Yacht Rock Revisted: What Yacht Rock is—and isn't.

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by LeftCoastGator, Feb 4, 2017.

  1. LeftCoastGator

    LeftCoastGator Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    94501
    Let me preface this by saying you can put whatever floats your boat on your yacht rock playlist—it’s really not that important.

    That said, yacht rock is an actual, defined genre and it has some fairly specific parameters.

    For instance, ‘70s soft rock isn’t necessarily yacht, nor is every nautically-themed song of the era. (And Jimmy Buffett is Caribbean-tinged novelty country for tourists and aspirational drunks.)

    Yacht rock is the smooth, impeccably produced jazz- and soul- inflected rock music produced largely between 1977-1984 by a select group of studio musicians and vocalists, songwriters, and producers, and the project bands they drifted in and out of.

    The four key ships in the yacht rock armada are Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Loggins, and Toto, with the commodore being, of course, Michael McDonald. The first mates are David Foster and Jay Graydon, who are somehow involved in pretty much every yacht rock album of note. The crew includes the Pocaros—particularly Jeff on drums—the Pages on vocals, Steve Lukather on guitar, Steve Gadd, and a several other well-known session musicians you'll see over and over again. Electric piano is a usually a must; acoustic guitars, strings, and tropical instruments such as steel drums are usually a must not.

    The result is that most of the artists associate with yacht rock aren’t (America, Air Supply, Chicago, Eagles, Gerry Rafferty, Jimmy Buffet), and many of the artists that are aren’t well known, such as Airplay, Dane Donohue, Larsen/Feiten Band, Maxus, Pages, and Terrence Boylan.

    Yacht rock themes usually reflect the ennui of the era; the end of relationships, futile, fleeting hookups with pretty young things, drugs and booze, nostalgia for the simple pleasures of the early ‘60s, and longing to leave it all behind and escape to someplace warm and exotic. The Fool is the protagonist of many of the songs.

    Adding to the confusion is Westcoast, a genre similar to, but distinct from yacht rock. As the Brits have Northern Soul, the Scandinavians have Westcoast. One is an obsession with obscure '60a soul singles, the other an obsession with obscure '70s smooth singles.

    Westcoast includes yacht rock, but also smooth jazz, silky downbeat disco, and soul in the sweet spot between the earthier funk of the early ‘70s and the mawkish Quiet Storm era of the mid-to-late ‘80s. Al Jarreau, The Brothers Johnson, Brenda Russell, Dave Gruisin, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Lee Ritenour, and Raydio—along with obscure gems like Breakaway, Byrne & Barnes, Jaye P. Morgan, and Dan Mastroianni—all fit nicely under the Westcoast umbrella.

    Since there seems to be a lot of confusion about yacht rock, I hope this helps. And please, no more Buffett.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017
  2. John54

    John54 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Those are narrow distinctions, but there's probably even more, like North Westcoast and South Westcoast, as well as Over 50 Tons yacht rock and Under 50 Tons yacht rock ...
     
  3. Champagne Boot

    Champagne Boot Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    Feel like we need to cede the tiller to Hollywood Steve for this conversational cruise.



    Cliff's notes version: It's gotta be smooth. And involve Michael McDonald.
     
  4. rcdupre

    rcdupre Flying is Trying is Dying

    Wow, you guys need to get outside more, lol..it's a trip though, I was just thinking of this term last week, does it exist outside of this forum? Another question, is Firefall considered Yacht Rock? saw them play right after Motorhead in Miami in 1981, believe it or not....
     
  5. LeftCoastGator

    LeftCoastGator Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    94501
    Do you follow their Beyond Yacht Rock podcast? It's actually really good, they've come up with some really great genres. They're not exactly music experts (well, Hollywood Steve is) but they more than make up for it with humor.
     
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  6. LeftCoastGator

    LeftCoastGator Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    94501
    That's awesome! I'm originally from Miami, FWIW. Yes, yacht rock does exist outside this forum. The term was coined by a hee-larious web series of the same name. It peaked around 2008 or so, but it seems to be experiencing a strong resurgence lately, and for some reason Scandinavians are obsessed with it. To answer your question, no, Firefall is not yacht rock. Too earthy, too country, and that flute kills it—the sound is way off. That said, I like Firefall, and I think they're a great example of '70s soft rock.
     
  7. the sands

    the sands Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oslo, Norway
    Poor man's yacht rock. "Row Row Row Your Boat"

     
  8. ManFromCouv

    ManFromCouv Employee #3541

    The OP put more effort into a dissertation on yacht-rock than I would have thought possible.
     
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  9. Paully

    Paully De gustibus non est disputandum

    Location:
    Alabama
    Sirius XM had a channel named as such and devoted to it for a while. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.
     
  10. rcdupre

    rcdupre Flying is Trying is Dying

    It's funny that when I heard this tripe on the radio in high school I absolutely hated it, now I kinda like it along with the new wave crap...does that mean I like the music or does that mean it reminds of driving across the tracks in Miami to score nickel bags of dirt weed?
     
  11. Synthfreek

    Synthfreek Please label the photos you post

    Location:
    Austin, TX
    But someone posted a 12 year old web series titled Yacht Rock directly above your post. This is a widely-used term.
     
  12. LeftCoastGator

    LeftCoastGator Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    94501
    Ah, Graveyard in the Grove, I take it? That seemed to be "The Place White Guys Bought Weed™" of that era. Yeah, I wasn't a huge fan of the music back in the day either, but I've really come to appreciate it during the last decade.
     
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  13. Rosskolnikov

    Rosskolnikov Designated Cloud Yeller

    It's good music. High school kids are notorious for requiring absurd levels of aggression in music as if that's the be-all end-all of what can be musical. Their taste is not to be trusted. Which is different from saying everything they like (or liked) is bad.
     
  14. rcdupre

    rcdupre Flying is Trying is Dying

    So Yacht Rock is absolutely HUGE here in Japan, a place where you can still hear the Carpenters on a daily basis in public...even bigger than Toto (so big here the urinals are named after them) is Bobby Caldwell !
     
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  15. LeftCoastGator

    LeftCoastGator Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    94501
    That's true, but I'm surprised that so many people still don't know what it is and, in the few threads I've read here on this forum, how unbelievably wrong a lot of people get it. That's actually one of the reasons I joined this site—when I saw people screaming that Steely Dan could never be yacht rock, but Jimmy Buffett and the Eagles definitely were, I felt I had to set the record straight.
     
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  16. full moon

    full moon Forum Resident

    It's still online.
     
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  17. Rosskolnikov

    Rosskolnikov Designated Cloud Yeller

    Does Yacht Rock start with Seals & Crofts, or does it go back further than that?
     
  18. LeftCoastGator

    LeftCoastGator Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    94501
    For sure—that's where all the reissues come from!
     
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  19. O Don Piano

    O Don Piano Forum Resident

    Steely Dan is NOT "Yacht Rock". Period.
    Arrangements and lyrics are way too subversive for that category.
     
  20. Synthfreek

    Synthfreek Please label the photos you post

    Location:
    Austin, TX
    I got my Koko shirt directly from JD Ryznar's hands. He wanted to trade my Pablo Cruise shirt for it but I bought him a few beers instead.
     
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  21. LeftCoastGator

    LeftCoastGator Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    94501
    No, I would say yacht rock started much later than that. While it's usually associated with the early- to mid-'70s, I'd say yacht really didn't begin until 1977 and continued until the the early '80s. Seals and Croft are very often associated with yacht rock, but I'd argue that they're really not. Too early, too folky, too acoustic, too mellow. The only song I can see as possibly yacht rock from them is "Stars" from the s/t album. The earliest song I can really say might qualify as yacht rock is "Take Me With You" from (the GORGEOUS) Lyn Christopher's 1973 s/t album, and that's kind of pushing it.
     
    Northwind likes this.
  22. roughdiamondnickel

    roughdiamondnickel Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    I was on a river cruise last year and Fleetwood Mac and James Taylor were included in the playlist, not to mention the usual yacht rock suspects.
     
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  23. rcdupre

    rcdupre Flying is Trying is Dying

    I need to rediscover this music..btw I saw a show at the Miami Baseball Stadium on 4-19-81, here was the lineup:
    Heart
    Blue Oyster Cult
    Firefall
    Motörhead (1st U.S. show)
    Freewheel
    Kinda bizarre that Firefall was on the bill, another trip is that a guy I became good friends 10 years later in SF was at this show backstage, his dad was Firefall's tour manager
     
  24. Champagne Boot

    Champagne Boot Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    The Dan's smoothness quotient disagrees. They've long firmly embarked upon that sea of jams.
     
  25. LeftCoastGator

    LeftCoastGator Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    94501
    Oh, they absolutely are. The subversiveness, in fact, is what really helps—most yacht rock songs are a bit dark. But not all Steely Dan is yacht rock. I'd say that with the exception of one or two tracks from The Royal Scam, the only yacht rock Steely Dan is Aja and Gaucho. Very few bands are exclusively yacht rock, and even the cornerstones like the Doobies and Kenny Loggins were only yacht during the 1977-1984 sweet spot. Toto and Ambrosia—yacht stalwarts—were prog for most of their careers.
     
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