Sailor returns?

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Aug 2018 Sailor returns?

THE BAND SAILOR’S last chart entry – the humorous One Drink Too Many, in 1977, possibly led to their break-up in 1980.

Georg formed the eclectic band Data, Grant became a teacher, Henry composed music for film and TV, and Phil Pickett had success as keyboard player with Culture Club, and co-wrote their massive hit Karma Chameleon for which he was awarded two Ivor Novello Awards.

The band reconvened in 1989 for tours and a few singles, but Georg left again in 1995. The band continued touring with ever-changing line-ups, mainly in continental Europe, until a couple of years ago.

Cherry Red Records have put together an excellent collection of the first five (of 10) Sailor albums, with facsimile covers and a booklet written by long-time fan club head Katrin Wagner. The albums are ‘Sailor’ (1974), ‘Trouble’ (1975), ‘The Third Step’ (1976), ‘Checkpoint’ (1977), and ‘Hideaway’ (1978).

The albums also come with a grand total of nine bonus tracks which include the ‘single’ versions of the album tracks. Founder member Phil Pickett told me the original version of the first hit, Traffic Jam, was written before Sailor came into being.

“It was a sort of precursor to Sailor, when Georg and I were Kajanus/Pickett, and when we formed Sailor we thought it was so good that it made it to the first Sailor album. Georg and I decided we had to form a band and luckily I knew Henry and Georg knew Grant.”

To this day, Phil has no idea why Traffic Jam wasn’t a hit in the UK.

“It was strange because it had a lot of airplay and we were on TV quite a bit, on shows like ‘Supersonic’ and ‘Lift Off’. It got high up in the charts in Holland though.”

Then they got a lucky break.

Phil said: “Johnnie Stewart, producer of ‘Top Of The Pops’, also did BBC 2’s ‘In Concert’, which was a live half-hour show. The Edwin Hawkins Singers were coming over to do the show but they were delayed in New York and we got the call.”

The famous Nickelodeon was a focal point of the band, and even had a song on the second album about it – The Old Nickelodeon Sound. Phil said it was created through necessity.

“The Nickelodeon came about because we didn’t want to have more than the four of us in the band, but we did want to recreate the sound of the first album in a live setting. Now, you have to remember this was 1974, before Midi came along, so we had to build it ourselves. There’s a piano, organ and a glockenspiel and also some doorbell sounds.”

Phil laughed. “When it all worked, which was rarely, it was bloody amazing.”

Georg Kajanus wrote the majority of Sailor songs – in fact, he wrote every song on the first three albums. This gives the impression, especially with Phil, Henry and Grant being writers too, that Georg was a bit dictatorial and didn’t give the others much scope to contribute.

Phil laughed again. “I’m the worst person to ask about that as I left the band three times! I was chomping at the bit to be honest. But I gotta be
fair to Georg, he’s a genius and I love him to bits. He had the vision of Sailor and he worked out the definitive image.

“It wasn’t exactly what I came into the business for, but it was a strong direction. In those years we had a fantastic partnership and an amazing team.”

“We were all incredibly talented and there were frustrations. But I wouldn’t change a bit of it, I mean, who else would have come up with this totally unique vision. And it has to be said that I did go on and write a lot more for Sailor later on.”

And as time went on, the band had some high-profile fans.

“Apparently The Beach Boys loved our music, and Carl Wilson – in a Playboy interview – said we were his favourite band. Mind you, we were very thorough in our arrangements. We were quite purists in a way.”

In fact, Beach Boy Bruce Johnston co-produced Sailor’s fourth album ‘Checkpoint’, during one of Phil’s absences from the band. After all this time, Phil is glad to see the albums available again.

“Yes, I’m very pleased and I was surprised. I’m very proud of those records. They took up most of our bloody youth!”

Phil has a couple of favourites from the Sailor canon.

“I think Traffic Jam was great, one of our best, it was so simple and it captured something. And also Glass Of Champagne; it’s stood the test of time and sounds incredibly fresh.” But he adds wistfully: “We would have liked to have more success. A lot of heart and soul went into it.”

And Sailor today? “Well, we are all still in touch. We stopped touring in 2013 after we got shafted on a European tour. But you never know with Sailor, all I can say is that there are no active plans at the moment.”

Of course, Phil had some success with Culture Club, but that – as they say – is another story.

7T’s Records, through Cherry
Red. GLAMBOX169.