I CAN GO FOR THAT: THE SMOOTH WORLD OF YACHT ROCK
70's - Episode 1 of 2
Part one of Katie Puckrik’s voyage through a halcyon period of Los Angeles studio craft when studio-based artists like The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan and Hall & Oates produced the smoothest R&B and married it to adult themes about longing, aspiration and melancholy.
In its day this music was never identified as a genre, but in the 21st century, in a nod to its finely crafted nature, it has come to be known as Yacht Rock. Katie’s account of Yacht Rock is both the soundtrack of her American teen years and a re-appraisal of a critically neglected era of music, when the sophisticated smooth sounds of the West Coast were a palliative for an America in turmoil.
Starting with the forerunners of this soft sound, Katie looks at the singer-songwriters of Laurel Canyon as well as soft rock pioneers such as the band America whose songs offered Americans an escape from economic depression at home and the enduring conflict in Vietnam abroad. Popularised by a boom in FM radio stations, this smooth, easily digestible sound found mainstream appeal. Katie argues that the pure Yacht sound was born in 1976 when seasoned session musician Michael McDonald joined The Doobie Brothers. Alongside The Doobies’ mellow tracks, Steely Dan and Hall & Oates also delivered perfect studio-engineered productions that remain as escapist and indulgent a listen today as they did when they were made.
The gleaming yacht sound was in part defined by a group of session players and composers, including McDonald, who played across the range of ‘Yacht’ bands, informing their specific tone and level of musicianship. In this film, one such musician, Jay Graydon, talks about the Yacht phenomenon and being part of the scene back in the day. Meanwhile John Oates reveals some of the inspirations behind his hit ‘She’s Gone’. Other contributors include producer Mark Ronson and JD Ryznar, creator of internet hit, the Yacht Rock Show.
80's - Episode 2 of 2
Katie Puckrik concludes her voyage through a golden era of Los Angeles studio crafted sounds. In this episode she charts the progress of Yacht Rock through the 1980s, when it became the soundtrack to America in the Reagan era, and when artists like Toto, Hall & Oates and George Benson created a technicolour second wave of a super smooth sound.
In its day, this music was not identified as a genre, but in the 21st century, in a nod to its finely crafted nature, it has come to be known as Yacht Rock. In the MTV 80s, the bearded sensitivity that had defined the Yacht sound in the previous decade was out and, instead, bigger sounds with bombastic videos were in. Hall & Oates stepped up to the challenges of the video age with hits such as I Can’t Go For That and Private Eyes.
The gleaming Yacht sound was, in part, always defined by a group of LA-based session players and composers who worked across a range of Yacht bands, informing their specific tone and level of musicianship. Yacht session supremos Jay Graydon and Steve Porcaro reveal how they worked with George Benson, making a surprising addition to the Yacht cannon with Turn Your Love Around. Meanwhile, Porcaro joined other LA session players to form Toto whose tracks Rosanna and Africa were two mega-hits of the early 80s. Toto’s Steve Lukather and Steve Porcaro also reveal how they even brought a little Yacht magic to the biggest-selling album in history, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, when the latter wrote the song Human Nature for the album.
Meanwhile, actor and writer JD Ryznar takes credit for inventing the Yacht badge, when he penned a satirical online drama referencing the key protagonists of Yacht. This affectionate spoof contributed to a revival of interest and enthusiasm for these mainstream sounds in the digital era and Katy’s reappraisal puts the brilliance of this group of musicians firmly back in the spotlight. Other contributors include Robbie Dupree and John Oates.