Original line-up George Kajanus – songwriter & acoustic guitar, Phil Pickett – nickleodeon, Henry Marsh – guitar and keyboard and Grant Serpell – drums.
The real joy about researching all these old favourite bands is not just the memories that the old records bring to me, but the surprise at the stories behind them and what some of them have achieved since their seventies fame.
Well the first question to ask is how they got their name. Even that has some intrigue behind it going back to a Paris nightclub in 1946. It is said the proprietor of the club insisted that the house band wear the outfits of a sailor in respect of his life being saved by a sailor many years previous. This tradition continued until 1970 when the club tragically burned down. From the ashes the phoenix shall rise and indeed it did for from the band that was playing at the time came Phil Pickett and George Kajanus. Venue-less they re-located to London and in 1974 formed “Sailor.”
Signed to CBS/Epic they has a hit in Holland with “Traffic Jam,”
But it wasn’t till 1975 and the release of “Trouble” that things really took off. With a cancelled tour with the recently split Mott the Hoople they ended up on supporting tours with Kiki Dee and Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel. Not a bad result from where I’m standing and it provided the break they needed. With the tour promoting their unique sound they hit the big time with Glass of Champagne reaching Number 2.
Glass of Champagne – released 6th December 1975 reached No 2
Girls, girls, girls – released 27th March 1976 reached No 7
One drink too many – released 19th February 1977 reached No 35
The Nickelodeon, an extraordinary instrument was actually invented by the band and was designed and built for the sole purpose of supplying their unique sound. While other bands were using the normal four to five instrument ensemble Sailor were using instruments as diverse as glockenspiels and mandolins. The latter featuring heavily on their next hit Girls, girls, girls. With only one more hit in 1977 with “ One drink too many “ you would have thought they would have given up but to their credit they carried on gigging under various names and guises. In 1983 Phil Pickett did some song writing for a small band called Culture Club and had a little success with a song called “Karma Chameleon.”
When I listen to those records now I really appreciate the quality of the music craft involved. The harmonies, lyrics and arrangements are so good. You just can’t help but bop and sing along to them, the feeling I get when I hear them is like listening to an old merry-go-round. One of the best pop groups of the seventies who should have had a lot more hits than they did. I just wish I had been able to see one of their concerts. They were meant to be a theatrical experience with a harbour town as a backdrop complete with street lamps and palm trees. The good news is that they are doing the circuit again so look on the “70s now” page for details. Not sure they still carry the Harbour backdrop around with emnow but nevertheless I’m sure they’ve still got it.
So do yourself a favour and give them a listen. If you don’t like what you hear I’ll eat my “Kiss me Quick “ hat.