#145 – Footloose by Kenny Loggins
– I couldn’t even imagine what my favorite memory about this song would be when it came out in 1984. Let’s just start by saying I was pleasantly blindsided by Footloose, and it only took a little over three decades for it to happen.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Movie fans will know Footloose was the title song for the 1984 Kevin Bacon star-maker movie of the same name. Okay, I know he earned a lot of notice for supporting roles in Animal House and Diner, but this is the one that put him on posters hung in teenaged girls’ bedrooms and convinced a lot of shy guy teens that dancing could be a way to get noticed by those girls. For the boomer generation it would be comparable to the beach party movies of the 1960’s. The main difference was the costume designers were inspired by Stetsons, jeans and boots, rather than bleached hair, bikinis and baggies (for you surfer dudes).
But Footloose wasn’t just a hit for the rural teenage crowd. I remember seeing it with my girlfriend at a theater in New York City and enjoying the music and energy. It wasn’t a classic like Animal House and Diner, but it was a fun night out. There’s also a good chance we went line dancing in an urban club afterwards.
The song by 80’s hit-maker Kenny Loggins was on every jukebox in New York City during the winter of 1984. And if no one sacrificed a quarter to play it, chances were good you’d still hear it. Since MTV was actually a music video station at the time, television sets hanging over every bar would rely on the channel for a background soundtrack. Since the Footloose music video was in heavy rotation, you could look up once or twice every hour to view clips of Loggins lip-syncing and Bacon boot scootin’.
The song scooted through my mind on the morning of January 27. I didn’t own a copy at that time even though I do know, thanks to the explanation why coming shortly. But I couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard it, so this 80’s dream-maker joins the subliminal category of Dream Songs.
Looking back three decades, I always felt January in NYC was the dreariest time of year. I loved the holiday decorations that filled the city with lights and a festive mood through December and until after the New Year’s celebrations, but January is when they all came down. Along with everybody’s celebratory spirits.
Okay, that’s not true because there was always something exciting to do in the city. It just seemed good to write that to raise the dramatic effect for my following story.
So, to continue, when the Christmas lights came down it signaled the start of a long cold wait until spring.
I was never a fan of that mood shift and did my best to prolong the season and avoid the dreary. I’m pretty sure my best effort was during the winter of Footloose. At the time I was managing and bartending at a cozy restaurant in Gramercy Park. And since I had some, very slight control over the place, I told the staff to leave the Christmas lights up a little longer than usual.
In fact, if I had my way Christmas lights would be a year round decorative mainstay.
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When you think about it, they pretty much are when you visit tropical island resorts – whether in the tropics or Manhattan – or even as summer lighting at many outdoor restaurants today. Wish I could take credit for that, but I doubt our place in Gramercy Park would qualify as an inspiration. Plus my request didn’t last as long as I wanted. When the owners were calling the shots during one of my days off, I came back to work to find the only exciting light came from MTV videos on the television over the bar. The decorations had been packed away in the restaurant’s basement for another year.
But that didn’t prevent me from making my point at home.
We had celebrated Christmas with a real tree in my apartment on East 22nd Street. After it had dried out enough to be declared a fire hazard, we took off the lights and decorations and moved it outside onto my small balcony. I felt it gave us a forest view rather than an urban view when looking out of the window. Plus, it looked great after a snowfall. Another bonus was as a guaranteed conversation starter if we had guests or when any of my friends felt like shouting three floors up from the sidewalk with jokes about my outdoor decorating skills.
That particular Christmas tree lasted until May when it became too obvious enough was enough. Spring had sprung in the city and it was time to sweep off the dried needles and get the hibachi and a couple of chairs ready for summer.
It was time for the disposal…
Manhattan bars and restaurants could stay open until 4 am, which is when my shift would start to end. I say “start” because that was when the regular customers had to leave. I would need to close up, count the money and clean up (a bit anyway), while making sure I kept a few friends’ glasses full, so I’d have late-night company. It was a cheap way to avoid being in a dark Midtown Manhattan bar alone. On this particular night, my girlfriend was part of this posse since we still had another job to do later.
We knew garbage pickup was that morning and we needed to have our final Christmas relic off the balcony and on the curb.
We walked up to 22nd Street and she waited on the sidewalk while I took the elevator upstairs. I opened the sliding door to our balcony, grabbed the tree (if I forgot to tell you it was large – it was), and dangled it over the metal railing. I waited for her to give me the “okay” sign and when she signaled no one else was in sight, I let it go.
The tree fell three floors and hit the sidewalk with a soft explosion of dried pine needles.
I took the elevation down and dragged it to the curb where we left it resting on top of the building’s garbage pile. Then laughed for a few weeks imaging the faces on the pickup crew. They had to be at least a bit confused wondering what kind of misfits would wait until May to throw out their Christmas tree.
Ho, ho, ho!
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Okay, fast forward three decades.
The movie Footloose was turned into a Broadway musical in 1998. It’s gone on to be a favorite production in theaters around the world. In 2016 it was being produced as an Equity (that’s the actor’s union and a big deal) show in a large outdoor venue near us. And as luck would have it, our son Paul was cast as Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon’s role). I’m sure my wife Dancin’ Deb and I weren’t there for every show, but we came pretty close. We also dragged as many family and friends as possible to watch his star-making, and Equity-card earning performance.
And as chance would have it, Kevin Bacon and his band The Bacon Brothers had a gig one evening just a few miles away. No, don’t get your hopes up for a BIG surprise because he didn’t make an appearance. Of course, I still can’t figure out why since I sent him a personal invitation via Twitter to check out the new kid who was getting the dancing ban lifted in Bomont, Texas. If you know the movie or the show, you know what I’m referring to. I’m also sure Bacon didn’t know me, but since The Classic Rocker is so…
Okay. On second thought, maybe he didn’t see the tweet.
The bottom line is as an over-enthusiastic and over-proud stage dad, The Classic Rocker not only owns a copy of the song Footloose, but also the entire Broadway show soundtrack. And as a small admission of guilt that only those of you reading this far will know, my playlist includes our son’s live performance. It’s lucky we have recording devices small enough to fit in a dad’s pocket and not noticeable to theater ushers.
Unlike a Christmas tree on a New York City apartment balcony in May.
For my own entertainment purposes, I’ll throw in an extra video. Below is the Kenny Loggins / Kevin Bacon 1984 MTV mainstay. Following that, I hope you’ll stick around long enough to enjoy an energetic curtain call as Paul makes his bow memorable during his reign as Ren more than three decades later. Yep, just call me an over-enthusiastic and over-proud stage dad.
Here’s a video of Kids Gone Wild from the movie Footloose. Oh yeah, vocals by Kenny Loggins:
And for an energetic curtain call, here’s son Paul as Ren McCormack about three decades later:
To purchase the movie soundtrack with Footloose by Kenny Loggins, visit Amazon.com
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