Today we’re going to discuss the oft-maligned (perhaps for a good reason) genre known as “yacht rock.” Wikipedia says about it:
Yacht rock (originally known as the West Coast Sound or adult-oriented rock) is a broad music style and aesthetic identified with soft rock. Yacht rock was one of the commercially successful genres of its era, existing between the late 1970s and early 1980s. Drawing on sources such as smooth soul, smooth jazz, R&B, funk, and disco, common stylistic traits include high-quality production, clean vocals, and a focus on light, catchy melodies. Initially used pejoratively, its name was derived from its association with the popular Southern Californian leisure activity of sailing.
What got me thinking about this was a recent article on the MeTV blog where they built a playlist of twenty songs that they felt best defined the genre. Naturally, people chimed in with “hey, where’s _______________________________?” Anyway, I weeded through the comments and chose what I thought were the best songs from the suggestions, and built a playlist of my own. I also built a playlist with both MeTV’s choices and these, which you can find here. So, all I did this week was to curate and build the lists, as well as adding a couple of songs. The actual credit goes to the commenters. With that said, here’s the playlist.
- Bertie Higgins, “Key Largo” Bertie had just one hit, and he made the most of it. This reached #1 on the Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary charts and #8 on the year-end Hot 100 in 1982.
- Blues Image, “Ride Captain Ride” Tampa-based Blues Image took this to #4 in the US and Canada in the last half of 1970. I’m surprised I didn’t have the record.
- Starbuck, “Moonlight Feels Right” If you’ve been around here for a while, you know how much I love this song. This reached #3 on the Hot 100 in 1976. While they never had anywhere near the success wih any other songs, they did reach the Hot 100 several times after this song and had another Top 40 hit, “Everybody Be Dancin'” in 1977. Starbuck is from Atlanta, and this is a live recording from Chastain Park.
- Looking Glass, “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” Part of the “Jersey Shore” sound, Looking Glass hit #1 on both the Billboard and Cash Box surveys with this in 1972. Their followup, 1973’s “Jimmy Loves Mary Ann,” didn’t do as well except in the Chicago area.
- Little River Band, “Cool Change” And here I thought they only did “Reminiscing.” Melbourne, Australia’s little River Band placed 20 singles in the Top Twenty, with this reaching #10 in January 1980.
- Michael Johnson, “Bluer Than Blue” I added this one because I like it and because it fits the genre. Title track from Michael’s 1978 album, it was his first Top 40 single, reaching #12 on the Hot 100 and #10 on the Cash Box survey. It did even better on the Easy Listening chart, spending three weeks at #1.
- King Harvest, “Dancin’ In The Moonlight” This was the biggest hit for the French-American band King Harvest, reaching #13 on the Hot 100 in 1972.
- Starland Vocal Band, “Love Stuff” Everyone knows them for “Afternoon Delight” off their eponymous 1976 album, but not everyone knows they recorded five albums altogether. This is from one of them, though I can’t figure out which.
- Jimmy Buffett, “Margaritaville” The Key West sound of Jimmy Buffett has been around for over 40 years, but he didn’t hit it really big until 1977 with this single, from that year’s Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes. It reached #8 on the Hot 100, #7 on the Cash Box survey, and #3 on the Canadian RPM survey. It’s his best-known song.
- The Beach Boys, “Kokomo” The Beach Boys recorded this for the 1988 film Cocktail starring Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown, and it was a #1 hit for them in the US, Japan, and Australia, where it topped the charts for several months. I added this one as well; even though it’s a little outside the Yacht Rock era, it fits.
Feel free to recommend other songs you think fit here, but you might want to have a peek at the original list before you do to avoid duplicates. That’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for October 2, 2017.
ETA: There’s a lot more yacht rock on AllMusic. You’ll need Spotify to listen.