Album: Atlantic Crossing (1975)
Charted: 1 58
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  • This was originally recorded by the Sutherland Brothers on their Lifeboat album in 1972. It was written by their bassist Gavin Sutherland. Rod Stewart's cover in 1975 bought the group to prominence and they released a couple of UK Top 40 hits the following year: "Arms Of Mary (#5) and "Secrets" (#35).
  • Stewart related to the song's theme of homesickness (the high rate of tax in the UK had forced him to move to America) and he recorded his version at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with a choir assembled by Bob Crewe, the Four Seasons' producer. It became his third UK chart-topper and the following year, it was revived following it's use as the theme music for a BBC TV documentary series about the HMS Ark Royal, this time peaking at #3. The combined sales of the 2 releases meant this is Stewart's biggest ever selling single in the UK with 955,111 copies sold.
  • Other acts who have covered this include Robin Trower (1976), Joan Baez (1977) and Smokie (2001).
  • Stewart confessed in a 2010 interview with Mail on Sunday's Live Magazine that he suffers from nerves when he has to perform live or in the studio, and always has a drink before hitting the stage or laying down vocal tracks. However, he had to record 'Sailing' completely sober because there was no alcohol available at the studio in Alabama. Said Stewart: "It's the only song I ever recorded without a drink inside me. My thing was always to have a little tipple before I sang; even now I'll have a Bacardi and Coke before I go on stage. It just helps.

    But 'Sailing' was recorded in Muscle Shoals, which was a dry area. The producer Tommy Dowd woke me up at ten in the morning saying, 'Get down here in half an hour; we've mixed the track and need the vocal.' I was like, 'You're joking, recording at 10.30 in the morning. I need a drink to calm the old nerves.' I was stuffed, because there was nothing to be had anywhere and I was terrified to sing without one. But I did and it turned out to be one of the biggest ones I ever made."
  • The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section backed Aretha Franklin on many of her early hits. They also recorded with The Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett and many other Soul music luminaries, so when Rod Stewart traveled to Alabama to record this song, he was surprised at what he saw. Muscle Shoals bass player David Hood, who owned the studio with three other members of the rhythm section, told us: "Rod, I think, was a little intimidated by our track record at the time. When he first came in and saw us, he asked Tom Dowd, well, where's the band? And Tom said, 'That's the band.' He thought that they were trying to pull something on him, because he'd seen these white guys sitting out there at the instruments. He thought the band that he was coming to record with was Aretha Franklin's band and was gonna be a bunch of black guys. So he was suspicious of us from the start. But he was also, I think, intimidated; once he found out who we were and what we had done, he was intimidated by that. He didn't really want to sing in front of us at first.

    'Sailing' was a huge international hit. I don't think it was that big a hit in the States, but internationally it was a huge record. They played it before all the soccer matches, the World Cup and everything. It was a big, big hit for Rod. And that record, Atlantic Crossing, was a big point in his career, because it opened him up to more of a solo thing. Before, he'd been a solo artist, but it all sounded like the Faces and that kind of stuff. "

Comments: 13

  • Rubberduck from MelbourneMilwall fans use the tune for their crowd song "No one likes us, we don't care".
  • Ta from AustraliaWhen I was on China one of the people we got friendly with sang this song. At the time I just thought how nicely sung it was but later when I read the lyrics I understood it has a deeper meaning go the Chinese.
  • Lee from Augusta, GaI was at a presentation by the British Gurkha Regiment at Ft. Lewis, WA in 1982 following the Falklands War and heard this song for the 1st time. Seemed very appropriate. Later, I was in the Gulf War in 1991. I remember the journey to get there and the one to get home and the anxiety of wondering if/when that might occur. My family was in Germany at the time, and I contacted my wife and asked her to request Armed Forces Network Radio play this song as we began redeployment to home - they did, and every time I hear it, I have vivid memories of that time.
  • Cristina Hoffert from Orwigsburg PaI have been a fan for all the pass 40 years thanks to my PopPop Carver how also was a fan of yours WWWII vet was in London many times 2 years before he had his stroke he and my mom mom want back to see how they fixed everything after the war he talked to me about the war but no one in the family every asked him what he had seen and believe me it wasn't all good he did talk about the dog and cats on his ship and his shipments one of the strongest men I every know and will know also his sing voice was so on my pop pop could sing he passed at the age of 82 in his sleep
  • Debby from UsaOn the set of the video (but not in the video) was Rod's then live in love, Britt Ekland.
  • Peter from Coventry, United KingdomI used to sing this song after working abroad for a long time, when it was time to come home.
  • Niles from Belpre, Ohseems to me, If I hated a song so much, I wouldn't look it up!
  • Steven from Chipperfield, United KingdomPlease listen to the original version of this song,by the Sutherland Brothers,simply beautiful...
  • Joann from Portsmouth, VaWell John Brisbane thats your opinion so why were you even bringing up this song to listen to it in the first place? Why dont"t you go sailing and jump off that boat, one opinion negative doesn't count for nothing,you do not know a good song when you hear it, Rod Stewart is a great singer, songwriter and I have listened to his songs for years & will continue to do so, carry on Rod you are fantastic.
  • John from Brisbane, United StatesI get nauseous and feel really sick when I hear this vomit inducing song.I aways need to hurry quickly to turn my radio off when I suspect this cloyingly awful song comes on. Woe is me for ever having the ordeal to listen to this crap from Rod Stewart.
  • Guitar Chic from Small Town, KySuper spiritual...good stuff. Who wouldn't understand? Bravo again Rod...
  • Chet from Buffalo, NyPlay it loud and I defy you to not get goose bumps. Wonderfully done.
  • AgustÃ?n from Santiago, ChileThis wonderful song, specially the Rod Stewart vesion of it, has always touch me very deep in my heart. The instrumental arrangement, also, is beautiful, really very well done. Who has not sailed "stormy waters" in his life, to reach the way to his own unique destiny?

    Agustin S. D., Las Condes, Santiago, Chile
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