Band members Related acts
- Robert Alderton -- guitar, keyboards (1999- 2005)
(replaced Anthony England)
- Gavin David -- vocals (1980)
- Virginia David - lead vocals (1980)
- Anthony England -- guitar, keyboards (replaced
Henry Marsh) (1999-)
- Georg Kajanus (aka Georg Hultgreen) -- vocals, guitar,
keyboards, harmonium (1973-79, 90-95)
- Peter Lincoln -- (replaced George Kajanus (1996-06)
- Henry Marsh - guitar, keyboards, vocals, nickelodeon
(1973-79, 90-99, 05-)
- Oliver Marsh -- guitar, keyboards (replaced
Philip Pickett) (2006-)
- Philip Pickett - guitar, keyboards, calliphone
- Grant Serpell -- drums, percussion, backing vocals
- James Stroud -- drums, percussion
- Affinity (Grant Serpell)
- Eclection (Georg Hultgreen)
- Gringo (Henry Marsh)
- George Hultgreen (solo efforts)
- The Ice (Grant Serpell)
- Kanjus-Pickett (Georg Kanjanus and Philip Pickett)
- Noir (Georg Kajanus)
- Toast (Henry Marsh)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG
Comments: original inner sleeve
GEMM catalog ID: 5468
True story ... My family moved to Belgium in 1976 and since local television was broadcast in Flemish or French (everything from Hawaii 5-0 reruns to porn), I quickly became a fan of Radio Caroline. Radio Caroline had an truly eclectic play list and you never knew what you'd hear next (shame on today's computer generated programming). Anyhow, one evening while listing to the radio I recall hearing a punk track followed by Sailor's 'Girls Girls Girls'. I remember liking the punk song, but the Sailor track was insidiously catchy and is some 30 year later remains parked in my subconscious.
Produced by Jeffrey Lesser and Rupert Holmes, 1975's "Trouble" served to showcase the band's quirky brand of British dancehall and flapper styled pop. Before going any further - this stuff is probably just too cute for most Americans !!! Funny but I remember reading a Ken Tucker review of the LP in Rolling Stone (back when it mattered). As I remember Tucker drew some comparisons to a second rate Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music. As a Roxy fan I remember being appalled by the comparison, but having listened to the LP for the first time in a decade, I can see where he was coming from. Kajanus' clipped delivery really did occasionally recall Bryan Ferry (check out 'A Glass Of Champagne') ... Anyhow, I've always viewed the Sailor albums as kind of a weird travelogue soundtrack - imagine writer Kajanus sitting in his living room spinning a large globe, randomly picking a spot on the map and then writing a song borrowing the local musical genres (Southeast Asia - 'Trouble In Hong Kong'; the Caribbean - 'Coconut', and Latin - 'Panama'. It was mildly cute, but like a joke got old after you heard it a couple of times.
"Trouble" track listing:
Girls Girls (Georg
Kajanus) - 3:02
Elsewhere the band enjoyed a pair of major UK and European hits with:
- 1975's 'A Glass of Champagne' b/w 'Panama' (Epic catalog number EPC-3770)
- 1976's 'Girls Girls Girls' b/w 'Jacaranda' (Epic catalog number Epic EPC-3858)
some of the international picture sleeves
Here are a couple of YouTube clips of the band performing the hits:
'Girls Girls Girls'
'A Glass of Champaign'
'Trouble In Hong Kong'
'The Old Nickelodeon Sound'
Rating: 2 stars **
Title: The Third Step
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG
Comments: UK pressing; gatefold sleeve
GEMM catalog ID: 5469
Full of shimmering pop melodies and slightly goofy lyrics, by all rights I should love 1976's "The Third Step". Try as I might I don't and I'm not quite sure why this one irritates me so much. Produced by Jeffrey Lesser, the ten George Kajanus penned tracks were all perfect for top-40 radio (I clearly recall hearing a couple of these on Radio Caroline). Part of the problem may be the fact songs like 'One Drink Too Many', 'Give Me La Samba', and 'Two Ladies On the Corner' were diabetes-inducing cute. Imagine a UK version of ABBA (with Benny an d Bjorn singing) that was more than willing to tap into different cultural genres in order to win a mid-1970s Europop contest and you'll get a feel for this stuff. Like ABBA or lots of the Chinn-Chapman catalog stuff , material like 'Cool Breeze' wasn't bad taken in small doses, but heard in one setting it was a bit much to take. At least to my ears it had the feel of product, rather than art. In the UK and most of Europe the album continued to band's commercial roll, spinning off a pair of hit singles:
- 1976's 'Stiletto Heels' b/w 'Out of Money' (Epic catalog number EPC-4620)
- 1977's 'One Drink Too Many' b/w 'Melancholy' (Epic catalog number SEPC-4804)
As far as I know this one never saw an American release.
inner sleeve photo
Step" track listing:
1.) One Drink Too Many (Georg Kajanus) - 3:59
2.) Give Me La Samba (Georg Kajanus) - 3:17
3.) Cool Breeze (Georg Kajanus) - 2:21
4.) Two Ladies On the Corner (Georg Kajanus) - 2:45
5.) Dancing (Georg Kajanus) - 4:37
2.) Out of Money (Georg Kajanus) - 3:55
3.) Hanna (Georg Kajanus) - 3:16
4.) Quay Hotel (Georg Kajanus) - 4:05
5.) Melancholy (instrumental) (Georg Kajanus) - 2:35
Thanks to YouTube you can also see the band lip synching their way through a couple of studio performances:
'One Drink Too Many'
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Dressed For Drowning
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG
Comments: promo stamp on back cover
GEMM catalog ID: 5470
Teaming Sailor and producer James William Guercio made for one of the year's odder collaborations. Of course with the departure of longtime mainstay Georg Kajanus this was basically a new band (the husband and wife team of Gavin and Virginia David brought in as replacements, so why not try something radically different.
For Drowning" track listing:
1.) Danger On the Titanic (Philip Pickett) -
2.) Don''t Send Flowers (Philip Pickett) -
3.) Private Eyes (Philip Pickett) -
4.) Don't Look a Gift Horse (Philip Pickett) -
5.) Runaway (Philip Pickett) -
2.) Pearl Harbor (Henry Marsh - Philip Pickett) -
3.) Starlight (Philip Pickett) -
4,) Who Will Stop the Rain (John Fogerty) -
1980 A1.DANGER ON THE TITANIC B1.Hat Check Girl
7”: AUSL Caribou ES-575
1980 A1.DON’T SEND FLOWERS B1.Don’t Look a Gift Horse
7”: NET Caribou CRB-9077
1991 A1.LA CUMBIA (Radio Mix) B1.La Cumbia (Tropical Mix)
7”: GER RCA PB-44539
1992 1.LATINO LOVER 2.? 3.?
CDS: GER RCA 10144
1992 1.IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO 2.Under the Moon 3.When My Ship Comes In
CDS: GER RCA 11715
1994 HITS & HIGHLIGHTS
(orig cd) GER RCA 18545
1997/8 THE VERY BEST OF SAILOR
(orig cd) GER EMI 823152
2001.09.27 GREATEST & LATEST
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The formation of what became possibly the most original sounding band of the '70s took place in 1973.
Georg Kajanus and Phil Pickett had known and admired each other's work for a number of years before collaborating on an album, Hi Ho Silver! Their subsequent decision to form a group found Grant Serpell, previously drummer and percussionist of cult jazz/rock fusion band Affinity, and Henry Marsh, previously keyboard player and guitarist with Gringo, making their first demo recording with Georg and Phil in a small studio in North London.
The original line-up of the band at this point was 2 guitars, bass and drums and the music, although original in its vocal approach, was instrumentally very much in the vein of 'Harmony Rock' music of that time. One historic day in his music room, where he experimented and wrote all his songs, Georg played to the others, by way of entertainment, a demo tape of a musical he was planning to write.
The strange and unusual sound of harmoniums, mandolins, glockenspiels, hand-bass drums and tack pianos filled the room. The song was "Sailor's Night On The Town", and Grant, rising from his seat in ecstasy, exclaimed that this was the sound they had been looking for. "It contained a pathos that I'd never heard in pop music before; we had all come from the '60s where there were many bands all basically doing the same thing; here was something for me to be involved in that was totally unique."
From that point on, as more songs in the style of "Sailor's Night" flowed from Georg's twelve-string and pen, a whole style of playing started to develop between the four members. Bass guitars were replaced by enormous synthesizer bass sounds, standard keyboard styles gave way to street-organs, and drum and percussion approaches of a totally unique style were originated. In fact, a whole new attitude to playing and presentation appeared to be necessary in order to make the music work
In due course, CBS Records came to audition a new act called SAILOR. Rather than witnessing the customary long-haired rock bands prevalent at that time, they found themselves in a small room with four short haired young men who played a multitude of unlikely instruments and sang songs about red-light quarters, sleazy underworld characters, and romance of an altogether quirky nature.
The CBS reaction was immediate and the first SAILOR album was recorded in Spring 1974. Georg recalls the making of "SAILOR": "Production-wise it was all down to emphasising all the colours I was feeling and seeing within the instrumentation and music, and not really paying too much attention to individual sounds; just having fun making things sound atmospheric."
Their first single "Traffic Jam" was probably Georg's last composition written before the SAILOR concept music began, but was always considered to be the perfect introductory single for the band and an excellent opener to the album.
By the time the album was finished the complexity of the group sound created a new challenge for SAILOR: How were four musicians going to successfully deliver the sound of about ten instruments on stage without increasing their line-up? (Bear in mind that this was 1974, long before the advent of computer keyboards which can play any sound at the touch of a button.)
Within a very short time, in fact possibly as little as a month after the final mix of the SAILOR album, Georg had come up with the solution: a custom-designed all-purpose machine, the constituents of which were two upright pianos, two synthesizers, mini organs and glockenspiels all mechanically linked and contained within a wooden frame also designed by Georg.
Construction work took place above a pub,
appropriately in one of the seedier parts of London.
Henry: "I remember standing next to Georg handing him hammers, nails, glue, sandwiches and anything else required, as he set about his creation like a man pssessed! After the final staining of the wood which made it resemble some strange piece of antique furniture, I recall standing back, looking at it and thinking: 'He actually expects us to play the bloody thing?'"
The basic keyboards were back to back, enabling Phil and Henry to face each other when playing, and also to talk to each other when bored. Phil played what was referred to as the bass side, Henry the treble side, and so the Nickelodeon was born.
Anyone seeing early film footage or photos of SAILOR from that time would be forgiven for thinking that this was some strange combo from the 1940s. Grant's drum and percussion console resembled something from the Edmundo Ros Orchestra. The overall theatrical setting consisted of a harbour town/cafe/street lamp which cast a red glow over the players, plus an amazing collection of Latin American instruments procured by Georg on one of his many trips to Mexico. All these placed the audience in a unique and nostalgic world.
SAILOR's first performance was a live In Concert for BBC Television in September 1974. Although there is no known copy or recording of this programme, it is generally remembered by the band as being an altogether terrifying experience. Never having played to an audience before, to find yourself in front of five or six TV cameras capturing your every movement for millions of people to witness live was an unforgettable experience.
Georg: "I've never been so terrified in my
whole life. It's the sort of thing sane people wouldn't do!"
Henry: "I remember our facial expressions that night were mouths that smiled and eyes that screamed!"
Phil: "My heartbeat was so loud, I thought it was being picked up by the microphone!"
Grant: "I was a drummer who found himself playing the main Nickelodeon part in "A Sailor's Night On The Town" on live TV, knowing that if I got lost during the playing of the part I'd never find my way back!"
The natural shyness of this first night, coupled with the enormous sound and energy that came across in the music and instrumentation, created a tidal wave of excitement throughout the media in England.
SAILOR found themselves representing CBS at conventions in Los Angeles, Paris and England as the new band worth watching, whilst established artists invited them to be tour support for them. Kiki Dee's tour was quickly followed by a wonderful alliance and friendship with Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel. Steve, a new-found SAILOR fanatic (he saw that first TV In Concert) was at that time at the height of his success with a number one hit in England, 'Come Up And See Me, Make Me Smile', and insisted that SAILOR be the other act on his forthcoming tour.
Whereas the Kiki Dee tour had been valuable experience on warming up an audience for the main act, the Harley tour was perfect in every respect. Not only did both acts appreciate each other's music, but also the Harley fans themselves took SAILOR to their hearts, finding in the SAILOR music a similar danger and excitement to that of Cockney Rebel.
In February 1975 the "SAILOR" album reached Gold status in Holland, much to the delight of the Dutch record company and the slight embarrassment of the UK company.
It was of course understandable that the music of SAILOR should be so well received by the Dutch, the first album containing a song called "The Girls Of Amsterdam" and the Nickelodeon sounding as if it belonged to the streets of Amsterdam; but it should also be pointed out that Holland was extensively toured by the band, as many Dutch fans of the '70s will remember, when they headlined at the Concert Gebouw Amsterdam and performed a memorable set at the Pink Pop Festival, a venue usually associated with heavy rock artists, where they received an ovation from over a hundred thousand people.
This success in Holland gave the band enormous confidence and impetus, but the emphasis now seemed to be on creating the same degree of impact in their home country - in conquering the UK.
By that summer, following various small headlining tours of the UK, Scandinavia and Holland, SAILOR were ready to take to the studio again, but by now they had developed into a formidable live act and this energy needed to be captured on tape by a sympathetic and imaginative production team.
The first meeting with New York's Jeffrey Lesser and Rupert Holmes soon removed any doubt that this would be an excellent working relationship. In spite of the fact that two different cultural worlds were meeting, the chemistry created between the two Americans and the four Europeans gave birth to the legendary Trouble album, still considered to be SAILOR's most successful work to date.
However, at the time of recording there was concern over finding that elusive 'hit' single which would pave the way for big album success. Phil well remembers the morning that Georg arrived at the studio with a cassette containing the backing track idea to a song called "A Glass Of Champagne": "We were in the middle of recording something like "Jacaranda", which involved a harp and various other unusual ingredients. We took one listen to "Champagne" and knew it was the HIT." Of all the songs in the Trouble album, "A Glass Of Champagne" probably took the least time to record, instantly capturing the power of Georg's original demo. "Girls, Girls, Girls", a song that had been performed live by the group for a few months before recording, became the perfect choice as the opener to the album.
At the time nobody realized that "Girls, Girls, Girls" would become virtually the anthem for the band and is, coupled with "Champagne", the highest selling SAILOR single.
The completion of the "Trouble" album
also gave birth to a change in the visual appearance of the band. Up to that
point SAILOR had dressed, inevitably, as SAILORs! The attitude to the image had
always been rooted in Theatre rather than Rock, the members of the group
portraying the four SAILORs out on the town in a red-light district near you(!),
but this uniformity was frowned on by many observers in the media as giving
SAILOR altogether too safe and lightweight an image.
"Not that lightweight," recalls Phil. "Once we were doing a photo session in the red-light quarter of Amsterdam and were mistaken for the real thing by some drunken merchant seamen. I think after a few drinks we nearly ended up on a ship bound for Rumania!"
The new 'look' - see the Trouble album reference
- established Georg as a recognizable lead singer and figurehead in SAILOR. The
more decadent 'dockside' appearance seemed to belong even more to the imagery of
the music. The recognizable anchor on his cheek, however, created one
Georg: "I read in a paper shortly after our first TV appearance in this image that two girl fans had real tattoos applied to their faces, not knowing it was just stage make up!"
With "A Glass Of Champagne" reaching
the number one spot in the UK over the Christmas period of 1975, it appeared to
many observers that this was an overnight success story, this being the first
SAILOR song to make a noticeable impact in the UK. Their first major headlining
tour followed to sensational live reviews in all the national and music journals
coupled with fan mania that the band were quite unprepared for.
Grant: "We regularly found ourselves mobbed by hundreds of fans before and after concerts, with only one faithful but panic-stricken 'roadie' to keep them at bay."
Phil: "After one gig, on one of the few occasions Ann (Phil's wife) came to see us perform, a jealous fan bit her on the arm!"
It was during these tours that Henry began to
emerge as a humorist and somewhat lunatic raconteur on stage. This element
actually created a memorable challenge to him on one occasion.
Henry: "The problem was this: all our machinery on stage was so unusual that if it ever broke down during a concert, there was only one person who could fix it. Yes, you've guessed it... Georg! So, when half way through a performance in Plymouth the nickelodeon started squealing like a strangled pig, Georg, Phil and Grant left the stage with the offending keyboard, to Georg's immortal words: 'Ladies and Gentlemen, sorry about this, but we leave you in the capable hands of Henry Marsh!' I was left with an accordion, an audience of two thousand people and a rather average repertoire of bad jokes and old English Music Hall songs until the others returned."
"Girls, Girls, Girls" was released in the spring of that year and proved to have the same impact as "A Glass Of Champagne" and the "Trouble" album, working its way towards Gold status all over Europe and in Australia. It seemed as if SAILOR were on a roll and nothing could go wrong. (Cue music of an ominous nature...)
The decision to send SAILOR on their first
American tour at such an early stage in their European success was the result of
a number of things. Their manager at the time, Robert Wace, who had been a
considerable influence and source of guidance, saw the USA as being the next
step for any successful UK rock act. As ex-manager of The Kinks and now managing
SAILOR under the umbrella of the Pink Floyd Organisation, he was no stranger to
the gruelling tours necessary to break artists in the States.
Although SAILOR's second live performance ever had actually been in Los Angeles at the CBS convention, where they had record executives on their feet screaming for more, the tour which was now mapped out for the band and which they undertook to honour, was appallingly planned without any consideration for the band's style of music or the compatibility they might or might not have with the headlining artists that they supported.
Grant: "The feeling was one of helplessness. We'd play to an audience of 60 people, when across the road Steve Miller had sold out in the main venue of that city. We knew we should be back in Europe where we could fill halls and play to fans who had not yet been able to see the live show."
One minute they would find themselves playing to a hard core Country & Western audience in San Diego, impatiently awaiting Charlie Daniels, next a rock audience in Atlanta, even at one point an all-black soul audience in Philadelphia who very politely rose from their seats and left after the first few bars of "Let's Go To Town", the opening song of the evening. Let's Go To Town... and they did!
Georg: "The feeling for me was just to get the hell out of there and get back home, but we had to stay and do our best."
Phil: "Being booed on stage by a sea of Stetsons before you've even played a note doesn't exactly warm you to an audience."
It is said of American tours that they either
make or break a band depending on how well the artists in question are received.
This fortunately wasn't the case with SAILOR, who had always recognized their
strong European roots, and in spite of bad choices of venue they still managed
to create a cult following in the more intimate club environments that came
Although a degree of depression sank in, the humour of the band saw them through some of the more unfortunate gigs.
Henry: "Phil offered one unfriendly audience a recitation of our new double album rather than giving them just one more song, and on another occasion Georg and I got such a hysterical fit of giggles during "Josephine Baker" (not the best cultural choice for the American public) that he just stopped singing and I fell off the stage!"
In spite of these tales of woe, there were some creative moments. Georg managed to write "Quay Hotel", later to become a favourite track of the third SAILOR album "The Third Step". This song was inspired by an extraordinary person he came across in the Beverly Rodeo Hotel.
There was also some very good news filtering across from Europe. SAILOR were now a household name in Germany, a country they had long wished to tour, with talk of a TV special featuring the band and calls for numerous other appearances.
After six weeks of exhaustive travel and performances, the band were on their way home, and the flight from New York to London was nothing short of a celebration.
TRAFFIC JAM/Josephine Baker
A GLASS OF CHAMPAGNE/Panama
Epic 8-50194 (1975)
GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS/Jacaranda
Epic 8-50229 (1975)
RUNAWAY/Put Your Mouth Where The Money Is
Epic 8-50557 (1978)
Their only hit single in America (to date!)
DANGER ON THE TITANIC (edit)/Hat Check Girl
Caribou 02598 (1980)
RUNAWAY (new version)/?