• Kenny Loggins Songwriting Seminar and Critique at MI / GIT in 1986-7: Part Three, Kenny Loggins reviews a tune of mine.

As I wrote in the first post of this series, when I attended a Kenny Loggins songwriting seminar/critique during my year at Musicians Institute (MI) in Hollywood way back in 1986-1987, I did not know whether or not my song had been selected for review. So when Kenny Loggins picked up a cassette and read out the title of my tune, I was elated, surprised and nervous all at once. Then he hit play. Now, I will never understand this, but every single songwriting critique I have ever attended has had a shitty sound system. Cheap, usually wired incorrectly and more often then not utterly unreliable. MI -- a FUCKING MUSIC SCHOOL -- was no different. Every song up to and including mine sounded like garbage and every song after mine sounded like garbage. I guess the idea is if your song can sound good even when it sounds shitty, it must really be good. Whatever.

Before Kenny started his critique section, he issued the caveat that whatever he was about to say was only his opinion and in no way gospel. Fair enough, but I like my reviewers to be a bit less apologetic. I’m after specifics and don’t want a sugar coating. I wish I felt I could post the other tunes as well as my own, not only so you could hear how Kenny critiqued them but also because together they all create a fascinating trip back to the 80s. Sadly, they’re not mine to share. Besides, none became hits that I’m aware of, and the only songwriter Kenny really liked and requested to meet with after the seminar was responsible for perhaps the most derivative, cliché-riddled tune played that day.

16 QA - Intro to critiques by Cerebellum Blues

When my song finally boomed out out of the utterly worthless sound system, I cringed, but I was hopeful. It had a strong groove, decent production (considering I had recorded it myself in my Hollywood apartment, pictured above) and good performances, as my friend Mike Price had helped out with keys and my roommate, Mike Northcutt, had sung all the vocals. But right as the tune got to the chorus, Kenny hit Stop and said, “That’s a mistake!” My balloon burst. He played a bit more of the song and then tried to offer up a few ideas for fixing the problem with the chorus, something he called a jazz trap, but ended his critique with a luke warm wrap-up. Listening back now I actually disagree with his diagnosis. The problem was not a jazz trap, it was that the vocal melody follows the chords and is a lame melody to boot. Sigh.
17 KL critiques The Upside of Down by Cerebellum Blues 

For what it’s worth, here’s a better sounding recording of the song I submitted on that day so long ago, complete with the dropouts, hiss and wow and flutter of the glory days of tape. Kenny stopped my song before the middle 8, which is maybe the best part of the tune, so if you listen, please go a little farther than Kenny did, so you can check out this stellar bit! But seriously, what do I think of the song today? The intro is too long (worse, it doesn’t need to repeat!), the chorus is weak for the aforementioned reason, the lyrics have a lot of cringe-worthy moments and the whole thing feels monotonic. However, I do like the basic idea, some of the chords and the groove, and I might very well see if I can fix it someday, just as an exercise.  Nor for awhile, though. I have an album to release!

The Upside of Down by Cerebellum Blues