Danger Zone & The 1980s Soundtrack King

May 13, 2022

It’s May, and I love this time of year because I know what’s coming:

Netflix Has Your Next Summer Movie Night Planned - About Netflix

That’s right, SUMMER MOVIES!

And do you know what was the biggest summer movie of 1986?

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Top Gun.

And do you know what else was a huge Top Gun hit?

The soundtrack – which was released on May 13, 1986.

Top Gun Soundtrack From The Motion Picture CASSETTE Tape 1986 Columbia  RARE! OOP 74644032345 | eBay
Yes, I owned it on cassette tape.

Some of us would never be able to watch beach volleyball again without hearing Kenny Loggins’ Playing with the Boys in the background. (Or maybe that’s just me?)

Top Gun Volleyball GIFs | Tenor
Who can forget this scene? Poor Goose had to keep his shirt on.

The Top Gun soundtrack gave The Righteous Brothers’ 1965 hit You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling a second life.

The love theme, Take My Breath Away, became a No.1 smash and won the Academy Award for Best Song.

And Top Gun is the film that cemented Kenny Loggins’ legacy as the movie soundtrack king.

Because when you say ‘Kenny Loggins’ and Top Gun, there are two words that come to mind (aside from beach volleyball):

Danger Zone.

Danger Zone (Kenny Loggins song) - Wikipedia

But how did Kenny Loggins end up singing Danger Zone — and becoming the Soundtrack King of the 1980s?

I was curious…

The song Danger Zone was Kenny Loggins’ movie theme hat trick. 

Although he had a song included in the 1976 soundtrack for A Star is Born, his first movie theme hit came in 1980 with I’m Alright from Caddyshack.

Gopher Dance GIFs | Tenor

It climbed up to No. 7 on the US Billboard chart.

He followed that up by writing the hit theme song from Footloose in 1984.

Footloose GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Kenny’s theme from Footloose (aptly titled Footloose) spent three weeks at the No.1 spot – and was ranked the No. 4 song of 1984. 

It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song (losing out to Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love You, in case you were wondering).

Given his success with film soundtracks, you might think that the producers begged Loggins to be part of the Top Gun soundtrack.

But that’s not what happened.

The producers of Top Gun knew what a powerful (and lucrative) tool a movie soundtrack was. They had huge hits with the soundtracks for two of their previous films, Beverly Hills Cop and Flashdance.

They considered more than 300 songs for inclusion in Top Gun.

And Kenny Loggins, fresh off the success of Footloose, was asked to write a song for consideration in the film.

Kenny was invited to a ‘cattle call’ where he – and others – tried to earn a spot on the film’s soundtrack.

He arrived at a private studio to watch a preview of the film, and found himself surrounded by other big pop acts of the time, including Starship, Toto, and REO Speedwagon.

“So I’m sitting there seeing all this competition around me,” Kenny said. 

“And then about midway through the movie, comes the volleyball scene.”

“I was writing at the time with Peter Wolfe, an Austrian producer. I nudged Peter and I said, Nobody’s gonna write for this. Let’s write for this scene.’”

“I knew from my experience that just being a part of the soundtrack album was going to be pivotal. And it kind of didn’t matter what scene you write for, as long as you get in it.” 

“I think we were the only ones who submitted a song for that scene.”

Kenny and Peter’s submission, Playing with the Boys, was accepted for Top Gun, and is the song you hear during the memorable beach volleyball scene.

Kenny was in the studio recording Playing with the Boys when he got a call.

It was from Giorgio Moroder’s office. 

Moroder was a hot songwriter and producer who had already won two Academy Awards for his musical contributions to films: Best Score for Midnight Express in 1979 and Best Song for Flashdance…What a Feeling in 1984.

And that day, he had a problem.

After a few of his songs were rejected, the producers had now approved the new theme song he had written for the film. 

Columbia, the record label for the film’s soundtrack, wanted one of their artists to record it.

Bryan Adams, Corey Hart, and REO Speedwagon had all passed, before the band Toto was hired.

But now, Toto had dropped out.

Moroder needed to record the song the next day – but he didn’t have a singer.

“He said ‘Can you come in and sing it?’” Kenny remembered.

“I didn’t even listen to it. I just said, ‘Is it up tempo?’, because I needed a rock n’ roll one for the show.

“He said, ‘Oh yeah, it’s a rocker.’”

“I went, ‘Good, I’m in.’”

“We went over lyrics and chords. I added some things, changed some words. We added a bridge. And then went in the next day and sang it.”

And that’s how Kenny Loggins took the highway to the Danger Zone. 

“And you know, everybody was writing for that scene…

“Just blind luck.”

Danger Zone became his second-highest chart hit for Loggins, reaching the No.2 spot.

The success of the song catapulted the Top Gun soundtrack up the charts, and it sold an impressive 9 million copies in the US alone.

Moroder also wrote the film’s love song, Take My Breath Away, which earned him another Academy Award.

The film Top Gun was a commercial smash, too – earning $356 million (against a $15 million budget).

And 36 years later, we’re (finally) getting a sequel. 

Top Gun: Maverick will be released on 27 May 2022.

Star Tom Cruise has confirmed the new film will feature incredible camera work, nostalgic characters, and – yes, friends – Danger Zone.

Music is on my mind.

Here’s a clue for next week’s story that involves another musician:

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