Title screen of the first episode of Yacht Rock.
|Created by||J. D. Ryznar, Hunter D. Stair and Lane Farnham|
|Presented by||Steve Huey|
|Starring||J. D. Ryznar, Hunter D. Stair|
|Opening theme||"Sweet Freedom" by Michael McDonald|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||12|
|Location(s)||Los Angeles, CA|
|Original channel||Channel 101|
|Original run||June 26, 2005 – April 14, 2010|
Yacht Rock was an online video series following the fictionalized lives and careers of American soft rock stars of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The series debuted on Channel 101 at the June 26, 2005 screening. It placed in the top five at subsequent screenings until the June 25, 2006 screening, where it placed seventh and was canceled. The show remained a popular download on Channel 101, convincing the creators to make two additional episodes independently. The 11th episode, featuring Jason Lee as Kevin Bacon, debuted during a screening at the Knitting Factory in New York City on December 27, 2007 and was later included with the other episodes on Channel 101. On May 5, 2010, the 12th and final episode of Yacht Rock was released onto YouTube and Channel 101.
Creation and inspiration
Ryznar and Stair devised the series after noticing the incestuous recording careers of such bands as Steely Dan, Toto, and The Doobie Brothers and the singer-songwriters Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. For example, McDonald co-wrote Loggins' "This Is It" and Loggins co-wrote McDonald's band The Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes" and McDonald also performed backing vocals for several other 'yacht rock' artists, including Steely Dan and Christopher Cross.
Ryznar admits to having a fascination with the music of the period. As he explained, "Getting into Steely Dan really started this for me. As did the ability to buy dollar records at Amoeba and put them on tapes for my car. Kenny Loggins has made his way into all the pilots I've been involved with except [one]." As Ryznar told Reuters contributor Andy Sullivan, "I'm making fun of the songwriting process, but the music is generally treated pretty lovingly."
Yacht Rock's episodes were "hosted" by "Hollywood" Steve Huey, a legitimate music critic for AllMusic. It should be noted that the term "Yacht Rock" is never used throughout the series by any characters except for by Huey during his introductions; instead, it is always referred to as "smooth music."
The series depicts some realistic aspects of the music, but builds exaggerated storylines around them. For example, main protagonists Loggins and McDonald receive inspiration from a fictional impresario named Koko Goldstein, whose death in Episode 2 ultimately leads them to go their separate ways musically. Another example is the series' depiction of several real-life characters. McDonald is an idealistic and earnest singer/songwriter, but takes both smooth music and himself far too seriously. Loggins is his easygoing friend and frequent collaborator who eventually abandons smooth music in favor of commercial rock and roll in the 80s, which strains their friendship. The portrayal of John Oates as the abusive, foulmouthed leader of Hall & Oates, exerting sometimes violent control over the milquetoast Daryl Hall, is clearly different from reality, in which Hall is the main lead vocalist and songwriter with no hint of a rivalry. Christopher Cross is depicted as a wide-eyed, timid hayseed whose song "Sailing" is lauded as the "smoothest song ever." Loggins' former partner Jim Messina is a bitter wino who hates Loggins for his success and perceived betrayal. Michael Jackson is depicted as a hard-rock enthusiast who believes his partnership with guitarist Eddie Van Halen will lead to an endless parade of female sexual conquests. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, the Doobie Brothers' lead guitarist, is seen threatening to kick McDonald "out of the Doobies" if he doesn't write them another hit. (The real Baxter did bring fellow Steely Dan alumnus McDonald into the band but, as they achieved their greatest commercial success, Baxter left the Doobie Brothers because of his displeasure with their new commercial sound and attitude.) The Eagles (portrayed here as jock-like meatheads) and Steely Dan (portrayed as snarky nerds, with Donald Fagen speaking in an incoherent babble of scat that only the truly smooth can understand) really did insert lyrical references to each other in their music as depicted in the show, but these were actually friendly in nature, not part of a longtime grudge involving baseball bats and lunch-money shakedowns.
"Yacht rock" is a pejorative name used retrospectively to refer to the soft rock format that peaked in popularity between the years of 1975 and 1984. In part, the term relates to the stereotype of the yuppie yacht owner, enjoying smooth music while out for a sail. Additionally, since sailing was a popular leisure activity in Southern California, many "yacht rockers" made nautical references in their lyrics, videos, and album artwork, particularly the anthemic track "Sailing" by Christopher Cross. Notable artists also include Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan and Toto.
Ryznar commented that the term was intended to refer to the "more elite studio artists" of the period, such as Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. David B. Lyons, who co-produced the show and played Koko Goldstein, noted that a friend of his devised the term "marina rock" in college to refer to a more "working-class" group of artists that didn't achieve the same high profile, such as Seals and Crofts, Bertie Higgins, Rupert Holmes, and Looking Glass. Marina Rock is actually a term for soft rock of the same era with a nautical subject matter. Therefore, there aren't specific Marina Rock artists as much as there are songs that fall into the category such as "Ride Captain Ride" by Blues Image, "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home)" by Grand Funk Railroad, "Thunder Island" by Jay Ferguson and "Southern Cross" by Crosby, Stills and Nash. Despite the show's intentions, music journalists have begun using the term yacht rock for all of the similar-sounding music of the period, including bands such as Ambrosia, 10cc, Pablo Cruise, Firefall, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Orleans, Ace, and Player. The artists retrospectively grouped under the yacht rock umbrella dominated the Grammy Awards, with Christopher Cross and Toto sweeping the major awards in 1981 and 1983 respectively. However, these artists were not a hit with most rock critics at the time, who dismissed it as being corporate rock that was overproduced, generic, and middle of the road, instead favoring punk and new wave acts such as The Clash, Blondie, Patti Smith, and Elvis Costello.
While Ryznar and the show popularized the term "yacht rock," it had existed previously. Its earliest-known appearance came in 1990 from Dave Larsen, popular music critic for the Dayton Daily News, describing an upcoming Jimmy Buffett concert in Cincinnati.
John Oates credited Yacht Rock in 2007 with rekindling interest in Hall & Oates and lowering the demographic age of the group's fans saying:
|“||I think Yacht Rock was the beginning of this whole Hall & Oates resurrection...They were the first ones to start to parody us and put us out there again, and a lot of things have happened because of Yacht Rock.||”|
Michael McDonald commented on Yacht Rock in a 2008 interview:
|“||Have you ever owned a yacht?
No, but I thought Yacht Rock was hilarious. And uncannily, you know, those things always have a little bit of truth to them. It’s kind of like when you get a letter from a stalker who’s never met you. They somehow hit on something, and you have to admit they’re pretty intuitive.
- "What a Fool Believes"
- In the pilot episode, Kenny Loggins, under the guidance of Koko Goldstein, reaches out to a struggling Michael McDonald, who's having trouble writing a smooth hit for his band the Doobie Brothers.
- Featured songs - "Sailing the Wind" by Loggins and Messina; "Whenever I Call You Friend" by Kenny Loggins; "What a Fool Believes" by Michael McDonald.
- "Keep the Fire"
- Loggins and McDonald pair up against the duo Hall & Oates for a songwriting competition. Koko is accidentally impaled by his lucky harpoon during the ensuing melee, but is at peace before his death by hearing the smoothest song ever sung, "Sailing", by a young Christopher Cross.
- Featured songs - "Portable Radio" by Hall and Oates; "This is It," "Keep the Fire" by Kenny Loggins; "Sailing" by Christopher Cross.
- "I'm Alright"
- As everyone grieves Koko's death, Loggins lashes out at McDonald and "smooth music" as a whole, causing a rift between the two. Sleazy entertainment executive Gene Balboa, who is producing the movie Caddyshack demands that the movie's director, Harold Ramis, obtain Loggins' talents to write the movie's theme song. Ramis takes advantage of an angry and confused Loggins and gets him to write and record the hard rock song "I'm Alright", much to McDonald's dismay.
- Featured songs: "Time Out of Mind" by Steely Dan; "How do the Fools Survive" by The Doobie Brothers; "I'm Alrigh" by Kenny Loggins.
- Steve Porcaro (Steve Agee), the keyboard player of the band Toto, is asked by his girlfriend, Rosanna Arquette, to write a song about her, and she wants him to have Michael McDonald sing on the track. Discouraged by McDonald's disdain for his band, Porcaro devises a three-step plan to make it happen.
- Featured songs:
- "Believe in It"
- Toto has been commissioned to write a smooth song for Michael Jackson's Thriller, but Jackson rejects the band, believing after working with Eddie Van Halen on "Beat It" that such material is in his past. Fearing that Jackson will destroy "smooth music" for a decade, Porcaro turns to McDonald, Loggins, Skunk Baxter, Cross, and Vincent Price (James Adomian), to summon up Koko's ghost for help writing "Human Nature."
- "The Seed Drill"
- "Hollywood" Steve's father demands that Steve stop wasting his time on Yacht Rock, and regales a historic tale of the agriculturist Jethro Tull, whose plot is similar to episode one.
- "I Keep Forgettin'"
- McDonald and Loggins make a bet about the popularity of McDonald's new song, "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)". Ten years later, Long Beach-based rappers Warren G and Nate Dogg struggle with finding a sound within the gangsta rap world. After the two accidentally hit McDonald with their car and then take him back to their house, a solution is found to everyone's problems.
- "Gino (the Manager)"
- "Hollywood" Steve returns to the very beginning, where Doobie Brothers producer Ted Templeman (Dan Harmon) explains his dream about the origin of "the smoothest rock [he's] ever heard" to Skunk Baxter over lunch. Baxter suggests seeing Koko about it, and Templeman starts seeing his dream become real as he meets a young McDonald, then a background singer for Steely Dan, being talked into joining the Doobie Brothers by Steely Dan and Koko, Loggins showing signs of his imminent break from Messina and solo stardom, and an effeminate Hall and Oates with a very familiar looking manager named Gino, who tries to bully McDonald and Loggins into employing him as a manager. When they refuse, he plots revenge.
- "Runnin' with the Devil"
- Van Halen puts a curse on Ted Templeman to force him to produce their hard rock song. In a subplot, Loggins loses his car keys and has everyone in the studio helping him look. Comedian Drew Carey makes a cameo appearance along with fellow "Whose line" star, Jeff Davis who plays David Lee Roth in this episode.
- "Danger Zone"
- As the mid '80s approach, McDonald feels that with the death of Yacht Rock, he has become the irrelevant joke he always feared he would become. Loggins, on the other hand, has grown to love doing movie soundtracks and his career is still in high gear. Extraterrestrial/composer Giorgio Moroder is sent to Earth to seek Loggins' assistance in fighting a black hole that will destroy Moroder's planet. Fearing for his friend's life, McDonald tries to rescue him, and in the process, finds his relevance. By the end of the episode the loose ends of the past 11 episodes are tied together (including the revelation that all of Yacht Rock had been a plan by Koko - to lead to the song Sweet Freedom), but left with a cliff hanger ending as to who murdered Koko.
Real people portrayed in Yacht Rock
- Dan Aykroyd
- Sara Allen (Daryl Hall's girlfriend)
- Ian Anderson
- Michael Anthony (referred to as 'the other guy')
- Rosanna Arquette
- Kevin Bacon
- Jeff "Skunk" Baxter
- Walter Becker
- Jeremiah Birnbaum
- David Bowie
- Lindsey Buckingham
- Jimmy Buffett
- Kim Carnes
- Peter Cetera
- Ray Charles
- Christopher Cross
- Nate Dogg
- Daryl Dragon
- Dr. Dre
- Bob Dylan
- Donald Fagen
- Glenn Frey
- Warren G
- Daryl Hall
- Don Henley
- David Hungate
- James Ingram
- La Toya Jackson
- Michael Jackson
- Al Jarreau
- Cyndi Lauper
- Huey Lewis
- Kenny Loggins
- Steve Lukather
- Michael McDonald
- Jim Messina
- Giorgio Moroder
- Willie Nelson
- John Oates
- David Paich
- Steve Perry
- Jeff Porcaro
- Steve Porcaro
- Vincent Price
- Harold Ramis
- Kenny Rogers
- David Lee Roth
- Patrick Simmons
- Paul Simon
- Bruce Springsteen
- Ted Templeman
- Toni Tennille
- Charles, Lord Townshend
- Jethro Tull
- Tina Turner
- Alex Van Halen
- Eddie Van Halen
- Dionne Warwick
- Chiu, David (2008-05-28). "'Yacht Rock' Docks in Sea of Musical Spoofs". Spinner. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
- Hornaday, Ann (2007-02-04). "Rules for YouTube: Make Art, Not Bore". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
- Ryznar, J.D. (2005-07-27). "Yacht Rock, Ep. 2". Channel 101 Public Forum. Channel 101. Retrieved 2006-10-09.
- Sullivan, Andy (2005-12-13). "Web TV Helps Comedy Writers Find Audience". Reuters (Fox News). Retrieved 2008-10-07.
- Powers, Ann (2008-05-27). "Hall & Oates redeem their cool cred". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
- Crumsho, Michael (2006-01-09). "Finally, a name for that music: "Yacht Rock"". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
- Berlind, William (2006-08-27). "Yacht Rock Docks in New York". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2008-07-29. ""yacht rock" is now a legitimate subgenre of music criticism"
- "Yacht Rock".
- Matos, Michaelangelo (2005-12-07). "Talk Talk: J.D. Ryznar". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 2006-10-09.
- "GuyCharisma" [David Lyons] (2005-12-04). "yacht rock #5". Channel 101 Public Forum. Channel 101. Retrieved 2006-10-09.
- Spence D.; Brian Linder (2006-05-30). "Top 10 Yacht Rock Songs Of All Time". IGN. Retrieved 2006-10-09.
- "Grammys play catch-up -- again". CNN.com. 2001-02-23. Retrieved 2006-10-09.[dead link]
- Caro, Mark (2006-02-13). "U2 vs. Kanye revisited". Pop Machine. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2006-10-09.
- Maerz, Jennifer; Ben Westhoff (2007-08-21). "Seattle Music - Hall & Oates Are Living, Harmonizing Proof That There's No Such Thing as Ironic Hipster Kryptonite". Village Voice Media. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
- Sellers, John (2008-02-27). "Michael McDonald". Time Out New York. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
- Perpetua, Matthew (2007-11-21). "The New Pornographers Get a Yacht-Rock Tribute". New York Magazine.
- "Yacht Rock Revue".
- "Set sail with the sultans of smooth". MetroMix.
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