SAILOR ~ On the crest of a wave

Most groups find that having their first hit record changes their lives completely. But for SAILOR, things haven't really altered much. In fact, they're quite happy to carry on just the - same as usual.

Although "A Glass Of Champagne" and "Girls Girls Girls" were the group's first chart successes here in Britain, they'd already had several hits on the Continent. In Holland, for instance, both their albums, "Sailor" and "Trouble" had already gone gold.
So, as the group's singer and songwriter Georg Kajanus explained, SAILOR's current success has hardly affected him at all! "I hoped that 'A Glass Of Champagne' would be a hit of some sort," he said. "But obviously, I was very pleased to see just how far it got. It didn t change my life much, though - I think that in this business, you're always rushing about so much that there just isn't time to sit down and think about things like that. "Perhaps there's a sort of delayed reaction, and one day it'll suddenly hit me that we've made it at last! But in the long term I think it'll be good for our concerts, and that's really what's most important to us."
Although the boys are all very serious about their concerts, that doesn't mean they have a solemn stage act. In fact, one of the reasons they're so popular is because their live shows are such great fun!
"One of the best things about having hit records is that it more or less guarantees that we'll be playing to big audiences," Phil Pickett told me. "That's great, because we always play better to a packed audience.
"We are serious about our music, but it's meant to be fun, and we don't take show business too seriously. We like to have a good time onstage, but the most important thing is that we create an atmosphere so that everybody can feel part of it. Obviously, we like it if people listen to the music, but the main point is for them to have a really good time. We've noticed that some fans dress up in sailor suits and follow us round from concert to concert, and if they have fun doing that, that's fantastic. I can remember doing things like that when I was younger!"
The group's nautical image has obviously been important in getting them noticed. Onstage, they wear the clothes you've probably seen on TV - old-fashioned sailors' outfits like striped T-shirts and caps, with scarves knotted round their necks. They even have a backdrop of a harbour scene to complete the atmosphere!
So how did all that come about? Henry Marsh, whose stage costume is that very distinctive baggy white suit, explained what happened. "At first, we tried to plan an image for ourselves," he said, "but as we've worked together, things have gradually changed, and now our image is not at all what we expected it to be! Now I think things happen much more naturally. We all just do what we want. For instance, I crack jokes when I feel like it, Georg is the front-man, Grant has his own, individual personality, and Phil is becoming more bouncy all the time."
Drummer Grant Serpell agrees that the group all work well together - but in their own individual ways. "We like to think of the group as fresh and happy," he said. "We're all playing music that we enjoy ourselves, and I hope that comes across onstage. We're all friends, of course. In fact we were mates before we ever thought of forming a band together. Our original idea in forming the group was to get together just to make records, but at the same time, carrying on with our separate and very different careers. I was a funky drummer, Phil was a gospel style songwriter, Henry was playing lead guitar in a rock group, and Georg was a folk-type songwriter. So when you think about it, it's surprising that it all came together the way it did!"
But come together it did, and now the boys are one of the most successful acts in Britain. This spring, they did their first big tour of the country, which turned out to be a huge success.
"The most wonderful thing about playing in this group is that we play to an audience, and they all sing along," said Grant. "Sometimes I think that we don't need to sing at all - we can just let them do it for us! I think bands should entertain. I don't think people want to hear miserable and depressing songs, they want to go out and enjoy themselves. Onstage, we try to use things like lights to create a little world of our own. I hope people will remember us as being fun."
Apart from their stage act, the songs themselves are interesting in their own right. They're all written by Georg, and as you've probably guessed, with titles like "Blue Desert" and "Sailor's Night On The Town," a lot of them are about the lives of sailors!
"I'm probably Georg's biggest fan," Grant told me. "I think his stuff's just amazing!" So where does Georg get his ideas from? "Ideas can come from anywhere, and can occur at any time," he said. "But I usually need my own little sound room to work in. I've got the equipment I need to try things out in different ways in there. I look upon song-writing as two different things - inspiration, which can happen on a bus, or anywhere in fact, and secondly, if the idea's still with you when you get home and still seems OK, the hard work of making that thought into a complete song."
Georg says he's always been fascinated by a life on the ocean wave! "That sort of lifestyle has always appealed to me," he said, "maybe because I travelled a lot myself when I was younger. I'm actually Norwegian by birth, but I spent a lot of time in South America - so my songs do tend to have a slightly international flavour! Actually, although most of the songs on our first album, 'Sailor' were about sailors and the harbour and things, I think there's more variety on our second one, Trouble. And I intend to go on widening my scope."
So at the moment, the future looks very bright for Georg and the others. Their fan following Is growing all the time, and they have lots of exciting plans. In fact, when I spoke to them, they were Just about to set off on a big tour of America.
But despite all this excitement, Georg still insists that his life hasn't changed! "I don't really feel like anything you could describe as a pop star," he laughed. "So far, anyway! Well, I suppose I feel just a bit like it when I'm appearing on 'Top Of The Pops' and I'm surrounded by lots of very lovely young ladies! Maybe it will change in the future, but at the moment, I'm just very happy if people like what I write."
Henry says he feels the same way as Georg. "I must admit," he said, "when we first made the charts, the prospect of having a big fan following scared me a bit! I'd never really understood before what it was like to have people coming up and speaking to me as though they were friends, when in fact they'd never even met me before! I'm beginning to get used to it now though, and it's fine. But if I think about it, it still makes me a bit nervous."
Receiving lots of attention from fans is still quite a new experience for the boys, but they appreciate it, because it shows that their popularity is increasing all the time. They're very happy to have got this far, but their ambitions don't stop there. Now, they're just determined to make it even bigger!
Henry summed up what everyone felt as he talked about their ambitions for the future.
"I think I'm more abmbitious now than I was before this all started," he said. "Once you've seen a little bit of what you can achieve, you just start hoping that more and more people will listen to you.
"It's not the money that's important - it's just the audience reaction. Really, all our ideals are mixed up with our live performances. We haven't got a message - in fact we're not even a real rock group! Well, we're not people's usual idea of what a rock group's like, anyway! But we do get a good reaction from our audiences, and so, for us, the real enjoyment is lust to carry on doing that!"


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