Yeah, we know – it may seem that Yacht Rock would have been much more topical for say July’s playlist, when you actually WERE out on your yacht in boat shoes with no socks. But it’s exactly because the summer is officially over and you’ve shrink-wrapped/stowed the yacht for the season and replaced your boat shoes with running shoes that it’s time to roll out the Yacht Rock running playlist. Don’t worry – while this playlist may transport you to the sun-drenched coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico, it won’t slow your pace!
But let’s hold up a minute – in case you’ve missed the boat on this whole Yacht Rock thing, let us help you catch up. (Of course if you’re a seasoned yachter, by all means jump straight to the playlist!)
According to experts, the yacht rock era is bookended by the years 1975 and 1984. But probably the best we can do to tack your rigging right about the thing that is yacht rock is simply direct your attention to the Yacht Rock series. Yacht Rock is a mockumentary series of 12 5-minute episodes that ran from 2005 through 20101 centered on the easy listening origins and misadventures of Logins & Messina, Michael McDonald, Hall & Oates, Toto, Christopher Cross, Journey, et al.
It’s all entirely in bad taste and also pretty delightful, and details the demise of Loggins and Messina, the fightsies between Hall/Oates and Loggins/McDonald, and between Hall and Oates (“ARGGGGGHHHH no more songs about SARAH!!!”), Christopher Cross pacifying all of their angst with the heavenly strains of “Sailing”, the rescuing of smooth rock from the jaws of Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen with the help of Vincent Price (exhibit 1: “Human Nature”), and guest appearances2 by Peter Cetera (also making our playlist with Chicago), Dre, Nate Dogg, and many more.
So think of it like when Austin Powers woke up from hibernation and had to watch all those videos about the moon landing to catch up; if this is your first time aboard the yacht, just run through a few of those episodes and you’ll be right as rain!
In any case, you don’t need to hold a PhD in yacht rock to recognize yacht rock when you see it: if it smells like yacht rock, (i.e. plenty of sexy sax, pre-80s synthesizers, non-disco strings, mustaches, captain’s hats and inappropes lyrics creepin’ on underage girls) trust your inner skipper that’s it’s probably yacht rock.
Now let’s get to the music already: we’ve built this month’s playlist roughly along the following criteria:
Core Yacht Rock: these are the big sails of easy listening: Loggins, Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald, Toto, Christopher Cross and their peers.
Totally Yacht Rock even though no Michael McDonald: this includes smooth easy-listening that was probably floating over many a yacht and includes the likes of Pages, Bee Gees (non-disco era), Bill LaBounty, and Leon Ware.
Honorary Yacht Rock: easy listening that may not be technically or even tangentially yacht rock but somehow works anyway. Notables in this category include Stevie Nicks’ & Don Henley’s “Leather and Lace”, Kenney Rogers’ & Kim Carnes’ “Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer”, Julio Iglesias’ & Willie Nelson’s “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” and Eddie Rabbit’s “Step by Step”.
Highlights from this month’s list:
“Sailing” – Christopher Cross. This is total embodiment of Yacht Rock right here; Christopher Cross features prominently in the Yacht Rock series and sailing, obvs. This track is at the absolute lowest end of BPM that our stride can pace to, but trust us – just lengthen your stride, squint your eyes and you’re not running…no, you’re on a boat, a sailboat…cutting through the salty waves into the wide open blue sky expanse of your dreams… “the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see…”
“We’re In This Love Together” – Al Jarreau. Remember Al? You may also remember Mr. Jarreau’s dulcet voice from the intro to 80’s hit teevee show Moonlighting.
We’ve heard some kids used to play Moonlighting on the playground in middle school, where one kid would be Maddie and the other kid would be Dave and they would have all sorts of fights and hijinks. Us? Heavens no, that would be weird. Kids are weird.
“You’ve Never Done It Like That” – Captain and Tennille. If we have to yacht-splain this to you, well you’ve disappointed us.
Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is”, which also made an appearance on a strangely compelling Soundcloud3 mix from a couple years by DJ Hennessy Youngman called CVS Bangers Volume 1.
Think of every easy listening track you’ve maybe ever heard while trawling the aisles of CVS under the fluorescent lights for Q-tips, tampons, deodorant, greeting cards. Now think of those strung together with that weird DJ mixtape voiceover plus all of the shotgun blasts, airhorns and other sound effects that ensure you can’t just rip off the track without being obvious and you’ve got CVS Bangers. We’ve listened to CVS Bangers vol. 1 so many times that we still can’t hear “I Want To Know What Love Is” without imaginary-hearing the inserted shotgun blasts and hockey horns.
Also because we’re nothing if not here for you – here’s a more expansive playlist of our own personal Yacht Rock favorites inclusive of tracks whose BPMs don’t hit the target running ideal, because whether you’re just breezing down the sidewalk, sailing your desk chair or cruising that bus home – sometimes you just need a little yacht rock in your life.
Shout out to Justin Bartek – because while his extensive Yacht Rock playlist’s reach may exceed its grasp4, it served a useful pool to supplement our own keeling of the musical depths for building this month’s playlist!