This song was the centerpiece of a long and convoluted story regarding the recording of the Holland
album. The Beach Boys relocated to the Netherlands in 1972 to record this album away from the pressures of Los Angeles. They spent exorbitant amounts of money building a studio on a farm in Baambrugge, Holland recording it. When the band turned the album over to Dave Bursyn at Warner Bros., he rejected it because there was no potential single. Bursyn called Brian Wilson's friend and collaborator Van Dyke Parks
, and asked if there was anything they had worked on - even a kernel of a song - that they might be able to transform into a hit. Wilson was still showing flickers of genius at this time, but had become very unpredictable and far less productive.
Parks, who wrote lyrics for Wilson's songs during the Smile
sessions, was one of the few people in close contact with Wilson at the time and had a cassette containing fragments of a song that he and Brian started, that being "Sail On Sailor." Parks was able to get Wilson to sit down at a piano and finish the song, a session that was recorded on cassette and reveals Wilson constantly veering off course while Parks exhorts him to "Write a f--king middle-eight" and at one point has to convince Wislon that he is not insane.
When the song was finally written, the other Beach Boys recorded it without Wilson and tacked it onto the album, replacing a Ricky Fataar/Blondie Chaplin/Mike Love song called "We Got Love."