Modern Day Yacht Rock


In addition to alternative rock, I listen to a wide variety of styles…as you may or may not have noticed by some of the books I have written in the past (Grunge Is Dead, MTV Ruled the World, Shredders, etc.). And on March 6, 2018, my latest book will be issued – The Yacht Rock Book. Just what is yacht rock, you ask? Perhaps the easiest description is: music that would not sound out of place being played aboard a yacht back in the good old days.

But these songs were also some of the top pop gems of the 70s and 80s. And while some associate yacht rock’s biggest songs with one-hit wonder artists, several of rock’s most renowned artists fall under this category, too, including Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, Steely Dan, Hall & Oates, The Doobie Brothers, Toto, and more.
The book features interviews with many of the heavy hitters of the genre, including John Oates, Kenny Loggins, and Don Felder, but also explains how quite a few modern day rock artists – even of the alt-rock variety – embrace yacht rock sounds in their own music. Here, Nicholas J Niespodziani – singer of the killer tribute band, The Yacht Rock Revue – states the facts, in an exclusive excerpt from the book.

“Everything from a lot of hip-hop has taken samples from yacht rock songs, to a lot of modern hipster indie bands—ranging from Grace Potter to Mac DeMarco, to even Tame Impala, LCD Soundsystem, Lemon Twigs … there are echoes of this yacht rock sound in all of their music. And some of them are borderline straight yacht rock revivals of that sound. You can hear it all over. I guess it’s true with any genre these days, though, like, find the musical movement from the last fifty years, and there is somebody that is doing kind of a revised version of it now—with all the micro-genres that exist.”

“I think Thundercat, some of those traits I was talking about defining yacht rock, like, he fits the bill perfectly. He’s an amazing player, has been a session guy and played on and co-wrote a bunch of the Kendrick Lamar music, and then kind of had his own thing going on as a solo artist. Super-jazzy. I went to see him when he came through Atlanta, and he was just playing with a trio. The same trio that he did the Late Night performance with Kenny and Michael. But all three of the guys … just amazing chops. All session players who come together, and then in the context of this jazzy but still pop-y Thundercat song. They channel all those musician chops into something that is easily digestible and got some smooth radio appeal. So he’s kind of using the same formula that the late-70s artists used. And obviously, when you bring in voices like Loggins and McDonald, it takes you straight into that yacht rock world. I love ‘Show You The Way’ and I love that whole record, Drunk. It gets a lot more weird—I don’t know if you’ve listened to the rest of the record—but he’s not afraid to get really weird. But I love that about him. And I think that it’s super-cool that he’s bringing those guys back. It could be viewed by some people as being a little bit gimmicky, but I don’t have a problem with that. I think it’s cool.”

“You hear the influences of yacht rock coming through in everything. I think John Mayer is really yacht-y a lot of the times, I think Bruno Mars even has some yacht rock influence in some of his hits. It’s seen a real resurgence across the music industry. And I don’t know if it’s because yacht rock is real music of escapism—maybe it’s because that’s something people can identify with in these times. I’m not sure. But it feels like it’s back in the pop consciousness right now—for whatever reason. And it doesn’t seem to be dissipating, either. I think there’s something constant about that good times music, that maybe is here to stay.”

“And Saturday Night Live alumni seem to have a mild obsession with yacht rock. Jimmy Fallon used to do a yearly ‘yacht rock night’ on his late show. He even featured our friend Robbie Dupree as the musical guest on one episode. On SNL, he used to do The Barry Gibb Talk Show with Justin Timberlake, which inspired us to use ‘Nights On Broadway’ as one of our show openers. Will Ferrell uses yacht rock in seemingly every movie he does—employing a particularly heavy dose of yacht rock music, style, and vibe in the Anchorman films. And Fred Armisen and Bill Hader took it a step further with The Blue Jean Committee—a full-on yacht rock spoof band they created for the Documentary Now! mockumentary series. I think that show really shows their obsession with the concept—they don’t go for big laughs, it’s almost more of an homage to the era and personalities than a real comedy episode.”

To order a copy of the book, click here.

And if you live in the New York area, come meet me (and purchase one of my books…I’ll even sign it!) on April 8th, as part of the Vinyl Revolution Record Show, at Cluett Hall in Garden City, from 11am-4pm. Click here for info.

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Bio: After having his articles posted from other outlets on Alternative Nation (and before that, Grunge Report) for years - heck, he was even interviewed by GR back in 2009! - Greg Prato finally began contributing articles to the site in 2014. He has written for various sites/mags over the years (Rolling Stone, All Music Guide, etc.), and is the author of quite a few books. And as evidenced by such titles as Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon, and Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets, he also has a deep fondness for alternative rock n' roll music. You can check out info on all of Greg's books here, see what he's up to on his Twitter page here.
  • dakotablue

    Are you calling the totally pre-fab soulless band Toto one of “rock’s most renowned artists”? Only if renown means sales.

  • Annie

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  • Jason Kasepchuk

    I don’t what to say about “yacht rock” I read half your article cause I enjoyed your other articles/books I’ve read of yours but sorry I can’t get behind “yacht rock”