Whether you choose to call it Yacht Rock,
West Coast Pop, or simply just your guilty
pleasures--the mellow sounds of late 1970s
to early-80s soft-rock are back!
Indeed, the genre manhandled the Top 20
during the mentioned years, leaving many
metalheads, punks and fans of other “serious”
genres of music alike wondering what in the
hell happened to American music.
Suddenly, the whole look and vibe of modern mainstream music had changed.
Radio and record stores everywhere had become engulfed with songs about tropical drinks and sailing.
Men wearing sailors caps, sporting full beards and/or thick mustaches wearhing Hawaiian shirts willingfully crooning out their emotions permeated the airwaves.
What was this all about?
If you are not familiar with the artists of West Coast Pop, you can usually recognize them by their album covers alone.
Vinyl record hounds like myself will typically come across tons of them while browsing through the LP bins of local record stores and thrift shops.
They’re the covers displaying sunsets, water (oceans, lakes or rivers), boats, the artists tranquilly staring off into the distance or a combination thereof.
Even singer-songwriters who had already made a name for themselves as talented hit makers way before this soft-rock era came upon us, had released albums or singles during this time that many would consider to be of this genre including Hall & Oates, Loggins & Messina, The Commodores, Michael Mcdonald, Rod Stewart, Al Jarreu...the list goes on.
Let the truth be told--apart from a few talented singer-songwriters who's careers were launched during this time period such as Rupert Holmes, Robbie Dupree, The Captain & Tennille, Stephen Bishop, Peter Beckett and Christopher Cross--we began to see tons of bafoons who decided to hop on the soft-rock bandwagon release out and out crap at the drop of a hat, while laughing all the way to the bank.
Indeed, these are the ones who have caused the era as a whole to be looked upon as a joke.
Sometime during the late-80s, many of the artists that ruled the Top 20 between the years of 1978-1982 began to see their songs parodied and laughed at by the younger generation now fueled by MTV and the angst driven gangster rap, punk and heavy metal of the time.
These kids were more interested in strappin' a nine and bashing someone's scull in, than sipping a pina colada and going for a sail!
But why dedicate a complete article to the smooth, mellow sounds of the 70s and 80s you ask?
Well, for me, this music has a special meaning as it was the soundtrack to my early childhood leisure time activities while growing up in San Francisco.
I was 4 years old and this was when I'd begun to get into music. I mean really get into the music matching names and faces with what I heard on the radio or seen on TV.
Living in the City, I just couldn’t escape songs like Michael McDonalds'’ “I Keep Forgetting”, Ambrosias’ “The Biggest Part Of Me”, Al Jarreaus’ “Mornin’”, Kenny Loggins’, “This Is It” or Christopher Cross' "Sailing".
Whenever I pop in one of my self made soft-rock mixed CD’s these days, it whisks me back to a worry-free time of no bills, getting up early with my mom and big brother in preparartion for elementary school, playing balloon volleyball or flying kites with the fam in a park near the Marina on a sunny, yet breezy, Saturday afternoon.
Personal nostalgia aside, late-70s/early-80s soft-rock has also recently seen a resurgence in popularity among the indie rock, rap and electronica crowds....and their followers.
All of a sudden, the music is popular again!
Many of the newer artists are now actually naming off some of the artists of the era as influences with no shame. i.e. The Killers, Death Cab For Cutie, Chromeo, Kings Of Leon and more.
As it stands now, not only has the music seen a comeback among the younger crowd--but so has the overall style of the era including pastel colored fitted T-shirts exhibiting screen photos of sail boats and sunsets, full beards and mustaches, shaggy long hair or fros for the guys and oversized “Mrs. Roper” sunglasses.
All of which were pretty much a joke to most, up until just a couple years ago.
I must also mention that the widely popular Yacht Rock (2005-2006) online video series had a lot to do with the recent resurgence of popularity of the music to a new generation.
The series, created by self-proclaimed soft-rock fan--JD Ryzner, was basically Rynzer’s take on the lives of some of the most popular artists of the time and how they came up with the lyrics to their hits.
Ryzner, along with his cast, would play the parts of these singers (which included Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Daryl Hall, John Oates and others), carrying out different hilarious scenarios in each episode.
In an interview with Seattle Weekly back in 2007, John Oates credits Yacht Rock with rekindling the interest in Hall & Oates saying, “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."
Although some soft-rock enthusiasts have put down the series for simply being yet another mockery of the music—it definitely has perked the interest of their viewers to at least find out more about the artists, hence catapulting the new resurgence of the music even more.
We sat down with a couple of our favorites whos careers took off during this golden age of West Coast Pop, including Robbie Dupree and Peter Beckett.
We also give you the whereabouts of Rupert Holmes and Christopher Cross.
Only here on Souls & Sounds.com!
During the 1960s, Robbie Dupree began his career singing in doo-wop groups on the street corners of Brooklyn. He'd began performing with several top notch musicians in the Greenwhich Village area including future disco band Chic guitarist, Nile Rogers.
"To be safe, Nile would have to walk me through Harlem and I'd walk him out of certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn!" says Robbie of performing gigs with the now famous producer Rogers, in racially discriminative NY neighborhoods.
Years and years had gone by and fed up with only getting so far performing on the streets of New York, Robbie decided to take a chance and move out West for a better opportunity in the music biz...with literally only 40 bucks in his pocket.
Robbie moved to Los Angeles in 1978 and hooked up with friends Peter Bunetta and Rick Chudacoff, who soon became his producers.
With a soulful, yet adult contemporary friendly sound, things were looking good for this former doo wop street corner singer.
Signing on to Elektra records in 1979, Robbie released his first self-titled album in 1980 which spawned the hits "Steal Away" and "Hot Rod Hearts". His follow-up LP "Street Corner Heroes" included the one chart single "Brooklyn Girls".
But then what happened?
Robbie took a break from the music business for a few years, but returned in 1989 signing on to Capital Records.
Apart from his own music, he'd also spent some time producing for other artists.
Throughout the 1990s Robbie had released nine albums of his own through different record companies with moderate success in the adult contemporary realm although none of them reached the success of his 1980 debut.
A true hard working musician from day one, Robbie continues to record and tour.
His first studio album in over 10 years, Time & Tide, was release just last year on his own record label, Robbie Dupree Records.
PETER BECKETT (of PLAYER)
The band that brought you the hit singles "Baby Come Back" and "This Time I'm In It For Love" have gone through a few changes since they began in 1977.
After "Baby Come Back" hit the top of the charts in 1978, Player toured as an opening act for Gino Vanelli, Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton, Heart and more.
Then what happened??
Four albums later, the band split up and lead vocalist Peter Beckett took his career in a different direction, writing songs for other artists including Olivia Newton-John, The Temptations and Kenny Rogers as well as lending his writing talents to several 80's TV shows and movies including: Karate Kid, Cocktail, Little Shop Of Horrors, Major League and more.
Liverpoolian Peter, who'd been in several bands prior to Player--including progressive rock band Paladin--got a band together in the mid-90's and called it Player, with him and original bass player, Ron Moss, being the only original members.
"We did a few casino's, but then I got alot of work doing movie and TV stuff and Ron got the male lead on the Bold & The Beautiful soap opera. So everything kind of kicked in. We could only then perform on weekends--the guys playing with us needed work, so they ended up joining other bands," says Beckett.
Ron and Peter went without performing as Player for a couple of years until just recently, they've found the perfect members to complete the band and get a move on once again.
"These guys are just great! We've been rehearsing for about a month and we did one show down in Redondo Beach. That's the only show we've done with this new lineup. We've just signed with Kawaliye Entertainment out of New York and they're starting to get things going for spring and summer shows," says to Beckett.
And what does Peter think about the recent commercial use of his hit single?
"In the last few years, "Baby Come Back" has been in a slew of movies--the last one being Transformers. Little kids now know the song! And it's all over the TV now in the Swiffer commercial. It's real fortunate because it's in peoples living rooms everyday and we've had millions of hits now on our website. All these kids are interested."
When asked about his influences, Peter mentioned Motown, early Eric Clapton, The Beatles and not surprisingly--Daryl Hall.
"I hate to admit this...and I shouldn't...(laughs)..but I loved Hall & Oates! I mean, I really did. If I said I wasn't influenced by Daryl Hall, I'd be lying."
Which explains why many still think "Baby Come Back" was sung by Hall & Oates!
Even if you're not a soft-rock fanatic, you most likely have heard the song "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)".
Producing this solo career launching hit about a tropical drink--the taste of which Holmes actually can't stand---was not exactly what the singer-songwriter-playwright and author expected.
Holmes had already made a name for himself in the music business as writer, having written songs for Barbara Streisand including tracks for A Star Is Born.
He'd done several albums prior to the now notorious Partners In Crime (1979), which spawned the hits "Escape", "Him" and the lesser known classics "Lunch Hour" in which Rupert depicts quickies at lunch time from work exclaiming "how do you find time to eat?"
And who can forget the ode to then new "Answering Machine"-- containing another catchy chorus "I'm so sorry you have just reached my answering machine".
But where or where did he go??
Holmes' hasn't stop working since! His talent in making songs similar to mini-movies lead him to eventually quit making albums of his own and take a different route--writing movie scores, Tony Award winning novels and Broadway plays.
He's currently hard at work working on his next novel and more.
The "music video" left many of the artists who'd become popular during this time behind, including the big man with the angelic voice, Christopher Cross.
Cross' hits "Sailing", "Ride Like The Wind" and "Arthur's Theme", kicked the singer-songwriters career into gear.
He'd won 5 Grammy's and 1 Oscar but after that, what happened??
Unless you are a big fan of Cross, you probably didn't know that after his landmark self-titled album, ChristopherCross (1979), he continued to write and produced songs with just as much conviction and emotion as the hits you remember.
Cross has released 9 albums since, including a Christmas album.
With The Cafe' Carlyle Sessions (2008)--Cross' first release since his 1998 Walking In Avalon--the music is definitely different than what most would expect as the he puts a more free, jazz spin on the hits and his more obscure tracks.