Friday, July 22, 2011

The Loggins/McDonald Alliance Is Born

Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards ... Loggins/McDonald. Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it? But probably more Grammys.

In 1979 the Loggins/McDonald alliance revealed itself to the world with two irresistible slices of AM majesty. Although released on Loggins' solo album Keep The Fire, "This Is It" was co-written by (and features prominent backing vocals from) a certain Doobie Brother. You may assume that this pure chunk of late '70s smoothness is a simple, generic love song. However, you would be wrong. From Wikipedia:
At one point in the song's evolution, its melody was underway, but the lyrics were incomplete. Loggins moved it forward after a visit to his ailing father, who had undergone a series of surgeries for vascular problems stemming from small strokes and was discouraged at the prospect of another. His perspective on the lyrics then changed: "'I've got it,' I announced to Michael, it's not a love song. It's a life song."
Yes, Kenny, a "life" song - from two men who truly know a thing or two about life. Although the one needing medical attention might be Kenny and not his father. He can't even breathe properly. "Theeeeeere've been times in my liiiiiiife/I've been wondering whyyyyy/Still somehow I believe we always surviiiiiiiive." Somebody get the man a doctor.

The second major collaboration, "What A Fool Believes," as initially released on Loggins' solo album Nightwatch, doesn't sound like much - maybe a filler track at best, or a Steely Dan B-side.

McDonald must have heard this version and thought, "Jesus, Kenny, what the hell did you do to our song?" (As one YouTube user put it, "Kenny Loggins Is My Dude...But im Sure A Gang of Yall Agree...He Aint Fuckin Wit Micheal Mac on This Joint.") Because in the supple hands of the Doobie Brothers, "What A Fool Believes" became a beast, with more hooks than a fishing supply store. This brutal combination of stately piano, wobbly synthesizer, judiciously placed hand claps, soaring falsetto chorus, and a poignant lyric of unrequited love pushed disco from the top of the charts for a couple of weeks in 1979. Disco! In 1979! Allegedly, one of the soaring falsetto vocals in the background is Michael Jackson, but the army of multi-tracked McDonalds is so overpowering, it's hard to tell.

For our Yacht Rock heroes, what a long, strange trip it had been. Ah, but while Loggins and McDonald were slowly rising to glory in Los Angeles, thousands of miles away, in the gritty city of Philadelphia, another fateful pairing was laying down a challenge.

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