Footloose and Fancy-Free
The titular (that’s a real word, honestly) song from the soundtrack to everybody’s second favourite Kevin Bacon film – number one has to be Tremors – ‘Footloose’ topped the charts in four countries and, along with ‘Danger Zone’, remains pretty much the only Kenny Loggins song that most people can name.
This recently appeared on a set list for a gig; I hadn’t heard it in years and I’d forgotten what an absolute belter of a tune it is – the bass line is relentlessly propulsive and I defy anyone to play the chorus sections without a massive grin on their face. If you listen closely in the second prechorus (bars 72-75), you can also make out what appears to be an overdubbed high-register line that ascends chromatically.
Speaking of the bass, I nearly spat out my coffee when I found out that the player in question wasn’t a white guy with a mullet and a moustache, but Nathan East – well, I was right about the moustache at least… On a serious note, though, this is undeniable proof that the great session players have the ability to sound totally authentic in almost any genre.
In an allmusic.com interview regarding the story of ‘Footloose’, Nathan reveals that the song was pieced together on an almost daily basis over the course of a lengthy summer tour – although this was a tedious process it allowed the bass part to be composed and refined over time:
I remember dialing in the part a little more each day, so when we went to the studio to record it, it was only one or two takes… On my end, and maybe it was out of boredom, but every day I was trying to add more to this bassline so it becomes this driving, forward motion that made sense, and would be something that could be identified with the song as well.
You can see (and hear) Nathan performing ‘Footloose’ at Live Aid here:
The original recording sits somewhere between the keys of A and Bb, and I’ve written the chart in A (the bass sounds about a quarter tone sharp on the record) as no guitar player will ever request this in Bb. My first guess was that it was played with a pick, but on closer listening it’s just Nathan East playing fingerstyle with an overly bright and punchy tone – my preference for gigging this is to use a plectrum in order to make sure that the bass line cuts through the distorted guitars.