Heard of yacht rock? Do you enjoy cruising? ER, well you've never been on a deck at happy hour quite like this one. The usual: Toto, Fleetwood, Boz Scaggs, Hall & Oates. The unusual: Morrissey, Two Door Cinema Club, Sports, SEX ON TOAST. Rock up for a Tequila Sunrise sundowner. It's confusing, but fun.
CRUISE CONTROL: SUNSHINE YACHT ROCK
Curation by Alex, words by Keith, artwork with the porthole volume knob going up to 11, by Mick, as ever.
When was the last time you were on a cruise ship and sauntered down for a pre-dinner aperitif (either dressed up to the nines or all casual like) with a heady pre-party sense of anticipation and excitement? Only to get there and find the cocktails aren’t top class, and the soundtrack is Avicii’s ‘Hey Brother’, on permanent rotation. Now we have nothing against Avicii (may his troubled soul forever now rest in peace), but we question why cruise ships around the world from the Med to the Pacific to the China Sea, absolutely insist on playing Hey Brother on constant rotation. There’s no call for it. And if someone has the wherewithal to complain, they are rewarded with Maroon 5’s ‘Move Like Jagger’, and then it’s back to Hey Brother and cocktails short on the ice. Why, why, why?
Not on our boat. Now look, this yacht rock thing has perhaps been taken a bit too far. On the verge of being abused on a level akin to ‘chill’ (and you know how we feel about chill), yacht rock is wonderful terminology that has been interpreted very, very loosely. Perhaps the forthcoming BBC4 documentary (yes the Beeb has produced a whole documentary series on yacht rock!) will help clarify some principles that can be abided to from now on. So, for the Song Sommelier summer series, we were keen to establish a take on this. Our secret weapon was called in, this being none other than playlist curator and DJ extraordinaire (and owner of the best bar in Kent by official vote we shit you not) ‘Captain’ Alex Macnutt. Let’s just understand that he understands, the genre.
On our ship are the usual suspects, Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald (perhaps pause a minute to take in those bass lines), Donald Fagen, Supertramp, CHIC. Yet note, not always the obvious tune choices - that’s our ticket. But when was the last time you heard from Stephanie Mills? Or Robert Palmer. And did you ever expect to hear a number by the Alan Parsons Project on a yacht rock party playlist? I do hope not.
Imagine then (you really don’t have to be on a ship but stay with us) as you stride up to the bar for that Tequila Sunrise (if that’s your sundowner, which is confusing, but acceptable) you can be much more confident that you will, in two drinks time, be strutting your stuff on the deck. You are in the middle of a calm, vast ocean swell, with new friends and an interesting, non-judgmental crowd. This is the demimonde of cruising so there is no need to wonder how the other half live. You are the other half. The mood is cheerful, relaxed, celebratory, and the booze flows. But the music, oh the music.
You’ll pay mild attention to the pleasing synth chords in the opening couplet of The Night Game’s ‘The Outfield’ and then the drum beat will kick in and that, my friend, will be that. You’ll just know that you are in the right place and the right time, on the right boat. And that you will be very, very late for dinner. Our party closes out with something pretty special too. If you pay attention to such things as segues, we think you will particularly appreciate what we do here following The Steve Miller Band’s ‘Fly Like An Eagle’. After the buzzy 80s splashed high of The Cars ‘Magic’, those last three tracks are designed to bring you down in the most satisfying way.
Playback notes: now look you know the drill. You’re on the open ocean remember? The only way you can skip is by having a word with the on-board DJ and he won’t take kindly to interference. And you don’t want to be swimming with the fishes now do you? Drink up, and hey, go with the flow.
Alex Macnutt’s bar is The Common Rooms in Royal Tunbridge Wells, recently voted the best bar in Kent. He’ll welcome you with cocktails and wonderful music, naturally.
The BBC programme ‘I Can Go For That: The Smooth Sound Of Yacht Rock’ starts shortly on BBC4. (UK)
The posthumous Avicii album TIM is released 7th June on streaming services.