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Author Topic: Sail On Sailor  (Read 3895 times)
Jim V.
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« on: January 28, 2010, 05:37:52 PM »

To anybody in the know, could we have a recounting of the history of "Sail On Sailor"?

Wasn't it recording in 1971 in Brian's studio? I'm not sure about vocals, but according to Desper, wasn't the track finished then? Therefore, was the track on Holland actually from these sessions or was it re-recorded. Also was there a demo version, possibly with Brian singing the original Van Dyke lyrics?

Or while we're at it, what was the history of the writing of this song, seeing that there were a laundry list of writers on it. Anyways I'm sure this has been done before, but anyways, I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say.
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Esoteric
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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2010, 05:44:25 PM »

This never made sense to me either. Desper claims that some of the finished track dated from 1971 yet historians like Badman claim late 72. The whole thing sounds classic BB '72 to me (Fataar on drums, etc.). Now I await our local historians to step up with some information (you know who you are).
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donald
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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2010, 06:43:49 PM »

Co-written in 1960 in the Wilson music room by Brian, Dad, and various neighbors dropping by.  Later rewritten for Pet Sounds, rejected by Tony Asher.  Still Later Rewritten by Kennedy, Parks and Jan and Dean for the Flip side of Dead Mans  Curve  but dropped in favor of New Girl in School (do ron de ron de!) Sighing and Dying had not yet cone in to favor with the pop audience.  Later, in the early 70's, when downer music came into vogue and the band was desperate for a single, VDP recalled the long forgotten ode to dead surfers and bad trips and sold it to the new record label.  At that point, several hangers on, including VDP, and Tandyn Almer,  took credit for a verse that was conjured at a pot party.  It was released not only then, but slipped in again a few  years later as the latest BB single.  Anyway, thats how I heard it.
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TonyW
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« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2010, 08:46:55 PM »

.. and don't forget we have the version of SOS which was used in the Five Summer Stories surf movie which was released in early to mid '72 before the 28th November '72 recording date (Bellagio website) ... go figure ....
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Jim V.
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« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2010, 09:10:48 PM »

.. and don't forget we have the version of SOS which was used in the Five Summer Stories surf movie which was released in early to mid '72 before the 28th November '72 recording date (Bellagio website) ... go figure ....

Seriously? Now what is this version? Is it available anywhere?

We need some AGD to shed some light on all this mess.
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Andrew G. Doe
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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2010, 09:45:09 PM »

Steve told me when I interviewed him in March 1985 that he cut a version with Brian in fall 1971 and that the released track "sounds awfully like the one I recorded". Likewise, VDP recalls hearing the song before he got the call from Reprise to find a hit single for the new album.
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mikeyj
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« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2010, 10:28:50 PM »

Anyways I'm sure this has been done before, but anyways, I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

Yep it has been discussed before. Check this thread: http://smileysmile.net/board/index.php/topic,7557.0.html

And this one: http://smileysmile.net/board/index.php/topic,4413.0.html
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TonyW
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« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2010, 10:58:48 PM »

.. and don't forget we have the version of SOS which was used in the Five Summer Stories surf movie which was released in early to mid '72 before the 28th November '72 recording date (Bellagio website) ... go figure ....
Seriously? Now what is this version? Is it available anywhere?

We need some AGD to shed some light on all this mess.

I've got an old VCR copy that I can't play any longer (no player) but the last time I A&B'ed the 5SS soundtrack to the Holland album they sound the same. I've had the DVD on order for several months and I'm still waiting.
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c-man
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« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2010, 08:27:16 AM »

Based on the varying recollections of the participants, the most likely chronology for the composition of "Sail On Sailor" would seem to be this:

Brian wrote the basic "gospel" piano vamp heard in the intro & verses sometime in 1970, and Tandyn Almer probably helped with the melody and/or possibly added the music for the "B" section, if indeed he was involved at this stage.  Then Van Dyke Parks came over one day, and came up with the "Sail on, Sail on sailor" hookline.  After attempting to get Brian to write a bridge, Van Dyke wrote one himself and taught the chords to Brian.  Brian apparently either didn't tell Van that Tandyn had helped him with the song previously, or he mentioned it so offhandedly that Van later forgot it, or Tandyn's involvement came later (or Brian simply added Tandyn's name to the credits as a "gift").  This was probably late December 1970, while the other Beach Boys were (coincidentally enough) on tour in Holland (which would explain Van Dyke's recollection, decades later, that the Boys were in the Netherlands when he and Brian wrote the song).  According to one observer who heard the cassette tape made of Brian and Van's songwriting session, the lyrics "Fill your sails with fortitude, and ride her stormy waves" graced the melody at this point. 

A short time later, Brian offered the song to Danny Hutton for Three Dog Night.  Danny called Ray Kennedy over to his house, and Ray worked with Brian there for three (probably cocaine-fueled) days, composing a complete set of lyrics (Ray recalls this as still being 1970).  Once again, either Brian didn't tell Ray that he had already worked on the song with both Tandyn and Van Dyke, or he mentioned it so offhandedly that Ray later forgot it, which explains why Brian and Ray are the only two songwriters credited on the KGB and Ray Kennedy solo versions.  It is possible that Tandyn's participation in the song's creation dates to this point in time, however since his involvement was musical rather than lyrical (according to the official songwriters' credits), the earlier date would seem more likely.  Brian and Ray then went into the studio with Three Dog Night and cut a basic track, but Brian changed his mind and freaked out, stating that he only wanted Van Dyke or Ray to sing this song, and he destroyed the master tape. 

Two years later, when The Beach Boys needed a "single" for their Holland album, Van Dyke took the rough cassette from his songwriting session with Brian over to Warner Brothers, and convinced the label that the song had "hit" potential.  Van was apparently unaware that anyone else had written lyrics for the tune as of yet.  It was probably at this point that Jack Rieley wrote an essentially new set of lyrics, keeping only about 8 words from Ray Kennedy's original attempt. 

What remains mysterious, though, is when the final version of the song was actually recorded...Desper claims to have recorded a Beach Boys version at Brian's home studio in late 1971, however the recollections of Blondie Chaplin, Ricky Fataar, and Alan Jardine (which are supported by evidence on the actual multi-track tape masters and console strips) point to the final version being a product of the November '72 Village Recorders sessions.  Based on Desper's description below, a likely scenario is that the original piano track from the version he recorded was later used as the foundaton for the reworked Village Recorders master, and that the VSO notation on the 11/29/72 tape box (referring to Variable Speed Oscillation) explains the difference in tempo that Desper remembers existing between the two versions.

"To my ears, the first version was more polished with more production value. What came out was more funky-downhome. Only the basic bass parts are heard. The track is only the original piano and drums with a new guitar part. I remember the song being a tad slower. I think some of the background parts were lost or not included. I miss a vocal background that moved along with the song like a wave lapping against a boat. There was more there than oohs and aahs in the version I remember. There were Breakaway-type inversions in the harmonies - like the inversions in the Hey Stevie version before the guitar vamp (Great version! Love the vamp!). I had a delayed echo flap thing going on the snare . A lead vocal fugue answer part is gone. The horn section is inaudible with the trombone moots going boo-oop. The backgrounds that did get recorded sound thin to me. There was more to the song before it left these shores. None of that is in the released version. The words on the one I recorded were by, I thought, Van Dyke Parks, not the Jack Rieley and Ray Kennedy re-write. Carl sang a hefty, full-bodied lead. Except for the words, it was more like the version cut by Hey Stevie." (Desper)

The question remains, though, as to why the group would bother recording new vocals (especially the lead) when a full lead vocal (sung by Carl) already existed on the Desper version.  The likely explanation for that, based on Desper's recollection of "his" version featuring different lyrics, is that Rieley rewrote the words sometime after the recording of the first (Desper) version, and the group (or Rieley) wanted the new words on the released version, and so the vocals were redone.  Interestingly, Desper recently played a rough mix of the song he has in his possession over the phone to a fan, and this mix reportedly sounds very similar to the released version, except that it has different "wave-like" background vocals in the verses...but Blondie Chaplin's lead is said to be firmly in place! 

The plot thickens even further with the recently surfaced report that "Sail On Sailor" (along with "The Trader" and the third part of the "California Saga" suite) was given by Brian to the producers of the cult surfer film "Five Summer Stories", and was used in the soundtrack of that movie, which premiered no later than June 1972...a full five months before those Village Recorders sessions!  Subsequent prints used for the VHS and DVD home video releases replaced the Beach Boys' music with that of the band Honk (who toured with The Beach Boys and recorded at Brother Studios), but early VHS and DVD copies do contain the Boys' music; the versions of these songs used in the film's soundtrack (at least on these VHS and DVD versions) are said to be identical to the mixes released on Holland (although in some cases edited down in length).  The only logical explanation for that would be that the film, when it premiered in the first half of 1972, contained some recent Beach Boys' music (likely from the Surf's Up and So Tough albums), but not the three Holland tracks...these were presumably added to the soundtrack for a later theatrical re-release, possibly in late '72 (which would still be prior to the Holland album's offical release in January '73).
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Ed Roach
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« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2010, 10:50:34 AM »

I absolutely adore the work that you do getting to the bottom of these things, Craig!
Now, do you have the date when MacGillivray & Freeman did the screening at the Santa Monica Civic
that Dennis & I attended?  Because this was a four-wall screening, (in that they rented the Civic,
as they were doing at least all over the state at the time), rather than a theatrical release, it must
have been in '72.  And I'm almost certain S.O.S. was in it then...  Have you ever contacted Greg
MacGillivray regarding this matter?  I spoke to him about the soundtrack years ago, when he had
finally obtained the rights to reinstall BB music.  He was going to send me a dvd when the time came...
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« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2010, 12:15:52 PM »

I absolutely adore the work that you do getting to the bottom of these things, Craig!
Now, do you have the date when MacGillivray & Freeman did the screening at the Santa Monica Civic
that Dennis & I attended?  Because this was a four-wall screening, (in that they rented the Civic,
as they were doing at least all over the state at the time), rather than a theatrical release, it must
have been in '72.  And I'm almost certain S.O.S. was in it then...  Have you ever contacted Greg
MacGillivray regarding this matter?  I spoke to him about the soundtrack years ago, when he had
finally obtained the rights to reinstall BB music.  He was going to send me a dvd when the time came...


That's a great idea, Ed.  I just sent him an e-mail, so we'll see.  Thanks!
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Andrew G. Doe
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« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2010, 12:48:29 PM »

I sent him an email something like a year ago. Still waiting on a reply...  Sad
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Roger Ryan
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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2010, 01:09:06 PM »

 Interestingly, Desper recently played a rough mix of the song he has in his possession over the phone to a fan, and this mix reportedly sounds very similar to the released version, except that it has different "wave-like" background vocals in the verses...but Blondie Chaplin's lead is said to be firmly in place!  

As I've probably remarked in the other threads on this topic, I was the fan Mr. Desper played the tape to (Thanks Stephen!). The reason this happened was that Mr. Desper had recently uncovered the tape and was looking for a second opinion on who was doing the lead vocal. He had always thought it was Carl, but to me it sounded identical to the Blondie lead we all know (same inflections, same lyrics as I recall). Of course, I was listening over a phone line so it was hard to be certain of anything. What I can be certain of was the additional backing vocals I heard which were accurately described by Mr. Desper in the quote c-man provided. I asked Mr. Desper if it was possible that he got hold of the '72 recording, albeit one with fuller backing vocals that were mixed out before release. He replied that the track was on a reel he personally compiled and took with him with he left the Beach Boys' employ late in '71.
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runnersdialzero
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« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2010, 04:50:21 PM »

Brian and Ray then went into the studio with Three Dog Night and cut a basic track, but Brian changed his mind and freaked out, stating that he only wanted Van Dyke or Ray to sing this song, and he destroyed the master tape. 

AARRRGGGHHHH Sad

The history of this song just keeps getting more interesting - I had not heard a lot of this. Thanks for the summary.

Hopefully some of these alternate versions/vocals still exist somewhere and are released at some point. I'm most interested in hearing the Carl vocal, if it still exists. Still upset that Dennis' partial vocal is seemingly gone.
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« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2010, 12:27:09 PM »

I absolutely adore the work that you do getting to the bottom of these things, Craig!
Now, do you have the date when MacGillivray & Freeman did the screening at the Santa Monica Civic
that Dennis & I attended?  Because this was a four-wall screening, (in that they rented the Civic,
as they were doing at least all over the state at the time), rather than a theatrical release, it must
have been in '72.  And I'm almost certain S.O.S. was in it then... 


Ed - Here's a link to a handbill showing that the World Premiere of Five Summer Stories at the Santa Monica Civic was on March 24, 1972:

http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/dt/five-summer-stories-handbill/SMC720324-HB.html
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« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2010, 01:21:18 PM »

The plot thickens even further with the recently surfaced report that "Sail On Sailor" (along with "The Trader" and the third part of the "California Saga" suite) was given by Brian to the producers of the cult surfer film "Five Summer Stories", and was used in the soundtrack of that movie, which premiered no later than June 1972...a full five months before those Village Recorders sessions!  Subsequent prints used for the VHS and DVD home video releases replaced the Beach Boys' music with that of the band Honk (who toured with The Beach Boys and recorded at Brother Studios), but early VHS and DVD copies do contain the Boys' music; the versions of these songs used in the film's soundtrack (at least on these VHS and DVD versions) are said to be identical to the mixes released on Holland (although in some cases edited down in length).  The only logical explanation for that would be that the film, when it premiered in the first half of 1972, contained some recent Beach Boys' music (likely from the Surf's Up and So Tough albums), but not the three Holland tracks...these were presumably added to the soundtrack for a later theatrical re-release, possibly in late '72 (which would still be prior to the Holland album's offical release in January '73).

Craig - Wow!  Thanks for coming up with a well-researched and detailed chronology for SOS. 

I do, however, recall that when I first saw Five Summer Stories in June of 72 (in a high school auditorium) that some of the Beach Boys material I heard in the film was unreleased stuff I'd never heard before.  When I next saw the movie, in a theater in May 73 (and again when the film was expanded in 1976 as "Five Summer Stories Plus Four") the BB stuff was still there, and I then realized that the unreleased material I had heard on the original film had now been released on Holland. 

I'm doubting that the Holland material was added to the film at a later date.  It is certainly possible that the unreleased songs from the original movie were early mixes and were later replaced with released versions, although one has to wonder why and if they would have gone to the trouble to do so.  But, if that's the case it could help make some of the timeline discrepancies a little less murky, although it would still indicate that SOS, The Trader, and Calif Saga Part Three were either in fairly complete, if not entirely complete, form when FSS premiered in March of 1972.

Most of the music on Five Summer Stories is from the band Honk, and the official soundtrack contains only the music of Honk (12 songs, 34 minutes, a very enjoyable CD).  I first bought the soundtrack album in Aug 72 and replaced it with the CD version 20 years later.  Both the VHS and DVD versions of Five Summer Stories that I purchased have the BBs music intact, although there are some VHS version reviews on Amazon stating that the original music has been replaced with more modern material.
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c-man
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« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2010, 01:41:51 PM »


I do, however, recall that when I first saw Five Summer Stories in June of 72 (in a high school auditorium) that some of the Beach Boys material I heard in the film was unreleased stuff I'd never heard before.  When I next saw the movie, in a theater in May 73 (and again when the film was expanded in 1976 as "Five Summer Stories Plus Four") the BB stuff was still there, and I then realized that the unreleased material I had heard on the original film had now been released on Holland. 
 

Hi Rob - man, I hate getting stumped by historical paradoxes!  Where's that time machine when we need one?  Smiley
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« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2010, 06:33:44 PM »

Maybe this is the key to all that weird stuff going on on LOST...
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