Sailor Newcastle City Hall 26th February 1976

Sailor Newcastle City Hall 26th February 1976
sailorprogI was about to categorise Sailor under “Guilty Pleasures”. Then I thought a little more. It would be easy to dismiss Sailor as a 1970s teen pop band, but actually, there was much more to them than their two UK singles charts hits “A Glass of Champagne” (which reached No 2), and “Girls, Girls, Girls” (No 7). Sailor were a serious band, grounded within a solid concept, and received many positive reviews and considerable critical acclaim at the time.
I first saw Sailor when they supported Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel on tour. Their show was pure theatre, exploring concepts of the sea, and telling stories of the docks, voyages and sailors. Sailor’s songs were based upon a narrative of life on the sea, drinking, frequenting taverns and visiting shady red light areas. Their influences came from European music of the 1940s and 1950s and they played authentic, unusual instruments including a charango (what is one of those 🙂 ?), and a nickelodeon. “If you can imagine Jaques Brel leading Edison Lighthouse through the score of ‘On the town’ or one of those other sailor-suited Gene Kelly musicals, then you’re half the way there” (New Musical Express, September, 1974).
Sailor’s line-up and instrumentation was Georg Kajanus (12 string guitar, charango, Veracruzana harp and lead vocals), Phil Pickett (bass nickelodeon, guitarron, piano and vocals), Henry Marsh (nickelodeon, accordion, piano, marimbas), and Grant Serpell (drums, percussion).
sailortixTheir music was quite different from anything else around at the time, they were definitely an acquired taste, and their two hits singles were not typical of their music or of their theatrical stage show. Their 1976 tour came shortly after the release of their second, and most successful, album “Trouble”. The concert was an attempt to take us down to the dockland, setting the scene for their seaport stories, and it all worked quite well. Those in the audience who were only familiar with Sailor’s hits probably found it quite strange. Support came from three piece Alfalpha, featuring a young Nick Laird-Clowes, later to be a presenter on the Tube and lead singer and one of the principal songwriters in Dream Academy (“Life in a Northern Town”).
From the tour publicity: “It’s extremely unlikely you’ve ever heard anything quite like Sailor before in your life, because they are, quite simply, unique. An over-worked word…..but you can apply it to Sailor, not only for their repertoire, with its echoes of waterfronts, bars and bordellos, but to the sounds they use to colour the stories they tell. That monstrous machine on stage is the Nickelodeon — a custom-built bank of keyboards played by two musicians and something you won’t hear from any other band…..The Sailor sound has already resulted in the group having had Top Ten hits in Europe (with their first single Traffic Jam’) and becoming, in an incredibly short time, one of the most feted and popular outfits in Holland, Belgium and Scandinavia.”
If my memory is correct (and it often isn’t) after the Sailor concert at the City Hall we went down to the Guildhall and caught the end of a Big Jim Sullivan show, which was organised as a guitar clinic/exhibition in collaboration with a local guitar shop.
The set list is likely to have been something like this: Blame It On The Soft Spot; The Street; Let’s Go To Town; The Old Nickelodeon Sound; Veracruz; Blue Desert; Jacaranda; Girls Girls Girls; Panama; Traffic Jam; A Glass Of Champagne.
“I’ve got the money, I’ve got the place
You’ve got the figure, you’ve got the face
Let’s get together, the two of us
Over a glass of champagne.”
(Sailor, A Glass Of Champagne, 1975)

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by robnlew. on August 5, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Saw them at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on the same tour. Had barely enough money for the ticket on the night and remember asking someone before the show how much the tickets cost. It was the drummer. He said ‘We’d play for free if we could afford it’. Great show. Jacaranda always sends shivvers down my spine.


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