Sailing on the Seven Seas

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"Sailing on the Seven Seas"
Sailing Seven Seas.jpg
Single by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
from the album Sugar Tax
Released18 March 1991
FormatCD single
LabelVirgin Records
Songwriter(s)Andy McCluskey
Stuart Kershaw
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark singles chronology
"Brides of Frankenstein"
"Sailing on the Seven Seas"
"Pandora's Box"

"Sailing on the Seven Seas" is a 1991 single by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) released from their album Sugar Tax. Along with 1981's "Souvenir", it is the band's highest-charting UK hit to date, peaking at number 3. It also charted at number 5 in Ireland and number 9 in Germany. The single marked a commercial renaissance for the band in their native UK, becoming their first Top 10 hit since 1984's "Locomotion". It was the first single to be released by OMD without original member Paul Humphreys, who had left to form his own band The Listening Pool.

The song pays homage to two rock groups: firstly to The Velvet Underground, with the song "Sister Ray" being directly referenced (OMD had previously covered "I'm Waiting for the Man" as a B-side to 1980 single "Messages"); and secondly to The Who, with the line "people try to drag us down" being near-identical in melody and lyrical content to the opening line of "My Generation".[1]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Critic Dave Thompson in AllMusic lauded "Sailing on the Seven Seas" as "a glorious musical mélange, an inspired melding of synth pop soar, 2-Tone yore, and glam rock roar, the anthemic chorus to the fore with a fist-in-the-air punch that shouts out for more".[2] Colleague Ned Raggett called it the "one definite redeeming number" from parent album Sugar Tax, observing "glam-styled beats underpinning a giddy, playful romp that showed McCluskey still hadn't lost his touch entirely".[3] MTV Europe ranked it the 21st greatest song of 1991.[4]

Humphreys said of the track: "I was surprised that it got so high in the charts, although I think it's a good song." Original drummer Malcolm Holmes, then also estranged from OMD, commented: "I loathe the track – I do. But it charted and it did the business."[5]

The song has been included on every OMD compilation album since its release, and remains a live staple.

Versions and B-sides[edit]

The song was released as a 7" single version and in an extended version for the 12" release. The extended version was more oriented to the electronic dance music market in vogue at the time. Another mix entitled "Dancing on the Seven Seas" was also included on a special collector's edition CD single. The regular CD single featured another remix entitled "Floating on the Seven Seas" and the "Larrabee Mix" of "Sailing on the Seven Seas", similar to the original single version but mixed at Larrabee Studios in North Hollywood, California.

Two other new songs were included as B-sides or bonus tracks on the CD single: "Burning" and "Sugar Tax". Despite its title, "Sugar Tax" did not feature on the album of the same name. Both tracks feature on the B-sides compilation album Navigation: The OMD B-Sides (2001). "Sugar Tax" also features as a B-side on the later single release "Then You Turn Away".

A 12" promo single released in the US features further remixes, namely "Drowning on the Seven Seas", "Raving on the Seven Seas" and 'Mix 1' and 'Mix 2' of "Sailing on the Seven Seas". Although uncredited, many of the remixes were the work of Phil Coxon.[6]

Track listings[edit]

7": Virgin / VS 1310 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Sailing on the Seven Seas"
  2. "Burning"

12": Virgin / VS 1310 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Sailing on the Seven Seas (Extended Version)"
  2. "Floating on the Seven Seas"

CD Single (VSCDT1310)[edit]

  1. "Sailing on the Seven Seas"
  2. "Floating on the Seven Seas"
  3. "Sailing on the Seven Seas" (Larrabee Mix)
  4. "Sugar Tax"

CD Single (VSCDX1310)[edit]

  1. "Sailing on the Seven Seas"
  2. "Burning"
  3. "Dancing on the Seven Seas"
  4. "Big Town"

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1991) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[7] 77
German Singles Chart 9
UK Singles Chart 3
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 7


  1. ^ Andy McCluskey interview. Granada Reports. ITV Granada. July 1991. Presenter: "OMD...have enjoyed a career revival of late with smash hit 'Sailing on the Seven Seas' which was influenced by, of all things, rock groups like The Who and The Velvet Underground."
  2. ^ "Sailing on the Seven Seas" review at AllMusic
  3. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Sugar Tax review". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  4. ^ "Top 100 of 1991". MTV Europe. December 1991.
  5. ^ "Electropop (no. 5: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark)". Top Ten. 7 April 2001. Channel 4.
  6. ^ "OMD Q&A". Retrieved 2016-08-30..
  7. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.