Behind the Song: Loggins & Messina, “Angry Eyes”

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Loggins & Messina evolved from what was supposed to be a solo project of Loggins’ with Messina producing into a full-fledged duo that became one of the best-selling American acts of the 1970s. One of their biggest songs, and one that was a hit with both pop music listeners and fans of jazzy instrumental music, was their co-write “Angry Eyes.” 

A song being sung to a lover or a friend about some type of disagreement or betrayal, this is one of those songs that has several misunderstood words on internet lyric sites. The words “false disguise,” for instance, are sometimes printed as “foster skies,” and when Loggins sings “staring out at me” in verse one, the writers of some sites have heard it as “staring down at me,” leading them to believe that Loggins is singing to God, which is probably not correct. And numerous YouTube videos of the song include the lyrics to a completely different song in the right-hand column. 

The song’s original studio 1972 version on their album Loggins & Messina featured sax and flute solos, Loggins and Messina swapping vocal lines, and a long guitar performance from Messina. That guitar solo was later performed as an even lengthier version on their live album On Stage, back in the days when FM radio played longer tracks. On the website thecollegecrowddigsme.com, Jim Messina spoke with interviewer Casey Chambers about how the song came to be.

“Well that song interestingly enough began when I was working on a movie score with a friend of mine, Murray MacLeod and [actor] Stuart Margolin … there was a scene in the movie where the bad guys were coming into town and we needed something that was just gonna feel ominous. And angry. So I had this guitar lick. I said, ‘Well, how about this one?’ And they went, ‘Oh yeah, that’s perfect!’ So we recorded a few pieces for the movie.”

“And then later, I was working on that lick and modifying it a bit for what I thought would be better for a song. And I had the song almost finished. I remember, in those days my attorney said, ‘Ya know, you’re always best to have your partners work with you on stuff. It keeps everybody working together and focused, and when you make money, we all make money.’ … So, I brought Kenny in on the project and asked if he’d help me finish writing the song. And he did. And it did eventually end up becoming a Loggins & Messina song. But that lick started out as a music cue for a movie.”

Messina was well-known in L.A. music circles before he started working with the unknown Loggins. His stints with Buffalo Springfield and Poco no doubt helped him develop the guitar and production skills that contributed to this song’s well-known solo, played with a thumbpick and fingers on a Fender Telecaster with a unique pickup.

“The original guitar on that song was a Telecaster. I still own it … And it ended up having what is called a microphonic pickup. A microphonic pickup is when it starts to get on the verge of wanting to feed back … And the effect of it … is a very mid-rangey sound that almost becomes poppy. And of course, the way I played it, it overemphasized what that microphonic did. It gave it a sound. And just about everybody who heard that song made comments about the great guitar sound. Who knew, right?”

After the duo called it a day, Loggins went on to a lucrative solo career with huge songs from movie soundtracks, and Messina recorded several solo albums, in addition to recording with the regrouped Poco and touring again with Loggins. Messina also co-wrote, with Kent Robbins, the Nashville track “Mexican Minutes” from Brooks & Dunn’s Hard Workin’ Man album, one of the few B&D tracks to feature a lead vocal by Kix Brooks. 


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