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Sky Pilot

by

The Animals



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

A "Sky Pilot" is a military chaplain, hence the lyric "He blesses the boys as they stand in line." The song finds the chaplain telling the soldiers that they are fighting for a greater cause, as they are "soldiers of God." At the end of the song, one of the soldiers returns from battle and realizes the words of the chaplain go against what he learned in the Bible: "Thou shalt not kill."
Sound effects of fighting, gunfire, airplanes, and bagpipes were used. The pipe band was the Royal Scot's Dragoon Guards, a Highland regiment. Lead singer Eric Burdon tape-recorded them at a school and used the pipe music during the middle of the song along the war sound effects.
Burdon received an angry letter from the British government for his use of the pipe music. The tune he used was "All The Bluebonnet's Are Over The Border," which is a classic Scottish war piece written as an anti-war epic during the Vietnam War.
This song got little airplay as it was over 7 minutes long. It also employs a string section and a trumpet, making it even less radio-friendly.
The single was split into 2 parts to fit on the 45. You had to flip the record to hear the whole song.
The lyrics, "He'll stay behind and he'll meditate" are sung by Burdon as "He stay'll behind and he'll meditate" on the version played mostly on the radio. (thanks, Jeff - Palatine, IL)
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Comments (22):

Wow, this song really spoke to me. The way in which Eric Burdon started the song with his high pitched lul really enhanced the emotion pulsing through my body. The key change when it reaches the chorus of "skyyyyyy pilot" really allowed me to feel what our soldiers went through to save our world from Communism. God bless you, and god bless Krakow.
- fdog, Brisbane, Australia
10/12/12: Today was the first time I ever heard this song. Caught it at the very beginning on our classic rock station's lunch hour. I had to get out of my truck and come into work and missed the ending. I'll have to get a copy. I'm surprised I'd never heard the term Sky Pilot before as I live in a military state and grew up between two air fields. Have to agree with Burt in New Castle, NH and Leya Qwest in Anchorage, AK. Very surprised this isn't on multiple soundtracks. Very haunting tune.
- Joan, Columbia, SC
Hey, Bill from West Chester,

Nice try, but if Burdon or anyone else ever tried to wear a Bush/Cheney T shirt on PBS, they'd be silenced.
- MrCleaveland, Cleveland,
In an episode of M*A*S*H, the tv show, Henry Blake refers to Father Mulcahy (the chaplain) as 'sky pilot'.
- Marlene, Montreal, QC
The voice singing these words--perfect. When the soldiers come back from battle, the words are sung ever so slightly slower and more melancholy than before...you can sense, feel the weariness of war.
- Camille, Toronto, OH
The guitarists were John Weider and Vic Briggs not Andy Summers. He hadnt joined the band yet
- Ken, Booneville,MS, MS
Hey Mr. Cleaveland, if Burdon thought that ruthless mass murderers are cool, he's be wearing a Bush/Cheney t-shirt.
- Bill, West Chester, PA
Andy Summers, later of the Police, was one of two lead guitarists on this double album. The song Gemini is an anthem of experimental guitar. The other guitarist (Valentine?) played much of the leads & Summers the color that he is famous for, so the fine effect work on Sky Pilot may be him.
- Robert, Charlestown, RI
This is my favorite war song along with Tommy James' Sweet Cherry Wine. I do believe these Animals were much more adept, daring, and accomplished than the Original Animals who were just magnificent in themselves. I think I remember in the radio play of Sky Pilot there were bullets firing and lots of airplane sounds. If so, how did they accomplish that? This truly was more than a record made, it was a Production!
- Winston (Forrest), Sacramento, CA
Eric Burdon appeared on a PBS fund-raiser wearing a Che Guevera T shirt. I guess Burdon thinks ruthless mass murderers are cool.
- MrCleaveland, Cleveland,
eric burden has probably the greatest rock voice ever symbolizing the 1960s and early 1970s. he simply is an extremely talented entertainer and sky pilot is one of his and the animal's best.
- tom, sioux falls, SD
I've always thought this was one of the best war protest songs of all time. The last verse, following the sound effects and the bagpipes, is very haunting. "In the morning, they return with tears in their eyes...the stench of death drifts up to the skies". Those lyrics, with simple violin and flute accompaniment, are the climax of this very fine song.
- Sam, Lincoln, NE
"Sky Pilot" was in heavy rotation on KILT-AM in Houston, Tx back in the day. I know this because when I listen to it I still expect the song to skip. I am not kidding. The copy of the single the radio played would repeat the same line over and over until the producer gave it a tap. I must have heard that skipping single quite a few times for it to have left such a lasting impression. Does anyone have any idea who supplied the diving aeroplane sound effect? I'd like to know the technical details of that.
- Mark, Houston, TX
It is one of the very first "Rock N' Roll" stereo 45's in the USA. It is referenced in the Vietnam: Songs From A Divided House 2-CD compilation I bought a while ago. In fact, even the Beatles didn't make stereo sound 45's until 1969. Most singles made before 1969 were in mono strictly for radio airplay.
- Robert, Chicago, IL
This song really should make a comeback, it is certainly relevant in the context of America's war in Iraq. Very moving.
- Burt, New Castle, NH
The Animals are a legendary rock band that started, at least in my opinion, the psychedelic movement with House of the Rising Sun. The second incarnation of the band recorded Sky Pilot. It is one of the 20 greatest songs of all time, and that takes in hundreds of thousands of tunes. Just an impressive masterpiece by Eric Burdon, one of rock music's most underrated singers.
- David, Youngstown, OH
Brilliant song written by Eric Burdon. My dad served in Vietnam with the Marines, and this is one of his favorite songs. Sky Pilot was released around the same time as Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club band by the Beatles, so it never received the recognition (or airplay) it probably deserved.
- Jim, Norwood, MA
Whenever I heard this song in L.A. back in the late '60's it was always played with the strings and trumpet section, which I personally feel is the best part of the tune. Unfortunately, it's release on a compilation cd I own entitled "The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock" is the short version that ends during the middle of the sound effects section. Oh well. I wonder why no film maker has used this in his anti-war flick yet. Perhaps someday, as it's pretty relevant with the way things are going on right now in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Leya Qwest, Anchorage, AK
The first 'stereo' cutter head was introduced in the late 50's. I had many 45rpm stereo records before "Sky Pilot' was released. I can't speak for the rest of the country, but 'Sky Pilot' got a lot of airplay in Jackson, MS where I grew up.
- Brian, Brandon, MS
In the movie *M*A*S*H*, from which the series was based, Hawkeye and his friends refer to Major Frank Burns as a bible-toting 'Sky Pilot'.
- Hugh, Kansas City, MO
I think "Sky Pilot" was the first (or, at least, one of the very first) 45 rpm single produced in stereo.
- Olaf, Occidental, CA
The Tune "All The Bluebonnets Are Over The Border" was writting during the Scottish Jacobite rising. It has since become the regimental tune of the King's Own Scottish Borderer's as well as a tune used by other Scottish regiments.
- Erik, Davis, CA
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