Sail On Sailor

Album: Holland (1973)
Charted: 49


  • 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."
  • This features a soulful lead vocal from guitarist Blondie Chaplin. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bill - Hendersonville, NC, for above 2
  • Dennis Wilson was the original lead singer of the song. On the day he was supposed to record his lead vocal, he had just purchased a new surfboard and couldn't wait to break it in. His impatience got the best of him, and he left the session with only a partially recorded vocal and went surfing. Carl Wilson then asked Blondie Chaplin to sing lead. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Sean - Chicago, IL
  • This song was released as a single twice. It reached #79 in the US when it was first issued in 1973, and two years later it was rereleased and reached #49.
  • This was one of just two songs Brian Wilson wrote for the Holland album. The other was the closing track "Funky Pretty."
  • Besides Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, there are three other guys credited for writing this song: Jack Rieley, Tandyn Almer and Ray Kennedy. Almer wrote The Association's "Along Comes Mary" and was friends with Wilson; Rieley was The Beach Boys manager and wrote lyrics for some of their songs; Ray Kennedy was a musician and songwriter that started working on the song with Wilson in 1970.
  • Backing singers on this track include Gerry Beckley of America, Billy Hinsche of Dino, Desi & Billy, and Carl Wilson.

Comments: 17

  • Eva from Sarasota, FlI moved to Florida in October of 1971 .....I lived in Brooklyn NY and heard sail on sailor before I left for Florida...what up with that?
  • Terry N. Croup from Hinckley, MinnesotaAlways needing, even bleeding
    Never feeding all my feelings
    Damn the thunder, must I blunder
    There's no wonder all I'm under
    Stop the crying and the lying
    And the sighing and my dying
    Sail on, sail on sailor
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Terry Well done, BBs
  • Nancy Harabedian from Broadview Heights, OhI love this song!!!! I love the blues vibe!!!! I'm not a Beach Boys fan, but I really really love this tune! I listen to it over and over again and never tire of it.
  • Dt from Gulf Breeze, FlGreat tune that has never received the attention it deserves. Very untypical BB tune, very funky R & B sound.
  • George from Belleville, NjThis is a solid song.The melody is strong and the tempo is just right,a little slowed down,but just what the song needs.It sounds like a hit tune.
  • Steven from Los Angeles, CaLulu best know for her song "To Sir With Love" recorded a great cover of this song. It was on Lulu's 2002 album "Together". The album was a collection of covers featuring duets with various singers. She sang this song accompanied by Sting. I heard it for the first time yesterday and instantly loved it.

    This is one of my all time favorite Beach Boy's songs, along with "Girl Don't Tell Me" so when I came across this cover I decided to give it a listen thinking it would be awful. I was pleasantly surprised!
  • Vinny from Dublin, IrelandBy far the greatest of the Beach Boys albums. I am a 70's and 80's Beach Boys fan and this is the first album I bought. All of my buddies at college bought this album. Not having this album in '73 or '74 meant that you were pretty peculiar and out of touch. My son loves it too. There is nothing mote beautiful in the world - I need this album to keep me going at times. I am in Israel just now and I have the Beach Boys, Beatles, Moody Blues, Arlo Guthrie etc etc to keep me company in beautiful Tel Aviv. I owe my life to the Beach Boys. God Bless you, I love you Beach Boys so much... Come back to Dublin, Brian, we need you..
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, CaPretty decent song and record,despite the fact it wasn't sung by a beachboy!
    cool record!
  • Cmoney from Baltimore, Mdmy favorite beach boys song
  • Dave from Scottsdale, AzThe EP was entitled "Mount Vernon and Fairway" which was the street corner Mike Love lived on. The record company rejected it for the album which upset Brian. Carl insisted it be released as a 45 included with the album.
  • Reuben from Amsterdam, NetherlandsI think the boys do sound soulful on 'Holland', but their voices also sound as if they all have gotten a cold. Check out lovely songs like 'Trader' and 'Funky Pretty'.
  • Reuben from Amsterdam, NetherlandsThe album 'Holland' is brilliant, sensitive and very imaginative. The Beach Boys took a whole studio into an old Dutch barn in the small town of Baambrugge. The original LP also contains an EP with a tail told by I believe Brian Wilson, called 'Pied Piper'.
  • Tim from Detroit, MiThis song was used in the Marttin Scorsese movie - The Departed. More info on the soundtrack here: h
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaDoesn't sound like the Beach Boys i know.
  • Bob from Cold Spring, KyJimmy Buffet released a cover version of this song on his "Meet Me In Margaritaville" album.

    - b.lauer , cold spring, KY
  • Austin from Granville, OhThe guitar played by Carl Wilson on this track was said to have been inspired by Brian telling the band to give it a "Morse Code" sound.
  • Gary from Auckland, New ZealandIn New Zealand (and maybe Australia) 'California Saga'/'Sail On Sailor' was issued as a single in February 1973 and went to #15 in NZ and top 10 in Auckland -- both got a lot of airplay. Brian Wilson with the Wondermints played 'Sail On Sailor' in Auckland just before last Xmas and got a huge ovation.
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