Sail On, Sailor

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"Sail On, Sailor"
Beach Boys - Sail On, Sailor.jpg
Single by The Beach Boys
from the album Holland
B-side"Only with You"
ReleasedJanuary 29, 1973
March 10, 1975
Format7" vinyl
RecordedOctober–November 28, 1972, Village Recorders, Santa Monica
Producer(s)Carl Wilson
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Sail On, Sailor"
"California Saga: California"
Audio sample
"Sail On, Sailor"

"Sail On, Sailor" is a song by American rock band the Beach Boys from their 1973 album Holland. It was written by Brian Wilson, Ray Kennedy, Tandyn Almer, Jack Rieley, and Van Dyke Parks. It was released as a single in 1973, backed with "Only with You", and peaked at number 79 on the American singles charts.[1] A 1975 reissue (also backed with "Only with You") charted higher, at number 49.[2] According to Jon Stebbins, "It is perhaps the only perennial Beach Boys favorite to still thrive in the classic rock and album rock FM radio formats of the present."[3]


Van Dyke Parks elaborated upon Wilson's role in the compositional process: "I went over to Brian's with my new [tape recorder] and told him the name of the tune and sang those intervals, and he pumped out the rest of that song."[4] He explains: "That was a tough moment for both Brian and me. I just went over to see how he was, and he wasn't good. Of course, you couldn't tell that from this song, because it represents such hope, but it came out of a very difficult time."[4] Wilson said of the song: "Van Dyke really inspired this one. We worked on it originally; then, the other collaborators contributed some different lyrics. By the time the Beach Boys recorded it, the lyrics were all over the place. But I love how this song rocks."[5]

There exists a recording of Parks and Wilson writing the song on Wilson's piano. According to Parks, "it's clear from the contents [of the tape] that I authored the words and the musical intervals to 'Sail on Sailor.' It's also clear that I composed the bridge, played them, and taught them to Brian."[6] In the liner notes written for the 2000 reissue of Holland, Scott McCaughey said that the song was originally written by Wilson with his friends Tandyn Almer and Ray Kennedy, and that Parks "structur[ed] the song and add[ed] a middle-eight" before Rieley contributed a last minute lyric revision.[7] In 2015, Wilson remembered "writing 'Sail On, Sailor' with a guy named Ray Kennedy. I wrote the music and he wrote the lyrics."[8]

Wilson biographer Peter Ames Carlin stated that the song was essentially co-written by Wilson and Parks in 1971, with Kennedy and Almer's lyrical contributions dating from impromptu sessions at Danny Hutton's house during the epoch.[9] Kennedy recalled that "Sail On, Sailor" had originally been intended by Wilson for Three Dog Night, and that he had written the song with Wilson over the course of three days in 1970: "We went in and cut the basic tracks with Three Dog Night; we hadn't slept in about a week. Then Brian got up with a razor blade and cut the tapes and said, 'Only Ray Kennedy or Van Dyke Parks can do this song.' And he left. We all stood there looking at each other going, 'What?' He called me every day after that, and I wouldn't talk to him. Three or four years later, I heard it on the radio and went, 'Who's that?'"[10][nb 1] Beach Boys archivist Craig Slowinski credits music to Wilson with the majority of lyrics from Rieley and some from Parks and Kennedy; he does not mention any contribution by Almer.[13]

When the Beach Boys submitted the original version of Holland to Warner Brothers in October 1972, the album was rejected by the company for lacking a potential hit single. After discussion among Warner executives, Parks (who was then director of audio-visual services at the label) said that he had the aforementioned tape of "Sail On, Sailor", and suggested that the song could be recorded as the album's lead track.[4][14] The label then enjoined the Beach Boys to drop what the company perceived as the weakest track ("We Got Love")[nb 2] and replace it with the song.[16] Parks commented: "I'm glad that every one came out of their little rooms to claim co-writing credit on that song. But I never questioned it, just as I never questioned the various claims on the residuals."[6]


Vocals for "Sail On, Sailor" were recorded in late October 1972, some time after the Beach Boys had left Holland. According to Steven Gaines, Wilson initially "tinker[ed] with the song, trying to make it perfect as he had with 'Good Vibrations' and Smile"; following this bout of "procrastination," his bandmates "did not allow [him] to work on it at all."[17] This development left the basic track to be recorded by Brian's brother Carl and ex-Flame and then-Beach Boys members Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin. The lead vocal was first attempted by Dennis Wilson, who sang the vocal once before leaving to go surfing. Carl was the next to attempt a vocal, but he then suggested that Chaplin make an attempt. After two takes, Carl decided that Chaplin's vocal would feature as the lead. [18] Brian acknowledged himself being "grossly incompetent" with the song, failing to show up at its backing vocals session, but giving some instructions by phone.[7]


Sourced from Scott McCaughey[7] and Craig Slowinski.[19][20]

The Beach Boys
Additional musicians

Use in media[edit]

The song was featured in Martin Scorsese's Academy Award-winning film The Departed, and on the motion picture soundtrack CD.

Chart history[edit]

Chart (1973) Peak
Canada RPM Adult Contemporary[21] 52
Netherlands 73
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[22] 79
U.S. Cash Box Top 100[23] 96
Chart (1975) Peak
Canada RPM Top Singles[24] 73
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[25] 49
U.S. Cash Box Top 100[26] 62

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ On the 1973 (REP 1138) and 1975 (RPS 1325) United States 7" single releases, Kennedy and Rieley are credited as the song's lyricists, while the music is attributed to Almer, Parks, and Wilson.[11][better source needed][12][better source needed]
  2. ^ A live performance of the song was released on 1973's The Beach Boys in Concert.[15]


  1. ^ Badman 2004, p. 326.
  2. ^ "Sail On Sailor awards". Allmusic.
  3. ^ Stebbins, Jon (2011). The Beach Boys FAQ: All That's Left to Know About America's Band. Backbeat Books. p. 132. ISBN 9781458429148.
  4. ^ a b c Priore, Dominic (2005). Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson's Masterpiece. Sanctuary Publishing Ltd. p. 142. ISBN 1-86074-627-6.
  5. ^ Wilson, Brian (2002). Classics Selected by Brian Wilson (CD Liner). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
  6. ^ a b Badman, Keith (2004). The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band, on Stage and in the Studio. Backbeat Books. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-87930-818-6.
  7. ^ a b c McCaughey, Scott (2000). Carl and the Passions – "So Tough" / Holland (CD Liner). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
  8. ^ Slate, Jeff (March 24, 2015). "Brian Wilson's 10 Favorite Beach Boys and Solo Songs". Esquire.
  9. ^ Carlin, Peter Ames (2006). Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Rodale. p. 184. ISBN 978-1-59486-320-2.
  10. ^ Locey, Bill (January 13, 2005). "Leader of the Jam". Archived from the original on August 10, 2007.
  11. ^ "The Beach Boys - Sail On Sailor / Only With You - Brother - USA - REP 1138". Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  12. ^ "The Beach Boys - Sail On Sailor / Only With You - Brother - USA - RPS 1325". Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  13. ^ "Definitive list of Pre-66 recordings with no Wrecking Crew involvement?".
  14. ^ Hoskyns, Barney (2007). Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends. John Wiley and Sons. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-470-12777-3.
  15. ^ Planer, Lindsay (1973-11-19). "In Concert - The Beach Boys | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  16. ^ Stebbins, Jon (2011). The Beach Boys FAQ: All That's Left to Know About America's Band. Backbeat Books. p. 128. ISBN 9781458429148.
  17. ^ Gaines, Steven (1995). Heroes And Villains: The True Story Of The Beach Boys. Da Capo Press. p. 256. ISBN 0306806479.
  18. ^ Badman 2004, p. 323.
  19. ^ "SAIL ON SAILOR".
  20. ^ "Sail On Sailor".
  21. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1973-04-28. Retrieved 2019-07-26.
  22. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  23. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, , 1973
  24. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1975-06-28. Retrieved 2019-07-26.
  25. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  26. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, June 21, 1975

External links[edit]