A moment in time
August 25, 2005
Kenny Loggins is refreshingly upfront that his reunion with Jim Messina isn’t about the music, not really.But he also says that the current tour by Loggins & Messina, two names that were fully entwined from 1972-78, isn’t about more cynical things, like money or glory, either. Both halves of the acoustic rock duo claim financial comfort. And both Loggins, who had a series of film-soundtrack hits – “I’m Alright” from “Caddyshack”; “Danger Zone” from “Top Gun”; and the title tune from “Footloose” – and Messina, who played in the tail end of Buffalo Springfield before launching the pioneering country-rock outfit Poco, say they have had their share of notoriety.”It’s a moment in time. It’s not contemporary,” said Loggins from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. “It’s a time capsule, a moment in time, very much about those six years we spent together. It’s very nostalgic. It’s primarily for people who had a moment with us.”But the tour – billed as “Sittin’ In Again,” a takeoff on their 1972 debut, “Sittin’ In” – is also very much for Loggins. The 57-year-old was going through a rough divorce when, late last summer, he and Messina, both residents of Santa Barbara, were booked to do separate benefits for local organizations the same night.”I was concerned with him losing attendance, because of the conflict of me doing my show,” said Messina, also 57, probably joking, and speaking from Hawaii’s Kona Coast during a break in the tour. “So I told him I would lend my name to the benefit, so we could advertise it as ‘Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sitting In.'”
It was not the first benefit the two had done together since parting ways as a working duo. But this time, the conditions were right to look beyond a one-night stand. Loggins was looking for a source of distraction, and happiness. And he found it not only in such songs as “Danny’s Songs,” “Angry Eyes” and “House at Pooh Corner,” but also on Messina’s shoulder.”Jimmy stepped in when I needed a friend. The timing was perfect,” said Loggins. The tour, their first in nearly 30 years, which was scheduled to hit amphitheaters, casino complexes and performing arts center in 47 cities between June and October. “It was a way to escape from present-tense realities, to rework and rebuild. And now that I’m single, it’s a good way to meet women in a different context.””I think it was just the right moment,” said Messina, who had been friendly, but not particularly close, to his former partner over the years. “Kenny was open to it and wanted to embrace old friendships. The door was open.”That friendship may be stronger now than it was when the duo was going strong, and selling the bulk of the 16 million albums to its credit. Neither Loggins nor Messina had ever dived headfirst into Loggins & Messina. Messina, who had been a recording engineer in Hollywood before Buffalo Springfield and Poco, had signed a six-album deal as a producer with Columbia Records. Among the first artists steered his way was a 22-year-old native of Washington state with virtually no résumé.
“I thought I was making a solo record,” said Loggins. But Messina figured it would be beneficial to put his own name on the album as well, so the official title was “Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin’ In.” And as the album featured songs written and co-written by Messina, the album was promoted under the name Loggins & Messina. When “Sittin’ In'” took off on the back of “Danny’s Song” and “House at Pooh Corner,” Columbia executive Clive Davis insisted that the two singers sign a long-term deal as a duo. Loggins had to postpone his pursuit of a solo career.”So in a way, that duo was destined to break up,” said Loggins.Despite the lack of intention, Loggins & Messina was a smash. Their self-titled second album, from 1972, had “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” their biggest hit, and “Angry Eyes.” And Loggins enjoyed the music the two played, a twist on the country-rock being popularized by the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the like.”I was excited because we were making music no one else was making,” he said. “It was country-oriented. Plus, I had an r&b, rock ‘n’ roll approach, and that created a kind of music. It was another expression of the country-rock thing.”But Loggins and Messina were a better artistic mix than a personal one. They weren’t exactly the Who, threatening physical violence, but neither were they, as the title of a 1977 greatest hits collection had it, “best of friends.” The way the duo had been put together created an awkwardness: Loggins was put in the position of being mentored by the more experienced Messina. But Messina had signed on to be Loggins’ producer, to have something of a back-seat role.”Earlier on, there was always competition,” said Loggins. “I felt I had a lot to live up to. That caused stress.”
The current Loggins & Messina show is slightly different from one played three decades ago. Poco’s “You Better Think Twice” and Buffalo Springfield’s “Kind Woman,” and “Alive ‘n’ Kickin’,” from Loggins’ 2003 solo album “It’s About Time,” make appearances in what is termed the “general store” segment of the show. The duo has also welcomed numerous guest appearances this summer: Rusty Young from Poco, Richie Furay from Buffalo Springfield, Merel Bergatti and Larry Sims from the original Loggins & Messina band.But, for the most part, the repertoire is core Loggins & Messina material. And that gives them another reason for the reunion tour: to see if they can get right what was short of perfect in the ’70s.”In some ways, it’s surpassing my expectations,” said Loggins, noting that he and Messina have shared a tour bus for the duration of the tour. “Jim and I are getting along better than we ever did. It’s palpable. I’ve spent the last 30 years stepping forward, and now I know when to step back and give Jim a chance.”And Messina is enthused about the music itself. “The mere fact that we can do these songs blows my mind,” said Messina, who hasn’t done this sort of heavy-duty touring since a 1990 Poco reunion. “It’s a totally different band than the original band and they’re adding their own arrangements and youth to lift it higher. The idea of being able to recapture the essence of the music and energy was interesting to me. I wanted to see if it could be done.”So what was set into motion for nostalgia, for friendship, so that Loggins could, as he put it, “have a fun summer,” has ignited a musical spark. The two haven’t written any new music together, though they have tossed some ideas back and forth. They have had some discussions about another tour.
Last October, a month after that benefit performance that brought them together as friends, Loggins and Messina played another benefit, for a music-in-the-schools program in Santa Ynez, Calif. That two-night stand – with Rusty Young, Richie Furay and Poco’s Paul Cotton – designed to see if Loggins and Messina could truly be Loggins & Messina again.”That set it for me that it was possible to capture an audience,” said Messina. “The show was supposed to be two hours, and it became four hours, till midnight, without losing a single person.”I realized being together was a bigger thing than any of us alone. So that clinched it for me. That made me want to explore it further.”An even more tantalizing idea is the further exploration of Buffalo Springfield. Messina served as a recording engineer for the band’s second album, “Buffalo Springfield Again,” and began in the same capacity on the third, “Last Time Around,” when he was asked to be the album’s producer. His ascent continued when he was promoted to bassist, replacing Bruce Palmer. The powerhouse group blew apart, largely around clashes between Neil Young and Stephen Stills. But Young has occasionally teased fans and band members alike by floating the possibility of a reunion. He went so far as to record a nostalgic song, “Buffalo Springfield Again,” on his 2000 album “Silver & Gold.”It would be “a miracle if it ever happens,” Messina said. “But I believe in miracles. If Neil and Stephen don’t wait too long, it could happen.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org