Graded on a Curve: Loggins & Messina,
On Stage

We got to the Orpheum Theatre in Boston early. Of course we did! We wanted the best seats in the house! And who wouldn’t, because the greatest duo in rock history, Loggins & Messina, were about to lay their groovy sounds on us and we didn’t want to miss a single note. It was March 4, 1973 (how could I forget?) and we knew we were in for the experience of twenty lifetimes.

I would introduce “the guys” but they need no introduction—everyone knows who they are. Kenny does most of the singing and has the beard and sleeveless sweaters; Jimmy concentrates more on the lead guitar but does some singing of his own, Recently I turned on “House on Pooh Corner” in the record nook of the living room and my five-year-old son Kenny barged in to say “Pooh corner? Seriously? The word’s shit. And speaking of shit, this music blows like a sousaphone filled with dingo excrement.” To which I chuckled and said to myself, “He’s just funnin’. Another L&M fan in the making.”

But anyway, there we were, my pal Joe and I in our matching Loggins and Messina t-shirts screaming “Play ‘Vahevala’!” And the house lights hadn’t even gone down yet. Then the curtain went up and Kenny broke into (speak of the devil) “House on Pooh Corner,” that delightful song about Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin that is beloved by everyone because it’s the most heart-warming song ever.

Unfortunately the moment was ruined when the girl next to me lifted her t-shirt to reveal a pair of perky American breasts and shouted, “Kenny! Jimmy! I want the both of you to fuck me RIGHT IN THE FACE!” Naturally my face blushed scarlet and I said, “Language, young lady.” To which she replied, “Shut it, loser. You’re just bitter I don’t want you and your gawky twitch of a friend to fuck me right in the face.” It was a mortifying moment, to say the least.

But I wasn’t about to let her boorish behavior ruin the good vibrations, and I joined the crowd in cheering when Kenny broke into perpetual audience pleaser “Danny’s Song.” We all sang along, of course, especially when he sang, “Even though we ain’t got money/I’m so in love with you honey.” “I love you Kenny!” shouted Joe, but it could have been any one of us who shouted it, because forget Elton John’s “Your Song,” “Danny’s Song” is the real deal, not some stupid song about sitting on a rooftop somewhere.

And Kenny kept the good times rolling with the soulful “You Could Break My Heart,” on which he really shows off his vibrating chops, just as he does on “Lady of My Heart,” which I attempted to talk my blushing bride into making the first song we danced to at our wedding. Unfortunately she said she’d call the whole thing off if our first dance wasn’t to Funkadelic’s “Hit It and Quit It,” which I thought was inappropriate but hey, the bride-to-be is always right.

But I didn’t have time to reflect on her questionable tastes in music because I was too busy clapping in time to Kenny’s country-flavored “Long Tail Cat,” with its falsetto and bovine references and wonderful lines “A long tailed cat sitting by the old rocking chair/Now he don’t realize that there’s a danger there/But he don’t care no rock ‘n’ roll chair is gonna boogie on his day.”

“Boogie on!” I shouted.

“Shut up you moron!” shouted a guy behind me, followed by his friend who complained, “Fucking acid, I thought this was a Led Zeppelin concert.”

Then Jimmy Messina, who we all knew would be Kenny’s partner and best friend forever, joined Kenny (after rapturous applause) on “Listen to a Country Song,” which featured Jimmy on mandolin, a hearty “Yee ha!” and Dixie horns, which you probably won’t hear in the country but why be a stickler about it? And just to prove the duo had their finger on the pulse of rural America they followed “Listen to a Country Song” with “Just Before the News,” a real barn burner of a hoedown so authentic it triggered my hay fever and I couldn’t stop sneezing, although it may have had something to do with the marijuana the Led Zeppelin fans behind us were smoking by the bale.

Loggins & Messina then segued into “Holiday Hotel,” on which Jim’s gal tells him as he leaves to do some country pickin’ for a friend in Modesto that she’d better not catch him shacked up in a hotel room with some shameless trollop, but sure enough he ignores her and doesn’t even get caught, It’s the only song I’ve never really liked by the duo, because it demonstrates a lack of wholesome family values and is at variance with my beliefs as a guy who would never cheat on his wife, not even with a signed permission slip.

But L&M have a “no more Mr. Nice Guy” side to them, as they demonstrated on their “hard rocker” “Angry Eyes.” The horns, of course, were pure rage, you’ve never heard such enraged horns, and Kenny was angry too, boy was Kenny angry, and it made me angry too, although I had no idea what I was supposed to be angry about. Follow-up anti-war song “Golden Ribbons” featured a very moving flute that just about made me weep, and when Loggins and Messina sang about the heartbreak of mothers and girlfriends and probably even pet Labrador retrievers waiting for their boys who would never come home from war, it almost made me sorry I’d voted for Nixon, twice. “Another Road” was a folksy delight sung by Kenny about a coming apocalypse, which is kind of a disconnect if you ask me. But I didn’t really have time to think about it what with the lovely sound of Al Garth’s violin, which had me sobbing and inspired the Led Zeppelin fans behind us to crack up and toss an M-80 in my lap.

But the best was yet to come. When Al Garth’s violin opened “Vahevala” the entire crowd leaped to its feet and awkwardly boogied to Kenny’s singing “I’m thinking about when I was a sailor/Spent my time on the open seas/When we’d stay off the coast of Jamaica,” after which the song kicked into what was easily the greatest sing-along in the history of rock. Then there was lots of cool percussion and Jimmy’s great chukka-chukka guitar and some maniacal laughter to prove the duo are crazier even than Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. And this was followed by a supercool jam that Joe and I really got into because we’d both taken a puff on a marijuana cigarette before the show, then dropped it down a sewer grate because we didn’t want to get caught with it and tossed into prison for ten years. Besides, one puff each is about our limit, as I knew full well because one time I took two and was paralyzed for nine hours.

Jim’s guitar solo was so “happening” I actually made for the aisle to dance along, but somebody yelled at me and the Led Zeppelin fans threw another M-80 and I politely asked them to cut it out and they said make us which gave me pause because I’m no fighter, there isn’t a single Loggins & Messina fan in the world who is a fighter, we’re like Seals & Crofts fans in that respect. So I went back to my seat but it was great anyway, the song lasted twenty-one minutes exactly and it was like the Rapture, I could feel myself being lifted from my feet to the heavens by the power of Kenny’s Kennyness and Jimmy’s Jimmyness and it was the best moment of my life except for my wedding day, better even because my new bride and I got into a terrible argument after the Kenny Loggins of the Loggins and Messina cover band I hired for the wedding staggered dead drunk from the stage in the middle of “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and projectile vomited on the entire bridal party. He may as well have been Linda Blair.

And speak of the devil, when Kenny and Jimmy kicked off “Your Mama Don’t Dance” the house went metaphorical dancing shoes crazy, never in the history of rock and roll has there been a better song about how square our parents are, although the one time I played it for my parents my mom danced better than I did and my dad, from behind his newspaper, said “Jerry Lee Lewis could kick their hippie asses.” But no matter, as Joe and I looked at one another we realized this was it, the best it would ever get, and that Loggins & Messina would be there forever to make us feel this good, and it wasn’t even the one toke off that marijuana cigarette we took but didn’t even inhale that was doing it but the permanent and unbreakable bond between Loggins and Messina.

So imagine our heartbreak and sorrow and angry eyes when we found out two years later that they would no longer record together, it was a betrayal even greater than finding my wife in bed with Joe, after which I drank three whole beers and sobbed uncontrollably while listening to On Stage six times in a row, while my son, who was hiding behind the sofa, lifted his innocent little head over the back of the sofa and said, “Hey dad? I betcha Joe and mom are together right now and Joe is fucking mom right in the face.”


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