Spotify playlist: https://spoti.fi/3Sa9aJc
“I want it all
I want it all
I want it all
AND I WANT IT NOW!”
I’ve been in a funk. It’s been this way since I came back from Colorado after Labor Day. It’s not like the time in Vail was a hedonistic romp, rather it was a working vacation. I was either in front of the computer or hiking, mostly, with a few diversions, like the time I was driving back from the outlet shops in Silverthorne and decided to get off I-70 at Copper and take the back way home, almost to Leadville and then hanging a right back through Minturn.
And I’d never been on this specific highway before. And I was surrounded by a bunch of 14’ers. Which are bald on top. And then I hit a ghost town and stopped and thinking about calling Felice about my delay in returning it hit me, no one would ever be out of touch anymore. That ship has sailed. Finding a pay phone to call the ‘rents. Getting told directions. History. Enough time has passed, mobile telephony is no longer new, it’s de rigueur.
Even worse is when the clouds started to cover the sky and my mood started to darken, I was reminded of driving mountain highways all over the west in my 2002 after graduating from college. My entire life was in front of me, not that I was excited, I was more anxious, and now it’s mostly behind me.
And people are dropping like flies. Did you see Hilary Mantel just passed, at 70, after a stroke? She was notoriously overweight, she wrote about it, but still…SEVENTY? And studying her a bit I found out she’s famous for criticizing Kate Middleton. She said the Prince’s wife was a “shop-window mannequin” and…DIDN’T APOLOGIZE FOR IT! In truth it was more a criticism of the monarchy, which I agree with. I mean I sat out all the QEII pomp and circumstance, after all she’s just a person. I mean close up shop now.
So in today’s world it’s hard to expand your reach. It’s even hard to get started, but I’ve accomplished that, I’ve got a base. And my shrink was reciting what a good space I was in, how things were actually pretty good for me. And I said back to him…
“I want it all
I want it all
I want it all
And I want it now”
Not necessarily now, but definitely before I die.
I love “I Want It All,” but I was shocked to just find out it’s on 1989’s “The Miracle.” You see Queen might have sustained in the rest of the world, but their success in the States was a small fraction of what it had been previously, you see the album before the band had switched from Elektra to Capitol. From greatness to lameville. Labels make a difference, at least they used to, back when there were more than three conglomerates, back when a band like Queen could get traction.
So after ending the virtual session, I pulled up “I Want It All” on Qobuz. Unfortunately, it was not in hi-res, but regular CD quality, and ANYBODY CAN HEAR THE DIFFERENCE!
And I know “I Want It All” from FM rock radio, but I know the entire “A Night at the Opera” album, from playing it over and over again, and I got a hankering to hear it, to relive my life in Utah.
“A Night at the Opera” was in hi-res, there was no longer a scrim between me and the music, I was positively involved…
Although I wasn’t. Instead of cherry-picking my favorites I started from the top, with “Death On Two Legs (Dedicated to…).” And it was good, but it wasn’t hitting the spot. “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” was even worse.
Then I hit the meat of the album, my favorites. “I’m in Love with My Car” doesn’t get enough acknowledgement, maybe because it’s a Roger Taylor song, but this is a great bookend to the SoCal car ditties of the early sixties. This is just the man and the machine, nothing else, and today the younger generations Uber instead of getting their license, driving and what kind of car you had used to be a big thing, it used to count, not only were you showing off, you were at one with your automobile, it felt so good as you mashed the accelerator and…
“You’re My Best Friend” was always my favorite from the album and still is. Softer and different from what the band did previously, it had heart that hadn’t been evidenced previously. How great is it? Let me count the ways.
I won’t. I’ll just say “’39” is my third favorite song on “A Night at the Opera.” It’s got an ancient feel, as if sung in an old pub for just a few.
And then I looked at the rest of “A Night at the Opera” and… I didn’t want to hear it. And this surprised me, wasn’t this my favorite Queen album? Did I only know the tracks because it was a different era and we played our records from start to finish, side by side, whereas today that’s not the case? They might make them that way, but very few people listen this way, in a time-challenged world of unlimited choice, people cherry-pick what they want to hear. Doubt me? Look at the stream numbers on Spotify.
As for “Bohemian Rhapsody”… It used to just be an innovative song, now it’s been canonized, I’m not sure I ever need to hear it again.
So I went back to the progenitor, the very first album, that got good press but had no impact. I bought it on the reviews and I dropped the needle and heard…
“Keep Yourself Alive.” Loved it then and still do. And the sound was incredible, the LP was in hi-res.
And then the album segued into “Doing Alright” and I thought how I’d never heard it this clear before, and how I hadn’t heard it in years. Sounded like it was cut in a cathedral.
And now I’m thinking about the band’s career. “Queen II” had some impact, but it was the third album, “Sheer Heart Attack,” that finally made inroads, that was played on the radio. In that summer of ’75 you heard “Killer Queen” on a regular basis, along with Gary Wright’s “My Love Is Alive” and Fleetwood Mac’s first album with Lindsey and Stevie, and all the antiwar trappings, the counterculture, had fallen away and now it was only music and if you were successful, you were a god, an icon, and with FM radio now in every hamlet and burg everybody knew you.
And then came “A Night at the Opera,” a bit different and fully embraced. And now Queen were stars. Who were a constant presence on the airwaves.
I really didn’t want to listen to “Queen II” or “Sheer Heart Attack,” so I jumped to “Fat Bottomed Girls” from “Jazz,” and looked at the track listing and decided to play “Bicycle Race” too, but then I jumped all the way to “The Game,” maybe I had to re-evaluate, maybe “The Game” was my favorite Queen album, the first time I heard “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” I went wild, couldn’t wait for the album to come out and buy it. It was the summer of 1980, this was an unexpected triumph, it didn’t sound like anything else on the radio, it stuck out in a good way, and was a harbinger of what was to come, most notably “Another One Bites the Dust,” which became a true classic, especially when remade by Weird Al as “Another One Rides the Bus,” as a matter of fact I remember that as being Weird Al’s breakthrough.
But I was weirded out. I thought these albums were playable throughout because they were so fantastic throughout, but was the truth that I thought every track was great because I’d listened to the albums so much?
And I didn’t think about it again until I got an e-mail from my nephew Blake this morning.
Blake took his mother, my sister, to the Hollywood Bowl last night to see Loggins & Messina. I’m still debating as to whether I should risk going to a show, and I’ve seen the band and…
I remember when they reunited in 2005 I thought it was already too late, that they’d left a lot of money on the table by not reuniting in the nineties, but I saw them, loved them, and saw them again and…
Kenny Loggins is the bigger star today. But you’ve got to know, he was always the lightweight, he needed Jim Messina to balance him out, to deflate the balloon and add some seriousness.
And I remember hearing “Same Old Wine” on SiriusXM after gassing up at the Shell station in the Palisades, and my mind sings “Vahevala” every once in a while and Blake told me for the first half it was Loggins & Messina and the second half was just Kenny himself, and even though he’d liked it, I felt less like I’d missed out until…
I checked the setlist. Some bands just play the same songs every night, others shuffle the numbers, but Loggins & Messina hadn’t played together since 2018, so I was curious as to what they sang and…
They played “Be Free,” from 1974’s “Mother Lode,” which was a commercial disappointment, but is my absolute favorite, maybe because I listened to it ad infinitum too fearful to change the cassette on the interstate in an absolute blizzard in Idaho.
I would have liked to hear “Vahevala,” which was one of the two encores, and the “Trilogy,” “Lovin’ Me/To Make a Woman Feel Wanted/Peace of Mind,” and I suddenly had a huge desire to listen to it right then, even though I needed to prepare for my radio show by listening to something else, so I pulled up the initial album, hoping it was in hi-res, since so much Columbia stuff is, but it was not, but I decided to listen anyway.
And I’m listening to the “Trilogy” and looking at the track listing remembering the fall of ’71, when I bought the debut.
This was after Poco had splintered, when CSN and sometimes Y had fractured too, but we’d gotten all those solo albums, the soft rock sound was still legitimate, this was before the cognoscenti started to pooh-pooh it at the end of the decade.
And Messina had cred, not only from Poco, but from his tenure in Buffalo Springfield and his time behind the board, which is how he ended up producing Kenny Loggins in the first place, Jim wanted to be on the other side of the glass. But as they made the album… They decided to make it “with Jim Messina,” he was all over the final product and no one knew who Kenny Loggins was at this point.
Talk about album openers. You dropped the needle on “Sittin’ In,” as it was ultimately referred to, and you were immediately whisked away on a journey, “Nobody But You” was undeniable, with an anthemic chorus to boot.
After that came “Danny’s Song,” which has become a classic, but it was overshadowed by the rest of the album back when, who thought it would sustain, but it did.
The third cut is the aforementioned “Vahevala,” with that great, emphatic, Kenny Loggins intro:
“I’m thinking about when I was a sailor
Spent my time on the open seas”
And the track went on a tear, got fast and then slowed back down, like life itself.
Reggae was on the horizon, the American breakthrough with Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” didn’t come until 1972, and the Wailers really didn’t get true traction in the U.S. until the fall of ’76 with their live album and… “Vahevala” even has a steel drum solo and it’s got the island feel that Jimmy Buffett ultimately capitalized on, but this was before…
Oh, did I mention the band? I certainly read the credits, these guys were so good and tight, Merel Bregante, Al Garth, Larry Sims and Jon Clarke (with some sideman help, Milt Holland and Michael Omartian, before he became famous as a producer), this was professional MAGIC!
And then came the “Trilogy” finishing out the side.
As for side 2, it opened on a tear with “Back to Georgia,” not as classic as “Nobody But Me,” not a song for forever, but a song that sounded just great right now.
Then came Kenny’s other iconic number, “House at Pooh Corner,” which even seemed cheesy back then…
“Listen to a Country Song” is in the vein of “Back to Georgia,” a lightweight dance throwaway, but more than listenable and definitely enjoyable.
And then came “Same Old Wine,” which in retrospect is the one true masterpiece on the LP (assuming you’re not the type who idolizes “Danny’s Song).
In truth, the lyrics of “Same Old Wine” are a companion to those of another song released at the same time, the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Yes, it’s the same old wine in a brand new bottle.
“Well we give them the election
That keeps filling our heads full of lies
Can we trust in new directions
When their promises are in disguise
Well someday the truth will catch up
I just hope it don’t catch us all by surprise”
Messina goes on to sing about religion and the war and you don’t feel hammered over the head, we were all fatigued at this point, but we couldn’t get these thoughts out of our mind.
But “Same Old Wine” is over eight minutes long, which leaves time for a stinging guitar solo and so much more. Put it on when you’re alone in the house, you’ll fall in the groove, you’ll be stunned.
And the album ends with Kenny Loggins singing about being in a rock and roll mood, the one that covered the entire country back then, when you could be soft wistful and still be considered rock and roll, that was one of its features, it was a big tent, and the more you explored the more you were embraced.
Which brings us back to the “Trilogy.”
It’s starts off with Messina singing “Lovin’ Me,” a number he wrote with Murray MacLeod. It’s a slow waltz, it’s like a seventies movie, you’re thinking while you’re listening.
Then the song accelerates into “To Make a Woman Feel Wanted,” and then finishes up with “Peace of Mind,” which is classic Loggins & Messina, Jim wrote it and Kenny sings it, Jim balances Kenny’s saccharine instincts and Kenny adds his pure, meaningful voice.
And the whole thing lasts over eleven minutes, but it’s not a second too long, it’s a journey that you’re glad to go on, again and again.
And I’m listening and looking at “Sittin’ In”‘s track listing and I realize there’s no clunker amongst the nine tracks. No definite skip. In addition, there are more than a few, MANY highlights.
But the act’s entire rep has been undercut by the gigantic AM hit “Your Mama Don’t Dance” on the second LP. Despite the now legendary closing cut, “Angry Eyes,” this one track overshadowed everything else the band did, ever. The duo made beaucoup royalties when Poison covered the song and it hit again, but if I hear it I want to hit someone, which is why I never play it. Which is why so many ultimately overlooked the brilliance of “Mother Lode.”
But I was starting to realize… Loggins & Messina’s “Sittin In” is more consistent, maybe even more listenable than any of the Queen albums, there are no clunkers, every song has enough merit to stand on its own, it doesn’t need context to make us listen to it, but we did…listen to it, that is, the entire album.
Not that I never play it, but you can’t talk about it, because of the aforementioned hit and who Kenny Loggins became.
If someone released “Sittin In” today it would become legendary. Then again, there’s not enough money to get it right in the studio, no one wants to fund this kind of work, even though it has universal appeal, just ask Jimmy Buffett, who as David Letterman says, has ALL THE MONEY!
So revisit “Sittin’ In.” When you have time to relax, to set your mind free, or if you’re desirous of that.
Then again, Queen and Loggins & Messina are not mutually exclusive, as I said at the top, I WANT IT ALL!