I saw Loggins and Messina perform live for the first time in the summer of 1972 on the Boston Common. Kenny Loggins seemed too happy to convey the gravity I was looking for. He jumped enthusiastically around the stage. I resisted. I hated the lightweight songs like “Your Mama Don’t Dance.” I couldn’t wait for him/them to get off. I had come to hear John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, for whom they opened that night. The Mahavisnu Orchestra — they were heavy. I responded to the gravity that I found lacking in Loggins and Messina.
I subsequently caught up with the Loggins and Messina albums. They became a guilty pleasure for me. I thought the production of those albums was perfect. Having joined up with Loggins by way of Buffalo Springfield and Poco, Jim Messina knew what he was doing in the studio. Kenny Loggins was an excellent singer and songwriter. Messina put together a terrific band that embodied the pop craftsmanship of the Loggins and Messina partnership, even if the albums ranged in quality. Then they went their separate ways in 1977.
Listening to WUMB’s Highway 61 Revisited show a week ago yesterday, I heard host Albert O pluck “Brighter Days” from the archives. It may be the best L&M song on the best L&M album, the underappreciated Mother Lode. Written by Kenny Loggins with Dona Lyn George, it’s not a good time song. It’s a bad time song. It snuck up and took me by surprise. I’ve been playing the song and the album nonstop for the past week. That’s Messina adding the grace notes on mandolin.
Loggins and Messina reunited in 2005 for a live album recorded in Santa Barbara to kick off a reunion tour. We caught them at the Target Center in Minneapolis and enjoyed them greatly. Original saxophonist Jon Clarke had died that June at the age of 54. They recalled him with a graphic that brought to mind the band as I saw it on the Boston Common. They opened their reunion show with “Watching the River Run,” a song that they wrote together by trading off lines.
The Loggins and Messina album Sittin’ In featured “Danny’s Song.” It’s the first of their songs I ever heard, in rotation on WDCR in the winter of 1972-73. I wondered who the heck was that? Loggins had written the song when he was a senior in high school. He may have gotten tired of singing it but I haven’t gotten tired of listening to it.
Sittin’ In closed side one with a trilogy ending with “Peace of Mind.” I love the song and thought this was the highlight of the 2005 show. Kenny Loggins does some serious testifyin’, but Messina (who wrote the song) gives himself the great line: “Blessed be the one who can understand why people have to act that way/If I knew I wouldn’t even want to say.” Thank you, gentlemen.
Loggins, incidentally, turned 70 last month. Unbelievable. I could go on and on but will leave off on that note this morning.