Hold on Loosely

Album: Wild-Eyed Southern Boys (1981)
Charted: 27
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  • .38 Special had released two albums and were about to issue a third when they got a rough mix of a song by the band Survivor called "Rockin' into the Night," which became their first hit when it was tacked on to that third album.

    That song was written by Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan of Survivor. After it became a hit, John Kalodner, who signed Aerosmith, Genesis, Survivor and .38 Special, had Peterik write some songs for .38 Special in addition to his work with Survivor. In our 2004 interview with Peterik, he explained: "That was a major moment for me. It was my first foray into co-writing. Kalodner said, 'You did great with 'Rockin' into the Night,' I want to put you together with Don Barnes and Jeff Carlisi of .38 to see what you can do.' That first night, Jeff and Don are at my house in La Grange, Illinois and we're sitting around the kitchen table. Writing sessions are always like blind dates: It's like making love without the foreplay. Suddenly you're sitting there face to face, and you're thinking, 'OK, what do we do now? Am I going to embarrass myself? What if my ideas suck?' So we're sitting there nervously, just making small talk, and all of the sudden Jeff says, 'I've got this lick,' and he starts with the opening lick of what became 'Hold on Loosely.' I go, 'That's really neat,' and Don says, 'I've got this title - 'Hold On Loosely,'' and I go, 'Yeah, but don't let go.'

    My wife of 32 years now, this is what broke us apart when we were teenagers - I was getting too close. I was getting too serious for her. She didn't say, 'Hold on Loosely,' but that's what was in her heart. So when Don said 'Hold on Loosely,' I immediately knew what he was talking about. He wasn't even talking about that exactly, he told me later, he just thought it was a cool title.

    I immediately saw a story, and it was really my own story. I said, 'Jeff, play that riff.' He plays the riff, and I start singing: 'You see it all around you, good loving gone bad.' It just started coming. I turned on the tape recorder and said, 'Guys, I think we have something here.' We got the stalk of the song in the next two days, then I fine-tuned it in the next two or three weeks. I flew down to Jacksonville where the band was rehearsing and basically worked out the song with them down there."
  • Speaking about the range of influences that show up in this song, Jim Peterik told us: "The bridge was straight out of the Doobie Brothers songbook. If I look at that song, it's kind of a meld of a lot of influences of mine from that time. The eighth notes are very Cars-like from that time and the bridge was 'What a Fool Believes' upside down. It was a great moment and led to a series of .38 Special songs that I wrote with them. After that came 'Caught Up In You,' 'Fantasy Girl,' 'Wild-Eyed Southern Boys' and all of those. It was a great run."
  • This song caused considerable consternation within the group Survivor, whose keyboard player Jim Peterik co-wrote it. Survivor was still looking for their first hit, and Peterik writing hits for another artist didn't go over well with their guitarist Frankie Sullivan, who from that point forward refused to share a dressing room with Peterik.
  • Don Barnes of .38 Special came up with the title. It was something he heard Dinah Shore say on her talk show when she had a guest on talking about giving her husband space in their relationship.
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Comments: 16

  • Meocyber from Alma, Co Brandon, excellent take on the song. It's totally about not overdoing your feelings for a woman. Give her breathing room. They we're an underated Southern rock band. Tough competition then... The Allman Brothers, Lynard Skynard, Molly Hatchett, Little Feat etc etc.
  • Jim from Pleasant Hill, CaThose who think this is about a hand job can't be very bright. Why do some people have to see sexual innuendo in every last thing? That concept never would have occurred to me and makes no sense in the context of the other lyrics.

    A minor criticism of this song is that the first appearance of the main refrain ("my mind goes back to a girl...") seems rushed at only 30 seconds in. Usually, in this style of rock, they take longer to build up to the big hook - for dramatic effect.
  • Samuel from Singapore, SingaporeThe rhythm to this song, which counts in eights, was inspired by The Car's Just What I Needed.
  • Lisa from Milwaukee, Wi, WiYou could not possibly have listened to this song and thought it was about masturbation. LISTEN TO ALL the lyrics. Doesn't take a genius
  • Colleen from Reno, NvSo my boyfriend just brought up the fact that he thinks this song is about masturbation as well & I didn't beleive him! So I went online in search of an answer and found this page...and Cody's remarks. According to my boyfriend, everyone in the town where he grew up thinks this song is about that ever popular male act. I'm happy to see that the majority of people don't think this! I read the lyrics myself and it just looks like it's about the conclusion that to make a relationship work you have to 'hold on loosely' (to the RELATIONSHIP!) as to not control the other person. Of course I can see why some would think the first part of the chorus was about jerking off - but dam, read the rest of the lyrics & you'll find out the subject isn't that warped!
  • Eugene from Minneapolis, MnBrandon, you right on the money, man. I had to learn this the hard way in 1994, one of the worst years of my life, really. Ironiclly, I ended the relationship. As for the record this one 80s AOR classic.
  • Dale from Santa Fe, NmY'all make me laugh. Good song though.
  • Joshua from Kingston Springs, Tndescribes my first relationship and how it ended...er,make that just how it ended...*crys miserably and falls to the floor*
  • Allison from Bedford, VaThey kind of remind me of Boston.
  • Mary from Cleveland, OhHey Cody..i thought it was about a guy getting a hand job from some chick who didn't know what she was doing. I guess we are just gutter heads. But now that i read Brandons comment..it makes much more sense!=] ha
  • Bob Santini from Modesto, CaI saw them yesterday, it was the worst concert ever
  • Michael from San Diego, CaTerrific song! It's hard to believe that teh same guy who fronted "Survivor" also wrote this, but apparently Jim Peterik is kicking butt in two different genres of music!
  • Brandon from Peoria, IlThis song is about the delicate balance between loving just enough and loving too much. If you have ever been in a relationship that ended because the other party needed space, or he/she said that he/she was being "smothered" than this song relates to you. You need to give your better half some room to breathe, but not too much or you will fade out of his/her life. So make sure you hold on...but only loosely...don't be to controling. That's my interpretation. I welcome comments/suggestions/critisism. Thanks
  • Donna from Chicago, IlI just wanted to say, Cody, please listen to the lyrics and put the lotion away before making such lewd and ignorant comments.
  • Cody from Clarendon Hills, IlDoes anybody else think that this song is about masturbation?
  • Kim from Hays, KsI saw them perform at a concert a few months ago. They were pretty good but the lead singer's voice kept squeeking and he had to stop singing for a while :( it was kind of sad because they have been in that band for a long time.
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