Phil Pickett

19 November 1946


News 04 July 2015:

Phil Pickett - In Good Company
The Society Of Distinguished Songwriters

Phil is thrilled and delighted to have been recently invited to become a member of the most prestigious songwriting fraternity the world, The Society Of Distinguished Songwriters - or the “SODS” as they are more commonly known - having been voted into the group by songwriting legends such as Sir Tim Rice, Justin Hayward, Mike Batt, Gary Barlow, Graham Goldman, Don Black, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Gary Kemp to name just a few.

Congratulations PP !!!

In addition to these great news, we would also like to share some of Phil's photos with you, taken on Inauguration Night. You can find them on the News-page.

The legend... taken from the official SAILOR fanclub biography:
Phil Pickett, born in Germany where his father served as an RAF pilot, was raised in Birmingham, England, and studied drama at UCLA. And travelled. For in the 20th century the romantic role of the troubadour has been passed along not only to musicians, but to actors as well. Pickett, like all actors, roamed the world in masques and disguises, playing roles of passion and comedy in small rooms and vast amphitheatres throughout America and Europe.
In 1969, Pickett toured with O'Neill's "Lazarus Laughed" across the British Isles, through the Low countries and into Paris, the very heart of Europe, where the production had been scheduled for a two-week run at the American Cultural Centre on the Rue Dragon, only a stone's throw from 'Cafe le Matelot'.
Dropping by the 'Matelot' with a friend one evening, he somehow found himself on stage doing mime sequences and playing keyboards. Georg Kajanus, then SAILOR's senior member, liked his work and persuaded him to stay.
Pickett left the drama troupe and remained in Paris until the cafe closed in early 1970 following the great fire. After the break-up of SAILOR, Pickett again took to the road. In July 1970 he enrolled at the prestigious Joan Baez School of Non-Violence in California. After a year, Pickett received a draft notice for the U.S. Army. He wisely decided to flee the country, leaving California and heading East.
He soon found himself in New Orleans. "I'd thumbed down from St. Louis and been dropped off at the airport by some guy in a Hertz car. I wandered into the coffee shop and almost passed out when I saw Georg sitting there."
The two friends returned to Georg's home in Mexico City. Pickett was still not sure of what he ought to be doing. "I needed time and privacy. I guess I turned into a bit of a hermit."
He retired into the seclusion of Cornwall, where his family owned a restored 16th century mill house, and took up repairing antique musical instruments as a vocation. From time to time, he would slip away to London to see old friends or for an occasional bit of session work. "I was still performing, I think. But the solitude of Cornwall was like medicine. I needed it badly, and it cured me."
Pickett was approached by Steve Morris, of Edwin H. Morris Co., the American music publishers, and was asked to help locate the other SAILOR musicians for a one-time only session. "I was delighted, of course. I recognised the influential role that SAILOR had played," said Pickett. "But I never want to do that star number again. I just want a quiet place to work. Music may still be my life, but that doesn't mean I want a life in the music 'biz'. That's all."

And here's the true story...

with special thanks to James McCarraher:

It was inevitable that Phil Pickett would commit his life to making music, particularly in view of the considerable talents of his father, jazz pianist Philip George Pickett.
Phil Stuart Pickett was born in Münster (Germany) on 19 November 1946. The early death of his father, who during the war became an RAF pilot, in a tragic flying accident a day before his 27th birthday in Africa meant that Phil and his mum Eileen had to return to the bleak prospect of an England in 1950 still recovering from war and prior to any kind of state provision for RAF widows and their children. However Phil's Mum's fortitude in times of stress together with her attractive looks eventually shone through and with a modest win on the football pools bought the young Phil a brand new piano, and the rest as they say, is history!
Phil’s early musical influences included Steve Winwood and the Rolling Stones, who were the inspiration behind his early band, Blues Unit.
Learning a trade as a baker, Phil earned his Green Card and embarked upon a voyage of self-discovery around America, ending in San Francisco where he joined the Joan Baez School for Non Violence. The call-up for Saigon hastened Phil’s return to the UK, but not before he met his hero, Duke Ellington who urged him to "Go back home Phil and write your music."
Phil heeded this piece of advice and moved from his native Midlands to London and worked in the publishing world, which led him to musician Georg Kajanus (or Hultgreen as he was then known). Together they formed Kajanus/Pickett recording the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful album, "Hi Ho Silver".
Following their split, they later reformed as KP Packet, recruiting Henry Marsh and Grant Serpell, before adopting the SAILOR name and sound.
Following the demise of SAILOR in 1979, Phil formed a revamped band (originally to be called The Private Eyes), which included Henry and new recruits Gavin and Ginny David. Travelling to America they recorded two albums; "Dressed for Drowning" and "TV Land", both under the guidance of legendary Chicago manager and producer James William Guercio.
The band split and Phil undertook a series of session jobs including working with Culture Club. He soon found himself co-writing many of their songs, including smash-hits "Karma Chameleon" and "It’s A Miracle".
Phil pulled SAILOR back together in the late Eighties and still plays bass Nickelodeon. SAILOR regularly play to 300.000 people in any given year.
© James McCarraher 2004.

A full and detailed account can be found in the book "A Glass Of Champagne – The Official Sailor Story".

Fanclub letter to the fans
November 1991

Many, many thanks for your interest - and for writing in. It's fantastic and a huge "hit" for us that there are still so many loyal fans out there after all this time! I'm honoured that you still like the band and our music.
Well, where do I start? - 12 years is a long time, but in my case it was a roller-coaster ride, up and up, and occasionally down (no one ever said that being a musician was a secure job!)
Thankfully though I am still living with my favourite person Ann, who has recently given me a new son - Harry (3 mths) - he is gorgeous; as are Gus (11 yrs) and Jack (15 yrs). I obviously found the time somewhere, although looking at my activities in the "Lost 12 years" I don't know when!!
During this time, (before coming back full circle to SAILOR) I was fortunate enough to work with some very talented musicians, heroes and villains, co-writers, and great artists, such as Paul McCartney, Boy George and Culture Club, Malcolm McLaren, Joe Cocker, Jeff Beck, Hugh Masakela, John Lodge and Musical Youth etc., etc., to name quite a few!
After SAILOR, along with Henry and new recruits, Gavin and Ginny David, I recorded two albums "Dressed For Drowning" and "TV Land" at Caribou Ranch U.S.A., 80-81, which were produced by the legendary James William Guercio, of Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Beach Boys fame. Although not originally intending to use the SAILOR name, we were cajoled into it by a big fan of the group - and the head of CBS!, Dick Asher. These records, although critical successes, were not hits, but they did give me a boost in my songwriting aspirations, with a track recorded by Sheena Easton, "Don't Send Flowers" appearing on her huge hit debut album.
Coming back to England I teamed up with the then unknown Culture Club, and stayed on to play keyboards on all records and tours throughout the group's career, from the release of "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" to the eventual winding up of the band. Along the way I co-wrote "Karma Chameleon" and "It's A Miracle" along with many other songs. Those of you familiar with my dulcet tones will have heard me singing with George on backing vocals on nearly all of Culture Club's records. (Why do I always sing back-ups for singers called George!?) Anyway, it was all great fun, and of course the best bit was having co-written a song that went on to be No. 1 all over the world.
Throughout the 80's I also worked on many Hollywood film soundtracks and songs, including "The Lost Boys", "White Nights", "Top Secret! ("How Silly Can You Get?")", and "Electric Dreams", as well as composing and arranging the official ITV Olympic theme in 1984 (and solo single).
Moving on again, after the demise of C.C. I was asked by Paul McCartney to work on his "Diamonds In The Dirt" album and "PS Love Me Do" single, and also played piano on Duane Eddy single "Rockestra" in 1988 with Paul and Ringo Starr.
That was one of the big "highs" of my career to date, as was producing Jeff Beck's superb guitar work on Malcom Mclaren´s "Waltz" album, also in 1988. I co-wrote and arranged 3 songs on this album.
The greatest thrill however is to be back playing with the guys again - there's nothing that compares with the magic chemistry of SAILOR, 1st formed with Georg, Grant & Henry in 1973, and now going strong in the 90s..... all over again!
So, there you have it, or some of it! - I've missed out a great deal of course, - there isn't enough space - but at least I'll have something to write about in the next SAILOR Club Newsletter!
Lots of love,
Phil Pickett

Interview by courtesy of Phil Pickett!!

The Big Interview
Getting into the spirit of the songwriter
Phil Pickett co-wrote Karma Chameleon for Culture Club and formed the 1970s band SAILOR. Here he talks to Fiona Tarrant about writing musicals and moving to Oxford
January 2000

PHIL PICKETT is a great believer in fate. "Success often comes from the door on your left, rather than the one you're aiming for in front. You never know what's around the corner," he says.
The successful songwriter, who penned the music for Culture Club's greatest hit Karma Chameleon in the 1980s, knows what he's talking about.
A gentle, softly-spoken man, Phil, 52, has mixed with the all-time greats in the music business, but remains refreshingly untouched by his years in music's fast lane.
But now his career is enjoying a new impetus and direction with the opening of his first-ever musical in the West End.
But 18 months ago, the thought of such a venture was nothing more than a pipedream for Phil, who has just moved to Oxford with his wife Ann and their three sons, from Gloucestershire.
"I did that classic musician thing - moved out of London, buy the country cottage in the Cotswolds to bring up the children in nice surroundings, and then found that living in the sticks wasn't for us," he explains.
Phil had sold his London studio to AC/DC in 1994 and started to wonder whether it was the right move.
With the children growing up - Jack is 23, Gus 19 and Harry eight - the Picketts start to wonder whether Gloucestershire wasn't a bit too far from London.
Apart from a number one in Ireland with Brian Kennedy and a reggae hit in Jamaica, the songwriting had reached a barren watershed. "Or at least in my case a shed in a very damp part of England," laughs Phil.
As a composer, Phil has worked with the best and, as a musician, he has been with some of the most successful bands over the years.
This is a man who used to be practically live on Top Of The Pops with the band he formed in the early 1970s, SAILOR.
But perhaps his most famous involvement was with Culture Club. He wrote the music for both Church Of The Poison Mind and the smash hit Karma Chameleon, and toured all over the world with the band.
He's worked with BA Robertson, Robbie Williams, Take That, Van Morrison, Sheena Easton, Phil Ramone ... the list goes on.
But that country move meant that apart from overseas tours with SAILOR (the band is still extremely popular in Europe), he wasn't in the front-line any more.
And then, when he very least expected it, a new career path came Phil's way.
"I was standing on the platform at Oxford Railway Station wondering where my writing was going," explains Phil. "Then this guy tapped me on the shoulder and I realised it was someone I'd met at a dinner party."
"The train was cancelled and he gave me a lift to London in his car. He knew I was in the music business and asked me if I knew anyone who could write three original musicals for the Rank Organisation as part of a £150 million revamp of the Butlin's resorts. Rank wanted to introduce top quality shows for its guests and he wondered if I knew someone who could help."
Never one to forego a chance, Phil said he did know someone - himself.
That night he enlisted one of his oldest pals, music collaborator and SAILOR co-founder Henry Marsh, and a meeting was arranged.
The pair contacted the multi-talented veteran director and lyricist David H. Bell in America, who had written many award-winning shows with Henry in Atlanta and he agreed to write the lyrics.
And so to the shows. Patrick Nally, the show's producer, acquired the musical rights to the comic characters Casper and Spiderman. He also secured the cream of West End's set and costume designers, plus special effects people and puppeteers while Phil, Henry and David they set about writing the first two musicals.
The third one, The Mask, came about after Phil spotted a poster for the film under "prehistoric layers of torn movie posters" and Patrick secured the rights.
It took a year to write the three and Phil enjoyed every minute of the collaboration. They were shown at Butlin's camps all over Britain - to a total audience of some 1.3 million and Casper the Musical went into the West End.
"I'd always wanted to write a musical. I was brought up to them. We lived in Birmingham but my mother would regularly take me to London to see the great musicals - West Side Story, Oklahoma and suchlike," explains Phil.
"She even took me backstage once and introduced me to Hal Prince!"
"I suppose all of those musicals had an impact on me and my musical career but writing a musical was like a dream come true. We've put our hearts and soul into it and it shows," he says.
Standing in the kitchen of the new home he and Ann have bought in Oxford, Phil grins as he explains the hassles and the joys of staging musicals and writing the kind of melodic music he's always wanted to write.
"BA Robertson, who's a great friend, sent me a bottle of champagne and a note when Casper had its premiere.
He wrote 'we never thought you'd have the ghost of a chance...!', but that chance meeting at the station came my way.
The old saying goes 'life's what happens when you're busy making plans' and I'd never planned it would work out that well."
"Spooky, isn't it?"

The texts under the photos:
Pickett's snippets...

Phil Pickett didn't hold back. It was the fifth week he'd been waiting for Paul, the plumber to turn up at his new recording studio to do some vital work. When his mobile rang and he heard the name Paul, he let rip.
"No, no," said the man on the phone, "you've got the wrong Paul. I'm Paul McCartney."
Phil's face reddens at the memory but it did him no harm. Instead, it set the pair up for a firm friendship. "It certainly broke the ice," laughs Phil.

"I was invited to play cricket at Richard Branson's home last year and I blowed him out! He came over as I was leaving and said 'thanks for writing that song Phil, it really set us up well'. I suppose he meant that the money they made helped finance the airline business!"

"I was with Culture Club from their first tour. George said they were thinking of asking me to go on tour but couldn't afford to pay me. I said I'd go along because I knew they'd be huge and they could pay me when they had a hit!
I didn't start writing songs for Culture Club until their second album Kissing To Be Clever. George wanted to write a song but the rest of the band didn't want to write with him. We knocked out Karma Chameleon in 20 minutes and it was their biggest-ever song."

"I formed SAILOR in the early 1970s. We're still together but we see it more of a hobby now. Our hobby is to play in front of 70.000 people at festivals abroad!
The great thing is we can fly out at the start of the weekend and be back home in England in time for Sunday lunch.
I know it sound like a cliche, but there's nothing like the buzz you get in front of a live audience. We've given up touring about five times and always end up going back to it."

ABOVE: My mate Macca. Phil above, far left, with Sir Paul McCartney and Duane Eddy and the Memphis Horns, at Sir Paul's East Sussex recording studio in 1988

"In the glam-rock 1970s I'd worn sequins and sailor suits. In the gender-bender 1980s I wrote and performed with Culture Club. Now I'm writing for a ghost and a guy in a slimy green mask," laughs Phil, who's pictured left with his SAILOR buddies.
Their hits include Girls Girls Girls, A Glass Of Champagne and La Cumbia.

A text about Phil, taken from the programme of "Casper - The Musical" (composers: Henry Marsh and Phil Pickett, production musical director: Anthony England) 1999 / 2000:

Phil Pickett - composer
Double Ivor Novello award winning songwriter, Phil has enjoyed a successful career working with names like Paul McCartney, Sheena Easton, Take That, Joe Cocker, Brian Kennedy, and, of course, Culture Club and Boy George, for whom he wrote "Karma Chameleon", one of the biggest hits of all time.
I addition to his work with other singers, Phil still performs himself with SAILOR and composes film and television soundtracks.

Interview for "Strange Days" in Japan
January 2001:

The following interview with Phil Pickett was made in January 2001 by the Japanese music magazine "Strange Days". Phil was asked to answer some questions about the SAILOR history for the CD re-releases of the two SAILOR albums "Hideaway" and "Trouble" in February / March 2001 in Japan.
Interview by courtesy of Phil Pickett!!

Question: We'd like to start with pre-SAILOR, but what activities were you involved in before the album under the name KAJANUS/PICKETT with Georg Kajanus (by the way, could you please tell us the exact pronunciation for his last name as well)?
How did you meet Georg in the first place and how did the two of you begin to play music together? Did the two of you receive musical training or education?

I first met Georg when working for music publisher Edwin H. Morris, an old Hollywood family company whose songs included "White Christmas", "Crying In The Chappel" and an early version of the "Grease" Musical. I had recently moved down to London from Birmingham - a great industrial city of the Midlands of England, where I had been working in the bakery profession and had also formed my first group - an R&B outfit called "The Blues Unit" after leaving college.
From the first moment of hearing Georg's demo tape (my job was to go through the hundreds of tapes sent in by aspiring writers and artists) I simply loved the sound of his music (& still have the demo of "Say Hello"). Also I had an overwhelming intuition that I would be the ideal musician to complement his distinctive sound. Before we had actually met I persuaded the publishers that Georg was a writer they should sign.
Later on, sometime after his first single release, I heard the record on the Tony Blackburn show on Radio 1 and plucked up enough courage to call Georg at home asking if we could meet. Georg (whose surname is pronounced "Ky-ar-nus") graciously allowed me to take the liberty to invite myself to dinner that evening at his home. In a very charming fashion he also took my enthusiasm at face value by agreeing to entertain a complete stranger at his dinner table, furthermore a stranger who insisted they should make music together!
It is true to say I had never met anyone like Georg before and was immediately impressed by his captivating presence and exotic background, also the fact that he was Norwegian with Russian family connections. I was a simple "Brummie" lad, (i.e. native of Birmingham) and found it all very strange and exciting, but firmly believed things could happen between us that would be very successful.
We got on extremely well and he went along with my suggestion by agreeing to try something out. This led to writing and working sessions that have never surpassed in musical invention and also the pure exhilarating joy of joint creativity, at least as far as I was concerned. We took some of the tapes to Don Powel Hunter, an American working at GTO in London (who also managed David Bowie and Mott The Hoople) who immediately delivered a recording contract with "Signpost" - Arty Mogul's label with Atlantic Records in America.
I'll never forget (neither I feel, will Georg) my turning up at a restaurant where he worked washing dishes. Waving a large cheque in front of him, he simply gave a huge grin, put down the washing-up brush and calmly walked out of the restaurant - never to return!
We recorded the Kajanus-Pickett album in over three months at London's Morgan Studios (now Zomba) and got great reviews. However it turned out that although we played all the instruments ourselves and were very proud of our creation, it became clear early on that we would always need a band to promote our album successfully.
Georg's great grandfather was the famous composer Robert Kajanus, who was an associate of Sibelius. As already mentioned, Georg from Norway but spent many years growing up in Paris, and then later in Toronto where he went to College. I do not believe he had any formal music training, and sad to say, neither did I. He helped form Eclection (so named apparently by Joni Mitchell) a folky-rock band featuring G's 12-string guitar in England, and previously whilst in Canada had played in folk and skiffle groups.
My father was an RAF pilot who was also a highly accomplished jazz pianist. George Shearing was a friend of his and christened him Phil "Body and Soul" Pickett on account of his styling the well-known 1940s jazz standard. He was tragically killed in a flying accident in Bulawayo in Africa when I was 3, and my mother and I returned to England. I was always passionately interested in music, but never enough to wallow through the tortuous methods of pianoforte teaching prevalent in 50's and 60's, so taught myself by playing songs by ear at the piano.

Question: In 1974 upon SAILOR's debut, you had incorporated exotic taste and went for the big harmonies. Was this musical direction discussed and determined with all members? Was this kind of music heretic (or in other words, strange...) in the English music scene in those days?

The use of big harmonies in the context of the very simple but strong and atmospheric sounds that we were using was a definite move to try to be different, but also incorporated some of our favourite music at that time. "Surf's Up" by the Beach Boys was a highly influential album to us, but we also liked the Jaques Brel and Kurt Weil direction of the more European "cabaret" tradition.
It is fair to say that Grant, our drummer, first latched on to the originality of a concept Georg was preparing about in the dark and furtive nights of debauchery during shore-leave of a bunch of spunky and wild SAILORs - quite opposite musically in fact to what we were doing at the time to get a record deal. Originally the music we were working on was much more mid-Atlantic harmony rock a la Doobie Brothers / Hall and Oates direction. Henry, another friend of mine also became involved with us around this time along with Grant, and the decision was consciously by all taken by all of us, spurred on by Grant's enthusiasm to try to do something really quite unique instead and as was the case, quite controversial.
Actually, we got the deal with CBS on the strength of songs like "Traffic Jam" (which was a more "Kajanus/Pickett"-style song) and consequently CBS were a little confused, though positive about this sudden dramatic direction change, especially when they saw us playing at a small theatre in Wood Green, North London.
Nobody else had the balls or the idea to have (a) short hair - very novel at the time - and (b) the sheer audacity to wear white sailor-boy outfits. This was considered to be extremely camp, but in conjunction with the other aspects of a highly theatrical approach - the non-use of electric guitars (a first!), the non-use of base guitars (another 1st - the only artists to use a keyboard synth bass at that time was Stevie Wonder) a giant keyboard whirling-dervish of sound and lights (with 2 operatives Henry and myself) called the "Nickelodeon" (*definitely a first!)... all added up to a very unique experience for us and the audience. We were strange but people loved us.

Question: Who's idea was it to come up with a fake biography? Making this biography should have been fun to do...

Dennis Boyles, originally a friend of Georg's came up with the idea of a fantastic story to go along with the unique fantasy we were trying to create. He has now become a highly respected writer for all sorts of influential / intellectual publications in the USA (he also later came up with the title and concept for the cover of "Dressed For Drowning") and is still a great friend. On one level - i.e. in the fantasy world of the harbour-town ambience, one could readily believe the tale of "Le Matelot" and "Le Pomme Flasque".
As with young people, ambitious and starting out, we failed to realise how special our real life stories were, and were probably also self-conscious of not having achieved that much at the time. It was far easier for Georg to accept and even I suspect, sometimes even believe this story to be true!
Writing these songs immersed him more than the rest of us in a world of pimps, prostitutes and matelots - and he was far happier for inspiration's sake to remain in it. Although it seems very funny now to recall, the rest of us were quite uncomfortable at the time with the fiction, probably because, unlike Georg we all had families, friends and known histories in England.
As Georg has often enigmatically said in subsequent interviews on the subject however, - "It all can be considered true on a certain level" - so who are we to argue?

Question: The Nickelodeon, which was invented(?) by Georg and worked as an impressive feature of SAILOR's live shows, has been said that it was an instrument that "can produce the piano sound and the glockenspiel sound at the same time", but what kind of instrument was it actually? We would imagine it to be very hard to bring such an intricate instrument on the road...

The Nickelodeon was completely unique and at the time, revolutionary. All the things musicians can easily now do with MIDI were put together in a mechanical fashion with breathtaking vision and precision by Georg. Of course we all helped him build the thing - but very much in the manner of the cartoon mice in Disney's "Cinderella".
Consisting of two upright Kemble pianos back-to-back and raised up on a box, holes had been drilled beneath the keys, and rubberised sticks pressed down by the piano notes played prototype versions of the early ARP synthesisers on exactly the same key beneath, emitting a note the same (hopefully!) as the piano above. Meanwhile, above the piano keyboard there was a truly ghastly but effective contraption called a "piano-mate", sounding what could only optimistically be described as a street-organ, activated by a piston apparatus when the piano keys were pressed down.
Then to crown it all, Georg had devised a glockenspiel on top of the whole affair activated by no less than 24 electric door-bell mechanism, playing a note when the corresponding piano key was hit.
When the whole device worked (not all of the time it must be said) - it was completely unbelievable - A real powerhouse of musical madness. Added to the foghorn bass synth (played by myself) and 4-part elaborate vocal harmonies plus Georg's electric 12-string guitar - it was all quite impressive. However very temperamental. On a bad day, or with unsympathetic handling it sounded like a bagpipe full of weasels being attacked by an angry dog!
It became of course, the scourge of all road-crews. They hated everything about it, as people hate everything they don't really understand. After one of our last major European tour in the 1970's the glock mechanism was ceremoniously thrown off the roof of a hotel in Vienna in true Keith Moon style by our frustrated road crew.

Question: The second album, "TROUBLE", had produced two top 10 hits, "Glass of Champagne" and "Girls Girls Girls", but what kind of fan base were you supported by during this period? Did you already boast a high popularity from this time in Europe, such as Germany and Holland?

We had a large fan base at this time because we never stopped working. Suddenly we were attracting younger pop fans also as we were never off the TV, doing shows like "Top Of The Pops" and "Supersonic" and similar shows in Holland, Germany and elsewhere.
It was a little confusing for the fans - especially some of the older ones who had been used to seeing us doing our rather "Dark" theatre-cabaret with "Threepenny Opera" inspired musicality, suddenly to see all the dancing girls and glitter. We realised it was a train we were going to have to stay on - there was no turning back, but really enjoyable just the same.

Question: A few years since the debut, you were clad in sailor suits and pirate costumes, and even took on make-up. Such as the participation in a few glam rock compilations, was SAILOR considered to be a glam rock band in certain areas?

Definitely. We never considered that we were a "Glam-Rock" band, but inevitably the press tended to put everyone in boxes. I guess that was the start of the very strict "Typecasting" of music and artists that prevails today. What I am proud of is that we never thought of ourselves as tied to any particular genre and tried to be original - not always the most successful route to ending up owning lots of Mercedes and attending Polo matches with Mike Rutherford!

Question: The third album, "THIRD STEP" was certainly an epic album covering all your musical concepts of your early years. Then on the next album, "CHECKPOINT", you team with producer Bruce Johnston, but was the reason for this teaming to aim a stab at the American market? Who's idea was it to team up with Bruce Johnston?

I can't remember whose idea it was to choose Bruce. We had made two albums with Lesser and Holmes, "Trouble" our biggest ever album, and later "The Third Step". Someone in A&R at CBS probably thought it would be a good idea to get someone new in.
Oh, I remember - it was the beginning of the US Disco sound and Curt Becher - Bruce's partner now sadly deceased, was considered to be the high-priest of the dance floor sound. So yes - I think it was probably a belated stab at the US market.
(I was not involved with the "Checkpoint" album with Bruce and Curt however, as had fallen out with Georg over his continued insistence to write all the material. Henry and Grant had always accepted this, but I also had ambitions to be a successful writer and felt at the time we needed to cast the net wider to get better songs - so left the band at that time.)

Question: The album, "HIDEAWAY", which is now being re-released in CD format for the first time in Japan, was initially a Europe release only, thus "HIDEAWAY" was long unknown to the Japanese SAILOR fans and was a very hard-to-find item. This album also marks your departure from Epic Records. Was there a certain reason for the cancellation of the release in England?

We got back together to record the "Hideaway" album against a backdrop of failing out with our management and also a nervous lack of confidence from our record label. To add to our woes it was now the late 70's and the Sex Pistols had arrived to the scene!
Suddenly, unless we pierced our nipples and spiked-up our hair, we felt our support at Epic would vanish overnight.
We were correct in this assumption. Times had changed and we were not the first or the last band to experience the fickle hand of the record industry.
We were very proud of "Hideaway" however and enjoyed making the record at Whitfield St. Georg, I suppose understandably, was privately a bit angry that his power had been usurped, but was generous when working on other band members' songs. He wrote "Give Me Shakespeare" - which we still play in our show today - a real classic in my opinion on which you can hear the influence of an attempt to embrace aspects of a "punk"-inspired vocal delivery. We couldn't believe it when Epic decided not to release the record in the UK, but then shortly afterwards we were dropped by the label. This was a huge setback.
Somebody had "pressed the button" upstairs and that was it. Record companies can be very short-sighted at times, and in my opinion should stick to their artists when the going occasionally gets tough. But "c'est la vie" - that's life.
Back to the present however and listening to the record now, it still sounds great - fresh, full of energy and really good ideas.

Question: After Georg and Grant had left the band, you went on to sign with Caribou and moved base to America, then made the album "DRESSED FOR DROWNING" with Gavin & Virginia David, but how was recording in America? How did Gavin & Virginia become members? Are they a married couple?
It seems you had also recorded another album, "TV LAND" with the same line up, but what kind of album was this?

After SAILOR split up, I started writing some new songs and what I felt was going to be a brand-new project with Henry. We'd had some tough, but very funny and unforgettable times together in the interim period - but that's another story.
James William Guercio, the legendary US producer and manager of "Chicago" and "Blood Sweat and Tears" fame, heard the tape and got on a plane to the UK, turned up at my house in a limo a mile long wearing a huge cowboy hat, fur coat and boots with real spurs! He also fortunately had a large chequebook and wanted us to come out immediately to his famous recording studio, "Caribou" in Colorado USA. There we recorded the "Dressed For Drowning" album, and it was only after the record was complete that Dick Asher - the head of CBS (owner of Caribou Records) and a huge SAILOR fan insisted the band to be called SAILOR, as in his words: - "Goddam' it - Phil and Henry are in the band so it's gotta' be SAILOR!"
Ginny and Gavin are brother and sister, and joined the line-up to make the record, and as things turned out - also joined the new "SAILOR". I originally met them singing in a folk club in Cornwall where I used to live, and loved the sound of Ginny's voice (still do!)
We then recorded a follow-up album "TV Land" which was never released. This was because all the CBS staff in the USA that had supported us had been sacked in the now legendary "Night of the Long Knives" where record companies were decimated in a financial downturn.
"TV Land" is very much in the spirit of "Dressed For Drowning" and has some inspiring tracks. We were now used to the idea of going under the SAILOR name however, and consequently our earlier influences were perhaps more in evidence on this record.

Question: After SAILOR had become temporarily defunct, you had joined CULTURE CLUB, but since when had you known them? Was your role in CULTURE CLUB somewhat of a musical director?

On returning from the USA after the above episode, I started to do a lot of session work, some of it with younger punk-influenced bands. One of them the "Sex Gang Children" with a highly flamboyant & youthful Boy George, eventually became "Culture Club". George had been a huge fan of the Glam-Rock era and had seen SAILOR regularly on TV. The band seemed to have a lot of respect that I had been in a hit band (well before they had "made it") and started to ask me to play on everything and also sing and arrange harmonies. Before long I was suggesting ideas all over the place - very much like my role in SAILOR - having them accepted and culminating my writing of "Karma Chameleon" and other songs.
As time went on I was treated more and more like a musical director I suppose, especially during the making of "From Luxury To Heartache" album with Arif Mardin in Switzerland, when individual members were hardly ever present - and never at the same time! Good times and a few hits!
My greatest honour was receiving two Ivor Novello Awards for my work with Culture Club. Also it gave me the opportunity to visit Japan three times with the band - also a great honour and pleasure.

Question: Was there a special event or reason that led to the reunion of SAILOR in 1991? It seems that the members other than Georg who was then in DATA were working on TV soundtracks, but were your relationships continuing through this kind of work? Also, we hear that Grant had been working as a science teacher at a high school?
Upon the reunion, were you already active throughout Europe? You had made a new model of the Nickelodeon which also appears on your album jacket, but can we think of this new-Nickelodeon to be some sort of keyboard type machine(?) which comes equipped with effects such as lights and a smoke machine?

Henry had worked with Georg helping him to take "DATA" on the road, as well as composing a lot of material for advertising and TV theme work. Grant had gone back to the teaching profession he left when SAILOR started. We had all kept in touch with each other in varying degrees. My publisher who had connections with BMG in Germany had suggested there might be a lot of interest there for a new SAILOR album, and after we had all agreed it would be a good idea, "SAILOR" and "Streetlamp" were the results. It was really great to find the "SAILOR Sound" and chemistry was still very much intact after over 10 years apart, and this was quickly celebrated with two hit singles - "The Secretary" and "La Cumbia".
At that time we had no intention to play live again. However I had met a promoter called Rainer Haas in Germany (whilst managing an artist I had discovered busking in London - "Keziah Jones" who had become very successful throughout Europe - also in Japan as some of you may remember).
He offered us a fantastic opportunity to rebuild the now-defunct Nickelodeon, and if we agreed to put the original 4 members together to play "live" again, would guarantee over 100 concerts in Europe. This chance was too good to miss and we decided to rise the challenge. It was a fantastic success.

Question: The 1992 album, "STREET LAMP" is also impossible to get in Japan, but was this a Germany only release?

Correct, also in Holland I believe.

Question: We heard that in 1991, a person called Bizarro released a bootleg SAILOR album. I (the writer) have a version from the Dutch label, Harmony. This bootleg reflects your high popularity in Europe, but still we think it an unfair event. Have you heard anything about this bootlegger?

Yes and I'd rather not go into it as these people are not worthy of comment.

Question: Has SAILOR been constantly active since the reunion? In 95, Georg had left and in 99, Henry had left the band, but we heard that it was a friendly departure. We are aware that Georg now plays with NOIR, but what is Henry up to these days?

SAILOR now enjoys greater success playing live concerts possibly than ever before. We have built up a completely new following, with our older fans being joined by many new ones who weren't even born when we were having hit records in the 1970's. The stage-show has gone through many changes but still expresses the magical spirit of that very special "SAILOR Sound" that we have always enjoyed. This is the only reason we still do it, after all.
Obviously, we have been obliged to evolve the show somewhat to cater for new and younger crowds, but now play to much bigger audiences than we ever did, and usually always get an extraordinary reception.
Sadly both Georg and most recently Henry decided to leave SAILOR, but at the same time we have been lucky to find exceptionally talented individuals in the shape of Peter Lincoln, our stylish guitar hero and lead vocalist who replaced Georg, and also Anthony England our maestro keyboard prodigy to take Henry's place in the line-up.
We very much respected their reasons for leaving however and they were both friendly departures. Georg dearly wanted to concentrate on his solo and Noir projects, and Henry wanted to devote much more of his time to his prodigious musical theatre output and felt it was time to move on. Although sad there is nevertheless a lot more youthful vigour within the band with Peter and Anthony these days (keeping Grant and I very much on our toes!).

Question: You are also active in the musical world, working on such musicals as "MASK" and "CASPER", but do you think that your experience with SAILOR works as an inspiration in these activities?

As already mentioned above, Henry and I composed the entire score and songs for three musicals during 1998-2000. - "Casper", "The Mask" and "Spider-Man". Although very hard work, I am sure the many years of working together in SAILOR helped the process enormously. Our "Casper" show has a number of songs where you can hear the influences of this tradition according to some, and this was the show that went on to be staged at London's famous Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End, and is also about to be produced in the USA.

Question: In Japan, people and the media sometimes confuse you with the traditional musician, Phil Pickett (who plays with Richard Thompson), but does the same thing happen in England as well? Do you know him personally?

We used to share the same hairdresser (!) and have many mutual friends such as Dave Pegg and Richard Thompson, but have never actually met. Once I returned some royalties - I have to say a very small amount paid in error for a song called "Hopping Down In Kent" that the other "Phil Pickett" had apparently written, but was then very worried he might have received some of my Culture Club royalties! - All very scary but it turned out to be o.k. in the end.

Question: Do you have any plans to tour other than Europe? We are looking forward to see SAILOR's live show here in Japan someday.

Talk to your friends! We would simply love to come if there was a possibility to play. Having visited Japan many times with Culture Club and later Keziah Jones, I love your country, and I know everyone else in the band who have never been would jump at the chance.

I really enjoyed the interview and say a big "Hi" to our Japanese friends, many many thanks!
Very best wishes,
Phil Pickett

Interview for Radio Darmstadt "Yester-Songs"
March 2001:

The following interview with Phil Pickett was recorded by Mark Stehle for his show "Yester-Songs" at Radio Darmstadt in Darmstadt, Germany which was broadcast on 04 March 2001. Phil answered questions about the SAILOR history and the songs that were played in the show. During the radio show Phil's voice was translated into German, so that this version here had to be translated back into English.

Phil: Hello everybody who's listening to Radio Darmstadt. This is Phil Pickett from SAILOR, talking to Mark, presently in Oxford in England and looking forward to the interview.

Song: Sailor (censored version)

Host: SAILOR with "Sailor". Let's talk about the beginning of SAILOR and the successes of this band from England. From 1976 to 1978 they had two top 10 singles in Germany: "A Glass Of Champagne" and "Girls Girls Girls". They also were in the top 30 three times. In England they had two top 10 hits and a number one hit with "A Glass Of Champagne". In Australia they had three hits in the top 50, highest chart position # 4, again with "A Glass Of Champagne". After a long time without SAILOR from 1980 to 1990 they reunited 1990 and had new hits with "The Secretary" (# 7 in Germany) and "La Cumbia" (# 25 in Germany) and "Latino Lover" # 61. When I started to look for an interview partner for this show there was a big problem because I didn't know how to contact the band. I finally found an address after a long search, and I wanted to do an interview with Georg Kajanus, the former lead singer of SAILOR. But then I received an answer from Phil Pickett from the original line-up. He was interested in doing the interview and it was great fun for me and also for him. Let's talk about the topical line-up of SAILOR: Georg Kajanus is not in the band any more. He was replaced by Peter Lincoln - lead vocals and guitar. Peter Lincoln had also worked for Cliff Richard. Then we have Anthony England - keyboards and Nickelodeon, Grant Serpell - drums, and also my interview partner Phil Pickett - bass and Nickelodeon. And Phil Pickett will now tell us how the SAILOR story started:

Phil: There were many romantic motions about the early days of SAILOR. There were stories that Georg and I met in a café in Paris, and there were many kind of very romantic stories. We met 1970 / 71. I worked as a music publisher in London. I listened to Georg's music and really liked his lyrics. Then we started to work together on songs, and we also had a recording contract. The album was named "Kajanus / Pickett" and was released in 1971 by Atlantic Records. We recorded it with much love and very carefully. It was a magical experience because it was our first ever record. Although we had very good reviews we didn't have a manager, we didn't have a band and we didn't really have a lot of knowledge about the music business. SAILOR was born out of that experience. We told ourselves: Now we have a great band, now we can go on tour and more people will see us. At that time Georg and I were also working on a kind of opera about sailors, prostitutes, red light quarters and sailors on shore-leave. Our drummer Grant Serpell liked this idea and thought this made us totally unique and different from what other bands did. We wanted to have a trademark, we wanted to be original. So we decided that we would take a what at that time was quite an extreme step - I mean - now with 30 years on now it's very different, but in those days to dress up in sailor suits and have elaborate stage costumes - we had a very dark presentation and a very atmospheric stage set built. We tried to do something unique and I think the spirit of that is what SAILOR is all about.

Host: One of SAILORs trademarks is this famous double-piano which is named the Nickelodeon. It was played by Henry Marsh and Phil Pickett. More information about this instrument from Phil Pickett:

Phil: Georg came up with the design. Georg is a craftsman and a carpenter and he had these very very kind of wild ideas. Some of them were quite impractical sometimes (Phil laughs), but we managed to find a way to build this thing and in fact some of the technical-minded musician listeners will understand what "midi" is today which means you can play lots of different instruments at one time with a keyboard. At that time something like this didn't exist yet, so we created a mechanical version of what is known as "midi" today. Half of the time it did not work, but when it worked is was really fantastic! We had a piano-keyboard and underneath the piano-keyboard hidden inside the Nickelodeon was another keyboard. Stevie Wonder also used something like that, it was an "APR synthesizer". We drilled holes underneath it, and when you played a note on the piano another note was played on the other keyboard at the same time. On top of the piano there was another construction which was named the piano-mate. It made a dreadful sort of organ-sound. The pubs in England used to have these to make the sound wider. On top of the Nickelodeon was a very large glockenspiel made of a 24 electrical doorbell mechanism that we'd wired up, so that every time you played a piano note it made a contact on this doorbell mechanism which played a little note on the glockenspiel with a hammer (Phil laughs).

Song: The Old Nickelodeon Sound
Song: All I Need Is A Girl

Host: There we could here the Nickelodeon in "All I Need Is A Girl". 1978 it was one of the radio hits in Germany, place 40 in the charts. But SAILORs greatest hits came some years before that, 1975 in December: "A Glass Of Champagne". There is a legend about this song which says that Georg Kajanus had went on holiday shortly after the song was released and meanwhile the song became a hit. When Georg returned he was welcomed at the airport by his colleagues with a huge bottle of champagne. I confronted Phil Pickett with this story, and here's how he reacted:

Phil: (starts laughing) I think that sounds like something a journalist dreamt of to put in the newspaper. I must say that we had a lot of good reviews about our music in the newspapers. We had lots of concerts in England and a lot of work. the audience wanted us to do this. But we weren't selling enough records and so the record company put us under pressure to produce a hit single. Our sound was not comparable to other bands. Before "A Glass Of Champagne" we had no kind of pop-sound in our songs. Georg worked on that song and played us a demo. It was very simple. We worked on all these ideas. It is a fabulous songs and a great idea from Georg. Those actual simplicity of the lyrics, you know: I've got the money, I've got the place... Let's get together the two of us over a glass of champagne. It's just a great sentiment that lots of people can identify with.

Song: A Glass Of Champagne

Host: SAILOR here at Radio Darmstadt "Yester-Songs" with "A Glass Of Champagne". On 03 April 1976 the second hit "Girls Girls Girls" entered the English charts, and as you know the song became an evergreen. Phil Pickett reminds us of this time:

Phil: We were on a tour of Norway at that time. It was Georg's home country. We were a little bit disappointed with the reception we got when we went back to Norway. We thought we had hits everywhere. Georg had lived in Trondheim and we expected to be welcomed there on a red carpet. But nothing like that happened. Georg was very proud to be able to show us his country. We met his father, and many of his friends from school came to see our shows. We also saw the local harbour where Georg got his ideas from. After this show in Trondheim Georg introduced his idea for "Girls Girls Girls" to us. It was a very simple melody. After the show we stayed and worked on the arrangement of the song and we were looking forward to recording it which we did as soon as we got back to England. We went straight to Whitfield Street in the middle of London and recorded it more or less exactly the same as we'd rehearsed it a few days previously in Norway.

Song: "Girls Girls Girls"
Song: "Stiletto Heels"

Host: "Stiletto Heels" was SAILOR's third song in the German charts. On 11 October 1976 it entered the charts and the result was chart position # 12. That's a way to flaunt through the charts. Phil Pickett tells us what happens when you have got one drink too many:

Phil: "One Drink Too Many" is a song that once again we play in our live shows now, and the people love it. Everybody can relate to that feeling when you've had one drink too many and you want more than your body can actually stand. It's as if your mind wants to cash a cheque, but you can't cash it when you've had one drink too many, you know... (Phil laughs).

Song: "One Drink Too Many"

Host: 1977 SAILOR with "One Drink Too Many". Highest chart position in Germany # 22. But let's change the subject now. Let's imagine to be a businessman who wants to make a deal... "Put Your Mouth Where The Money Is" is a song that might go into this direction, and it was not composed by Georg Kajanus:

Phil: We started to say: Come on guys, we have other talents in the band (Phil laughs). This song was written by Grant and Henry. It was released on the album "Hideaway". (a note from MARINERO: that's not true - the song was released on the album "Checkpoint" in 1977!) Fortunately we had enough talented guys. "Put You Mouth Where the Money Is" is a fantastic song.

Song: "Put Your Mouth Where The Money Is"
Song: "The Runaway"

Host: SAILOR in the "Yester-Songs" with "The Runaway". Lead vocals by our interview partner Phil Pickett. Let's now talk about the next two songs which deal with Asia. The songs "Trouble In Hong Kong" and "Soapland. Well, when sailors come to an Asian harbour a lot of things can happen...

Phil: Ok, "Trouble In Hong Kong", how should we do this, you know, how should this sound? There is some cliché how songs like this might sound. It's for example in "China Girl" from David Bowie. It's the cliché how music from China or Japan has to sound - you know, that sort of little plinky-plonky.

Song: "Trouble In Hong Kong"
Song: "Soapland"

Host: SAILOR and "Soapland" - Tokyo is calling. When SAILOR started to become less successful they decided to break up. And Phil Pickett will now tell us why and how they suddenly decided to come back together again in 1990:

Phil: That was interesting because in 1979 we decided to stop, and everybody went off to do their own thing. I went off and joined Boy George with Culture Club. I was the only SAILOR member who had more live concerts with Culture Club than with SAILOR. In Culture Club I played keyboards. The other SAILOR guys did lots of different things. Henry Marsh did TV advertising music. Georg Kajanus had a group called DATA. Grant Serpell went on to teach Physics and Chemistry which he did very well. A publisher contacted us and asked us to get back together again and release a new album. So we got back together again and continued where we had stopped in the late 70s - with the same kind of music. Georg wanted to write the songs again and he had some great ideas. We told him to do it in the same kind of songwriting-style and we will see if it works. "The Secretary" was written in the same style as "A Glass Of Champagne": funny lyrics, great vocals, a twelve-string guitar. We thought the audience would like this. After ten years we went to the studio together again and the sound was still intact. "La Cumbia" was another new track. It shows the Latin side of the band. We've always had a strong affinity for Latin rhythms and music.

Song: "La Cumbia"
Song: "The Secretary"

Host: You double your trouble when you double your home... Here your wife and there your secretary... SAILOR "The Secretary" 1990. Chart position # 7 in Germany. Last question to Phil Pickett: If a fairy godmother came along and told you to make a wish, what would you say?

Phil: Well, of course on a very superficial level it would be fantastic to release a new SAILOR record and to have another great worldwide hit. That would be a fantastic experience! It would also be great to have the opportunity to perform SAILOR shows in front of a large audience. Sometimes it's a little strange when you can't only play your own songs. You'd be surprised what kind of music we play at shows like for example in Amsterdam. It's the typical SAILOR repertoire. We also perform at Oldie nights with many other bands from the 70s. We have a very good repertoire, but 99 % of the visitors of such Oldie nights haven't heard that music. I mean, people like yourself and many of our fans of course love us just to play songs that they remember from 25 years ago, but we have to add to the repertoire for modern audiences. So, I think if a fairy godmother came along I think I would say: Give us a lot more shows where we can just play our material." I mean, we love playing the hits and some of the other fun-things that we do like "La Bamba", or we do songs like "Pop Muzik" and we're doing a new medley like a party record at the moment of Latin inspired songs about girls.

Host: Special thanks to the translator for Phil Pickett. Our last song will be "Street Lamp". Goodbye and special thanks to Phil Pickett from Mark Stehle.

Phil: Thank you Mark, and thanks to all the listeners of Radio Darmstadt for listening to me. It was very enjoyable talking to you. And keep going out and listening to the music of SAILOR!

Song: "Street Lamp"

Saturday night, Dresden, Germany
Phil Pickett sounds off about punitive German tax policy that is penalising visiting 'foreign' artists
taken from "the works" - the magazine of the British Academy of composers and songwriters - issue 8 2001

I've just come off stage to a rip-roaring encore from 15.000 fans of SAILOR, the group I founded way back in 1973.
It may come as a surprise to some that loyal music fans literally in their tens of thousands (and not a zimmer-frame in sight - honest!) regularly flock to see SAILOR and a host of other UK bands from what is honoured and appreciated as the 'Golden Era' of classic pop and unique live entertainment.
A far cry indeed from the 'end of pier' mentality prevailing toward such shows on home ground. But fear not - I am not intending to use this prestigious organ to bemoan a commercial reality we all accept.
The fact is, as a writer and producer in an increasingly nervous industry, I still get an enormous kick out of performing live, allowing me out of my studio box to camp about on stage with my mates most weekends. Assembling at 'sparrow-fart am' for the red-eye to the Fatherland became a regular opportunity to export our wares and, in the process, earn valuable currency for ourselves, our country and our PRS.
Since the early days with SAILOR, then Culture Club, I always felt that playing live gives a huge boost to the delicate craft of songwriting, and in any event I am proud to represent a cultural phenomenon of which we as a nation are celebrated throughout the planet - and rightly so!
So far so good, but obviously as far as our EU neighbours the German Government were concerned (God bless 'em!) this party was just too good to be true, so they set about bursting a few of our pretty balloons.
Perceived as a cultural advantage of another EU member state - in particular UK musicians and writers - they decide to implement actions that many believe are at best a flagrant breach of both the letter and spirit of closer harmony and economic integration - and at worst, frankly illegal.
Authority unilaterally slapped on an extra 40 % on top of the already generous federal and local taxes - not only on the artists' fees but (wait for it!) on all flights, transport and even hotel costs of their UK visitors. 40 %. Not very neighbourly, that!
Dubbed the "foreign artist tax" (excuse me but didn't we join the EU to not be "foreign" anymore - level playing fields etc.?) it has become a nightmare for both German promoters and bands. You don't have to be Gordon Brown to realise that, whilst not exactly finishing us off, it has torpedoed the economic fundamentals of a thirving market previously in robust and rude health. Therefore, it must be eventually affect PRS income, the value of those timeless copyrights, and into the bargain deprives a huge and genuine market willing to pay good money to see and hear great UK music.
How can this not be viewed as anything other than a form of cultural discrimination, naked protectionism and clear restrain of trade of a small but successful minority? An ominous note, surely, on the ever-thickening wedge into income from music and the esteem and value of our works throughout the world.
Where I live in Oxford, many of our German friends are coming over in droves at present to build their BMWs - can you imagine the uproar if any other viable EU industry was interfered with this way? Why can't our Government protect a vital UK business as others do theirs?
Behind the mealy-mouthed rhetoric of Blair & Co. that is allowed to pass for debate on the EU, are, I believe, some vitally important issues which affect the future of our business as writers, performers and producers of music of which the above story is but one.
Will new Culture Minister Tessa Jowell or anyone out there who professes such high regard for our industry and its achievements therefore try to stem the relentless tide of the denigration of our musical heritage and livelihood? Or even the MU - come on guys, stop arguing amongst yourselves like the Torries, lobby a few people and get behind some real issues!
Now where's the bar? Fräulein - ein grosses Bier, bitte!

Interview for the DVD "Pirate Copy - Sailor Live In Concert"
November 2002:

Phil: I think that we wanted to do something a bit brave, and it was always a bit like 'oh god, short hair, white sailor suits, come on guys - what's going on?', but we made ourselves do it, and we got a fantastic reaction from people because everybody else at that time was wearing denim and had long hair and electric guitars and we just wanted to do something that had a sound of its own. We were creating a sound and a whole world of these harbour towns and sailors' nights on the town and things like that. It was quite difficult sometimes because all your mates are going 'what are you doing?', but I think a lot of people had respect for us because we were unique.

Question: Mandolins and glockenspiels are not normal instruments on hit records. How difficult was it to incorporate them into the recordings?

Phil: No, we just decided it on the template of the sound that we wanted to have as the original band with Georg, Henry, Grant and myself, and we made the whole thing work with four people. That was very important. The vocals and everything had to be performed. We were quite purist about that. We needed to do everything on stage like the way it was on the record. We didn't over-record and do lots of overdubs and thinks like that, we just kept it very simple and kept to that more European tradition of music.

Question: What was the link that brought all the original members of the group together?

Phil: Well, I guess it's true to say that originally I met Georg when I was working at a music publisher's in London and my job - it was my first job in the music business, and last - was to listen to tapes of people when they came in, like an A&R department really, and I heard Georg's music, I never met him, and I was just nuts about his music. My ambition was to form a band and to meet people who I felt I could work with and write with. Georg seemed to have everything. So I got in touch with him and somehow cheeky asked him if he'd mind writing with me as well. So we made an album together called "Kajanus Pickett" and then we decided after that to go separate ways for about six months. We thought it would be great to do it again, but with a band because we suffered from just being a duo. We were trying to be like "Hall and Oats" or something like that. Grant was a friend of Georg's and Henry was a friend of mine, so we got together and decided to form SAILOR.

Question: Do you think it's a bonus or a slight confusion that your image falls between the two stools of theatre and rock?

Phil: Quite possibly, yes. As you know we split up at the end of the 70s when punk came in and record companies just got rid of everybody unless you had a sort of safety pin through your nostril. I think we ran our natural course. And I guess we were then a pop band, but we didn't always consider ourselves as a pop band. When you listen to the first album "Sailor" it's far out, it's still my favourite album that we did. But there again we couldn't continue like that, we had to have the hits, we had to go through that machine, that whole kind of sausage factory. Not that I regret it, but I think now that we revisited the whole thing in the 90s and after the year 2000, we find that we can be more confident about that theatricality and have fun with it. It's not so much an experimental thing now. We really enjoy it.

Question: Does every change in the line-up bring you certain strength?

Phil: Oh definitely, yes. Everybody is expendable in this band because the arrangements and the songs are what it's all about. We're moving on a little bit now, doing some new recordings. But the sound is the thing, and we've play in very tight arrangements, I suppose in a way that bands like The Beach Boys did as well. I went to see Brian Wilson a few weeks ago, and everything was absolutely faithful to the records. That's what you want, that's what I want as a fan going to see. So that's what we do.

Question: What's your view on the present state of the music business?

Phil: It takes me a long time to answer that... I'm always very thrilled by pop music. I've always been involved in reasonable current things as well as enjoying what I do in SAILOR. I think the two help each other. But I think I'm disappointed at the moment a little bit with the trend of the whole industry going into the "pop idol" thing. Not that I resent those guys success, good luck to them, but I feel it cheapens the whole magic of what you're trying to create for the public. Because people see everything, how it's done, and then three weeks after if they fail, public completely loses interest. So, it's a television product, it's not a music product. These things come and go like a pendulum and come back again, and I've heard that record companies are signing bands again now, and not only factory-made pop artists. But however you get there - some of them are really good. Some of the runners-up are probably better than the winners.

Question: Are there any plans to take this band or this line-up into the studio?

Phil: We always threaten doing that. You have to find a worthwhile reason to do it. The promoters who have us on shows now, they want us to do a certain type of show. There's absolutely no point in playing new songs, maybe we play one or two new numbers. It depends. With the success of what we are trying to do now in the UK with this show and other concerts that we are trying to do in Europe, we would hope to do that, and then find a record company that will come in and say 'right, ok, let's do some new recordings'. But it's got to be relevant. When we first started we were very much into the pop thing with the kids and everything like that. I think we just have to find an avenue that will be worthwhile and enjoyable for us to do.

Question: As a songwriter, do you find that creative inspiration is something that has to be learned and perfected, or is it something like a gift?

Phil: I think there has to be a gift there to begin with. You get ideas and you have a desire to want to do that, instead of singing other peoples' songs or lyrics. But then I think it's like anything else, it's a lot of hard work. The motivation has to come first. And it's what I love doing, so I never need much motivation to write, that's the reason I'm into this, why I'm in bands, play with people, play on stage and everything.

Question: In the studio, did you have input into what was recorded and how it was produced?

Phil: We were lucky in that respect. We didn't have people coming down and telling us what we should do and what we shouldn't do. So it was very much our own creativity. We were trusted in the respect. I think maybe that has changed now with producers and things like that. But we kind of produced our own records, so we used to deliver it to the record company. Whether we could do that now I don't know, but we just worked it all out with the four of us.

Question: Which of your records are you particularly proud of?

Phil: Well, as I said, I think "Sailor", obviously the hits "Girls Girls Girls", "A Glass Of Champagne". I think "Sailor" is my favourite record because that was the blueprint of our sound. We've modified and moved on from that, but I think really that was the high spot. And then I think the second album "Trouble" was the hits and the success and everything like that. But I think "Sailor" was the favourit really.

Question: And finally Phil, any ambitions left that you personally want to fulfil within the band?

Phil: I'd like to see us have a hit again. We do other things as well as SAILOR. We produce and write - I say we do, I do it, and Peter does. But we are still doing it. We have ambitions, I have an ambition for SAILOR because it's a band that I formed with my mates. And I always think everything is possible. You never really know, the story is never written. I'm quite positive about that. It is difficult. We might just slot in there again and take off. If it doesn't happen, that's fair enough. We enjoy doing it, and we carry on doing it aynway. We found our little niche and we enjoy it. And if we have the success again, the joy of that would be to play for new and bigger audiences and having a lot more people come and see us.

Go to:

Georg Kajanus
Henry Marsh
Phil Pickett
Grant Serpell
Gavin & Virginia David
Peter Lincoln
Anthony England
Rob Alderton
Oliver Marsh
The crew...

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