Yacht Rock is a genuine genre. Look it up. You’ll be pointed to a golden age of American recording artists making music in the late 70s and early 80s, whose focus was on making studio magic. Bands like Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, Hall And Oates and the Eagles, staffed by members with a history in session work who held recording prowess in the highest regard.
The result of all these incredible musicians teaming up with producers in the heyday of studio excess? Some incredibly smooth music. From the “golden voiced bastard” Michael McDonald and his work with the Doobie Brothers to Kenny Loggins (pre-‘Playing With The Boys’), from Toto to Christopher Cross, the music of this period was dripping with a soulful smoothness the likes of which we don’t see today.
What sets it apart from your bog standard Saturday night cheese-fest tune is the seemingly tireless pursuit of songwriting and studio perfection. So while these are tunes that may have clammed up the airwaves in their time, they don’t have the just rolled off the factory production line cheapness of your average Stock, Aitken And Waterman jam. Below are my top 10 tunes that I believe sum up the cocktail-sipping, yacht-owning smoothness that is Yacht Rock.
(Disclaimer for purists – I know some of this is not strictly “Yacht”, but I think all of it captures its spirit).
Its the end of the night. This song is your best friend.
Not strictly speaking Yacht Rock, but it gets no smoother than this, and listen to those harmonies.
Pin-sharp harmonies, a sink-to-your-knees solo, and – even better for Yacht Rock fans – contains a lyric directly referencing their feud with Steely Dan.
Released in 1986, perhaps the last true Yacht Rock song.
Here’s a version with one of the smoothest acts of today, Chromeo.
Is that Michael McDonald on backing vocals again?
Legend has it that Steve Pocaro wrote this to woo Patricia Arquette. He didn’t, but damn this tune is smooth enough to warrant the rumour.
This lot were so set on perfection, they sent their studio musicians insane.
Yacht Rock goes disco, and of course the world best backing singer (TM) Michael McDonald makes a cameo.
Written by the two most important Yacht Rockers, Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins:
Want more Yacht Rock? Here’s a Spotify playlist
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Chris Scott runs the popular Yacht Rock club night in London. The next one takes place at The Shoreditch on March 29, and features modern yacht rockers Shake Tiger Shake