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Footloose

by

Kenny Loggins



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was the theme from the movie of the same name starring Kevin Bacon in his breakout role; Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise also tried out for the part. He plays a teenager who moves to a small town where dancing is illegal. Dean Pitchford, who wrote the screenplay to the film and the lyrics to all the songs in the movie, got the idea from a 1979 newspaper article about the town of Elmore City, Oklahoma, where a law against dancing was on the books since the 1800s. The 14 high school seniors decided they wanted a prom, and got the town council to overturn the antiquated interdiction so they could dance. Pitchford visited Elmore City to research his screenplay, where he spent a week immersing himself in their culture.

Pitchford was an actor, appearing in stage productions of Godspell and Pippin before getting a chance to write lyrics for songs in the 1980 movie Fame. He started working on Footloose when he was a staff songwriter for Warner Brothers Publishing. For a while it looked like 20th Century Fox was going to pick up the screenplay, but it ended up being produced by Paramount, who were rewarded with $80 million in ticket sales from the film, which cost about $8 million to make.
Dean Pitchford called his screenplay "Cheek To Cheek" as a placeholder for a real title. Once it became clear that studios were interested, he had to come up with a real title. In our 2012 interview, Pitchford explained: "I really had to come up with a better title. So I did what I do with lyric writing: I took a yellow legal tablet, and any ideas that I had, I did not edit. I just wrote down, line after line after line. I filled page after page after page with variations and ideas that I had for it.

About day 2, I wrote down 'footloose and fancy free,' and then I wrote down 'footloose,' and then separately 'fancy free.' When I went back over the list, I think I had four that I thought might be good ideas. But 'Footloose' was by far my favorite. I typed up hypothetical title pages, and I put, 'this title by Dean Pitchford,' as the title of the new screenplay. Then I put the four of them in a stack, and I put 'Footloose' on the bottom. I took them into a meeting with Craig (Melnick) and Dan (Zadan, producers at Fox), and I said, 'Here are some ideas for the title.' They looked at number one, they went, 'Okay. All right.' And they flipped it over, and number two, and they flipped it over, and number three, 'Okay.' And then they flipped over the last one, which was 'Footloose by Dean Pitchford,' and they lit up like a Christmas tree. I had deliberately done it that way, because it was my favorite and I was saving it for the end. And they felt what I felt, which was it was just such an interesting looking word and it didn't mean anything, but it did. And all those 'O's' gave it a visual kind of punch. We all just went for it. It sort of sold itself. I certainly didn't have an idea for a song, because I hadn't yet gotten together with Kenny Loggins. But it's one of those interesting words that looks good on paper - you see it scrawled across a billboard, and it sells itself." (Here's the full Dean Pitchford interview.)
Kenny Loggins was a big star and helped make Caddyshack a huge success with his song "I'm Alright" in 1980. In 1982, he had a hit with "Don't Fight It," which he wrote with Pitchford and Steve Perry, who also sang on the track. Getting Loggins for the title track was huge for Pitchford, who had never written a screenplay before and was trying to sell a movie based around 9 songs - not a popular concept at the time. Losing Loggins could have derailed the entire project, and when Kenny broke a rib from a fall he took at a show in Provo, Footloose almost met its doom. Loggins had to take time off to recover, and the only chance for Dean to write with him was during his engagement at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where he was performing before heading to Asia. Said Pitchford: "Paramount was chomping at the bit. They wanted to know that Kenny Loggins was going to be doing the title song, and if he wasn't then we had to move on and get somebody else. So it became absolutely vital that as soon as Kenny was back on his feet, I had to go and seal the deal, and the only place that we could seal the deal, he was going to attempt to get himself back on his feet in Tahoe, play one last engagement in the States, and then go off to Asia.

So it was decided that although Kenny lived at the time in the L.A. area, I should fly to Tahoe, and during the days when he was playing a show at night, we would try to at least get the beginning of a song so that I could go back to Paramount and say, 'Look, Kenny Loggins is pregnant, he is on board.' So I flew up to Tahoe in January of 1983, I think. I flew up sick, and I proceeded to get sicker and sicker and sicker while I was there. I had strep throat, as it turned out, but I could not let on to Kenny that I had strep throat, because I didn't want him going, 'Ooo, I can't come to your room, we can't be doing that.' And he was indeed coming to my room, because his wife Eva was there, and they had three kids at the time. I think she had given birth to their third, Isabella, so there were two little boys and a baby in his room. So that was not a place to work. So each day he would come to my room with a guitar and he was still taped up, with gauze and tape around his midriff while his rib was healing. He would show up with a guitar and he would ease himself into a chair, and it was obvious that sitting down was painful - if he was standing he was fine.

I was spraying my throat full of Chloraseptic to kill the pain and taking decongestants so it didn't sound like I had a cold or any kind of problems. I was running a fever, like 101, but I wasn't going to let on to him, because I didn't want him running out of my hotel room. I think it was two or three days we kept up this charade with him showing up on his painkillers and me on my painkillers, and us getting the gist of the song. We wrote the verses and the chorus melodies, we wrote the first verse, and we knew what we were going to do for the chorus. Then he went off and he left me with the melody for 'I'm Free,' which is his other contribution to the movie. While he was gone, I wrote the rest of the lyric to 'Footloose,' except the bridge. We finished the bridge after he came back to the States and I went over to his house, which may have been in the Valley. I was newish to L.A. so I was kind of foggy on where the neighborhoods were. But we wrote two verses and two choruses in advance, and then put the 'First we got to turn you around,' all that stuff was the final addition that completed the song."
A key songwriting device on this one is the use of various names: Louise, Jack, Marie and Milo. Marie was Dean Pitchford's mother; Milo was Loggins' idea because he liked the sound of the vowels. Pitchford explained: "Once I had cracked the back of the song with the 'Oo-wee, Marie, shake it shake it for me,' once we had the idea of using names throughout the chorus and calling out, 'Jack, get back, come on before we crack,' once that had been set up as a convention, he threw out Milo because he liked the way that the words felt in his mouth. And there may have been one or two other lines that he came up with. And he did that on several other songs that we wrote. Like, we did a song for his next album called 'Let There Be Love,' and he gave me a couple of not even lines, at least the ends of lines. The word that he wanted the line to end on, or the word that he wanted the high note to be on. So it was like somebody stepping up to a canvas and putting a couple of strokes of paint on and saying, 'Okay, now go finish the painting,' and you having to figure out how to incorporate the strokes of paint into the ultimate picture."
There were nine original songs the Footloose movie, and six of them were Top 40 US hits. The film was released on February 17, 1984, and the week of April 14, four songs from the movie were in the Top 40: the title track, "Let's Hear It For The Boy" (by Deniece Williams, it also peaked at #1), "Holding Out For A Hero" (Bonnie Tyler) and "Dancing in the Sheets" (Shalamar). "Almost Paradise" entered the chart in May and became a #1 Adult Contemporary hit; the last single was the other one from Kenny Loggins, "I'm Free (Heaven Helps The Man)." Another popular song in the film that was not released as a single was "The Girl Gets Around" by Sammy Hagar.

Dean Pitchford wrote the lyrics to all of these songs with a variety of co-writers. He knew what kind of songs he wanted in different part of the film, and he also wanted to avoid repetition. This led to a variety of styles and some serious crossover success. The soundtrack spent 10 weeks at #1, knocking Michael Jackson's Thriller album from the top spot in the US.
We know it doesn't make a lot of sense, but we really thought Kenny Loggins was "punching my car" and kicking off his "Sundance shoes," when he was really punching his card and putting on his Sunday shoes (which goes along with the religious theme in the movie - church shoes aren't good for dancing). When we asked Pitchford about the way Loggins sang his words, Dean replied: "The way that Kenny sings, I was just so in love with the way that his voice worked around the words, I was never really aware that they were hard to understand, because I knew what the words were, and I never called him on that. But I would imagine maybe if you were listening to the song for the first time, there might be a couple of things that you go, 'Come again?'"

Pitchford adds that as he got older, he got more particular about how his lyrics were sung. He even asked Barbra Streisand to redo a vocal on his song "If I Never Met You" to clarify a word, which she graciously did.
After the film was released, Dean Pitchford realized that in a way, he was telling his own story with Footloose. He told us, "I was asked to speak at a seminar in Seattle for a film festival. This was about two years after Footloose opened, the original movie in 1984. I was picked up at the airport by an intern who on the way into town was making conversation. He'd obviously done his research, and he asked me whether or not my writing Footloose had anything to do with the fact that when I was a teenager, my family had been uprooted - I had grown up in Honolulu and I moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where my father had gotten work, and I was really a fish out of water there. He asked me whether my choosing to write a story about a boy who was transplanted to a small Midwest town had anything to do with my having been transplanted myself. And I was stunned, because in the entire time that I had been writing that movie, making that movie, promoting that movie, I had never made that connection, and it took this guy who had done a little bit of research about my background to draw the line to that connection. I honestly had never thought of it."
This single was released a few weeks ahead of the movie, and the video, which used scenes from the film, got a lot of airplay on MTV, building anticipation for the release. By the time the film hit theaters, the song was already in the Top 40, and it went to #1 on March 31, 1984, where it remained for 3 weeks. MTV played a key role in marketing the film, and movie studios tried to follow this template, enlisting major acts to record a song for their movies and producing slick videos with scenes from the movie, essentially creating a preview.
Dean Pitchford refused to make a sequel to Footloose, but he did help turn it into a Broadway play that ran from 1998-2000. In 2011, a remake of the movie hit theaters, with the Country star Blake Shelton recording a new version of this title track. Shelton told The Boot about it: "It's like a lot of stuff from that era - it was rock at the time, but is pretty much what we hear on country radio today. So I knew that we didn't have to stray that far away from the original," said Shelton. "When I open my mouth, what comes out is country. It was going to sound country no matter what, but I didn't want it to be too different. There's two ways to bring back a song: one is to try to make it your own, and in this instance, you have to remove yourself from it and step into the role of what's best for the movie and that particular scene. There's really only one way to approach it when you think of it that way: a fun, uptempo, catchy version just like Kenny Loggins did."
This was the biggest hit and the only #1 for Loggins. It exposed him to an international audience when the movie did well outside of America. Two years later, Loggins contributed "Danger Zone" to the Top Gun soundtrack. Loggins stated in 2007 that of all his soundtrack hits, this is the one he most likes performing. "It's such a lighthearted tune. It's like doing a Chuck Berry song every night," said Loggins.
Kenny Loggins
Kenny Loggins Artistfacts
More Kenny Loggins songs
More songs with body parts in the title
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More songs used in movies
More songs about dancing
More songs written by Dean Pitchford
More songs covered by the Glee cast

Comments (23):

Country singer Blake Shelton redid the song for the upcoming remake starring Kenny Wormwald in the Kevin Bacon role which was originally to have been played by Zac Efron.
- Sara, Silver Spring, MD
i like the song because it movited me.I like to sing and dance to it.
- isabella dray, Ohio, OH
"Footloose", a movie title theme song, was replaced at No.1 by another movie title theme song; "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" by Phil Collins!!!
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
It was nominated for an Academy Award. The movie is not one of the worst ever made. The other Oscar nominated song was Deniece Williams who did perform her song at the Oscars!
- Sara, Silver Spring, MD
Oddly enough at the Oscars ceremony the choreographer Debbie "Fame" Allen sang (or danced to Footloose) and Loggins didn't perform it at all. Perhaps it was the same reason Phil Collins didn't sing "Against All Odds" the writers were too old to know who he was...
- Sara, Silver Spring, MD
This was in the film Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.
Also female singer Aoife sang it for the UK reality show "Maria" produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, it's much more better when a guy sings it.
- Sara, Silver Spring, MD
This is Kenny Loggins' signature tune and he always does it as an encore. I believe the Beastie Boys or some rap group sampled it
- Sara, Silver Spring, MD
Personally, I loved this movie. I still like watching it every once in a while...epecially now that the 80's are over. It's fun to watch them dance in it. And the clothes they wear. It's just a fun movie. 'Course I also loved Xanadu and Seargent Peppers (with the Bee Gees)Ha!
- Mary, Phoenix, AZ
If you think Footloose was Bad, try to find the Kevin and Kyra movie called Pyrates. A couple actually cause fires to start every time they try to make love(and they do it a lot).
- Larry, Des Moines, IA
we love footloose. greatest song ever invented.
- Backky, Baton Rouge, LA
If you think this is the worst movie ever made, you're being far too kind to thousands of other worse movies.
- rob, vancouver, Canada
if you really like Kevin Bacon, watch Sleepers! Such a good and creepy movie! The movie Footloose wasn't a bad movie - it was actually a fairly good movie but you've also gotta look at it from a musical perspective because the movie has a fair bit of music (and fairly good music) in it.
- lynz, Ontario, Canada
Well, he does have a really, really big.....um, screen presence.
- Ash, Charleston, WV
the songs fun to dance to if your in a crazy mood. the movies pretty good to...but i guess i just really like kevin bacon.
- kristina, houston, TX
Dani: please! This movie features a scene in which a game of "chicken" is played between two people riding tractors. TRACTORS!!
- Ash, Charleston, WV
all these comments totally dis this movie! personally i think this movie is awsome! the music in it is sooo up beat and it gets u in a good mood.
- Dani, Winnipeg, Canada
This song is a complete ripoff of Funk 49 by the James Gang.
- Joe, New York City, United States
I'm sure if I thought about it long enough, I could come up with a lot of movies that are worse than Footloose. I don't actually think it's THE worst movie. But boy, it's pretty damn bad.
- Ashley, Charleston, WV
Main melody ripped from The James Gang's Funk #49
- Rob, Heerlen, Netherlands
ash, there are far worse movies out there (try Space Muntiny or Alexander) heck there are worse Kevin Bacon movies out there (Hollow Man, that one where he is a bicicle messenger) This is however the worst Kevin Bacon film made into a broadway musical... Tremors on Ice coming in second
- MOnty, Omaha, NE
Quite possibly the worst movie ever made.
- ash, Charleston, WV
The video for this is notable in that it was one of the first music videos where the artist was nowhere to be seen.
- Kei, Salem, OR
Menatally chalenged singer songwriter Larry Melvin wrote "Larry Loose" based on this song.
- jonathan, saratoga sorings, NY
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