Late director Tony Scott reinvented the action movie with his 1986 classic Top Gun, which remained at the top of the box office charts for an unprecedented four months. This romantic thriller ushered in an era of MTV-style filmmaking, with its quick-cuts, non-stop action, and its chart-topping soundtrack loaded with number one hits. Its obvious that Top Gun wouldn't have been half as cool without singles such as 'Danger Zone', 'Take My Breath Away', 'Heaven in Your Eyes', and 'Playing with the Boys' helping to push forth the narrative. In fact, Tom Cruise's career defining hit is as much remembered for these songs as it is anything else.
We fly into the Danger Zone with Kenny Loggins
Fully restored and converted, Top Gun 3D hit IMAX theaters for a one-week limited run last weekend, and now, the Blu-ray has come home to roost. To celebrate this newly immersive release of the ageless classic, we caught up with renowned 80s songsmith Kenny Loggins, who contributed two number one singles to the soundtrack, with the defining song 'Danger Zone' and the party hit 'Playing with the Boys'. Kenny Loggins took us through some of the history of the song, and revealed that it was originally supposed to be preformed by Toto.
Can you even imagine a world where Toto was on the Top Gun soundtrack? We can't either. Here is our conversation with the top gun of movie soundtracks himself, Mr. Kenny Loggins!
Danger Zone was not a song you wrote or composed. They brought you in after the fact. How did you wind up with the track, and how was it decided that this would be the title track for Top Gun?
Kenny Loggins: As I have it, and I may be wrong with this...I was in the studio, and I had written a track for the movie called 'Playing with the Boys'... I heard from my A&R man at Columbia that they needed a singer. The story I heard, and I've been told this isn't true...But Toto had been offered the job of being the band to do Danger Zone. For some reason the lawyers couldn't agree on it, so it fell out. There was definitely some other act or band ahead of me, and it fell out. I just happened to be in the studio, and they needed a singer right away. I dropped what I was doing and went in, and the next day we cut the vocal.
Do you look back fondly on the song some twenty years removed from it? Do you still like to play Danger Zone, or do you even care if you never hear it again?
Kenny Loggins: It turned into one of the biggest songs of my career, so I do still sing it in concert. People love it! I didn't expect that song to be the type of song that would hold up for almost thirty years. At the time, it seemed like a pretty simple piece of rock and roll. I just really wanted an up tempo thing for my show, and I thought it would be fun to have a movie song. It would kick the show in gear, and it sure did.
It seems like it would have been a completely different song if Toto had done it. It wouldn't even be the same movie...
Kenny Loggins: Who knows? Georgio produced the record, so it would have just had a totally different singer. We don't know what the hang-up was, though, so maybe they wanted to reproduce the song so that they could all play on it. That would be a logical thing to ask for. But Georgio was in charge of the music on that movie. And he recorded all of it.
Playing with the Boys was also released as a single, and that turned into a substantial hit too, right?
Kenny Loggins: I don't think it was a big hit. It was a marginal hit.
My brother played that soundtrack on a non-stop loop the summer of 1986. In my mind, all of the songs on this record were gargantuan hits. It's all I heard for six months.
Kenny Loggins: Wow!
What about the B side on the Danger Zone single, 'I'm Gong to Do it Right'. How did that become the flip side to this hit record?
Kenny Loggins: That was a song from my own solo album that I was working on. I thought, if the A side does well, then I should have something on the B-side that would get carried by it.
Tony Scott actually shot the music video for Danger Zone. That doesn't happen too often in terms of a music video for a movie. What was that experience like?
Kenny Loggins: Yeah, that didn't happen very often back then. I was very excited about the fact that Tony Scott was directing the music video. I was looking forward to seeing what he did with that. And it was a lot of fun. He made things very comfortable. And because it was Tony Scott, you trusted the hell out of it. Whatever he wanted, you were going to do. The aviator sunglasses became part of my deal for many years because of that.
How much input did you have in creating that video? Were you artistically involved with that, or was this an instance where you came to set, and Tony had everything he wanted already laid out?
Kenny Loggins: Absolutely, he knew what he was gong to do with it. He knew the wardrobe he wanted me in. I brought some choices, but he had a very clear picture of where he wanted this to go. Because he was sewing scenes from the movie into it.
Was there any talk of converting the music video into 3D for the Blu-ray release?
Kenny Loggins: I never heard any discussions like that.
Does that idea appeal to you?
Kenny Loggins: Yeah, absolutely. That would be really fun.
What is your take on Top Gun in 3D? Are you a fan of the movie? Are you excited to see a 3D version of it?
Kenny Loggins: I'm looking forward to seeing it, yeah. It's like a moment in time for me. It's like a family album. That they converted it into 3D? I think that is a brilliant idea, and it should do really well. A lot of that footage in there? I think it all still holds up. Its still one of the most rented movies of all time.
And one of the highest sellers, if I'm not mistaken. Now, with the advent of 3D technology, and moving forward with your own new music, do you plan on utilizing 3D in presenting the visual aspect of your work somewhere down the road, as maybe a video component?
Kenny Loggins: No, that is financially impossible...
No, way! You can go down to the Best Buy and get your own 3D camera, and it looks great, if you know how to shoot on it...
Kenny Loggins: (Laughs) That is great! I didn't know that! Anything is possible then...
Maybe I'll take the one we have down in our studio and bootleg the next Kenny Loggins concert in 3D.
Kenny Loggins: Ok.
I actually don't know how you feel about bootlegs of your concerts. I don't know where musicians and artists stand on that anymore...
Kenny Loggins: I think bootlegging concerts is great. You know, now it's all about Youtube.
Back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, you were well known for your music work in movies. Does that aspect of the business just not interest you anymore? Have you gotten offers, and just not chosen to participate? When will we hear another classic Kenny Loggins song in a movie?
Kenny Loggins: I haven't really pursued that. I have been off doing other things, so I haven't focused on that. I would love it if it came along. It's just not that time yet. I have a new band called Blue Sky Riders, and we just came out with a new album a couple of weeks ago. I would love to be able to apply some of the new music to a movie, if one came along. There are a few very cinematic pieces on the album. But, you know, that takes a lot of blind luck.
From what I understand, you are in Los Angeles, and your band is in Nashville. How does that work?
Kenny Loggins: We have to get together every time. I either fly to Nashville, or they fly to Santa Barbara. We make it work. It's a long distance love affair.
How did your background in movie music influence the pieces you are working on with Blue Sky Riders?
Kenny Loggins: I wish I could tell you that it has, but I just write what feels right to me. I haven't thought in terms of writing for movies in a long time. It's a different process. When I am writing for my own album, I am writing more introspectively. I am writing about things that matter to me. When I write for a movie...You are handed the scene, and you have to find the emotion in that scene, and you enhance that emotion. You don't want to underscore whatever emotion is happening before that moment in the movie. It's a very different style of writing.
Before Tony Scott passed away, he was planning a Top Gun sequel with Tom Cruise. If that actually moves forward at some point in the future, would you be interested in contributing a song?
Kenny Loggins: I'd be open to it. Rumors abound. There were rumors for years about Footloose. The last thing I heard was, "It's not going to happen." Then the next thing I see is it debuts. You never know. Music? We're the last ones to know what is going on.
Top Gun 3D is available now on Blu-ray.