing loudly easily validate Loggins’s theory that audiences of his vintage long to hear the music of their youth. The band delivers exactly that. That very little about these songs has been changed or updated suggests that the songs have carried across the millennium line. “Same Old Wine”, originally recorded in 1972, is especially eerie to hear in 2005. The song’s near-prophetic lyrics include: “Will we give them the election / That keeps filling our heads full of lies / Can we trust in new direction / When the promises are in disguise ... It’s the same old wine in a band new bottle”.
Remaining faithful to the original arrangements was a necessity for the duo. Messina told PopMatters: “That’s exactly what we were doing—keeping the basis there, but allowing for spontaneity and the ability for it to be fresh.” It is. Not only do the songs stand the test of time, the guys’ voices haven’t aged a day, let alone three long decades. Loggins, especially, is in expert vocal form—his extended performance of “Peace of Mind” is a stunning feat. Powerhouse performances, too, of “Vahevala”, “Long Tail Cat”, and “Holiday Hotel” reveal similar, if not greater, energy between the guys than the earlier “Midnight Special” concert from 1973, included in edited form as an extra feature on this DVD. It’s a magical few hours—and the new never-say-never attitude of the pair means it might not be the last time it happens.
PopMatters spoke to Kenny and Jim on the eve of the Sittin’ in Again DVD release.
PopMatters: What, for you guys, are some of the highlights of the DVD?
Jim Messina: The highlight of the DVD, I would say, is the manner in which it was shot. The basis of our show, initially, was a two and a half hour concert. Actually three hours with two and half hours of music and an intermission. In order to make this thing work we had to do it a little differently, [so it was] edited together so that it had almost a feel that we’ve been going out with, which was basically to start out with about an hour of music—sort of to present the quintessential Loggins and Messina. And then Kenny and I wanted a section that mirrored an experience we had when we sat down acoustically and, very informally, would do some music. That’s what we called the General Store section of the DVD.
Kenny Loggins: I think we can give you our personal favorite moments for the DVD rather than trying to point out highlights. Everybody’s going to have a different take on what the highlights are, you know, depending on what part of our career they dropped in on. For me, I really loved performing a song from [the original Sittin’ In‘s] “Trilogy” called “Peace of Mind”, a piece Jimmy wrote. I loved performing “Vahevala”, because I got to play a lead guitar solo, which I haven’t done in many years. And “Danny’s Song”, where the audience sang along at the end of the second encore. And I also really loved whatever happened in the General Store, where we got to be a little looser with song order and play around and see what happened.
JM: One of my highlights was a song called “Sailin’ the Wind”, which I loved recording way back when. I was worried that it might not be Kenny’s favorite, but as we got to play it and started shaking up, so I was glad it stuck around.
KL: Yeah, I really enjoyed that one.
JM: I also enjoyed doing “Kind Woman”, because I started out in the Buffalo Springfield, working with Neil [Young] and Stephen [Stills] and Richie [Furay]. And this was a song that Richie had written. I remember, in those days, it was a real important song for him to get on that record. So to be able to go back and—full circle—do a song of his, and to have Kenny and I do it, was special. That was sort of a tribute to him as a writer. And “You Need a Man” was fun, because we all got a chance to express ourselves musically on that…
KL: That’s really where the band could shine.
JM: The band could shine, and they played their hearts out on it. But, all in all, I enjoyed working on every tune here. I think that every song Kenny and I picked out, we wanted to do, and we wanted to do our best jobs on.
PM: Did you purposefully look at choosing tracks based on your personal favorites in your catalogue over chart position and popularity?
JM: I think that’s exactly it. We wanted to do our favorite songs, and make sure that it just wasn’t a collection of songs that the record company wanted.
KL: I think we both saw this, though was never really talked about it. I think we were both headed in the same direction. I saw this as an opportunity to do one definitive compilation of what I see the legacy of Loggins and Messina to be. And it’s not necessarily the hits. You know, “Your Mama Don’t Dance” is in there, but it’s an aspect of who we were, and it isn’t the song that in any way defines who we were, at least in my mind.
PM: Has the meaning of the songs changed over this period of time?
JM: I think they’ve grown to mean something different. Like “Same Old Wine”, for instance, when I wrote that song it was about the Vietnam War. And I was a little hesitant about doing it this time, because I was openly thinking about the Vietnam War in the past. Kenny pointed out that the lyrics were very relevant today. So I trusted that and went with it and so be it. It really affected people. The song had an affect to it, as “Danny’s Song” still has an affect to it. People still feel those same emotions, and they’ll always be here.
PM: How has the reunion affected you emotionally? Are you more relaxed together, freer?
JM: I’m more relaxed as a human being in my soul, to know that Kenny and I have worked out whatever our differences were emotionally. From that stand point, to now be doing that music has completed a part in me that allows my whole being to relax. That element of relaxation opens the door for us to either do this music again, or to write, or to just be friends. Just to say, ‘What are you doing over the holidays?’ and knowing that someone would be sincere in wanting to see you is more important to me than making another record.
KL: The tour was a really growing time for me. It was important to be out on the road, to be working, and to make that kind of connection with Jimmy and the old audience. In a way, it was like going back into my childhood and reconnecting to myself and who was I then—how much of him is still in the light in me, and where to go from here.
PM: Is it something you ever could have foreseen—the Loggins and Messina legacy? Is it possible to envision fans sticking by you for this period of time and songs keeping their power?
KL: No. When you’re a kid you just don’t have that sense of legacy. You don’t realize—there was no way I could have imagined that the music we were making was going to stick around for 30 years. I remember a line I heard Joe Walsh say: “If I’d known then that I was going to be singing these songs 30 years from now, I would’ve written better songs.” [Both laugh.] You’re just doing the best you can when you’re a kid, and because of that, it’s coming out from a real innocent, honest place. Something like “Danny’s Song” or “House on Pooh Corner”—they’re songs I wrote as a senior in high school. It’s inspiring to me to think they’re still around and still generate an emotional response from new audiences.
PM: Do you think musicians today speak to their generation as carefully and openly as bands like your own did then?
KL: I think there are definitely political commentators, they’re just in fringe areas or, if you take a look at rap music, I think they’re expressing the frustrations of their era in some ways; some of them are. Music will always be a political vehicle as well as a romantic vehicle.
JM: I agree. Though, it’s not as apparent as it used to be. Especially when you look at the time in the ‘60s when we were going through that trouble. But I also feel that so much is hidden. Young people have a different life today and they’ve got bigger responsibilities, and music is one way of expressing it. We also have to look at the movie business; I think there are a lot of things being said through film with young directors and young producers. They’re working on doing the same thing, but in their own way. I’m thinking of Michael Moore, who very boldly came out with [Fahrenheit 9/11] at a point in time, is not unlike somebody singing “Eve of Destruction” or [the music of] Country Joe and the Fish.
KL: Country Joe and the Fish—there were a lot of political acts coming out of Berkeley back then.
JM: It was kind of the way things were working. I think the film industry now, or the video industry, is in a much better place to sort of bring attention to a lot of that stuff.
PM: Does the onset of families and children change how you write?
KL: Yeah, my children have very much affected my writing. I have at least one song for each child. Then there’s the dynamic of having a family, losing a family—my work has always been autobiographical when it’s at its best. “Danny’s Song” was about my brother—I discovered that the stuff that tended to reach people the deepest was the stuff that came from the deepest place in myself. The more I was willing to explore my own emotions, the more people I could reach. So I quickly shifted from writing generic pop tunes to trying to write something that mattered to me. My heroes at the time were writers that were expressing these things—James Taylor, Paul Simon, Lennon/McCartney. They were writing things that, invariably, clicked on some level and made me wish I’d written that. So that has been my course as an artist is to try to dig in as deep as I can.
JM: And I would say that’s true for me, too. Having a family and a marriage and children and now one on the way, I just can’t sit down and write the same kind of love song I could have written back in my early 20s or late teens. I have a different criteria for what love is.
PM: Has the audience response been as you expected?
KL: The very first audience we played to [at the Idaho Center Amphitheatre in Boise], we walked out onto the stage and got a three-minute standing ovation before we even played a note. That was exhilarating, and also reconfirmed for me that we were doing the right thing at the right time. There’s an audience out there that’s dying to reconnect to legacy music, and it was very happy to see us.
PM: Do you think the final reunion tour show will be the end for you guys as a live act?
KL: I’ve learned that the last show is an illusion.
JM: I have to laugh, because the last show we did, Kenny pulled his back and was in such pain, and my shoulder froze up on me and I had to go and get shots to get my arm to work. I hurt it lifting weights or something. All I can remember is thinking that’s not my idea of what the last show would be like, not being able to sit up and speak to people—somehow its
KL: Pitiful. [Both laugh.]
JM: Yeah but it was a good show and everybody loved it.