.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."