My song today is ‘Footloose’. This song was co-written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins. It was released in January 1984 as the first of two singles by Loggins from the 1984 film of the same name (the other one being ‘I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)’. The song spent three weeks at Number 1 between March 31—April 14, 1984, on the US ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart and was the first of two Number-1 hits from the film. Billboard ranked it as the Number 4 song for 1984.
The song was very well received and is one of the most recognizable songs recorded by Loggins. When the ‘American Film Institute’ released its ‘AFI’S 100 Years Best 100 Songs’, ‘Footloose’ reached the 96th position. The song was covered by country music artist, Blake Shelton for the 2011 remake of the 1984 film. It was nominated for an ’Academy Award for Best Original Song’ at the 1985 ceremony, losing to Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ from ‘The Woman in Red’. In 2018, it was selected for preservation in the ‘National Recording Registry’ by the ‘Library of Congress’ as being "culturally, historically, or artistically significant."
My research into the origin of the saying, ‘Footloose’ mentions a citation for it in the Oxford Dictionary in 1873, meaning ‘Free to act as one pleases; not hampered by any ties.’ It later got associated with the term ‘Footloose and fancy-free’. In nautical terminology, ‘being footloose’ was likened to the animations of a sail. In most sailing vessels, the lower edge of the mainsail (known as the foot), was lashed to the boom to keep it stretched and properly shaped. However, there were some exceptions, notably the London river barges. These vessels did not have a boom, and the sail hung loose along the foot. Loose-footed sails, as they came to be called, had a mind of their own and were more difficult to control. It is from this that the meaning ‘footloose and fancy-free’ is believed to have come from.
As for having a mind of my own, I am afraid that I was always guilty of this characteristic. Not only did it mark out my independence of thought (a personal attribute not usually considered to be present in anyone brought up in a strict Roman Catholic household), but being ‘footloose and fancy-free’ enabled me to remain unmarried until my 26th year of life. This was a remarkable achievement for any young romantic like myself who lived in an age (born in 1942) when most young men and women were married by the time they were 21 years old and were often the proud or sorry parents of two or more children before their 26th birthday!
Once one is married, being ‘footloose and fancy-free’ is wholly non-applicable to any new experience; that is unless you are doomed to a failed marital relationship.
I will never forget meeting a woman in the mid-1980s when I served as a Probation Officer in Huddersfield. She was in her forties and had been married and divorced four times! This veritable Zsa Zsa Gabor was already well on her way to equalling the Hollywood film star’s record of nine failed marriages and divorces.
It turned out that the woman’s four marriages and divorces (during years when getting divorced was still a rare occurrence and was still socially frowned upon) had less to do with her unfaithful tendencies with other men while still married to her current husband, and was due more to her fascination with wearing a bridal gown and being ‘the most important person’ on the day of her wedding!
The woman had lived a life throughout her childhood and young woman years as being marked down as an individual of insignificant worth by both her teachers, her siblings and her mother (her father had died when she was four or five years old). She was very attractive and had no difficulty in attracting the attention of men, despite having gone past her younger years. She was first married at the age of 18 years; a marriage that lasted a mere two years before she had started another relationship while awaiting her husband’s decision to divorce her because of her infidelity. She never gave birth to children, presumably having some medical condition which prevented her from becoming a mother.
Before her thirtieth birthday, she had started stealing from stores in town, and after three offences of theft, she was made the subject of a Probation Order. Her pattern of thefts was the most intriguing feature of her offences, as every item, she ever stole related to ‘weddings’ such as confetti or wedding cards, or wedding shoes etc. On one occasion she was prosecuted for theft and deception when, posing as a bride-to-be, she got measured for a wedding dress to be made up by a marriage shop in Huddersfield. She had gone into town on three occasions for a fitting before it became clear that she was already married and had not the financial means or motive to pay for a new wedding dress.
The bottom line was that she loved getting married, along with all the pomp and ceremony attached to weddings, including the wedding reception afterwards, and the receipt of all her wedding presents! After about five years, and three supervising Probation Officers later (not an unusual length of time to be under a Probation Officer in the 1980s), her most significant progress could be seen in her absence of the theft of wedding items.
As a behaviourist, I recall telling her and her most recent partner that she did not have physically get married every time she wanted to wear a wedding dress and that there was no law on earth preventing her wearing a wedding dress in her home any day or night. She was told that she could wear a bridal veil to bed or a blue garter around her thigh if that worked better for her and her husband. I know that she even tried out this suggestion of mine, and although it did provide some temporary benefit, it was no solution, and was insufficient to change her overall problem behaviour that had been deeply entrenched over two decades or more.
Some few months later, she moved areas and our contact ended. While her criminal behaviour was somewhat unusual, given her predisposition towards always wanting to get married, it could have been much worse I suppose, as she had all the hallmarks of becoming a bigamist!
Love and peace Bill xxx