Sailing (Sutherland Brothers song)
|Single by The Sutherland Bros. Band|
|B-side||"Who's Crying Now"|
|The Sutherland Bros. Band singles chronology|
Sutherland Brothers original recording
"Sailing" was written and recorded by the Sutherland Brothers – a duo consisting of Gavin and Iain Sutherland – in a June 1972 session. The brothers provided their own backing with Gavin on bass drum and Iain on harmonium. They intended the song to have a "Celtic feel to it", and overdubbed their vocals. Gavin Sutherland said of the song, "Most people take the song to be about a young guy telling his girl that he's crossing the Atlantic to be with her. In fact the song's got nothing to do with romance or ships; it's an account of mankind's spiritual odyssey through life on his way to freedom and fulfillment with the Supreme Being."
Issued as a single, the song reached No. 54 in July 1972, and the single's sales were reportedly 40,000 units. The Sutherland Brothers had recorded "Sailing" subsequent to completing the tracks intended for their upcoming album release Lifeboat, and that album was issued in November 1972 without the inclusion of "Sailing": included on the US edition of the Lifeboat album, "Sailing" by the Sutherland Brothers would make its UK album debut on the 1976 Sutherland Brothers' compilation album entitled Sailing.
Rod Stewart version
|Single by Rod Stewart|
|from the album Atlantic Crossing|
|B-side||"Stone Cold Sober" |
(US "All in the Name
of Rock 'N' Roll")
|Rod Stewart 1974–75 singles chronology|
"Sailing" was recorded by Rod Stewart for his first album recorded in North America rather than Great Britain: Atlantic Crossing, which album was recorded April – June 1975 at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio with Tom Dowd producing. The first single from the album, "Sailing" afforded Stewart an international hit notably in the UK where "Sailing" was No. 1 for four weeks in September 1975: augmented by a return to the UK chart in 1976 and – to a lesser extent – 1987, "Sailing" remains the Rod Stewart single to have the greatest success in its UK release. However, "Sailing" failed to afford Stewart a major hit in his newly adopted US homeland.
According to Iain Sutherland the connection between the Sutherland Brothers and Rod Stewart which led to Stewart's recording of "Sailing" began when Stewart's live-in girlfriend Dee Harrington saw the Sutherland Brothers on the 20 June 1972 broadcast of the BBC2 music program The Old Grey Whistle Test: Harrington recommended the Sutherland Brothers as a musical act that would interest Stewart, and Stewart did indeed become a Sutherland Brothers fan after seeing them perform at the Marquee Club. According to Gavin Sutherland, the Sutherland Brothers co-wrote two original songs with Stewart which Stewart hoped to record for Atlantic Crossing: however the only Sutherland Brothers tune Stewart would record for the album would be "Sailing" whose seemingly nautical theme complemented the album's title.
Stewart would recall the recording of "Sailing" being a challenge: he was awoken in his hotel room by a 10 am phone call from Dowd at Muscles Shoals, in which Dowd said "Get down here in half an hour; we've mixed the track and need the vocal"; Stewart (quote): "I was like: 'You're joking, recording at 10:30 in the morning. I need a drink to calm the old nerves'...There was nothing [alcoholic] to be had anywhere and I was terrified to sing without [a drink]"..."I'd never sung anything in a studio without having a drink – let alone a big old anthem. And I'd never sung anything, anywhere that early in the morning. Got it in six or seven takes though."
Impact and legacy
Despite his enthusiasm for the Sutherland Brothers, Stewart said that he "argued vehemently" against the release of "Sailing" as the lead single from Atlantic Crossing, instead advocating his own composition "Three Time Loser". Gavin Sutherland concurs: "I don't think Rod personally wanted ["Sailing"] put out as a single. He just saw it as a big ballady-kind of last track, side two, finish to Atlantic Crossing which had several other great tracks on it." However "Sailing" had an August 1975 UK single release parallel with the album release of Atlantic Crossing: reaching No. 2 UK in its second week of release, Stewart's "Sailing" would have a four-week tenure at No. 1 UK.
Stewart's "Sailing" had a UK chart revival in 1976 as a result of the track being utilized as theme song for Sailor a documentary series on HMS Ark Royal which BBC1 aired for ten weeks from 5 August 1976: "Sailing" ranked at No. 50 on the UK chart dated 4 September 1976 and the track's renewed popularity continued even after the 7 October 1976 finale of the Sailor TV series, as "Sailing" reached its 1976 chart peak of No. 3 on the UK charts dated 16 – 23 October 1976, with the track remaining in the UK Top 50 into January 1977. Stewart performed "Sailing" live on the Top of the Pops broadcast of 23 September 1976. "Sailing" remains Stewart's biggest-selling single in the UK: in November 2012 it was reported that "Sailing" by Rod Stewart had sold 1.12 million units in the UK with a resultant ranking at No. 112 of the 123 UK million-selling singles.
In the US, where Atlantic Crossing had been issued in August 1975 without a single release, "Sailing" was issued as the album's lead single in October 1975 but failed to reach the Top 40 of Billboard, attaining a Hot 100 peak of No. 58. Overall "Sailing" did afford Stewart a major international success reaching No.1 in Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway; No. 2 in Australia, Belgium's Flemish Region, South Africa and Switzerland; No. 3 in New Zealand; No. 4 in Germany; No. 7 in Austria; No. 13 in Sweden.
The first music video for "Sailing" was filmed in the Port of Dublin and also featured footage shot on the major Dublin thoroughfare Moore Street: featuring Stewart and his partner Britt Ekland, the video aired on the Top of the Pops broadcast of 28 August 1975. Another music video for "Sailing" was shot in New York Harbor in 1978, and would become one of the first to be aired on MTV when it launched on 1 August 1981.
As the British task-force sailed out of Portsmouth Harbour on 5 April 1982 – the third day of the Falklands War – the recording of Rod Stewart's "Sailing" was broadcast from the quay's public address system.
In 1987 Rod Stewart's "Sailing" was reissued as a charity single after the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster off the Flemish port of Zeebrugge, becoming a moderate hit in Belgium's Flemish Region (No. 24) and also the British Isles (No. 41 UK/ No. 30 Ireland) ("Sailing" would be the only charting Rod Stewart single in the British Isles in 1987).
Although Stewart had been touring the US with the Faces at the time of the autumn 1975 single release of "Sailing" that tour's setlist was focused on Stewart's collaborations with the Faces, with "Three Time Loser" being the only Atlantic Crossing number to be included. "Sailing" would debut as a Rod Stewart concert number during his European tour of November 1976 – January 1977 with the song usually serving as each show's purported finale to be followed with "Stay With Me" as encore: Stewart's 1 November 1976 performance at the Trondheim Spektrum in Norway launched the tour which after dates in Scandinavia, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands played nine cities in Great Britain including six nights (21 -24 December 1976/ 14–15 January 1977) at the Olympia London.
Stewart's 1982 Absolutely Live concert album features a performance of "Sailing". He performed "Sailing" at the 20 June 1986 Prince's Trust All-Star Rock Concert – with Elton John on piano and Eric Clapton on guitar – and at the 1 July 2007 Concert for Diana memorial gala for Diana, Princess of Wales: both events were held at Wembley Stadium.
Rock Against Repatriation versionIn December 1990 "Sailing" was remade as a protest song against the repatriation of Vietnamese boat people who had fled to Hong Kong: Steve Hackett, who organized this multi-artist recording intended to raise funds to assist those living in refugee camps, would recall:
It was announced that both the Sutherland Brothers: Gavin and Iain, would be featured on the recording, although only Iain Sutherland would in fact be featured. Recorded at Surrey Sound Studios – with additional recording at the Cambridge Park and Maison Rouge studios (both in southwest London) and also Real World Studios[unreliable source] – the version of "Sailing" by Hackett et al. was issued 19 February 1990 with the artist credit Rock Against Repatriation to spend a single week on the UK chart ranking at #89 for the week ending 3 March 1990, and – despite Hackett's allegation that "I must have done over twenty TV shows here in North America" in support of the single and its cause – a US release went unnoticed. Hackett would admit: "The single didn't accomplish what I wanted it to."
A video was prepped for the Rock Against Repatriation version of "Sailing" which intercut footage of the featured artists performing with media images of the Vietnamese refugees forcibly repatriated from Hong Kong.
"Sailing" has also been recorded by Joan Baez (album Blowin' Away 1977), Brotherhood of Man (album 20 Number One Hits 1980), the Nolan Sisters (album 20 Giant Hits 1978), Smokie, (album Uncovered Too 2002) and Dame Vera Lynn. Robin Trower (with bassist James Dewar on vocals) covered the song on the 1976 album Long Misty Days and Roger Whittaker on the 1978 album Roger Whittaker Sings the Hits., Aled Jones. Instrumental versions of "Sailing" have been recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra (album Classic Rock 1977) and Richard Clayderman (album A Little Night Music – 12 Classic Love Songs 1988).