Kevin Cronin Weighs In

Hi Bob,

I love John Boylan.

His blog about the recording of “Roll With The Changes” and our ‘Tuna Fish’ album, and the genius of Paul Grupp, and the enduring support of Epic Records during those golden years of the music industry, and his complimentary comments about the REO band members were all cool, but he left out a huge part of the story: John Boylan.

He didn’t mention the meeting that Gary Richrath and I had with him and some other Epic Brass up at the Black Rock in early 1978. Gary and I came in strong on the heels of our first gold album, ‘Live, You Get What You Play For’, and demanded, or begged depending on your outlook, that we self produce our next studio album. We felt we had the songs, and we didn’t want to take any chances that an another outside producer would fail to understand us.

To our surprise Ron Alexemburg, the president of Epic at the time, actually said yes…with one condition: A member of the Epic A&R staff would sit in with us and make sure that with the inmates running the asylum things would stay relatively sane. We knew of John Boylan’s artist friendly reputation and were big time hoping he was our guy.

After three weeks of recording at Sound City I was not thrilled with what I was hearing and felt like we needed to scrap those masters and go back to SIR for more rehearsal. This was a crazy fucking idea. Our first shot at producing and we are totally blowing it. This could not possibly be happening.

That is when I started to really get to know John Boylan. He had been sitting quietly in the control room, reading, watching, listening, observing our process, answering our occasional questions, and getting to know us. When I got up the nerve to share my doubts about the tracks I totally expected Boylan to tell me I was out of my mind.  But instead something strange and wonderful happened…

John Boylan understood me. He saw my passion and devotion to those songs and he got how important it was to me that we get it right. It was do or die time, and his advice was a resounding: Do. That support emboldened me. It changed me forever. Up until then I had been developing a sense of faith in my instincts, but in that moment I locked into a firm trust in my gut and in letting the songs be my guide. Everything I have done musically since that day has been in total service of The Song. For me, that is the secret to producing records, and I learned it from John Boylan.

There is a post script/fairy tale ending to this story which adds to John’s oxymoronic status as a legendary music business good guy. I feel compelled to share it…

A few months into our sessions at Sound City, John ran into a scheduling issue. Since pressing the figurative reset button, we had fallen horribly behind in our recording. Meanwhile, John had a overlapping commitment to produce Little River Band in Australia. By that time I guess he felt reasonably confident that with Grupp running the board and us getting into the flow of making the record, he could give us our wings. It was a huge vote of confidence, and off he flew to the land down under. But here is the amazing part..

John had been charged by Epic to be part of our production team, and be compensated accordingly. We understood there was a pie to be split up fairly among Gary, our drummer Alan Gratzer, John, and myself. Okay, the amazing part…

When John told me he had to leave for Australia, and that he trusted us to take charge, he also told me that he was giving us his production points…yes, you heard me right. John Boylan voluntarily gave us back his production points! ‘You Can Tuna Piano, But You Can’t Tune A Fish’ went on to sell four million plus world wide and still counting, so those points have added up to some pretty groovy mailbox money.

Do any of you know anyone who on their own gives up points on a record which they spent months of their life involved in? To this day I know of only one…John Boylan.

I recently heard that John is healthy, nurturing young artists, and making new music…as it should be. My warmest, fuzziest thoughts go out through cyberspace and hopefully reach you John. Please say hi to our mad genius friend The Grupper, and thank you for all you have taught me.

Kevin Cronin, REO Speedwagon

PS. The songs from the Tuna Album continue to be “lighter/iPhone in the air” moments of every REO show, so you and Grupp are with us in spirit every night.

PPS. Yo Bob, I appreciated the straight shooting in your recent blog in the wake of my friend Gary Richrath’s passing. I am totally cool with fair criticism balanced with credit where it is due. Keep telling it like it is bro.


From: John Boylan
Subject: RE: Rhinofy-Roll With The Changes

Hi Bob,

“Roll With the Changes” was on REO’s breakthrough studio album, “You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish.” Some background: the album was recorded mostly at the legendary Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, engineered and co-produced by my longtime friend and frequent collaborator, Paul Grupp. “PG,” as we called him, was a superior engineer noted for scrupulous attention to detail, and he should get lots of kudos for the sound of the record. Paul is still active today despite three bouts of cancer, all of which he beat with the same tenacity he brought to his studio work.

REO was a classic rock band, working their asses off on the road, building a fan base, and constantly improving their art and their craft. The combination of Kevin’s writing, singing, and leadership, together with Gary’s guitar and the masterful playing of Neal, Bruce, and Alan was one of those happy combinations that added up to wonderful rock and roll experience – blue-collar, Midwestern music at its best.

The REO story could never happen today. I was in the A&R Department at Epic Records during this time, and we nurtured this band through several albums before they finally broke through. No current record company would keep the faith for anywhere near that long, and that is the real tragedy of the 21st century music industry (or what’s left of it).

John Boylan

The Bill Graham Exhibit

Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution

Music was our tech.

The only difference was the older generation pooh-poohed it, our parents were not our friends, and you had to leave your house to experience it. But over the course of a decade the entire younger generation was infected by the sounds made by a bunch of renegade players who weren’t interested in getting rich so much as making a statement, living life as opposed to checking off boxes in some life equivalency test.

I almost didn’t go. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t get around to it. The above exhibit closes this weekend, go if you can, if you’re not in L.A. it’ll come near you eventually, I think.

Not that it’s about what you see so much as what you feel.

The sixties were fifty years ago. And walking through the exhibit it feels like it. A strange time in a faraway place…wait, it happened right here! On the Sunset Strip and up north in the Haight. Back when California was the epicenter of everything new and different, the Golden State was where limits were tested and culture was developed. Actually, it still is. Taxes might be high, but the economy is humming. The Texas Miracle has been revealed to be a sham, Florida is the home of crazies and revelers, and in California the bleeding edge is being explored. Not only in Silicon Valley, but Silicon Beach. California is where you come to make a difference. In D.C. you kowtow to the powers that be and do what’s expedient, in California you ignore the rules as you invent a new game, it’s not only the ancestral home of Steve Jobs, but the adopted home of Elon Musk.

But it’s different. The exhibit blames Reagan, the legitimization of greed and the cutback of cash for social programs, the Gipper ripped apart the social fabric of our nation and we’re still paying the price. Clinton may have erased the national debt, but income equality soared. But when the Fillmore East ruled tickets were three, four and five dollars.

The Fillmore East. They had one of the green football jerseys the staff wore. I’ve neither seen one nor thought of one in…half a century!

Some of the artifacts are positively mind-blowing.

They’ve got Bill’s watch, you know, the one with two faces, for east coast and west coast time. It’s legendary, but I’ve never even seen a picture of it, and here it is!

Grace Slick’s Woodstock dress. It’s not threadbare, but it’s aged. It seems an ancient relic.

Kind of like Janis Joplin’s stage outfit. Up close and personal not exotic, but from a distance… This was back when things were handmade and looked like it. When electric windows in automobiles were rare and broke, when you could still work on your own car, when there was a business in repair, before the replacement society took hold.

And Duane Allman’s guitar from “Fillmore East.”

And Pete Townshend’s Gibson from the Metropolitan Opera House. It’s just staggering, you’ve seen all the pictures…AND THERE IT IS!

The exhibit starts with history, like a typical museum, ancient stories told in black and white, Bill emigrating from Europe and ending up in America. Becoming infatuated with Latin dance, working in the Catskills. Talk about something else that’s history, Grossinger’s ruled, now it’s been completely forgotten.

And then artifacts from the Mime Troupe era and…

The Mime Troupe. Kinda like the Occupy movement, but with an edge. Protest, questioning authority, they were de rigueur in the sixties. Today we argue over politically correct speech, worried about triggering bad thoughts of college students, all of us bending the rules so we can take our support animals on the plane. But back then we weren’t out for ourselves, but EVERYBODY! And we tackled the big issues, racial inequality, war… Today everybody’s supposed to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and no one can question the direction of the government…USA, USA!

And you see pics of the Charlatans and the Warlocks. I recognized Dan Hicks, you probably don’t know who he is. But with his Hot Licks on Blue Thumb Records he cut a track entitled “I Scare Myself” with a violin solo by Sid Page that was transcendent. And then… There was nothing. I ran into Dan twenty years back, he was still good, but his dreams of returning to even greater success were dashed. You see it was a moment of opportunity, that was seized by outsiders, true artists, who looked at the world a different way. Today artists have been overrun by wannabes, believing their desire is enough for success, ain’t that a laugh.

And there’s the document declaring 1967 the “Summer of Love.” I didn’t even know it existed! For decades most people thought the Summer of Love was ’68, after the assassinations, when most people knew who these bands were. But the truth is San Francisco was on the cutting edge and there was no internet to amplify the message, it took a long time for word to spread.

And then…

It was all about going to the show. Sure, you wanted to hang with the throng, but even more you wanted to connect with the music. The musicians were gods, who emanated seemingly from nowhere, who we followed to…Monterey, Woodstock and beyond. The last place you wanted to be was home, inside. Today, that’s where all the action is. We commune online, used to be in person. And there was a lot of wasted time, and there was no delusion that everyone could be a leader, only the anointed few. But we wanted to participate, we joined the movement…against the war, instructed by music and those who played it.

Music was the culture.

It’s not the culture today.

Grace Slick is a grandmother. She’s got white hair and hasn’t performed in eons. She’s been replaced by two-dimensional queens whose sole desire is to be admired and become wealthy. Whereas Ms. Slick couldn’t stop being a spanner in the works, making trouble. As for her band…Graham was pissed that whenever they got some cash they wanted to stay home and smoke dope, work went out the window.

And Pigpen was still alive, but if you weren’t from San Francisco you had no idea who Ron McKernan was. The Deadhead phenomenon didn’t arrive until the seventies. When the Fillmores were closed and rock went on a giant victory lap that lasted decades.

But now it’s done.

We’ve got the trappings, but none of the soul.

And those times are not coming back.

But the truth is only the baby boomers lived through it. Young ‘uns have no idea that festivals were a new thing, and security was so bad they all ended up being free, FOR YEARS!

We knew not only the tunes, but the players and the equipment. I saw a Kustom cabinet on stage.

And in the process, we lost not only Bill, but Janis, Jimi, Tim Buckley and so many more. Drugs were killers, but old age has taken so many more. Buddy Miles, John Cipollina, Scott McKenzie…

Dust in the wind.

There are so many things I like about 2015. I’m never bored and never lonely. And I endured extreme angst and aloneness for decades. The only time I felt connected was when I was at the gig with my tribe. We were all mesmerized by the musicians and the music.

Bill Graham facilitated that.

The way Andy Grove facilitated the computer revolution with Intel.

But chips are machines.

And rock depended on machines to make its point, but the truth is it emanated from human beings, imperfect, with ranging thoughts. We lionize Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos but they’ve got no soul. We’re the heart of America, but we’ve punted, forgone all of our power, so busy paying fealty to the device and app makers.

It was a moment in time. We were all so young. Everybody went to the show the way everybody owns a smartphone. The introduction of the new iPhone is nothing compared to the release of a new Beatles album. Radio told us it was coming out, we bought it and spun it for months, everywhere, you could hear the sound coming out of windows across this great country of ours.

And if you went to San Francisco you put some flowers in your hair. You threw off convention and let the music flow through your brain. You set your mind free.

In the Golden State.

It all happened here.

Will it happen again?

If so, look for it to begin where you’re so many time zones behind you can barely communicate with outsiders, where the populace is a rainbow of colors and we accept people of different ethnicities just like we embraced Carlos Santana. When he and his music were still dangerous.

I know so much of this stuff. I went to the Fillmore East, mere months after it opened, even though it seemed like years back then. I bought more albums than anybody I knew, the music saved my life.

But I’m stunned at what a long strange trip it’s been.

And how far behind the past really is.

When record execs were faceless and sold the music as opposed to created it.

When radio was the tribal drum and the deejays were on our side.

When seemingly every week my generation was starting something new and testing limits.

When life was about opportunity.

When we gave without worrying so much about receiving.

When we all bought guitars so we could play along.

When we defeated a President, Johnson didn’t run again and we thought we’d won.

What happened?

I’m still pondering it.

But one thing I know for sure…I WAS THERE!

Bernie Sanders

Could this be the future of the music business?


Oldsters lament the disappearance of this. Wherein labels subsidized the creativity of musicians. The term has been bastardized in the twenty first century, “artist development” means jetting an act from nowhere to stardom over a short period of time, usually in one album cycle. But the artist development of yore was based on seeing something nascent in the act that could shine in the future. It wasn’t about having a hit on the first record, employing songwriters for hire to ensure this, but laying down the essence of the act’s vision on wax and then going on the road and trying to develop a fanbase, one which would spread the word. Sure, radio was an integral element, but prior to the corporatization, classification and codification of FM in the midseventies, with the resulting tight playlists, the goal was to infect the audience and have it spread the word. Fans would beget more fans, and when the johnny-come-latelies came on board there was a treasure trove of material for them to digest, illustrating how the act had gotten from there to here. There just weren’t hits, but different sounds, different producers, experiments, one felt one was invested in a living, breathing entity, it was rewarding.


Which is another way to say “credibility.” Used to be fans believed in the acts, which is why “Rolling Stone” burgeoned, not only did we want to get closer, we wanted to know what our heroes had to say. Now we’re back to a “16” magazine formula. Which is information with no depth. But the truth is we all need someone to believe in. Unfortunately, that role has been usurped today by corporations, people fight about Android versus iOS more passionately than they do about any acts. If you don’t stand for anything, you’ve got no Velcro to hook people’s loops with. You start outside and then drag the center to you. Which is what Bernie Sanders is doing. He’s focusing on the issue of income inequality, something none of the other candidates wants anything to do with. Oh, they pay lip service to it, but the truth is they depend on the fat cats for cash, they’re not about to undermine their game. But Bernie Sanders has raised nearly as much as Hillary Clinton in the last cycle, $26 to her $28 million. And he’s done it through small donations from individuals. Corporations are no match for the wrath of individuals, never forget that. Individuals ruined the record business. Individuals can turn on a company or a creator in an instant if you don’t treat people right, the news is filled with rip-off enterprises. Whereas if you spread your base wide, you can’t be hurt by a few defections, your house is built upon a solid foundation.


Don’t be afraid to tackle the tough issues and don’t be afraid to state unpopular positions. Ed Sheeran, one of the biggest acts in the world, has gone on record again and again about the virtues of Spotify. He’s winning while those bitching about streaming are losing. The public doesn’t care that someone moved your cheese, that you can’t make the money you used to in the old paradigm. The public is living in the new world. Which is why all the vinyl comeback stories are irrelevant, as well as the “Billboard” chart. That chart is incomprehensible. Weighted for sales and track equivalent albums and streaming… They print these statistics in the antiquated press and the consumers completely ignore them. Give me something I can understand, obfuscation is for wimps. You know, those afraid to stand up for what they believe is right because someone might get pissed. And the left is as guilty as the right, with all its trigger notices and other politically correct b.s. If you’re trying to please everybody, you’re ultimately pleasing nobody.


Reddit is the epicenter of the Bernie Sanders fundraising campaign. I bet you few in Washington know what it is, and if they do they don’t go there. And Reddit is all about community. That’s one of the reasons Apple Music failed, because Jimmy Iovine’s been living in the bubble so long he doesn’t know how the internet works. There aren’t fan playlists on Apple Music, there’s no sharing. People want to own the campaign and they want to own music. (Not “own” as in CDs or MP3s, if you can’t read and comprehend you’re lost in the new economy. Sign up for an English course, it’ll do you good.) Once you exclude people, you’re dead. You’ve got to welcome them inside, you’ve got to play on their level. Information spreads slow and fast. Usually the fast stuff is evanescent, here today gone tomorrow train-wreck stuff. Everything worth owning, worth paying attention to, takes a long time to gain traction. Don’t cry if the media is not paying attention, this is the same media focusing on Trump and Biden, both of whom have no chance of winning, they do it so they can sell papers/advertising, they’re on to another story tomorrow. Bernie Sanders gets little press because his story is not sexy, he too can’t win but he’s not a buffoon and he doesn’t come from an exalted place and the only people who care are his supporters. But he’s got supporters! Turns out for all his press Scott Walker did not! Proving, once again, not to believe the press, statistics are everything. Data rules. And the data illustrates that Bernie Sanders has a dedicated fanbase which is working for free and ponying up dollars. Never dismiss an army of millions.


Bernie is 74, and his campaign is being driven forward by those a third his age. In music we want malleable, the younger the better, easier to impress the target demo of teenagers, with money and desire. Age is just a number if you’re still cooking, still open to change, if you still care. How is it that Bernie Sanders is relevant at his age while most of his contemporaries are retired? Yet, people still pay beaucoup bucks to see the musicians of his vintage, like the Stones and the slightly less old Eagles. They built upon the above formula. Instead of criticizing the internet, Don Henley should be embracing it, mobilizing fans instead of alienating them. His new music works, it’s just his marketing message that’s all screwed up. The internet may have ruined the record business but it’s also its savior. Maybe Don should go on Reddit. Maybe he should depend upon his diehard fans to market him as opposed to the traditional media. And I focus on Don because he’s still vital, he’s still testing limits, as opposed to those who are afraid to put out new music or employ the hitmaker and cowriter du jour. You dig your own grave. Or climb out of it and keep marching forward.

Income inequality is the story of our age. People are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Yet no one with any power is doing anything to address this issue. Supposedly taxes are anathema, the government can’t shoot straight and socialism is death. But Bernie Sanders is a socialist and his message is resonating with so many? Instead of running from what the bullies say can’t be done, maybe you should run towards it! Deliver what the people want as opposed to what the institutions say you should deliver.

Hillary Clinton will probably win. And that’s fine with me, she’s a professional, unlike the leading Republican bozos. To elect Trump or Fiorina or Carson would be like asking Mark Zuckerberg to produce the new Metallica record. Yup, since he’s rich he must know best. Used to be professionalism meant something in music, you honed your craft and paid your dues and you got a shot at the big time. That didn’t mean you won, it just meant you got a chance. But today’s wannabes believe the crap fed to them by the leeches selling services and the oldsters who can no longer make a buck and we don’t stop hearing how music is broken and you can’t get rich.

Come on, music ain’t broken at all, it’s there for the taking.

Bernie Sanders ain’t good looking, and he’s a member of the tribe to boot! Gays can get married, we’ve got a black President, and just because nincompoops keep asking for Obama’s birth certificate that does not take away from the fact that he was elected twice and still rules.

That’s the power of the people.

And that’s what we’re talking about here. The people will support you. Gatekeepers’ influence is greatly diminished. You’ve got to get your hands dirty and wade into the vast wilderness known as the internet to find out if your message resonates, and if it does you’ve got to build a tribe one by one, like guerilla warfare. Isn’t that why the Viet Cong won, they had the hearts and minds?

Those rules still apply. It’s war out there. Just ask Mike Ovitz. Who ruled until the game changed.

And the game has changed across America today. We’re looking for heroes in a link-bait world where duplicity rules and everybody’s out for a buck.

But there’s plenty of money out there if you resonate, like I said, Bernie Sanders just raised $26 million.

But you’ve got to know how to ask for it.

The revolution will not be televised. It will be streamed on the internet. Everybody clamoring for a return to the past is toast. CDs are history as is manufacturing in America. But that does not mean people don’t want music and jobs! You’ve just got to thread the needle in a new way.

The audience is ready, willing and able.

Give ’em everything you’ve got.

And if you’re not in it for the long haul, if you’re not willing to drip some blood on both the saddle and the tracks, we’re not interested. We’re looking for a few good lifers, who believe in themselves and are willing to play to their fans as opposed to the institutions.

Are you ready?

I am.

Bernie’s $26 million – “Bernie Sanders’s Campaign, Hitting Fund-Raising Milestone, Broadens Focus”


“Young Grape Picker Gives Sanders a Cash Boost – Tech-savvy 23-year-old’s Reddit group helps Democratic presidential candidate raise $26 million”


I want you to listen to these two tracks from Henley’s latest LP. They’re not singles and they’re at the very end of the album so they’ve been effectively buried, but I point them out to anyone who believes old people can’t make good music that resonates, especially with their core audience. In a world where everybody old seems to want to be young, Henley sings “I like where I am now.” Older is happier, statistics state this, data rules…if you’re paying attention. Furthermore, “Train In The Distance” reminisces about the past without getting smarmily nostalgic. It’s got that album cut feel baby boomers treasure. And through the magic of the internet, you can sample these wares without paying for them. Isn’t this better than keeping the music locked up like in the past? If you like it, you can spread the word. You can pay and get a higher quality stream and pick and choose the songs you want to play on your mobile. This is the new world, everything is different now:
Henley – Spotify

A Little More Loggins & Messina

I’m stunned at the amount of love out there for this band.

The problem with writing about old music is those who remember do, and those who don’t don’t care. It’s a well-known fact that the Beatles and Zeppelin have survived, that Black Sabbath and the Doors have gotten an unforeseen renaissance, but so many of the old hit bands have faded into the woodwork, and I don’t think they’re going to radiate. But for those of us who were there…they inhabit a sacred place inside us, where we store all our memories, triggered by the sounds.


From the second LP, the one with the unexpected hit, “Your Mama Don’t Dance.” But as obvious a cut as that was, almost lowest common denominator, the album ended with this seven minute and forty second opus that has survived amongst fans longer than the hit, it was even an FM staple, all because of the PLAYING!

That’s right, the first minute and a half was a regular song, but then there began an extended instrumental passage, akin to the fourth side of “Fillmore East,” i.e. “Whipping Post.” And as heretical as that might sound today, back then music was a big tent, you could like everything and be proud of said fact. Actually, we’re returning to that era, today’s youngsters like hip-hop and pop and EDM and…just check the Spotify Top 50.

So, your mind is set free to drift and you’re nodding your head, this is a perfect marijuana song, if you partook of said substance, which was illegal, but widely available, and then… At the 6:45 mark the band lights up and the vocals come back in and…it truly is like that last moment of “Whipping Post.”

A tour de force.


Just an album cut on the second LP, but it’s so endearing, so intimate, so heartfelt, from back before anybody could sing, before Auto-Tune. When being able to write and play were not only badges of honor, they were nearly a prerequisite to making it.

A Kenny Loggins song without wimpiness, back when we were all wearing hiking boots at the height of the Back To The Land movement. This played well in the cabin, by the fire. Or maybe you were picking your guitar on the porch in the snow, like Stephen Stills…


Actually, they spell it without the “e,” it’s WHISKY!

Did you see that article in today’s WSJ about daters evaluating prospects on spelling and grammar?

“What’s Really Hot on Dating Sites? Proper Grammar”

But most people had no idea of the true moniker back before the internet.

But one thing’s for sure, you don’t do ANYTHING mellow at the Whisky anymore. I was driving by last night and the headliner was Trixter. Really? They’re still together? Makes me feel sad that these bands still slog it out and don’t give up and do something else. Then again, you’re bagging groceries at Safeway, you’re practicing law and someone realizes who you are…that’d be hard to handle.


From the third album, “Full Sail,” which was a return to form. Ultimately there was a hit single, “A Love Song,” but this is the best cut on the LP, another intimate Messina number. You’ll get it.


You can hear the sailboat noises at the beginning, the spars, the ocean sounds, if you’ve ever been on the water, even on the dock, you’ll recognize them.

Another extended opus, “Sailin’ The Wind,” is mellower than “Angry Eyes” and not quite as good, but just as satisfying in another way.

We used to get bored, we used to be reflective. You’d put this on and lie on your couch and view the waning day and think about what once was and what still might be.

I love it.


From the spring ’74 live album “On Stage.”

I didn’t buy it.

Remember this was back when we had bigger eyes than wallets, we could not afford everything, so different from today. Back when every hit group went on a double live album victory lap after a few hits. And then there was the reverse, most famously “Frampton Comes Alive,” which followed four relatively unsuccessful studio LPs and ultimately graduated to monster success.

I’d hear this live album on the radio now and again, and I always liked it, but there were so many other records to buy, the seventies don’t have a great rep, but that spring saw the release of Aerosmith’s breakthrough “Get Your Wings” and Ry Cooder’s “Paradise and Lunch”…and I was still listening to Wendy Waldman’s debut from Christmas ’73, as well as Joni’s huge “Court and Spark” and…


And then comes the piece-de-resistance, the album with no hit singles, that I love best.

You see I was couchsurfing. We didn’t call it that back then, but that’s what it was. From apartment to apartment in West L.A. While I killed time before I left town to start my job at the Goldminer’s Daughter in Alta, Utah.

Only a strange thing happened a week before I was supposed to leave.

I broke my leg in a freak ski accident.

A long story. Driving to Big Bear in the push-button Valiant of a German national the car’s transmission caught fire on the way up the hill (which is long, winding and steep). A fire truck serendipitously came by and put out the flames but then we were standing in the middle of nowhere with no transportation. So what did we do? HITCHHIKE! And thinking no one would have a ski rack in early November, and that my 207 Dynamics wouldn’t fit inside anybody’s car, I took along the shorter shop skis which had bindings which would not hold and ten feet in the air, in the middle of a jump, one ski came off and I landed with one foot in the snow and the other foot on its ski and I twisted and tumbled and I didn’t experience extreme pain but I knew something was wrong.

They had to carry the basket over dirt, I had x-rays, my fibula was broken. They set it and I rode back to town in the back of a VW bug, with the distressed extremity lying over two other people in the back seat.


And therefore I was in L.A. during Christmas, unexpectedly. So, jonesing for music I went with my sister to Licorice Pizza with my dad’s credit card and purchased eight albums, one of which was Loggins & Messina’s “Mother Lode.”
And when my college buddy John Hughes showed up after losing his job on the Ford assembly line, there was a recession going on, he had his cassette deck with him and I taped each and every one of those albums and they were the soundtrack to my driving for the whole next year, to Utah and Mammoth and points beyond.

Like Ketchum, Idaho, otherwise known as Sun Valley.

I was on the interstate in a raging snowstorm. Yes, I had snow tires, I wasn’t an idiot. Studded, actually. Driving through southern Idaho towards Twin Falls the cassette in the Blaupunkt was “Mother Lode” and it was so scary I couldn’t risk scrounging for another tape to insert so I just listened to “Mother Lode” over and over and over again. Not only was it the soundtrack to that trip, it still is. I think of either the drive or the tunes and then I think of the other, they’re intertwined.

Imagine yourself on a gray winter day, snow blowing sideways, in the middle of nowhere, no sun in sight, alone in your automobile, with no cellphone, no outside communication…

And then play this record.


My second favorite Loggins & Messina song at this point (number one is “Same Old Wine”), “Changes” is a tour de force with an indelible guitar sound, changes as fast and furious as any ride at Disneyland and the memorable couplet…

Turn around there’s Uncle Sam
He’s got his hand down in your pants

Some lines just stay with you, these are at the front of my brain. But they’re part of a longer verse…

You work yourself to death
So you can have a home
You put your money aside
To call it all your own
You finally save enough
And you’re thinking you’re gonna advance
Turn around there’s Uncle Sam
He’s got his hand down in your pants

In the internet era, we romanticize the days of yore, the old record business.

But the truth is the old record business was a killer, this was long before Don Passman’s book, acts were unsophisticated and regularly got ripped-off. And even if you were on the road, tickets were only a few bucks. The ten dollar ducat was years off.

Yes, being a rock star was hard…

You give your life away
For what in return
A chance to see your name in lights
While you learn
Your manager he’s home
And a-workin’ away
To keep you on the road
And a-movin’ from day to day


This is another quiet Messina number.

All the pieces are here.

Incredible playing, listen to that mandolin in the left ear, yes, I’m listening on headphones. Great lyrics, changes and vocals.

I want to get away and live my life
In the rivers and trees
I want to spend my days making wine
And be free, and be free, and be free

Actually, I always thought it was “making RHYME,” but all the lyric sites, even Spotify itself, say otherwise.

But what difference does it make?

I graduated from college and went on a two year journey of discovery. Skiing the world’s best powder and getting the world’s worst case of mononucleosis.

Nobody does that anymore. Not anybody who graduates from a good college. You’ve immediately got to start your career, money is most important.

But it wasn’t back then. Developing yourself, experiencing life, those were paramount. And the music instructed you to do so. Who you were as opposed to what you owned was key. Sure, a nice car and a nice bod helped, but they weren’t everything, we could see through those.


It starts around the bend, over the hill, and then comes into view.

Incredible guitar picking, never mind great horns.

Back when Kenny was still credible, great voice, and…

We were all trying to get a hold of ourselves, constantly.

When we weren’t letting go.


Written by Messina, but sung by bass player Larry Sims. Imagine that! Sure, John & Paul let Ringo sing their compositions, but by the seventies, everybody was starting to look out for themselves, ultimately the coke exacerbated this, made everybody paranoid.

“Keep Me In Mind” is only three and a half minutes long, but it plays like one of the band’s extended numbers, with a dreamy, yet nefarious solo section.

They don’t make music like this anymore. It’s seen as wimpy, we want in your face.

To our detriment.


In a brand new bottle.

It was 2005, Loggins & Messina had been broken up for decades. Kenny’d had his solo success, but then…

He was dead in the water, he turned once again to his old friend, they went on the road…

Five or seven years too late. All the seventies bands whose members were still alive had already reunited, new sounds had come in, this would have been a much bigger deal before Napster, before the internet destroyed the past.


The shows were so satisfying!

This recording comes from the beginning of the tour, and it’s good, but it was part of the promotion for the gigs, I’d love to hear a recording from deeper in the journey.

But having said that…

I saw the band at the Greek.

They came on when it was still light, usually anathema, the mystery, the ju-ju, is absent, and then they started to play…WHEW!

And sure, they played all the hits.

But it was the album cuts I came for, and they whipped out those too, like “Same Old Wine.”

It’s the same old wine in a different bottle.

Trump is no Ross Perot, but he gets even more press.

The Republicans keep telling us trickle-down economics will work.

The only difference is the musicians are on the wrong side, they’re no longer leaders, just suck-ups to the corporations. Free-thinking? HOW AM I GONNA GET RICH!

That’s what everybody wants to know, how they can become wealthy, as if they’re entitled, as if that’s life’s highest purpose.

But we baby boomers who lived through the era know…

That’s not the case.

You might drive a BMW, you might live in a five thousand square foot house, dine at the finest establishments, drink $100 wine, but you still remember when… We were all in together, rich was not a billion, not even a million, and no one you knew had it, when there weren’t even any scalpers, who’d pay that price, when you went to school to learn, as opposed to get a job.

That’s what it was like back then.

And I’d say the music rode shotgun, but the truth is the players were our leaders, religious icons.

They wore street clothes on stage, playing well was more important than looking good, and they could say no… They weren’t begging, but delivering.

As did Loggins & Messina in their not quite ten year reign.

And like I said up top, I doubt I’m gonna make any converts here.

Kenny’s got a lightweight image and Messina’s been all but forgotten and having had hits the band is not hip but…


I had a good friend sometime ago
We had a good thing and we let it show
Oh, I was a fool, I let him go
Oh oh oh, how I miss him so

I miss the old days.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love the internet, my mobile phone, it’s the greatest antidote to depression and loneliness ever invented, even better than Prozac.

But I remember when music was king, when you couldn’t get a ticket to the show, when we had to go to communicate with the band, to make our lives complete as opposed to a badge of honor.

Forget the charts, they’re irrelevant.

As was AM back in the day.

Music was in the hands of the people, that’s where it lived. It was as important as water and power, the first thing you did when you moved was set up the stereo, and believe me you had one, with as good a set of components as you could afford. Forget the death of record stores, how about the death of stereo stores!

Music was my good friend.

Actually, it still is.

And I like some of the new stuff. But it’s not quite coming from the same place. You see, music used to be part of the revolution, it was us against them.

And we were winning.

We’re losing now.

But you never know, the good times could come back.

I certainly hope so!

Spotify A Little More Loggins & Messina


Dear Bob,

Thank you for your kind mention and generous observations.

I would enjoy sending you (if you wish) an album I recorded entitled JIM MESSINA “Live” at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts. I am in the process of mixing another Live album I just recorded at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara.

These days… for me… it’s more about performing live in small theaters and small performing art centers. An intimate evening at an venue where my audience can come to listen to the music I’ve created over the years, sit back and enjoy a glass of wine at a reasonable volume level,and be out of a concert no later than 9p or 10p is the name of the game. It works for me!

In fact…I just did that last night myself. My wife and I hired a baby sitter for my 9 year old daughter Josey and went to see the “Time Jumpers.” They, in combination with Vince Gill, are one phenomenal group of musicians and singers! If you have never seen them live… you are in for a real surprise.

Again, my deepest appreciation and kindest regards,

Jim Messina