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Ultimate Classic Rock

Yacht or Not?: Sailing the Seas of Yacht Rock

Louis Armstrong said, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” Duke Ellington said, “There are simply two kinds of music: good music and the other kind.” Christopher Cross said, “If you get caught between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love.”

What do these pieces of wisdom add up to? Music, like love, doesn’t follow rules. Musicians as diverse as Armstrong, Ellington and Cross don’t want to be boxed in by genre. They want to write, record and perform and not spend time deciding if they play bebop or hard bop, blues or Southern rock, funk or disco.

But as temperatures heat up and people think of sailing away to find serenity, yacht rock playlists start to float in on the breeze. And that means drawing boundaries with enough latitude that artists don’t object to being boxed in and  still foster playlists with a sense of meaning, a sense of continuity and depth. Peaks and valleys must be smartly balanced against the total annihilation of a common aesthetic. (Yes, despite a fascination with sailing and pina coladas, yacht rock can be taken seriously!)

And so, much to Armstrong’s chagrin, we have to ask, “What is yacht rock?” If it seems obvious, take a look at Spotify’s recent “Yacht Rock” playlist . Spotify is a global streaming leader with some 350 million monthly users, an army of music experts and cutting edge artificial intelligence, and yet the company filled its playlist with songs such as Tears for Fears ’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” Van Morrison ’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and Bruce Hornsby ’s “The Way It Is.”

If somebody wants to create and enjoy a stack of songs that runs from tunes by the J. Geils Band , to the  Police , to Bad Company , to Talking Heads (yup, the company has all these artists on its playlist and even included Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters”), they should do that with gusto! It sounds like an evening full of classic jams and fun left turns so cheers to the endeavor. But if a major player in the music business wants to do that and call it yacht rock, we need to take a step back and consider what is and isn’t yacht.

We know breezes, islands, keys, capes, cool nights, crazy love and reminiscing help define the yacht aesthetic (see works by Seals & Crofts , Jay Fergeson, Bertie Higgins, Rupert Holmes, Paul Davis, Poco , and Little River Band ). But let’s get beyond the captain’s caps and map the waters of this perfect-for-summer style.

Watch Bertie Higgins' Video for 'Key Largo' 

Yacht Rock Sets Sail With Help From a 2005 Web Series

Before 2005, people generally placed Toto ’s “ Africa ” and Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” in the soft rock genre. Maybe if they were getting fancy, they’d call them AM Gold. But in 2005, the online video series Yacht Rock debuted. It fictionalized the careers of soft rock artists of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The cheeky show capitalized on the building renaissance of artists such as Steely Dan and Michael McDonald , who embraced the silliness of the series.

“When it came on I remember watching it pretty avidly,” McDonald admitted in 2018 . “My kids got a huge kick out of it. We would laugh about the characterizations of the people involved. At this point it’s a genre of its own. You’re either yacht or you're not.”

He might be right that you’re either yacht or you’re not. But calling it a genre doesn’t quite work (more on that in a minute).

Listen to the Doobie Brothers' 'Minute By Minute'

Riding the Waters From the Radical ’60s to the Sincere ’70s

By the late ’60s, rock ‘n’ roll had become “art.” The Beatles started as simple teen heartthrobs covering early rock ‘n’ roll, but graduated to the supreme weirdness of the  White Album . Chuck Berry gave birth to the Rolling Stones who gave birth to Led Zeppelin and the gonzo bombast of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” And all sorts of acts went wild from the Grateful Dead , to Pink Floyd , to Frank Zappa  and beyond. The sunshine of ’70s AM Gold came as a reaction to these wonderful excesses. Singer-songwriters aimed to take rock and pop back to the simple pleasures of tight, light tunes such as Beach Boys ’ classics, Motown hits and Brill Building-crafted songs.

Hippies looking for revolution and Gen X-ers on the hunt for rage, irony and sharp edges bristled at the genuine lyrics of tenderness and heartbreak neatly packaged in finely-crafted Top 40. Where the stars and fans of '60s and ’90s rock wanted arty and experimental music, anger and angst, yacht took listeners on a voyage powered by pure earnestness: think of the sincere and intense conviction of Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree,” Captain & Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together," and “Love is the Answer” by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

(Which is why placing the Police or Talking Heads on any yacht mix doesn’t work.)

Yacht rock embodies the final charge of unbridled, heartfelt pop.

“I think these songs remain so popular because they are unabashedly pop,” Nicholas Niespodziani, leader of the hugely successful tribute band  Yacht Rock Revue , explains to UCR. “They’re not self conscious. You couldn’t write a song like ‘Africa’ now. What are they even singing about? Who knows? But it’s fun to sing.”

Watch Captain & Tennille's Video for 'Love Will Keep Us Together'

Music That’s Jazzy, But Sure Isn’t Jazz

Yacht rock doesn’t just have an earnestness to its lyrics, the sax solos come with the same level of sincerity.

If the style was the last gasp of unadulterated pop, it was also the dying breath of jazz’s influence on rock. Jazz rock started in the ’60s with Zappa, Chicago , Santana and Blood, Sweat & Tears , but slowly simple drums and growling guitars stomped horn lines and rhythmic shifts into the ground. However, yacht rock features echoes of swingin’ saxophones, big band horns and Miles Davis ’ fusion projects.

Yacht rock is very pop, but legitimate musical talents made those hooks. Chuck Mangione logged time in jazz giant Art Blakey’s band then took what he learned and crushed complex harmonic ideas into the pop nugget “Feels So Good,” which is basically a Latin-bebop-disco-classical suite. (If you dig “Feels So Good,” dig deeper and groove to smooth jazz mini-symphony “Give It All You Got.”)

Nearly every classic from the style features either an epic sax solo or dazzling guitar part. For horn glory, go spin Little River Band’s “Reminiscing,” Gino Vannelli’s “I Just Wanna Stop” or Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers ’ “Just the Two of Us." For six-string wizardry as astounding as anything Jimmy Page came up with (and much more economical), try Atlantic Rhythm Section’s “So Into You,” Pablo Cruise’s “Love Will Find a Way” and pretty much every Steely Dan cut.

(Which is why placing Tears for Fears’ “ Everybody Wants to Rule the World ” and Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” on any yacht mix doesn’t work).

Watch the Little River Band's Video for 'Reminiscing' 

A Vibe, Not a Genre or Gender or Demographic of Any Kind

Being a style, a feeling, an aesthetic, a vibe means that yacht rock can pull a song from a wide variety of genres into its orbit. It also means that it’s not just a catalog of hits from bearded white dudes. Yes, Kenny Loggins , McDonald and both Seals and Crofts helped define yacht rock. But quintessential songs from the style came from the women and artists of color, soul singers, folk heroes and Nashville aces.

For every Loggins' tune in a captain’s hat, there’s a Carly Simon track dressed up as your cruise director. Yes, there's Steely Dan's jazz influence, but also  Crosby, Stills & Nash 's folk legacy (“Southern Cross” remains definitively of the style). Yacht rock playlists should also be littered with appropriate R&B gems, such as the Raydio’s “You Can’t Change That” (which features Ray Parker Jr.!), Hall & Oates ’ “Sara Smile” and Kool & the Gang’s “Too Hot.” Likewise, country acts of the era tried to go Top 40 while attempting to retain some twang and managed to make Love Boat music (see Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning,” Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love a Rainy Night,” Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers ’ “Islands in the Stream”).

It’s hard to tell if the Commodores’ “Sail On” is pop or R&B, harder still to know if George Benson’s “Give Me the Night” is pop, R&B or jazz. But they both feel yacht.

(Which is why Santana can do psychedelic Latin music and can do yacht on “Hold On,” and why the Pointer Sisters can do new wave disco with “Neutron Dance” and yacht with “Slow Hand.")

Wishing You a Bon Voyage on the Seas of Yacht

Spotify was right to think about diversity when making its playlist, though the company got the type of diversity wrong. Yacht has some pretty specific sonic parameters, but has no demographic restrictions when it comes to the kind of artists contributing to the style’s catalog. That means when you hit the high seas of yacht, you don’t need to be afraid to fight for your favorites to be included, just please don’t have one of those favorites be “Ghostbusters.”

We began talking about drawing boundaries with enough latitude that artists don’t object to being boxed in. The wide latitude yacht rock affords matters because music comes to define eras and outlines cultural trends (remember that yacht came in reaction to art rock and that says a lot about the swing from the late '60s to the early '80s). Calling Christopher Cross soft rock might feel right, but it doesn't tell us much about where he was coming from and what he was trying to accomplish. Calling Cross yacht rock, now that we know it's not a pejorative, illuminates his aesthetic.

Cross came out of the Texas rock scene that produced blues aces the Vaughan Brothers and guitar shredder Eric Johnson (who plays on a lot of his albums). He loves Joni Mitchell and that shows in his craft. He's jazzy but not jazz (see those horns and guitar on "Ride Like the Wind") with a vibe that's completely yacht -- developed from the scene that took '60s pop, updated it and sheltered it from the trends of punk, metal, new wave and hip hop. The same can be said for Loggins, McDonald, Simon, Lionel Ritchie and so many others.

Spotify needs to tweak its algorithm so it gets this right. Or, better yet, connect with the genre-crossing vibe that makes yacht so unique.

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By maggie serota | jun 12, 2020.

Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina making some waves on the cover of 1973's "Full Sail" album.

It’s not often that an entire genre of music gets retconned into existence after being parodied by a web series, but that’s exactly what happened after writer, director, and producer J.D. Ryznar and producers David B. Lyons and Hunter D. Stair launched the Channel 101 web series Yacht Rock in 2005. Hosted by former AllMusic editor “Hollywood” Steve Huey, the series was a loving sendup of the late '70s/early '80s smooth jams to which many Millennials and late period Gen-Xers were likely conceived.

The yacht rock aesthetic was innovated by a core group of musicians and producers including, but not limited to, Christopher Cross, Steely Dan, Robbie Dupree, Kenny Loggins, Toto, David Foster, and hirsute soft rock titan Michael McDonald, along with scores of veteran session musicians from the Southern California studio scene.

The Yacht Rock web series was perfectly timed to coincide with a contemporary renaissance of smooth music from the late '70s, the kind that was previously considered a guilty pleasure because it fell out of fashion in the mid-'80s and was soon thereafter regarded as dated and square compared to other burgeoning genres, like punk rock and hip-hop.

Yacht Rock's Early Years

The yacht rock era began roughly around 1976, when yacht rock pillar Kenny Loggins split up with songwriting partner Jim Messina to strike out on his own. That same year, fellow yacht rock mainstay Michael McDonald joined The Doobie Brothers. The two titans of the genre joined forces when Loggins co-wrote the definitive yacht rock hit “What a Fool Believes” with McDonald for the Doobies. They collaborated several times during this era, which was par for the course with such an incestuous music scene that was largely comprised of buddies playing on each other’s albums.

"Look at who performed on the album and if they didn’t perform with any other yacht rock hit guys then chances are [it's] ‘nyacht’ rock,” Ryznar said on the  Beyond Yacht Rock podcast, referencing the pejorative term frequently used to describe soft rock songs that just miss the boat.

"The basic things to ask yourself if you want to know if a track is yacht rock are: Was it released from approximately 1976 to 1984? Did musicians on the track play with Steely Dan? Or Toto?," Ryznar said. "Is it a top 40 radio hit or is it on an album meant to feature hits?" And, of course, does the song celebrate a certain breezy, SoCal aesthetic?

Building the Boat

There are certain key ingredients necessary for a track to be considered yacht rock. For starters, it helps (though is not necessary) to have album art or lyrics that specifically reference boating, as with Christopher Cross's landmark 1980 hit “Sailing.” The music itself is usually slickly produced with clean vocals and a focus on melody over beat. But above all else, the sound has to be smooth . That’s what sets yacht rock apart from "nyacht" rock.

"Its base is R&B, yet it’s totally whitewashed," Ryznar explained on  Beyond Yacht Rock . "There [are] jazz elements. There can be complex, challenging melodies; the solos are all cutting-edge and really interesting. There’s always something interesting about a true yacht rock song. It goes left when you expect it to go right."

Yacht rock’s complex musicianship can be attributed, in part, to the session players on each track. Musicians like percussionist Steve Gadd, guitarist and Toto founding member Steve Lukather, and Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro don’t have much in the way of name recognition among casual soft rock listeners, but they’re the nails that hold the boat together. Steely Dan, “the primordial ooze from which yacht rock emerged,” according to Ryznar, famously cycled through dozens of session musicians while recording their 1980 seminal yacht rock album Gaucho .

"These musicians were not only these slick, polished professionals, but they were highly trained and able to hop from style to style with ease,” Huey explained on  Beyond Yacht Rock . “Very versatile.”

Steely Dan has been described as "the primordial ooze from which yacht rock emerged."

In Greg Prato’s 2018 tome, The Yacht Rock Book : An Oral History of the Soft, Smooth Sounds of the 70s and 80s , Huey broke down “the three main defining elements of yacht rock,” explaining that it requires “Fusing softer rock with jazz and R&B, very polished production, and kind of being centered around the studio musician culture in southern California … It’s not just soft rock, it’s a specific subset of soft rock that ideally has those elements."

Soft rock untethered

Whereas the music of the late 1970s and early ‘80s is often associated with the anti-establishment music of punk pioneers like the Dead Kennedys and the socially conscious songs being written by early hip-hop innovators like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, yacht rock is the antithesis of the counterculture.

Yacht rock occupies a world that is completely apolitical and untethered to current events. Between the oil crisis, a global recession, and inflation—not to mention the fact that the U.S. was still licking its wounds from the loss of the Vietnam War and the disgrace of Watergate—the late '70s were a dark time for Americans. Yet yacht rock, at its heart, is a tequila sunrise for the soul, whisking the listener away to a world where they have the time, and the means, to idle away the hours sipping piña coladas at sea while decked out in flowy Hawaiian shirts and boat shoes.

Yacht rock was never edgy, nor did it ever feel dangerous. Yacht rock didn’t piss off anyone’s parents and no one ever threatened to send their kid to boot camp for getting caught listening to Kenny Loggins's “This Is It.” Yacht rock tracks are more of a siren song that invite your parents to join in on the chorus anytime they hear Toto’s "Rosanna."

Yacht rock songs are meant to set the soundtrack to a life where the days are always sunny, but as Ryznar pointed out on Beyond Yacht Rock , there’s “an underlying darkness”—just not the kind that’s going to derail a day of sailing to Catalina Island. No, yacht rock has elements of low-stakes heartbreak with sensitive male protagonists lamenting their own foolishness in trying to get back together with exes or hitting on women half their age.

The aspirational aspect of the genre dovetailed nicely with the overarching materialism defining the Reagan era. “Yacht rock was an escape from blunt truths, into the melodic, no-calorie lies of ‘buy now, pay never,’ in which any discord could be neutralized with a Moog beat,” Dan O’Sullivan wrote in Jacobin .

Some Like it Yacht

Although the cult comedy series Yacht Rock ceased production in 2010, the soft rock music revival it launched into the zeitgeist is still going strong. For the past few years, SiriusXM has been running a yacht rock station during prime boating season, or what those of us without bottomless checking accounts refer to as the spring and summer months. Yacht rock tribute acts like Yacht Rock Revue are profitable business endeavors as much as they are fun party bands. There’s also a glut of yacht rock-themed song compilations for sale and a proliferation of questionably curated genre playlists on Spotify.

Whether you believe yacht rock is an exalted art form or the insidious soundtrack to complacency, any music lover would probably agree that even a momentary escape from the blunt truths of life is something we could all use every now and then.

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yacht rock web series

Defining 'yacht rock' once and for all with the genre's creators

Jd ryznar and dave lyons coined the joke genre while making the mid-2000s comedic web-series of the same name.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 13: Kenny Loggins performs during SiriusXM Sets Sail with yacht rock performances from Kenny Loggins And Christopher Cross on June 13, 2022 in New York City.

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yacht rock web series

JD Ryznar and Dave Lyons are the co-creators of the mid-2000s comedic web-series Yacht Rock.  

While the joke genre they coined led to a legitimate smooth-music renaissance in pop culture, it has also led to a distorted definition of what yacht rock is all about.

The pair join host Elamin Abdelmahmoud to talk about setting the record straight with this week's launch of their podcast Yacht or Nyacht , where they'll adjudicate which songs belong to the yacht rock canon using a scientific scoring system.

WATCH | Yacht Rock Episode 1 :

You can listen to the full discussion from today's show on CBC Listen or on our podcast, Commotion with Elamin Abdelmahmoud, available wherever you get your podcasts .

Interview with JD Ryznar and Dave Lyons produced by Stuart Berman.

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YachtRock

By Zettai on Flickr

Yacht Rock is an 12-part series following the fictionalized lives and careers of American smooth rock stars of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Created by JD Ryznar , Hunter D Stair and Lane Farnham , it is one of the most successful projects to come out of Channel 101 .

J. D. Ryznar and Hunter D. Stair devised the series after noticing the incestuous recording careers of such bands as Steely Dan , Toto , and The Doobie Brothers and the singer-songwriters Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald . For example, McDonald co-wrote Loggins' "This Is It" and Loggins co-wrote McDonald's band The Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes" and also performed backing vocals for several other 'yacht rock' artists, including Steely Dan and Christopher Cross. Yacht Rock's episodes were "hosted" by "Hollywood" Steve Huey , a legitimate music critic for Allmusic. It should be noted that the term "Yacht Rock" is never used throughout the series by any characters except for by Huey during his introductions, instead it is always referred to as "Smooth Music". The look of the series was the responsibility of the show's editor Lane Farnham.

  • 1 Channel101.com Summary
  • 3 Music in the show
  • 4 Artist Acknowledgment
  • 5 Real people portrayed in Yacht Rock
  • 6 Episode & Song List
  • 7 Best Episode
  • 8 Production
  • 9 Fun Facts
  • 10 See also
  • 11 External links
  • 12 References

Channel101.com Summary [ ]

HunterAndJDChannies

JD and Hunter having won Channy Awards for Yacht Rock.

What can be said about Yacht Rock that hasn't been said by various magazines, newspapers and disc jockeys across the country? J.D. Ryznar and Hunter Stair's saga detailing the unknown mythical origins of a previously obscure genre of music struck the audience like a lightning bolt on its first episode, much like fellow 101 breakout House of Cosbys. Unlike HoC, however, Yacht Rock was never sued by its iconic characters' real life counterparts. In fact, it is said that at one time or another, just about every musician lovingly portrayed in the series has witnessed and enjoyed it behind closed doors. Yacht Rock enjoyed success on levels and in ways previously unattained by 101 shows, its title becoming a household phrase at radio stations, a bin at your local record store and a category on iTunes. But beneath its pop cultural triumph was an artistic one that often went undescribed: Yacht Rock's stories were always clever and sometimes downright genius in their assembly, weaving trivia, common knowledge, exaggerations and fabrications into a rope strong enough to hold it at the #1 position for an unbelievable number of non-consecutive months, setting audience share records at Channel 101 that are unlikely to be broken any time soon and sweeping the 2005 Channy Awards. Ironically, Channel 101's most memorable show came to its end quietly and unremarkably, not unlike some of the careers it saluted with a smirk. Instead of choking on its vomit in a Paris bathtub or overdosing on a Hollywood sidewalk, Yacht Rock simply told us one last story about Steely Dan, then hoisted its sails and drifted away while a satisfied crowd waved goodbye from the docks, exactly one incredible year after its historical debut. Bye, Yacht Rock. We loved you.

Synopsis [ ]

Mcdonaldloggins

Ryznar admits to having a fascination with the music of the period. Ryznar explains, "Getting into Steely Dan really started this for me. As did the ability to buy dollar records at Amoeba and put them on tapes for my car. Kenny Loggins has made his way into all the pilots I've been involved with except one. [1] " As Ryznar told Reuters contributor Andy Sullivan, "I'm making fun of the songwriting process, but the music is generally treated pretty lovingly." [2]

The series depicts some realistic aspects of the music, but builds exaggerated storylines around them. For example, main protagonists Loggins and McDonald receive inspiration from a fictional Yacht Rock impresario named Koko Goldstein, whose death in Episode 2 ultimately leads them to go their separate ways musically. Another example is the series' presentation of several real-life characters. McDonald is an idealistic and earnest singer/songwriter, but takes both Smooth Music and himself far too seriously. Loggins is his easygoing friend and frequent collaborator who eventually abandons Smooth Music in favor of commercial rock and roll in the 80s, which strains their friendship. The portrayal of John Oates as the abusive, foulmouthed leader of Hall & Oates , exerting sometimes violent control over the milquetoast Daryl Hall , is clearly different from reality, in which Hall is the main lead vocalist and songwriter with no hint of a rivalry. Christopher Cross is depicted as a wide-eyed, timid newbie whose song "Sailing" is lauded as the "smoothest song ever". Loggins' former partner Jim Messina is a bitter wino who hates Loggins for his success and perceived betrayal. Michael Jackson is depicted as a hard-rock enthusiast who believes his partnership with guitarist Eddie Van Halen will lead to an endless parade of female sexual conquests. Jeff Baxter , the Doobie Brothers' lead guitarist, is seen threatening to kick McDonald "out of the Doobies" if he doesn't write them another hit. The real Baxter did bring McDonald into the band but, as they achieved their greatest commercial success, Baxter left the Doobie Brothers because of his displeasure with their new commercial sound and attitude. The Eagles (portrayed here as jock-like meatheads) and Steely Dan (portrayed as snarky nerds, with Donald Fagen speaking in an incoherent babble of Scat) really did insert lyrical references to each other in their music, as depicted in the show, but these were actually friendly in nature, not part of a longtime grudge involving baseball bats and lunch-money shakedowns. [3]

The series was written, directed, and produced by Ryznar, co-produced by David B Lyons and Hunter Stair, and edited by Lane Farnham. The production has a "bad-on-purpose aesthetic". [4] Ryznar credits lots of people here.

Yacht_Rock_2_Behind_the_Smooth

Yacht Rock 2 Behind the Smooth

Yacht Rock debuted on Channel 101 at the June 26, 2005 screening. It placed in the top five at subsequent screenings until the June 25, 2006 screening, where it placed seventh and was canceled.

However, the show remained a popular download on Channel 101, convincing the creators to make an 11th episode independently. This episode, featuring Jason Lee as Kevin Bacon , debuted during a screening at the Knitting Factory in New York City on December 27, 2007. A month later, Channel 101 themselves included it in a screening, and hosted it on their website along with the other episodes on January 28, 2008. [5]

Of the episode, Abed Gheith had this to say:

"Truly a great and wonderful episode in all ways. From the blood bath Footloose scene to the Me-L.T. There were moments in this that restored those awesome memories from what seemed like ages ago. I think Sevan said something that he heard Hunter say that was pretty crazy, about seeing the show up there was like ghosts on the screen. It was a wonderful ride down memory lane of Channel 101's best days."

A 12th and final episode premiered in April 2010.

Music in the show [ ]

"Yacht rock" is a name [6] [7] for the popular soft rock that peaked between the years of 1975 and 1984. Significant "yacht rockers" include Michael McDonald , Kenny Loggins , Christopher Cross , and Toto . In the musical sense, yacht rock refers to the highly polished brand of soft rock that emanated from Southern California] during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In part, the term relates to the stereotype of the yuppie yacht owner, enjoying cocaine and smooth music while out for a sail. Additionally, since sailing was a popular leisure activity in Southern California, many "yacht rockers" made nautical references in their lyrics, videos, and album artwork, particularly the anthemic track "Sailing" by Christopher Cross.

Yacht Rock music is commonly described as, "A little bit better than elevator music!"

The foundation of the yacht rock scene was a local pool of versatile session musicians who frequently played on each other's records. This professionalism often gave yacht rock recordings a high level of sophistication in composition, arrangement, and instrumental skill.

The most popular yacht rock artists enjoyed considerable commercial success. During its peak years, yacht rock dominated the Grammy Awards, with Christopher Cross and Toto sweeping the major awards in 1981 and 1983 respectively, feats consistently derided by Grammy prognosticators. [8] However, yacht rock was not a hit with most rock critics at the time, who dismissed it as being corporate rock that was overproduced, generic, and middle of the road, instead favoring punk and new wave acts such as The Clash , Blondie , Patti Smith , and Elvis Costello . [9]

In developing the show Yacht Rock , creator J. D. Ryznar commented that the term was intended to describe the "more elite studio artists" of the period, such as Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. [10] David B. Lyons , who co-produced the show and played Koko Goldstein, noted that a friend of his devised the term "marina rock" in college to describe a more "working-class" group of artists that didn't achieve the same high profile, such as Seals and Crofts, Rupert Holmes, and Looking Glass. [11] However, despite the show's intentions, music journalists have begun using the term yacht rock to describe all of the similar-sounding music of the period, including bands such as Ambrosia, 10cc, Pablo Cruise, Firefall, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Orleans, Ace, and Player. [12]

While Ryznar and the show popularized the term "yacht rock," it's alleged to have existed previously, according to Wikipedia, which states its earliest-known appearance came in 1990 from Dave Larsen, popular music critic for the Dayton Daily News, describing an upcoming Jimmy Buffett concert in Cincinnati.

Artist Acknowledgment [ ]

SnobsiteHunterDStair

Hunter D Stair with Steve Porcaro .

John Oates credited Yacht Rock in 2007 with rekindling interest in Hall & Oates and lowering the demographic age of the group's fans. He wrote:

I think Yacht Rock was the beginning of this whole Hall & Oates resurrection...They were the first ones to start to parody us and put us out there again, and a lot of things have happened because of Yacht Rock. [13]

Halloates

Daryl Hall and John Oates with Wade Randolph and Drew Hancock .

Michael McDonald acknowledged Yacht Rock in 2008:

Have you ever owned a yacht? No, but I thought Yacht Rock was hilarious. And uncannily, you know, those things always have a little bit of truth to them. It’s kind of like when you get a letter from a stalker who’s never met you. They somehow hit on something, and you have to admit they’re pretty intuitive.
Okay. So what’s the craziest thing you ever did with Kenny Loggins? We mostly worked a lot when we would get together. Kenny, he’s one of those guys who was a more serious artist; I was just a schlub. He was like, "C’mon, let’s get this right," and I was like, "Got any beer?" [14]

Real people portrayed in Yacht Rock [ ]

  • Ian Anderson
  • Michael Anthony (referred to as 'the other guy' in Van Halen)
  • Rosanna Arquette
  • Jeff "Skunk" Baxter
  • Walter Becker
  • Jimmy Buffett
  • Christopher Cross
  • Daryl Dragon
  • Donald Fagen
  • David Hungate
  • James Ingram
  • Michael Jackson
  • Steve Lukather
  • Jim Messina
  • Jaye P. Morgan
  • David Paich
  • Steve Perry
  • Jeff Porcaro
  • Harold Ramis
  • Tanya Roberts
  • David Lee Roth
  • David Sanborn
  • Patrick Simmons
  • Ted Templeman
  • Toni Tennille
  • Charles, Lord Townshend
  • Jethro Tull
  • Alex Van Halen
  • Eddie Van Halen
  • Lindsey Buckingham

Episode & Song List [ ]

SPOILERS in the Episode Summaries!

1. " What a Fool Believes "

  • SCREENING DATE Sunday, June 26th - 2005
  • AUDIENCE SHARE 70.2% (1st at screening with 194 votes)

In the pilot episode, Kenny Loggins, under the guidance of Koko Goldstein, reaches out to a struggling Michael McDonald, who's having trouble writing a smooth hit for his band the Doobie Brothers.

  • Michael McDonald-Sweet Freedom
  • George Benson-Breezin'
  • Loggins & Messina-Sailin the wind
  • Kenny Loggins-Whenever I call You Friend
  • Doobie Brothers-What a Fool Believes
  • Doobie Brothers-Sweet Feelin'
  • Doobie Brothers-You Never Change
  • Hall and Oates-Alley Katz
  • Kenny Loggins - What a fool Believes

2. " Keep the Fire "

  • SCREENING DATE Sunday, July 24th - 2005
  • AUDIENCE SHARE 95.0% (1st at screening with 233 votes)

Loggins and McDonald pair up against the duo Hall & Oates for a songwriting competition. Koko is accidentally impaled by his lucky harpoon during the ensuing melee, but is at peace before his death by hearing the smoothest song ever sung by a young Christopher Cross.

  • Steely Dan: Peg
  • Doobie Brothers - What a fool believes
  • Hall and Oates-Sara Smile
  • Hall and Oates-Portable Radio
  • Kenny Loggins-This is It
  • Kenny Loggins-Love has come of age
  • Also featured in S.O.S. Fantome episode two.

3. " I'm Alright "

  • SCREENING DATE Sunday, August 28th - 2005
  • AUDIENCE SHARE 68.9% (2nd at screening with 234 votes)

As everyone grieves Koko's death, Loggins lashes out at McDonald and "smooth music" as a whole, causing a rift between the two. An entertainment executive behind the movie Caddyshack demands that the movie's director, Harold Ramis, obtain Loggins' talents to write the movie's theme song. Ramis takes advantage of an angry and confused Loggins and gets him to write and record the hard rock song "I'm Alright" much to McDonald's dismay.

  • Bad Caddyshack Theme - Rick Johnson
  • Steely Dan-King of the World
  • Kenny Loggins- This is it (Live)
  • Steely Dan-Time Out of Mind
  • Kenny Loggins - Keep the Fire
  • Doobie Brothers-How do the Fools Survive
  • Journey - Lights
  • Journey - Anyway you want it
  • Steely Dan - Kid Charlamagne
  • Kenny Loggins-I'm Alright

4. " Rosanna "

  • SCREENING DATE Sunday, September 25th - 2005
  • AUDIENCE SHARE 87.7% (1st at screening with 274 votes)

Steve Porcaro ( Steve Agee ), the keyboard player of the band Toto, is asked by his girlfriend, Rosanna Arquette, to write a song about her, and she wants him to have Michael McDonald sing on the track. Discouraged by McDonald's disdain for his band, Porcaro devises a three-step plan to make it happen.

  • Something by Benetictine Monks
  • Toto-Hold the Line
  • Toto-I Won't Hold You Back
  • Toto-Make Believe
  • Doobie Brothers - What a Fool Believes
  • Doobie Brothers - You Never Change
  • Christopher Cross-Ride the Wind
  • Loggins & Messina - Sailing the wind
  • Kenny Loggins/Steve Perry-Don't Fight it
  • Michael McDonald-Love Lies
  • Toto-I'll supply the Love
  • Toto-Rosanna

5. " Believe in It "

  • SCREENING DATE Sunday, October 30th - 2005
  • AUDIENCE SHARE 78.6% (1st at screening with 268 votes)

Toto has been commissioned to write a smooth song for Michael Jackson's Thriller, but Jackson rejects the band, believing after working with Eddie Van Halen on Beat It that such material is in his past. Fearing that Jackson will destroy "smooth music" for a decade, Porcaro turns to McDonald, Loggins, Skunk Baxter, Cross, and Vincent Price ( James Adomian ), to summon up Koko's ghost for help writing Human Nature.

  • Samuel Barber- Adagio for Strings
  • Michael McDonald - Believe in It
  • Michael Jackson - Beat it
  • Michael Jackson - Thriller
  • Kenny Loggins - I Gotta Try
  • Michael McDonald - I Gotta Try
  • Christopher Cross - Sailing
  • Kenny Loggins - This is it
  • Van Halen - Eruption
  • Michael Jackson - Human Nature

6. " The Seed Drill "

  • SCREENING DATE Sunday, January 29th - 2006
  • AUDIENCE SHARE 62.1% (2nd at screening with 315 votes)

"Hollywood" Steve's father demands that Steve stop wasting his time on Yacht Rock, and regales a historic tale of Jethro Tull, which is very similar to episode one.

  • Michael McDonald - Sweet Freedom
  • Jethro Tull - Velvet Green
  • Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick
  • Jethro Tull - Witch's Promise
  • Jethro Tull - Flute Solo (Live)
  • Jethro Tull - Aqualung
  • Jethro Tull - Teacher
  • Jethro Tull - Jack-In-The-Green
  • Jethro Tull - Cold Wind to Vallhalla
  • Jethro Tull - Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die
  • Jethro Tull - Living in the Past
  • Jethro Tull - Reasons for Wait
  • Jethro Tull - The Whistler

7. " I Keep Forgettin' "

  • SCREENING DATE Sunday, February 26th - 2006
  • AUDIENCE SHARE 89.1% (1st at screening with 318 votes)

McDonald and Loggins make a bet about McDonald's new song, "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)", that takes a decade to resolve. Ten years later, Long Beach-based rappers Warren G and Nate Dogg struggle with creating smooth rap (yacht rap), and only when they kidnap McDonald, is there a solution to everyone's problems.

  • Michael McDonald - I Keep Forgetting
  • Kenny Loggins - Swear Your Love
  • Michael McDonald - Love Lies
  • Dr. Dre - Nothin' but a G Thang
  • Dr. Dre - Dre Day
  • Snoop Doggy Dogg - G's and Hustlaz
  • Dr. Dre - Let Me Ride
  • Christoper Cross - Words of Wisdom
  • Snoop Doggy Dogg - Who am I (What's My Name?)
  • Doobie Brothers - What a Food Believes
  • Warren G - Regulate

8. " Gino (the Manager) "

  • SCREENING DATE Sunday, March 26th - 2006
  • AUDIENCE SHARE 70.9% (2nd at screening with 251 votes)

"Hollywood" Steve returns to the very beginning, where Doobie Brothers producer Ted Templeman explains his dream about the origin of "the smoothest rock [he's] ever heard" to Skunk Baxter over lunch. Baxter suggests seeing Koko about it, and Templeman starts seeing his dream come into fruition as he meets a young McDonald, then a background singer for Steely Dan, being talked into joining the Doobie Brothers by Steely Dan and Koko, Loggins showing signs of his imminent break from Messina and solo stardom, and an effeminate Hall and Oates with a very familiar looking manager named Gino, who tries to bully McDonald and Loggins into employing him as a manager. When they refuse, he plots revenge.

  • Steely Dan - Your Gold Teeth II
  • Doobie Brothers - Takin It to the Streets
  • Hall & Oates - Gino (The Manager)
  • Captain & Tennille - Love Will Keep Us Together
  • Steely Dan - Any World (That I'm Welcomed To)
  • Loggins & Messina - Watching the River Run
  • Loggins & Messina - Your Mama Don't Dance
  • Kenny Loggins - Love Has Come of Age
  • Kenny Loggins - Danger Zone

9. " Runnin' with the Devil "

  • SCREENING DATE Sunday, May 28th - 2006
  • AUDIENCE SHARE 66.9% (4th at screening with 216 votes)

Van Halen puts a curse on Ted Templeman to force him to produce their hard rock song. In a subplot, Loggins loses his car keys and has everyone in the studio helping him look. Comedian Drew Carey makes a cameo appearance.

  • Limewire tricked JD into thinking this was a Cheap Trick song. The original version was from an Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople) solo album. The one used in the Drew Carey Show was the Presidents of the USA version. His intention for Yacht Rock was to use the classic version, but he messed up. NEVER trust Limewire. Buy your music from the store.
  • Michael McDonald "Sweet Freedom"
  • Kenny Loggins "Only a Miracle"
  • Van Halen "Atomic Punk"
  • Van Halen "Runnin' with the Devil"
  • Doobie Brothers "Echoes of Love"
  • Van Halen "I'm The One"
  • Michael McDonald "Playin by the Rules"
  • SCREENING DATE Sunday, June 25th - 2006
  • AUDIENCE SHARE 44.4% (7th at screening with 155 votes)

Steely Dan and the Eagles settle a long-time, childish feud with a hit song.

  • Tori Amos - "Winter"
  • Michael MacDonald - "Sweet Freedom"
  • Kenny Loggins - "I Believe In Love"
  • Eagles - "Life In The Fast Lane"
  • Steely Dan- "Everything You Did"
  • Steely Dan - "Do It Again"
  • Steely Dan - "Peg"
  • The Eagles - "Hotel California"
  • Steely Dan - "FM"
  • Kenny Loggins - "Danger Zone"

11. " Footloose "

  • SCREENING DATE Sunday, January 27th - 2008

Jimmy Buffett is convinced by Kevin Bacon and Gene Balboa to trick Loggins into making yet another movie song. He is subsequently kidnapped by Buffett and psychotic "Parrot Heads" and its up to McDonald and James Ingram to rescue him. Jason Lee makes a guest appearance as Bacon.

  • Cheeseburger in Paradise - Jimmy Buffet
  • I Need a Hero - Bonnie Tyler
  • If it's Not What You're Looking For - Kenny Loggins
  • Yah Mo Be There - James Ingram & Michael McDonald
  • Margaritaville - Jimmy Buffett
  • Changes in Latitude - Jimmy Buffett
  • I'm Free (Heaven Helps the Man) - Kenny Loggins
  • There's No Easy Way to Break Someone's Heart - James Ingram
  • Pencil Thin Mustache - Jimmy Buffett
  • Why Don't We Get Drunk - Jimmy Buffett
  • Footloose - Kenny Loggins
  • Boat Drinks - Jimmy Buffett
  • Danger Zone - Kenny Loggins

12. "Dangerzone"

Premiered at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York. Screened at Channel 101 April 24th.

Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald must fight Hall and Oates to destroy a Black Hole with Smooth Music.

  • Sweet Freedom - Michael McDonald * No Lookin' Back - Kenny Loggins * Chase - Giorgio Moroder * No Lookin' Back - Michael McDonald * We are the World - USA for Africa * Adult Education - Hall & Oates * Charm The Snake - Christopher Cross * Out of Touch - Hall & Oates * From Here to eternity - Giorgio Moroder * Danger Zone - Kenny Loggins * Playing With The Boys - Kenny Loggins * Method of Modern Love - Hall & Oates * Sailing - Christopher Cross

Best Episode [ ]

Production [ ].

When asked by Will Hines on the Channel 101:NY forums about how good the production and editing values were on Yacht Rock, Ryznar replied:

"Its just the blessing of living in LA. I work for a company who lets us borrow their 24p and the office itself on the weekend. My next door neighbor is an editor. In LA, EVERYONE's next door neighbor is an editor, although I'm one of the few creators that doesnt do his own editing. Plus channel 101 is just an amazing wealth of acting talent. Yet, everyone is a writer... but everyone can act. Its weird and awesome. The studio is courtesy of Ryan Elder who emailed me after the first Yacht Rock and said "I'm a fan of Yacht Rock. I work at a recording studio wink wink." Its amazing. Someone on Yacht Rock is working on a big movie (MI:3) so we used this huge HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTER greenscreen that they had THROWN AWAY (it was 20 by 20 and scraped!) to shoot the Koko ghost stuff, which we set up in the DV room of my office, lit with the company's lights, etc, etc.

Everyone loves making movies here, and not everyone wants to be in front of the camera or behind a typewriter. Some people just like to work on projects that actually get finished. This town is awesome.

We shot two days on this one, each about 6 hour days. I'm not sure how long the editing took. Lane picks at it here and there while he works on other things. Then I come in after the rough cut and we tighten the shit out of it, usually about 2 4-6 hour sessions with him gets it done.

But really, the secret is the Panasonic dvx100a camera. They're coming out with new models now, so maybe the older, but still awesome, ones will get cheaper. I want to own one soon. Fingers crossed."

Fun Facts [ ]

  • Became the second show to make it a year, after The 'Bu , (June to May) with 3 months off. Only to be canceled the next show.

See also [ ]

  • Yacht Rock/Quotes

External links [ ]

J.D. sold these shirts on eBay I believe.

  • The AV Club looks back on Yacht Rock in 2013
  • Channel 101 Show Page
  • Official Website
  • Wikipedia article
  • Facebook Page
  • Have You Heard About The Lonesome Losers?
  • Really Smooth Music
  • Knights of Monte Carlo
  • A Yacht Rock party how-to.
  • Interview with JD about series.
  • Yacht Rock Myspace
  • The true story of the song "What a Fool Believes"
  • Mention at Panopticist.

References [ ]

YachtRockPoster

  • ↑ http://channel101.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=54719#54719
  • ↑ http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,178467,00.html
  • ↑ http://web.archive.org/web/20080531045840/http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/lifestyle/chi-hall-oates-0527may27,0,6549277.story
  • ↑ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/02/AR2007020200358_pf.html
  • ↑ http://archive.is/20120913063143/www.spinner.com/2008/05/28/yacht-rock-docks-in-sea-of-musical-spoofs/
  • ↑ http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/entertainment/2002726917_yachtfix09.html
  • ↑ http://www.observer.com/node/52629
  • ↑ http://archives.cnn.com/2001/SHOWBIZ/Music/02/23/grammy.albums/index.html
  • ↑ http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_popmachine/2006/02/u2_vs_kanye_rev.html
  • ↑ http://www.seattleweekly.com/music/0549/051207_music_talktalk.php
  • ↑ http://channel101.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=69553#69553
  • ↑ http://music.ign.com/articles/710/710545p1.html
  • ↑ http://www.seattleweekly.com/2007-08-22/music/hall-oats-are-living-harmonizing-proof-that-there-s-no-such-thing-as-ironic-hipster-kryptonite.php
  • ↑ http://www.timeout.com/newyork/articles/hot-seat/26823/michael-mcdonald

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That '70s Week: Yacht Rock

David Dye, host of World Cafe.

Talia Schlanger

yacht rock web series

Donald Fagen (left) and Walter Becker of Steely Dan. Danny Clinch/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

Donald Fagen (left) and Walter Becker of Steely Dan.

  • The Doobie Brothers, "What A Fool Believes"
  • Christopher Cross, "Sailing"
  • Sade, "Smooth Operator"
  • Nielsen/Pearson, "If You Should Sail"
  • Ned Doheny, "Get It Up For Love"
  • Iron & Wine, "Desert Babbler"
  • Young Gun Silver Fox, "You Can Feel It"

What's the best way to become the unchallenged expert on a particular genre of music? Invent it. Enter JD Ryznar, Hunter Stair, David B. Lyons and Steve Huey: coiners of the description "yacht rock," creators of a hilarious web series of the same name and now de facto captains of the genre. Broadly speaking, yacht rock is an ocean of smooth, soft-listening music made in the late '70s and early '80s by artists like Toto, Hall & Oates and Kenny Loggins — music you can sail to. But as David and Talia learn in this conversation with the arbiters of Yacht Rock , the waters are much murkier than that.

For example, according to Ryznar, "There's also a common misconception that just because it's about a boat, or the ocean, or sailing, that it's yacht rock. That is most definitely nyacht true." Thankfully, on their Beyond Yacht Rock podcast, our guests have developed a sound system of logical criteria to define what is "Yacht" and what is "Nyacht." They employ their patented "Yachtzee scale" to examine a song's "Yachtness" based on a number of factors, including its personnel (is there a Doobie Brother in there?), amount of jazz and R&B influence, geographic origin (Southern California is a plus) and lyrical obtuseness.

Listen as Ryznar and Lyons steer us towards the musical marina with a buoyant "Yacht or Nyacht" debate that includes Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross, Sade and the most serious discussion you can have about the proper soundtrack for standing shirtless on a deck wearing boat shoes and a sailor cap. Dive on in --the water's great.

Listen: JD Ryznar's Yacht Rock Primer

Episode playlist.

  • Michael McDonald
  • Hall & Oates

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Yacht Rock: Album Guide

By David Browne

David Browne

Summer’s here and time is right for dancing … on the deck of a large nautical vessel. During the late Seventies and early Eighties, the radio was dominated by silver-tongued white-dude crooners with names like Rupert and Gerry, emoting over balmy R&B beats, swaying saxes, and dishwasher-clean arrangements. Though it didn’t have a name, the genre — soft rock you could dance to — was dismissed by serious rock fans as fluffy and lame. But thanks to a web series in the mid-2000s, the style — belatedly named “ yacht rock ” — has since spawned a satellite-radio channel, tribute bands, and a Weezer cover of Toto’s “Africa.” Is the modern love of the music ironic or sincere? Hard to say, yet there’s no denying yacht rock is a legit sound with a vibe all its own that produced a surprising amount of enduring music perfectly at home in summer. (John Mayer even tips his own sailor’s hat to the genre on his new “Last Train Home” single, and even the aqua-blue cover of his upcoming Sob Rock album.) The resumption of the Doobie Brothers’ 50th anniversary tour, postponed last year due to COVID-19 but scheduled to restart in August, is the cherry atop the Pina colada.

Boz Scaggs, Silk Degrees (1976)

Before yacht rock was an identifiable genre, Scaggs (no fan of the term, as he told Rolling Stone in 2018) set the standard for what was to come: sharp-dressed white soul, burnished ballads that evoked wine with a quiet dinner, and splashes of Me Decade decadence (the narrator of the pumped “Lido Shuffle” is setting up one more score before leaving the country). Add in the Philly Soul homage “What Can I Say,” the burbling life-on-the-streets homage “Lowdown,” and the lush sway of “Georgia,” and Silk Degrees , internationally or not, set a new high bar for Seventies smoothness.

Steely Dan, Aja (1977)

The sophisticated high-water mark of yacht, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s masterpiece is the midway point between jazz and pop, with tricky tempo shifts, interlocking horn and keyboard parts, and pristine solos. Not settling for easygoing period clichés, these love songs, so to speak, are populated by a sleazy movie director (the gorgeous rush of “Peg”), a loser who still hopes to be a jazzman even if the odds are against him (the heart-tugging “Deacon Blues”), and a guy whose nodding-out girlfriend is probably a junkie (“Black Cow”). The most subversive cruise you’ll ever take.

The Doobie Brothers, Minute by Minute (1978)

The Doobies got their start as a biker-y boogie band, but they smoothed things out for Minute by Minute . Highlighted by “What a Fool Believes,” the unstoppable Michael McDonald-Kenny Loggins co-write, the LP piles on romantic turmoil, falsetto harmonies, and plenty of spongy electric piano. But it also proves how much personality and muscle the Doobies could bring to what could be a generic sound. McDonald’s husky, sensitive-guy delivery shrouds the unexpectedly bitter title song (“You will stay just to watch me, darlin’/Wilt away on lies from you”)  and honoring their biker roots, “Don’t Stop to Watch the Wheels” is about taking a lady friend for a ride on your hog.

Editor’s picks

The 250 greatest guitarists of all time, the 500 greatest albums of all time, the 50 worst decisions in movie history, every awful thing trump has promised to do in a second term.

Further Listening

Seals & crofts, get closer (1976).

The Dylan-goes-electric moment of yacht, “Get Closer” validated the idea that folkie singer-songwriters could put aside their guitars (and mandolin), tap into their R&B side and cross over in ways they never imagined. In addition to the surprising seductiveness of the title hit, Get Closer has plenty of yacht-rock pleasures. In “Goodbye Old Buddies,” the narrator informs his pals that he can’t hang out anymore now that he’s met “a certain young lady,” but in the next song, “Baby Blue,” another woman is told, “There’s an old friend in me/Tellin’ me I gotta be free.” A good captain follows the tide where it takes him.

Christopher Cross, Christopher Cross  (1979)

Cross’ debut swept the 1981 Grammys for a reason: It’s that rare yacht-rock album that’s graceful, earnest, and utterly lacking in smarm. Songs like the politely seductive “Say You’ll Be Mine” and the forlorn “Never Be the Same” have an elegant pop classicism, and the yacht anthem “Sailing” could be called a powered-down ballad. Fueled by a McDonald cameo expertly parodied on SCTV , the propulsive “Ride Like the Wind” sneaks raw outlaw lyrics (“Lived nine lives/Gunned down ten”) into its breezy groove, perfecting the short-lived gangster-yacht subgenre.

Rupert Holmes, Partners in Crime (1979)

The album that made Holmes a soft-rock star is known for “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” which sports a made-for-karaoke chorus and a plot twist worthy of a wide-collar O. Henry. But what distinguishes the album is the Steely Dan-level musicianship and Holmes’ ambitious story songs, each sung with Manilow-esque exuberance. The title track equates a hooker and her john to co-workers at a department store, “Lunch Hour” ventures into afternoon-delight territory, and “Answering Machine” finds a conflicted couple trading messages but continually being cut off by those old-school devices.

Steely Dan, Gaucho (1980)

The Dan’s last studio album before a lengthy hiatus doesn’t have the consistency of Aja, but Gaucho cleverly matches their most vacuum-sealed music with their most sordid and pathetic cast of characters. A seedy older guy tries to pick up younger women in “Hey Nineteen,” another loser goes in search of a ménage à trois in “Babylon Sisters,” a coke dealer delivers to a basketball star in “Glamour Profession,” and the narrator of “Time Out of Mind” just wants another heroin high. It’s the dark side of the yacht.

Going Deeper

Michael mcdonald, if that’s what it takes  (1982).

Imagine a Doobie Brothers album entirely comprised of McDonald songs and shorn of pesky guitar solos or Patrick Simmons rockers, and you have a sense of McDonald’s first and best post-Doobs album. If That’s What it Takes builds on the approach he nailed on “What a Fool Believes” but amps up the sullen-R&B side of Mac’s music. His brooding remake of Lieber and Stoller’s “I Keep Forgettin’” is peak McDonald and the title track approaches the propulsion of Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like the Wind.” With his sad-sack intensity, McDonald sounds like guy at a seaside resort chewing over his mistakes and regrets – with, naturally, the aid of an electric piano.

Related Stories

Yacht rock babylon, gwyneth paltrow says bill clinton snored through 1996 ‘emma’ screening.

Kenny Loggins, Keep the Fire (1979)

Loggins’ journey from granola folk rocker to pleasure-boat captain embodies the way rock grew more polished as the Seventies wore on. Anchored by the percolating-coffeemaker rhythms and modestly aggro delivery of “This Is It,” another McDonald collaboration, Keep the Fire sets Loggins’ feathery voice to smooth-jazz saxes and R&B beats, and Michael Jackson harmonies beef up the soul quotient in “Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong.” The secret highlight is “Will It Last,” one of the sneakiest yacht tracks ever, fading to a finish after four minutes, then revving back up with some sweet George Harrison-style slide guitar.

Dr. Hook, Sometimes You Win  (1979)

Earlier in the Seventies, these jokesters established themselves with novelty hits like “The Cover of ‘Rolling Stone,’’ but they soon paddled over to unabashed disco-yacht. Sometimes You Win features three of their oiliest ear worms: “Sexy Eyes,” “When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman” and “Better Love Next Time,” all oozing suburban pickup bars and the somewhat desperate dudes who hang out there. The album, alas, does not include “Sharing the Night Together,” recently reborn by way of its sardonic use in last year’s Breaking Bad spinoff El Camino .

Carly Simon, Boys in the Trees  (1978)

As a trailblazing female singer-songwriter, Simon was already a star by the time yacht launched. Boys in the Trees features her beguiling contribution to the genre, “You Belong to Me,” a collaboration with the ubiquitous Michael McDonald. The Doobies cut it first, but Simon’s version adds an air of yearning and hushed desperation that makes it definitive. The album also packs in a yacht-soul cover of James Taylor’s “One Man Woman” and a “lullaby for a wide-eyed guy” called “Tranquillo (Melt My Heart),” all proving that men didn’t have a stranglehold on this style.

Anchors Aweigh

More smooth hits for your next high-seas adventure.

“BREEZIN’”

George Benson, 1976

The guitarist and Jehovah’s Witness made the leap from midlevel jazz act to crossover pop star with a windswept instrumental that conveys the yacht spirit as much as any vocal performance.

“WHATCHA GONNA DO?”

Pablo Cruise, 1976

Carefree bounce from a San Francisco band with the best name ever for a soft-rock act — named, fittingly, after a chill Colorado buddy.

“BAKER STREET”

Gerry Rafferty, 1978

Rafferty brought a deep sense of lonely-walk-by-the-bay melancholy to this epic retelling of a night on the town, in which Raphael Ravenscroft’s immortal sax awakens Rafferty from his morning-after hangover.

“REMINISCING”

Little River Band, 1978

The Aussie soft rockers delivered a slurpy valentine sung in the voice of an old man looking back on his “lifetime plan” with his wife. Innovative twist: flugelhorn solo instead of sax.

“WHENEVER I CALL YOU ‘FRIEND’ ”

Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks, 1978

After its ethereal intro, this rare genre duet grows friskier with each verse, with both Loggins and Nicks getting more audibly caught up in the groove — and the idea of “sweet love showing us a heavenly light.”

“LOTTA LOVE”

Nicolette Larson, 1978

Neil Young’s sad-boy shuffle is transformed into a luscious slice of lounge pop by the late Larson. Adding an extra layer of poignancy, she was in a relationship with Young around that time.

“STEAL AWAY”

Robbie Dupree, 1980

Is it real, or is it McDonald? Actually, it’s the best Doobies knockoff — a rinky-dink (but ingratiating) distant cousin to “What a Fool Believes” that almost inspired McDonald to take legal action.

“TAKE IT EASY”

Archie James Cavanaugh, 1980

Cult rarity by the late Alaskan singer-songwriter that crams in everything you’d want in a yacht song: disco-leaning bass, smooth-jazz guitar, sax, and a lyric that lives up to its title even more than the same-titled Eagles song.

“BIGGEST PART OF ME”

Ambrosia, 1980

Ditching the prog-classical leanings of earlier albums, this trio headed straight for the middle of the waterway with this Doobies-lite smash. Bonus points for lyrics that reference a “lazy river.”

“I CAN’T GO FOR THAT (NO CAN DO)”

Daryl Hall and John Oates, 1981

The once unstoppable blue-eyed soul duo were never pure yacht, but the easy-rolling beats and shiny sax in this Number One hit got close. Hall adds sexual tension by never specifying exactly what he can’t go for.

“COOL NIGHT”

Paul Davis, 1981

The Mississippi crooner-songwriter gives a master class on how to heat up a stalled romance: Pick a brisk evening, invite a female acquaintance over, and suggest . . . lighting a fire.

“KEY LARGO”

Bertie Higgins, 1981

Yacht’s very own novelty hit is corny but deserves props for quoting from not one but two Humphrey Bogart films ( Key Largo and Casablanca ).

“AFRICA”

The same year that members of Toto did session work on Michael Jackson’s Thriller, they released the Mount Kilimanjaro of late-yacht hits.

“SOUTHERN CROSS”

Crosby, Stills, and Nash, 1982

The combustible trio’s gusty contribution to the genre has choppy-water rhythms and enough nautical terminology for a sailing manual.

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When the Guys Behind ‘Yacht Rock’ Took Aim at the Humiliating Practice of White Musicians’ ‘Try-N-Raps’

Pod-Canon is an ongoing tribute to the greatest individual comedy-related podcast episodes of all time.

About a decade ago a group of friends turned their affection for the super-smooth, hyper-produced, polished pop perfection of the late 1970s and 1980s into a cultishly adored web series called Yacht Rock after their homemade name for music made by, for, and about wealthy, hirsute white men who own expensive boats and make said boat ownership the cornerstone of their carefree lifestyle.

The idea was to provide a secret history behind some of the sleekest hits of the Carter and Reagan era, to expose the seedy underbelly, feverish competition, out of control egos and deeply unflattering hairstyles behind upper-middle class anthems by the likes of Hall & Oates, Toto, Michael McDonald, and their ilk.

The humor came from imagining these aggressively unthreatening pop stars embroiled in comic-book-style conflicts with other aggressively unthreatening pop stars as well as from dreaming up a wonderfully specific universe for these half-remembered hit-makers from the whitest recesses of our cultural past.

Underneath the web series’ smart-ass irreverence lies an underlying respect for the musicianship and smooth (if sometimes soulless) mastery of the cornball pop stars they’re spoofing. Nobody devotes that level of time and energy to something unless they love it on some level. Accordingly, the men behind Yacht Rock came to honor the hyper-processed pop of the late 1970s and early 1980s more than they came to bury it. Hell, by giving Yacht Rock such an infectious, appropriate and strangely lasting title, they were engaging in pop music criticism as much as they were goofy comedy.

It is a critic’s job to ferret out trends and themes in pop culture, to provide a cultural context for art and trash that endures. That’s exactly what the gents of Yacht Rock were doing; they were taking a lot of smooth music from the semi-recent past (smoothness seems to be the defining quality of Yacht Rock; without it, music is canoe-worthy at best) and created a name for it so perfect it defined a whole style of music instantly.

The Yacht Rock ship sailed a while back but the men behind it have drawn upon their gifts as musical anthropologists to launch Beyond Yacht Rock . As the title suggests, the podcast is both rooted in the mindset that created Yacht Rock but also devoted to exploring and charting new waters.

The Yacht Rock gents might not have created a new sub genre with Yacht Rock, but they indelibly identified and more importantly, titled one when they gave the world the Yacht Rock concept. On Beyond Yacht Rock they do the same thing with other strangely specific mini-genres you might never have thought about but they, thank goodness, thought about way too hard.

The men occasionally touch upon their beloved Yacht Rock. They have a brand to protect, after all, but instead of exploiting their semi-famous brainchild, they’re finding new, Yacht Rock-like sub genres and sharing the top ten songs in each of them. The podcast hit the ground running, and has so far explored such mini-genres as “Sultry Hits,” “Bald Metal” (hair metal should-be-hits), “These Guys Probably Fucked” (songs where the singers “probably engaged in making the beast with two backs together”) but my personal favorite is the podcast’s second episode , “TRY-N-RAPS.”

The criteria for TRY-N-RAPS is simple: it collects songs from prominent artists (or, alternately, Bart Simpson) who became famous for performing a non-rap form of music, yet nevertheless felt weirdly obligated/entitled to try rap all the same, despite a widespread dearth of both what the young people call “skills” and also “authenticity.”

There’s something weirdly condescending, even ambiguously racist, about these songs. Implicit in these sad stabs at cultural relevance is the myopic, mistaken conviction that everyone can, and should try their hand at rap because it’s just so easy. It’s just making rhymes over a beat, right? Anyone can conceivably do that, from Fred Flintstone and Bernie Rubble in a Fruity Pebbles jingle that is referenced here as an unexpectedly seminal moment in the white, mainstream co-option of hop hop, to the sassy grandma from The Wedding Singer who is hilarious because she’s white, and old, but she’s rapping all the same!

The list the gents have come up with illustrates in no uncertain terms that no, not everyone can rap, and it’s pretty ignorant to feel otherwise. Not everyone should rap, particularly the ten non-rap-wizards whose earnest fumbling they have helpfully collected into handy list form.

Part of what makes Yacht Rock the web series and Beyond Yacht Rock so much fun is that the people behind it genuinely know, understand, and love what they’re talking about. Hell, the “Van Halen v. Van Hagar” episode, which pits David Lee Roth’s Van Halen with Sammy Hagar’s version, is heated in only a way a podcast involving people who’ve thought way too hard about the music of Van Halen can be.

But there’s nothing academic about the way Beyond Yacht Rock approaches music. The vibe is less professorial than a couple friends who love music obsessing about pop’s past over a couple of cold ones.

Some of the artists chronicled on the “TRY-N-RAP” podcast are bona fide legends, like Stevie Wonder, Joan Jett, Brian Wilson, and Lou Reed, but that somehow didn’t keep them from somehow imagining that they had any place in the hip hop landscape, even as a misguided dilettante.

The podcasters draw a line between pre-NWA and post-NWA try-n-raps; they argue that before NWA try-n-raps were more forgivable because hip hop was still seen as a kooky novelty, a silly fad the young people enjoyed but that would burn itself out, and post-NWA, when it became apparent that hip hop was an important cultural movement, and not just some teenybopper craze.

Try-n-raps are generally the product of people who are overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly middle-aged or older, like Lou Reed, whose “Original Wrapper” cheekily references his O.G status as a man whose talk-singing in The Velvet Underground marked him as something of a proto-rapper, at least by his own estimation. But there’s a big difference between singing in a style that vaguely resembles rapping and trying your hand at the real deal, and “The Original Wrapper” needs to be heard to be cringingly disbelieved.

Equally cringe-worthy and morbidly fascinating is the literal-minded nature of these hippety-hop ripetty-raps; many of these dilettantes felt the need to put the word “Rap” or “Wrap” to illustrate that they’re straying from their home turf and, as the young people sadly no longer say, getting jiggy with it. They also note the preponderance of Try-N-Rappers who employ the “My name is () and I’m here to say” paradigm employed by old school rappers, fake rappers, and faux-rappers alike.

Country-rap, punk-rap, cartoon rap (O.G rapper Bart Simpson is representing for his Springfield peeps), California-surfer-rap, wrestler-rap: the Beyond Yacht Rock gang explores a wide array of hip hop mutations that all have something in common: the folks dabbling with rap have no business doing so. The results are notable mainly for surreal miscalculation. These artists may be trying to honor hip hop by trying their hand at it, but they accidentally end up insulting it instead. In recreating rap in their own image, they end up dishonoring both themselves and hip hop.

These raps may be a crime against music, hip hop and good taste, but separately and collectively, they provide a fascinating window into the way hip hop has been abused and mistreated by a podcast that is still young but shaping up to be a smoothly consistent pleasure, for music obsessives and schadenfreude enthusiasts alike.

Nathan Rabin is the former head writer of The A.V. Club and the author of four books, including Weird Al: The Book (with “Weird Al” Yankovic) and, most recently, You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me .

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Column: Your endless summer is brought to you by yacht rock and Yachtley Crew

Singer Philly Ocean, upper left, and Yachtley Crew bring yacht-rock hits to the Music Box in Little Italy on Sept. 10.

Yachtley Crew plays a sold-out show at the Music Box on Sept. 10

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If you believe in calendars, summer is almost over. But if you believe in yacht rock, summer is never over.

“It’s kind of a made-up genre. But even if you don’t know what it is, if you hear it, you already get it,” said vocalist Philly Ocean (real name, Phillip Daniel) of the Los Angeles-based yacht-rock band Yachtley Crëw , which is playing a sold-out show at the Music Box in Little Italy on Sept. 10.

“It’s all of these easy-listening, feel-good tunes that go well with a piña colada on the deck of a yacht with the horizon off in the distance. Summer vibes are encapsulated in these songs.”

It will never be recognized by the Grammys, but yacht rock has become a pop-culturally accepted category for the semi-fizzy, sorta-jazzy soft-pop songs that ruled the charts in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Songs like Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like the Wind,” the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes,” and every track on Steely Dan’s “Aja” album.

Donald Fagen, left, and Walter Becker of Steely Dan

But before it became a streaming-radio format, a brunch inspiration and the genesis of tribute bands with names like Yachty by Nature and Monsters of Yacht, yacht rock was a web series.

Created in 2005 by actors J.D. Ryznar and Hunter Stair, “Yacht Rock” was a deliberately cheesy, yet totally appreciative “mockumentary” series following the fictional lives and careers of such future yacht-rock heroes as Hall & Oates, Kenny Loggins and the Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers.

Once the series made its way to YouTube, it tickled the fancies of industry types who realized that re-branding soft rock as yacht rock could give these oldies new, hipster-approved life. Satellite- and streaming-radio stations began adding yacht-rock channels, and by 2016, these smooth tunes had made their way to the musicians who formed Yachtley Crëw.

According to Yachtley lore, the two veteran Los Angeles musicians who would go by the names of Sailor Hawkins (drums) and Baba Buoy (bass) were hanging out in a hot tub with their wives (“Probably drinking,” Ocean surmised), when they heard a satellite-radio yacht-rock station and had an epiphany.

One year later, they had a band.

“They thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a band and play just this music?,’” Ocean said. “When we would go around pitching to venues, club owners would look at us sideways like, ‘You play Christopher Cross? Who is going to listen to that on a Friday night?’ We would always say, ‘Just give us a shot.’”

Veteran soul and rock singer Michael McDonald is photographed at the Rose Cafe in Santa Barbara on April 19, 2017.

Four years and many Christopher Cross tunes later, Yachtley Crëw is playing sold-out shows in venues all over California and beyond; Ocean is singing to passionate crowds who know every word to Boz Scaggs’ “Lido Shuffle” and Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby”; and the genre started out as a goof has turned out to be a real happy thing.

And that is no joke.

“I think these songs have lasted because they are of the highest quality. The musicianship, the melodies, the lyrics, that is what has given them a long life and caused them to come back around,” Ocean said. “There is a zest for life that you can experience in every single one of these songs. They just make you feel good.”

Yachtley Crëw’s Sept. 10 show at the Music Box is sold out, but there are plenty of other ways to get your yacht-rock fix. Fire up the blender, crank up the tunes, and it will be smooth summer sailing all year long.

Streaming and satellite radio: Whether it’s Spotify’s 11-hour playlist or the stations curated by SiriusXM satellite radio and the LiveXLive streaming service, yacht rock’s non-stop happy hour is just a click away. Because they have a lot of digital space to fill, programmers have expanded the yacht universe to include such genre-questionable crew members as Van Morrison, Tommy Tutone and Eddie Money, but after a few umbrella drinks and a nap, it’s all good, matey.

Slate’s “Hit Parade” podcast: On his two-part “What a Fool Believes” episode, chart analyst and “Hit Parade” host Chris Molanphy gives the yacht-rock genre the thorough, musically astute analysis it deserves. We hear how its shiny roots stretch back to the legendary group of L.A. studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew; how the sessions for Boz Scaggs’ “Silk Degrees” album are responsible for the existence of Toto; how Toto shaped Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (It’s true!); and why the aforementioned “Aja” album set the itinerary for the stylish radio adventures that followed. Enlightenment, ahoy!

“Classic Albums: Steely Dan’s ‘Aja’”: Without this landmark 1977 album, there might be no yacht rock today. And without this 1999 episode of VH1’s essential “Classic Albums” series , we wouldn’t know the control-freaky lengths Steely Dan masterminds Walter Becker and Donald Fagen went to in their effort to achieve such glossy, effortless perfection. We also wouldn’t get to see guitarist Jay Graydon unfurl that classically casual “Peg” solo or watch Michael McDonald nailing those sweet, sweet layer-cake harmonies. You can stream it on IMDb TV with irritating, randomly placed commercials, or you can purchase the DVD and immerse yourself as yacht-rock nature intended. Don’t forget your snorkel.

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yacht rock web series

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Web Video / Yacht Rock

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Yacht Rock is an 12-part series following the fictionalized lives and careers of American Soft Rock stars of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Created by JD Ryznar, Hunter D Stair and Lane Farnham, it is one of the most successful projects to come out of Channel101 .

J. D. Ryznar and Hunter D. Stair devised the series after noticing the incestuous recording careers of such bands as Steely Dan , Toto , and The Doobie Brothers and the singer-songwriters Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald . For example, McDonald co-wrote Loggins' "This Is It" and Loggins co-wrote McDonald's band The Doobie Brothers ' "What a Fool Believes" and also performed backing vocals for several other 'yacht rock' artists, including Steely Dan and Christopher Cross. Yacht Rock's episodes were "hosted" by "Hollywood" Steve Huey , a legitimate music critic for Allmusic. It should be noted that the term "Yacht Rock" is never used throughout the series by any characters except for by Huey during his introductions, instead it is always referred to as "Smooth Music". The look of the series was the responsibility of the show's editor Lane Farnham.

The storyline of the series employs a non-linear chronology, jumping back and forth in various points in time. Also, Space.

After the series became a web hit, the term yacht rock was retroactively popularized as the genre name for the style of soft rock featured in the show, marked by high production values, Jazz Fusion and R&B influences, and lyrics about romantic longing and personal follies, acting as an American equivalent to the Sophisti-Pop and City Pop scenes in the UK and Japan, respectively. Ryznar and Stair further specified their definition of the term as encompassing usage of upbeat rhythms, prominent usage of electric piano, and a reliance on elite producers and musicians from Los Angeles . Owed to their discontent with what they saw as the label's dilution, the pair went on to host two podcasts — Beyond Yacht Rock and Yacht or Nyacht? — in which they debate whether individual songs count as being part of their definition of the genre.

Trope examples:

  • Arc Villain : Jimmy Buffett, who functioned as an insane cult leader in his lone episode.
  • Affectionate Parody : While the show makes fun of the songwriting process, it does still hold the music featured in high regard.
  • Batman Gambit : Most of episodes show the "origins" of several yacht rock classics by way of this trope, from " Rosanna " to " Human Nature "
  • Big Bad : Gene Balboa runs his entertainment business like a Bond villain.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy : Several (real life) characters are revealed to be aliens.
  • The Bet : Cartoonishly downplayed in episode 7 where Loggins and McDonald bet a dollar on which one of their songs will end up number 2 on the music charts. McDonald gets the last laugh, though .
  • Brainwashed and Crazy
  • Carpet of Virility : John Oates, albeit made out of construction paper .
  • Canon Character All Along : Hall and Oates' first manager, Gino Basareli turns out to be Gene Balboa after a drastic makeover .
  • Cerebus Syndrome : Played for Laughs in the Hollywood Steve host segments for the last two episodes. While Episode 10 ends with him falling in love with the girl he saves from choking, Episode 11 opens with said girl leaving him and Episode 12 with Steve on his death bed.
  • In episode 2, when Koko hears Chris Geppert plays his song.
  • Happens twice to Ted Templeman, first in episode 8 involving smooth music from a singing walrus being interrupted by two ugly women and in episode 9 with visions of impalement .
  • Downer Ending : Episode 2 and 12
  • Easy Amnesia : McDonald after he gets run over by Warren G.
  • Insistent Terminology : Only Hollywood Steve refers to it as "Yacht Rock" in his introductions. Everyone else calls it "Smooth Music"
  • Jerkass : John Oates is depicted as an abusive foulmouthed control freak.
  • Jerk Jock : Don Henley and Glenn Frey of the Eagles are depicted as this.
  • Halloween Episode : Episode 5, complete with a Vincent Price led exorcism.
  • The doo-wop section of Van Halen 's song "I'm the One" is the result of an in-studio scuffle between Koko Goldstein and Ted Templeman.
  • " Human Nature " got recorded thanks to Koko's spirit harpooning Michael Jackson 's crotch .
  • "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)" got sampled in "Regulate" because Nate Dogg and Warren G ran over McDonald.
  • Glenn Frey and Don Henley sang background vocals for Steely Dan's song "FM" because they beat the crap out of them after as revenge.
  • The title of "Yah Mo B There" came from a drunk Michael McDonald and James Ingram making fun of Kenny Loggins saying over the phone that he would be by to record some music with them later (with a mouthful of apple so it came out as "Yah Mo Be There")...they kept it up the whole time.
  • Hostile Show Takeover : Happens twice in the series, with Hollywood Steve's dad in episode 6 and Drew Carey in episode 9.
  • Human Aliens : Giorgio Moroder , who hails from Planet Synthos.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice : In episode two, Koko dies by being impaled with his lucky harpoon .
  • Manchurian Agent : David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen use a magical amulet on Ted Templeman so that he'll produce their debut album when he hears Micheal McDonald's voice.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist : Provides the page quote.
  • Origins Episode : Episode 8 shows how yacht rock got started, from McDonald leaving Steely Dan for The Doobie Brothers to Loggins and Messina in happier days.
  • Post-Script Season : Downplayed as there were two more episodes made after the "finale" with episode 10.
  • The Power of Rock : All over the place, especially the crotch laser Loggins shoots to defeat the Parrotheads .
  • Record Producer : Koko Goldstein , Gene Balboa and Ted Templeman .
  • The Reveal : Papa Moroder is Koko, and his body was only a vessel.
  • Hollywood Steve introducing the episodes in inconvenient moments, like using the bathroom, attending a funeral, killing a homeless woman .
  • Descriptors for Loggins and McDonald.
  • Gene Balboa makes increasingly bizarre demands to his unseen manservant Manuel.
  • Shout-Out : The final battle in episode 12 resembles the Death Star approach from Star Wars . It even has a Big Damn Heroes moment by the Millennium Falcon!
  • Special Guest : Episode 11, Jason Lee as Kevin Bacon and Wyatt Cenac as James Ingram.
  • Story Arc : Throughout the series, Loggins tries to move away from the smoothness of yacht rock to straight hard rockin' to make his way up to the top. This is shown to be like him sliding to "the dark side", but Rule of Funny of course.
  • Storybook Episode : Episode 6 uses the plot of episode 1 to tell a fairytale version of both the historical and modern Jethro Tull .
  • Take That! : Most of the parody is affectionate, but the invectives against Jimmy Buffett are particularly strong. James Ingram: "Yah mo murdered a lot of people out here tonight." Michael McDonald: "They're not people, James Ingram. They're Jimmy Buffett fans." Jimmy Buffett: "...with a cheeseburger in paradise..." Gene Balboa: "Fuck you, Jimmy Buffett!" Kevin Bacon : "Your music is shit!"
  • The Unintelligible : Donald Fagen , with some exceptions. Donald Fagen: " Eat. Bat. Prick. "
  • The Un-Reveal : Koko Goldstein's killer, as Hollywood Steve died while narrating it.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds : Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins
  • We Used to Be Friends : Loggins and Messina, especially when Loggins starts going solo and Messina ends up being a drunk.
  • Wormtooth Nation
  • Web Video Series
  • YidLife Crisis
  • Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb
  • QuoteSource/Web Video
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist

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Yacht Rock (2005–2010)

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If the Yacht Is a Rockin’: Riding the Yacht Rock Nostalgia Wave

Yacht rock began as a sendup of the late ’70s and early ’80s smooth jams to which many millennials and late period gen-xers were likely conceived, then morphed into a beloved musical genre that has come to define the summer months..

  • Maggie Serota

Read when you’ve got time to spare.

two men posing together on a boat

Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina making some waves on the cover of 1973's "Full Sail" album. / Columbia Records

It’s not often that an entire genre of music gets retconned into existence after being parodied by a web series, but that’s exactly what happened after writer, director, and producer J.D. Ryznar and producers David B. Lyons and Hunter D. Stair launched the Channel 101 web series Yacht Rock in 2005. Hosted by former AllMusic editor “Hollywood” Steve Huey, the series was a loving sendup of the late '70s/early '80s smooth jams to which many Millennials and late period Gen-Xers were likely conceived.

The yacht rock aesthetic was innovated by a core group of musicians and producers including, but not limited to, Christopher Cross, Steely Dan, Robbie Dupree, Kenny Loggins, Toto, David Foster, and hirsute soft rock titan Michael McDonald, along with scores of veteran session musicians from the Southern California studio scene.

The Yacht Rock web series was perfectly timed to coincide with a contemporary renaissance of smooth music from the late '70s, the kind that was previously considered a guilty pleasure because it fell out of fashion in the mid-'80s and was soon thereafter regarded as dated and square compared to other burgeoning genres, like punk rock and hip-hop.

Yacht Rock's Early Years

The yacht rock era began roughly around 1976, when yacht rock pillar Kenny Loggins split up with songwriting partner Jim Messina to strike out on his own. That same year, fellow yacht rock mainstay Michael McDonald joined The Doobie Brothers. The two titans of the genre joined forces when Loggins co-wrote the definitive yacht rock hit “What a Fool Believes” with McDonald for the Doobies. They collaborated several times during this era, which was par for the course with such an incestuous music scene that was largely comprised of buddies playing on each other’s albums.

"Look at who performed on the album and if they didn’t perform with any other yacht rock hit guys then chances are [it's] ‘nyacht’ rock,” Ryznar said on the  Beyond Yacht Rock podcast, referencing the pejorative term frequently used to describe soft rock songs that just miss the boat.

"The basic things to ask yourself if you want to know if a track is yacht rock are: Was it released from approximately 1976 to 1984? Did musicians on the track play with Steely Dan? Or Toto?," Ryznar said. "Is it a top 40 radio hit or is it on an album meant to feature hits?" And, of course, does the song celebrate a certain breezy, SoCal aesthetic?

Building the Boat

There are certain key ingredients necessary for a track to be considered yacht rock. For starters, it helps (though is not necessary) to have album art or lyrics that specifically reference boating, as with Christopher Cross's landmark 1980 hit “Sailing.” The music itself is usually slickly produced with clean vocals and a focus on melody over beat. But above all else, the sound has to be smooth . That’s what sets yacht rock apart from "nyacht" rock.

"Its base is R&B, yet it’s totally whitewashed," Ryznar explained on  Beyond Yacht Rock . "There [are] jazz elements. There can be complex, challenging melodies; the solos are all cutting-edge and really interesting. There’s always something interesting about a true yacht rock song. It goes left when you expect it to go right."

Yacht rock’s complex musicianship can be attributed, in part, to the session players on each track. Musicians like percussionist Steve Gadd, guitarist and Toto founding member Steve Lukather, and Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro don’t have much in the way of name recognition among casual soft rock listeners, but they’re the nails that hold the boat together. Steely Dan, “the primordial ooze from which yacht rock emerged,” according to Ryznar, famously cycled through dozens of session musicians while recording their 1980 seminal yacht rock album Gaucho .

"These musicians were not only these slick, polished professionals, but they were highly trained and able to hop from style to style with ease,” Huey explained on  Beyond Yacht Rock . “Very versatile.”

Screen Shot 2022-08-04 at 3.57.23 PM.png

Steely Dan has been described as "the primordial ooze from which yacht rock emerged." / Geffen

In Greg Prato’s 2018 tome, The Yacht Rock Book : An Oral History of the Soft, Smooth Sounds of the 70s and 80s , Huey broke down “the three main defining elements of yacht rock,” explaining that it requires “Fusing softer rock with jazz and R&B, very polished production, and kind of being centered around the studio musician culture in southern California … It’s not just soft rock, it’s a specific subset of soft rock that ideally has those elements."

Soft Rock Untethered

Whereas the music of the late 1970s and early ‘80s is often associated with the anti-establishment music of punk pioneers like the Dead Kennedys and the socially conscious songs being written by early hip-hop innovators like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, yacht rock is the antithesis of the counterculture.

Yacht rock occupies a world that is completely apolitical and untethered to current events. Between the oil crisis, a global recession, and inflation—not to mention the fact that the U.S. was still licking its wounds from the loss of the Vietnam War and the disgrace of Watergate—the late '70s were a dark time for Americans. Yet yacht rock, at its heart, is a tequila sunrise for the soul, whisking the listener away to a world where they have the time, and the means, to idle away the hours sipping piña coladas at sea while decked out in flowy Hawaiian shirts and boat shoes.

Yacht rock was never edgy, nor did it ever feel dangerous. Yacht rock didn’t piss off anyone’s parents and no one ever threatened to send their kid to boot camp for getting caught listening to Kenny Loggins's “This Is It.” Yacht rock tracks are more of a siren song that invite your parents to join in on the chorus anytime they hear Toto’s "Rosanna."

Yacht rock songs are meant to set the soundtrack to a life where the days are always sunny, but as Ryznar pointed out on Beyond Yacht Rock , there’s “an underlying darkness”—just not the kind that’s going to derail a day of sailing to Catalina Island. No, yacht rock has elements of low-stakes heartbreak with sensitive male protagonists lamenting their own foolishness in trying to get back together with exes or hitting on women half their age.

The aspirational aspect of the genre dovetailed nicely with the overarching materialism defining the Reagan era. “Yacht rock was an escape from blunt truths, into the melodic, no-calorie lies of ‘buy now, pay never,’ in which any discord could be neutralized with a Moog beat,” Dan O’Sullivan wrote in Jacobin .

Some Like it Yacht

Although the cult comedy series Yacht Rock ceased production in 2010, the soft rock music revival it launched into the zeitgeist is still going strong. For the past few years, SiriusXM has been running a yacht rock station during prime boating season, or what those of us without bottomless checking accounts refer to as the spring and summer months. Yacht rock tribute acts like Yacht Rock Revue are profitable business endeavors as much as they are fun party bands. There’s also a glut of yacht rock-themed song compilations for sale and a proliferation of questionably curated genre playlists on Spotify.

Whether you believe yacht rock is an exalted art form or the insidious soundtrack to complacency, any music lover would probably agree that even a momentary escape from the blunt truths of life is something we could all use every now and then.

COMMENTS

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    Yacht Rock (web series)

  2. Yacht Rock (web series)

    Yacht Rock. (web series) Yacht Rock is an online video series following the fictionalized lives and careers of American soft rock stars of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The series debuted at a Channel 101 screening on June 26, 2005. It placed in the top five at subsequent screenings until June 25, 2006, when the tenth episode placed seventh ...

  3. Yacht Rock (TV Series 2005-2010)

    Yacht Rock: Created by Lane Farnham, J.D. Ryznar, Hunter Stair. With J.D. Ryznar, Hunter Stair, 'Hollywood' Steve Huey, David B. Lyons. Mockumentary web series about American soft rock stars of the late 1970s and early 1980s era.

  4. What Is 'Yacht Rock'?

    Complete behind-the-scenes story of the most popular history-of-smooth-music series ever made. Dave "Koko" Lyons, center, and Hunter "Messina" Stair regale some young women with tales of smooth ...

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  6. Yacht Rock Episode 1

    For more info, check out the Yacht Rock page at Channel 101.com.http://www.channel101.com/shows/show.php?show_id=152

  7. Yacht Or Not?: Sailing The Seas of Yacht Rock

    Yacht Rock Sets Sail With Help From a 2005 Web Series Before 2005, people generally placed Toto 's " Africa " and Holmes' "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" in the soft rock genre.

  8. Yacht Rock: A History of the Soft Rock Resurgence

    The Yacht Rock web series was perfectly timed to coincide with a contemporary renaissance of smooth music from the late '70s, the kind that was previously considered a guilty pleasure because it ...

  9. Yacht Rock

    Jan. 4, 2023, 10:45 a.m. ET 144 Shares. It's such a fine and natural sight as Paramount+ presents the three-part soft rock docu series Sometimes When We Touch. Looking to watch Yacht Rock? Find ...

  10. Defining 'yacht rock' once and for all with the genre's creators

    JD Ryznar and Dave Lyons are the co-creators of the mid-2000s comedic web-series Yacht Rock. While the joke genre they coined led to a legitimate smooth-music renaissance in pop culture, it has ...

  11. Yacht Rock 1 HD

    Where our story begins.. Koko's Boat House. PS- We have a podcast now.☸ Website: http://www.yachtrock.com☸ Podcast: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/beyond...

  12. Yacht Rock

    Yacht Rock is an 12-part series following the fictionalized lives and careers of American smooth rock stars of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Created by JD Ryznar, Hunter D Stair and Lane Farnham, it is one of the most successful projects to come out of Channel 101. J. D. Ryznar and Hunter D. Stair devised the series after noticing the incestuous recording careers of such bands as Steely Dan ...

  13. The Bizarre History Of Yacht Rock Music

    According to Rolling Stone, it all began on June 26, 2005, when the 12-episode web series "Yacht Rock" was released by Channel 101. As explained by Mental Floss , the series was a lovingly mocking look back at the smooth music of the late 1970s and early 1980s, written and directed by J.D. Ryznar, produced David B. Lyons and Hunter D. Stair ...

  14. That '70s Week: Yacht Rock : World Cafe : NPR

    Enter JD Ryznar, Hunter Stair, David B. Lyons and Steve Huey: coiners of the description "yacht rock," creators of a hilarious web series of the same name and now de facto captains of the genre ...

  15. Yacht Rock: Album, Record Guide

    But thanks to a web series in the mid-2000s, the style — belatedly named "yacht rock" — has since spawned a satellite-radio channel, tribute bands, and a Weezer cover of Toto's "Africa ...

  16. Yacht rock

    Yacht Rock creators. Yacht Rock web series co-creators Ryznar, Steve Huey, Hunter Stair, and David Lyons have attempted to apply precision to what is defined as yacht rock, and have been critical of overly expansive definitions of the term. In 2016, they invented the term "nyacht rock" to refer to songs that have sometimes been classified as ...

  17. When the Guys Behind 'Yacht Rock' Took Aim at the ...

    Part of what makes Yacht Rock the web series and Beyond Yacht Rock so much fun is that the people behind it genuinely know, understand, and love what they're talking about. Hell, the "Van Halen v.

  18. Yacht Rock HD

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  19. Column: Your endless summer is brought to you by yacht rock and

    Created in 2005 by actors J.D. Ryznar and Hunter Stair, "Yacht Rock" was a deliberately cheesy, yet totally appreciative "mockumentary" series following the fictional lives and careers of ...

  20. Yacht Rock

    What can be said about Yacht Rock that hasn't been said by various magazines, newspapers and disc jockeys across the country? J.D. Ryznar and Hunter Stair's saga detailing the unknown mythical origins of a previously obscure genre of music struck the audience like a lightning bolt on its first episode, much like fellow 101 breakout House of Cosbys. Unlike HoC, however, Yacht Rock was never ...

  21. Yacht Rock (Web Video)

    Yacht Rock is an 12-part series following the fictionalized lives and careers of American Soft Rock stars of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Created by JD Ryznar, Hunter D Stair and Lane Farnham, it is one of the most successful projects to come out of Channel101.. J. D. Ryznar and Hunter D. Stair devised the series after noticing the incestuous recording careers of such bands as Steely Dan ...

  22. Yacht Rock 12 HD

    Who isn't the world these days, you know what I mean?... PS- We have a podcast now.☸ Website: http://www.yachtrock.com☸ Podcast: http://itunes.apple.com/us/p...

  23. Yacht Rock (TV Series 2005-2010)

    Yacht Rock (TV Series 2005-2010) cast and crew credits, including actors, actresses, directors, writers and more. Menu. Movies. Release Calendar Top 250 Movies Most Popular Movies Browse Movies by Genre Top Box Office Showtimes & Tickets Movie News India Movie Spotlight. TV Shows.

  24. If the Yacht Is a Rockin': Riding the Yacht Rock Nostalgia Wave

    The Yacht Rock web series was perfectly timed to coincide with a contemporary renaissance of smooth music from the late '70s, the kind that was previously considered a guilty pleasure because it fell out of fashion in the mid-'80s and was soon thereafter regarded as dated and square compared to other burgeoning genres, like punk rock and hip-hop.