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Welcome to the Danger Zone: The Story Behind Kenny Loggins's 'Danger Zone'

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Top Gunthe Tom Cruise-starring tale of brash Navy aviators flying with reckless abandon and a need for speed—wouldn't have its machismo without Kenny Loggins's hard-rocking (and very '80s) tune "Danger Zone" scoring the opening sequence. The song reached number two on the Billboard charts and, unlike thousands of other tunes written specifically for movies during that decade, it still stands tall today.

Long before "Danger Zone" achieved ironic fame status as a running gag on the likes of NPR's All Songs Considered and Archer, film producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson and music supervisor Michael Dilbeck were just trying to find the perfect music for Top Gun. Hundreds of songs were submitted to the filmmakers for possible inclusion in the film, and they were put together on an estimated 100 cassette tapes. Bruckheimer, Simpson, and Dilbeck agreed to listen to all of the songs together, under the condition that if any one of them didn't like a song in the first five seconds, they would move on to the next one. They weren't satisfied with any of them.

It was then that Bruckheimer and Simpson turned to Giorgio Moroder, a producer who by then had already amassed an impressive music career, producing hits for Donna Summer, and bringing home Oscars for the Midnight Express and Flashdance soundtracks, the latter of which was another Bruckheimer/Simpson production. Moroder composed and recorded two songs. Bruckheimer and Simpson didn't like them. Moroder was disappointed, but then he composed "Danger Zone" and "Take My Breath Away" (which would win him another Oscar).

"Danger Zone"'s lyrics were written, essentially, by Moroder's car mechanic. Tom Whitlock started writing songs at 15, and after some false starts he moved to California in 1983 to advance his music career. One fateful day, Whitlock was helping his friend move some speakers at a studio in the Valley when he overheard someone stomping down the hallway cursing. It was Moroder, and he was angry; the brakes on his Ferrari were not responding to his liking coming down Coldwater Canyon.

Whitlock went to Pep Boys, bought some Castrol brake fluid, and got Moroder's Ferrari working just right. The producer liked what he saw in Whitlock and hired him to work as his assistant. During the day, Whitlock would work the phones, handle billings, and run errands.

"If the Lamborghini broke down in Venice Beach, I would go sit there all night until the right kind of tow truck was available," Whitlock said, looking back at his hustle and determination. "If I needed to sleep on the floor to get up and let carpenters in at 5 a.m., I did that. If Brian De Palma wanted bagels, I got bagels. If Giorgio's mother wanted groceries from Gelson's, I went to Gelson's. It was a blast!"

After 5 p.m., Whitlock's patience paid off when he learned how to record and witnessed the Flashdance and Scarface soundtracks getting made. He would also work on his own songs, finally getting one of Moroder's publishers' attention. When Bruckheimer and Simpson reached out to Moroder, his usual lyrical collaborators weren't around: Keith Forsey was producing Billy Idol's album in New York City, and Pete Bellote was living in the United Kingdom. But Whitlock was still in the neighborhood.

"In retrospect, I may have been a bit too clever (or obvious) with all of the allusions," Whitlock later admitted about his lyrics.

Over time, rumors have persisted that the song was originally offered to Toto, but that the band backed out either over legal issues or because they wanted the whole group to play on the track. (Kenny Loggins claimed he later found out the Toto story was not true.)

Once the two songs were approved, Moroder went to the band Berlin and its lead singer Terri Nunn (Moroder was co-producer on their previous hit, 1984's "No More Words"). He offered the band the choice between "Danger Zone" or "Take My Breath Away," hoping they would opt for the former. Nunn said Moroder intended for "Danger Zone" to be a duet between the band and Kenny Loggins, but Berlin went with "Take My Breath Away." (CBS records initially wanted Aimee Mann to record that one.)

It was Bruckheimer who came up with Loggins' name in the first place, knowing him from his work on the title track to Footloose. Still, Moroder's first meeting with Loggins was when he recorded "Danger Zone." ("We met and we did everything in one day— it was very fast," Moroder recalled.)

Loggins got the call asking if he wanted to sing "Danger Zone" when he was in the studio finishing up recording a different song for the Top Gun soundtrack, "Playing with the Boys." The only thing Loggins asked about the song, the demo of which he had yet to hear, was if it was "up-tempo" or not. When he was told it was, he agreed. Loggins thought a faster song would help him, believing he "needed some rock and roll" for his concerts.

Whitlock and Loggins met at a house in Encino, California to go over the lyrics, with Loggins adding some ideas of his own. Loggins sang the vocal a few days later at the studio. Loggins used Tina Turner as the vocal model for "Danger Zone," because he was deep into her "rock soul thing" at the time. "I think that's why I ended up singing DaaangAH zone," Loggins self-deprecatingly admitted on the DVD commentary.

Loggins would collaborate with the composer/lyricist duo again with "Meet Me Halfway," for the Over the Top (1987) soundtrack, but "Danger Zone" is, by Loggins' own admission, one of the biggest songs of his career.

"I didn't expect that song to be the type of song that would hold up for almost 30 years," he said in 2013. "At the time, it seemed like a pretty simple piece of rock and roll. I just really wanted an up-tempo thing for my show, and I thought it would be fun to have a movie song. It would kick the show in gear, and it sure did."

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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in July
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Here’s some news you won’t be cheering about: Bring It On is leaving Netflix on July 1st—as are the four of its sequels that are currently part of the company’s streaming library (FYI: there are a total of six Bring It On films altogether—yes, six). The Lethal Weapon franchise will bid farewell, too, as will a handful of classic films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s. To make way for July’s slate of new titles, here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in July.

JULY 1

Alive

Along Came Polly

An Honest Liar

Beerfest

Before Midnight

Bring It On

Bring It On Again

Bring It On: All or Nothing

Bring It On: Fight to the Finish

Bring It On: In It to Win It

Cocktail

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon 2

Lethal Weapon 3

Lethal Weapon 4

Little Women

Michael Clayton

Midnight in Paris

Mixed Signals

More Than a Game

Pandemic

Piglet’s Big Movie

Rugrats Go Wild

Scary Movie

Scream 3

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

The Art of War

Tropic Thunder

V for Vendetta

JULY 2

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

JULY 8

Alpha & Omega: Journey to Bear Kingdom

Real Husbands of Hollywood: Seasons 1-5

JULY 9

Ratchet and Clank

Serena

JULY 11

Alice Through the Looking Glass

JULY 14

Wild Hogs

JULY 15

Convergence

Lockup: State Prisons: Collection 1

Small Is Beautiful: A Tiny House Documentary

JULY 16

Changeling

Wanted

JULY 29

The Den

JULY 30

A Cinderella Story

Hurricane of Fun: The Making of Wet Hot

Swing State 

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Universal Studios
Every New Movie, TV Series, and Special Coming to Netflix in July
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Like so much of the moviegoing world, Netflix is in a Jurassic Park state of mind. Among the dozens of new movies, TV shows, and specials that will be added to the company’s already-massive streaming library next month are Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Jurassic Park III. There’s plenty to love for non-dino enthusiasts, too—including new seasons of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and Orange is the New Black. Here’s everything new that’s coming to Netflix in July.

JULY 1

Blue Bloods: Season 8

Bo Burnham: what.

Chocolat

Deceived

Finding Neverland

Get Smart

Happy Gilmore

Hawaii Five-O: Season 8

Interview with the Vampire

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park III

Madam Secretary: Season 4

Menace II Society

NCIS: Season 15

Pandorum

Penelope

Queens of Comedy: Season 2

Rica, Famosa, Latina: Seasons 1-4

Scooby-Doo

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

Spanglish

Stealth

Swordfish

The Boondock Saints

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

The Princess Diaries

The Voices

Traitor

Troy

Van Helsing

We Own the Night

We the Marines

What We Started

JULY 2

Dance Academy: The Comeback

Good Witch: Season 4

Romina

The Sinner: Season 1

JULY 3

The Comedy Lineup

JULY 5

Blue Valentine

JULY 6

Anne with an E: Season 2

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: New 2018: Freshly Brewed

First Team: Juventus: Part B

Free Rein: Season 2

Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons: Season 2

Sacred Games

Samantha!

Somebody Feed Phil: The Second Course

The Fosters: Season 5

The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The Skin of The Wolf

White Fang

JULY 7

Scream 4

JULY 9

Lockup: Extended Stay: Collection 1

JULY 10

Drug Lords: Season 2

JULY 12

Gone Baby Gone

JULY 13

How It Ends

Jim Jefferies: This Is Me Now

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

Sugar Rush

The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants

JULY 15

Bonusfamiljen: Season 2

Going for Gold

The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale: Part 2

JULY 20

Amazing Interiors

Dark Tourist

Deep Undercover: Collection 3

Duck Duck Goose

Father of the Year

Fix It and Finish It: Collection 3

Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh: Season 4

Jimmy: The True Story of a True Idiot

Last Chance U: EMCC & Life After

Last Chance U: INDY: Part 1

Luna Petunia: Return to Amazia: Season 2

JULY 22

An Education

Disney’s Bolt

JULY 24

The Warning

Iliza Shlesinger: Elder Millennial

JULY 27

Cupcake & Dino - General Services

Extinction

Orange Is the New Black: Season 6

Roman Empire: Reign of Blood: Master of Rome

The Bleeding Edge

The Worst Witch: Season 2

Welcome to the Family

JULY 28

Shameless: Season 8

The Company Men

JULY 29

Her

Sofia the First: Season 4

JULY 30

A Very Secret Service: Season 2

JULY 31

Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 3

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