29 January 2010

Loggins and Messina: Your Mama Don’t Dance

You know, when i started doing this blog i figured i’d be doing mainly 80s songs, ’cause i grew up in the 80s (so that’s the music i really know), and there are just so many bad 80s songs i thought i could just stay with those and never run out.

As it turns out, though, the 70s have become my go-to decade.

This week’s song is no exception: The 1973 top-ten hit (though it was a 1972 release) “Your Mama Don’t Dance” by Loggins and Messina.

Frightening fact: Kenny Loggins’s solo career has apparently dried up to the point that Loggins and Messina has been reformed. Yes, that’s right, you too can have the opportunity to pay large amounts of money to hear the original performers sing “House at Pooh Corner”. (I guess it’s not quite as frightening as the fact that Cheech and Chong are touring again, but still.)

Anyway, today’s song is the story of you, a young man—a teenager—trying to shake off all the restrictions society is trying to place on you. And why are you faced with all these restrictions? Why, because

Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll

Oh. Of course. Yeah, um, that makes perfect sense.

You’re having trouble because your mother doesn’t dance? Really? You know, i’ve been to enough family reunions, weddings, and so on to know that if there’s one thing most teenagers would agree on, it’s that they’d like for their mother to never, ever dance, at least not where anyone can see her. So how exactly is this a problem?

And the fact that your father doesn’t rock and roll? What does that even mean? Your father doesn’t play in a band? Once again, i don’t know that most teenagers really want their father to be in a band—that would be the ultimate embarrassment, i’m thinking. (Well, unless we’re talking Dweezil, Ahmet, Diva, and Moon Unit Zappa, but let’s face it, they live in an entirely different world from you and me.)

Of course, it’s entirely possible that by “rock and roll” Misters Messina and Loggins are reaching back a bit to an earlier meaning—they’re saying that your father doesn’t have sex. Well, leaving aside the fact that your father, if he is in fact your father, did have sex at least once, why would this be a problem for you personally?

I’m just not getting the basic reason for the whole complaint, and that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the song.

Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll

Just in case you forgot between the first and second lines of the song.

When evenin’ rolls around and it's time to go to town
Where do you go to rock and roll?

Well, there are probably a few dance clubs, maybe a rave or two going on in the warehouse district, parties at the houses of friends whose parents are a bit more permissive than yours…Really, my guess is that this isn’t actually a problem for you. I mean, even the kids in (random bonus Kenny Loggins music reference alert!) the movie Footloose found a place to dance once they put their minds to it—you’re giving up that easily?

The old folks say that ya gotta end your date by ten
If you’re out on a date and you bring it home late, it’s a sin

First of all, i’m a sociolinguist and dialectologist by profession, so i must mention that the rhyme of ten with sin is so wonderfully and perfectly Southern American English that i get a little geek thrill whenever i hear this couplet.

Second of all, was a ten o’clock curfew normal in the early 70s? I wasn’t yet of an age to really care about curfews, so i don’t know. Either way, i suppose that this is supposed to be evidence that your life is horrible and your parents are evil and so on. Of course, as we find out later, a ten o’clock curfew doesn’t appear to be stopping you from sowing your wild oats in all the expected places (excepting when you forget to take the beats of certain members of the police force into account, that is), so i’m not entirely sure why you should care so deeply about this.

Third of all, it? I could kind of understand someone having an issue if you’re bringing her home late, or bringing him home late, depending on your own personal preferences. But bringing it home late? I’m thinking the curfew may be the least of your issues.

There just ain’t no excuse and you know you’re gonna lose you never win

This was a semi-finalist in the balloting for the longest single-line run-on sentence ever found in a hit song.

I’ll say it again

This line frustrates me on two counts:

First, this is being sung by Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina. The song is a duet, sung in near-unison. There is no “I” here, it’s a “we”.

Second, they then proceed to not say it again. This isn’t a bad thing—the trainwreck that is the previous line should not be repeated, ever—but it does feel like a breach of promise.

But it does leave us wondering why you’re doomed to so much losing. You want to know why? Sure you do—and so here it is:

And it’s all because
Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll
Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll
When evenin’ rolls around and it's time to go to town
Where do you go to rock and roll?

Really, that’s a pretty heavy load to place on particular personal habits of your parents, particularly habits that are so, well, unimportant.

Also, the end of the chorus makes no sense here. Are Misters Messina and Loggins saying, as i parse these lines, that the reason you’re a loser is because when evening rolls around and it’s time to go to town where do you go to rock and roll? ’Cause that’s just a weird thing to claim—it’s like saying “I like ice cream because where is my hamster?”

But things are starting to look up for you, oh hormonal one, because

You’ve pulled into a drive-in and found a place to park
You hop into the back seat where ya know it’s nice and dark
You're just about to move in, you’re thinking it's a breeze

You know what’s missing here? Any reference to the it you’re dating. Either way, though, i suppose the back seat would be dark, so whatever floats your particular boat. Just don’t tell me too many details, okay?

But whatever’s actually going on here, disaster suddenly strikes!

There’s a light in your eye and then a guy says
Out of the car long hair!
Oowee, you’re coming with me, the local police

Yep, the police have come to take you in for…Well, whatever they take kids in for when they find them not yet having sex in a car. A semi-public display of almost-affection?

But yeah, who would have thought—a business establishment actually has someone providing security to enforce various rules of behavior? Shocking, i know. I wonder why this is the case?

Well, as it turns out, Misters Messina and Loggins are here to inform us.

And it’s all because

Take note of that, by the way—we’re about to be told the entire reason that you just got busted for PDA:

Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll
Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll

Yep, if only your mother actually danced, or if in fact your father rocked and rolled (maybe even if he merely rocked or rolled), you’d have a clean record and you wouldn’t have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. Too bad for you.

At least you can blame it all on your parents rather than your own poor judgment, ’cause that would, you know, suck.

When evenin’ rolls around and it's time to go to town
Where do you go to rock and roll?
Where do you go to rock and roll?
Where do you go to rock and roll?

Well, now that you’re hanging out down at the county jail, i suppose you’re rocking and rolling in the prison yard. Don’t worry, i’ll send you a soap on a rope for your birthday.


  1. You know, this on doesn't even have a great sound. I can find no excuse for it at all.

  2. David,
    Before you act as an authority and start making statements about someone's career I do suggest you check your facts.

    FYI- Mr Loggins and Mr Messina decided to do a 2009 tour based on the fact that tour promoters had been begging them to do another tour based on their highly sucsessful 2005 Reunion Tour. They finally gave in. And this tour as well did extremely well. You missed out on a amazing band and steller show.

    As far as Kenny's solo career. Well if he is washed up, please tell the many, many people that were unable to get tickets for his upcoming shows, since the tickets sold out as soon as they went on sale! He has a three album deal with Disney and you might just see him at the Grammy's tonight since he is nominated for one, btw.

    So my suggestion to you, if you ever have the opportunity to see Kenny perform, go. Because you will experience an amazing seasoned performer and a voice that has only gotten better and richer with time. And they only way he is going out, is with his boots on!

    (long time business associate and friend of both Kenny and Jimmy_

  3. So it only took seven songs commented on to strike thin skin—i’ll count that as a victory (not to mention evidence that this song, in particular, merited every bit of snark it got).

    Thank you.

  4. Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! That was the best comment EVER. First, she says you are acting as an authority which means she didn't even read anything but instead was totally doing a blog search on certain terms. Second, she totally misses the point completely. I'm guessing she's from the certain part of the US that lacks any ability to understand satire and sarcasm.