Wednesday, 9 September 2009

You've got the power to drive me insane

Anglo Norwegian songwriting combo Phil Pickett and Georg Kajanus had an idea for a group that would sing martitime themed songs about the pleasures of shore leave and the lure of the open sea so, in 1972, they put on naval outfits, recruited two more deck hands, and formed the group Sailor. Surprisingly, the concept didn’t set the world alight, despite their obvious talent with a melody so, two years later, they ditched the bell-bottoms and decided to write songs that had a more general appeal, especially to fans of Roxy Music.

‘A Glass Of Champagne’ reached number 2 in the UK charts when that meant something, selling millions of copies both home and abroad. It is one of the stupidest and catchiest songs ever written, and is playing in my head as I type this. Starting off with a ‘‘Virginia Plain’ intro, this is supplemented by Roxy-esque vocals and a lyric which is probably supposed to be sophisticated and cosmopolitan, but is actually cheese on a stick. The most distinctive element of the song, however, is the sound of their self-styled ‘Nickolodeon’, a bespoke instrument that was an unholy blend of piano, synth and percussion instruments designed to allow them to easily reproduce their complex arrangements, but which actually sounds like scary fairground music, a drunken Oompah band and migraine.

Relentlessly cheerful, the song itself was given an additional boost by numerous appearances on ‘Top Of The Pops’ and ‘Pebble Mill At One’ where the group, now clad in a variety of ridiculous outfits, were content to push the wacky content of their act well into the red, with only Kajanas (who looked like a well-fed Bryan Ferry) clinging to the original concept in his striped matelot outfit, natty cap and neckerchief. He too looked ridiculous, like the missing Village Person.

Sailor had one more big hit in the UK (the execrable ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’) before setting sail for a 25 year career in the parts of Europe that like a bit of oompah with their pop music. They’re still going today, touring constantly, and, tonight, wherever they are, they will be playing ‘A Glass Of Champagne’, perhaps twice. These are the damned.


Anonymous said...

super underated group of the time still play sailor lp

phil.e said...

First album one of my favourite ever. GK is supremely talented.