Beach Boys – Sloop John B

This is a traditional West Indies tune about a sunken boat. It was adapted in 1951 by Lee Hays of the Weavers (as “The John B Sails”) and revived in 1960 by Lonnie Donegan.

This was the biggest hit from The Beach Boys landmark album Pet Sounds. The album’s origin was basically Brian Wilson, and he got the title when Beach Boy Mike Love suggested the album had Brian’s “pet” sounds or his favorite sounds. To keep the animal theme, Wilson put some barking dogs on the album.

Al Jardine on Pet Sounds: Mike Love was very confused … Mike’s a formula hound – if it doesn’t have a hook in it, if he can’t hear a hook in it, he doesn’t want to know about it. … I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the change, but I grew to really appreciate it as soon as we started to work on it. It wasn’t like anything we’d heard before.”

The song peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100, #2 in Canada, #1 in New Zealand, and #2 in the Uk in 1966.

 

From Songfacts

The Beach Boys’ folk music buff, Al Jardine, turned Brian Wilson onto the Kingston Trio’s recording of the song. For their updated version, Wilson added elaborate vocals and a 12-string guitar part. He also changed some of the lyrics, including “This is the worst trip since I’ve been born” to “…I’ve ever been on” as a wink to acid culture.

The song was popularized by The Kingston Trio, who adapted it from a version in poet Carl Sandburg’s 1927 songbook The American Songbag. The Kingston Trio’s version stays true to the song’s Calypso roots, and was released on their first album in 1958. Eight years later, The Beach Boys changed the title to “Sloop John B,” and came away with a hit. Their debt to The Kingston Trio goes far beyond this song: The Beach Boys adopted the group’s striped, short-sleeved shirts and wholesome persona as well. 

With Wilson at the controls, the album was recorded at United Western Recorders in Los Angeles, in the studio known as “Western 3.” Wilson coaxed a big sound out of the little room, which measured just 14′ x 34′.

Brian Wilson hired 13 musicians to record this song on a midnight – 3 a.m. session on July 12, 1965. The session players packed into United Western Recorders in Los Angeles that night were:

Hal Blaine (drums)
Carol Kaye (electric bass)
Al De Lory (keyboards)
Al Casey (guitar)
Lyle Ritz (upright bass)
Billy Strange (guitar)
Jerry Cole (guitar)
Frank Capp (Glockenspiel)
Jay Migliori (clarinet)
Steve Douglas and Jim Horn (flutes)
Jack Nimitz (sax)
Charles Britz (engineer)

Billy Strange did some guitar overdubs at another session on December 29, 1965.

According to pop historian Joseph Murrells, this was the Beach Boys’ fastest selling record to date – over 500,000 within two weeks in the US alone.

Sloop John B

We come on the Sloop John B
My grandfather and me
Around Nassau town we did roam
Drinking all night
Got into a fight
Well I feel so broke up
I want to go home

So hoist up the John B’s sail
See how the main sail sets
Call for the Captain ashore
Let me go home, let me go home
I want to go home, yeah yeah
Well I feel so broke up
I want to go home

The first mate he got drunk
And broke in the Cap’n’s trunk
The constable had to come and take him away
Sheriff John Stone
Why don’t you leave me alone, yeah yeah
Well I feel so broke up, I want to go home

So hoist up the John B’s sail
See how the main sail sets
Call for the Captain ashore
Let me go home, let me go home
I want to go home, let me go home
Why don’t you let me go home
(Hoist up the John B’s sail)
Hoist up the John B
I feel so broke up I want to go home
Let me go home

The poor cook he caught the fits
And threw away all my grits
And then he took and he ate up all of my corn
Let me go home
Why don’t they let me go home
This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on

So hoist up the John B’s sail
See how the main sail sets
Call for the Captain ashore
Let me go home, let me go home
I want to go home, let me go home
Why don’t you let me go home

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

22 thoughts on “Beach Boys – Sloop John B”

  1. My wife and I saw Brian Wilson perform last weekend in Miami. He arrived via walker, sat down slowly and then his band proceeded to blow the audience away with a nostalgic trip into the Beach Boys music past. I’m just now understanding the creative genius of Pet Sounds album.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is sad that he needs a walker now…but yes if he didn’t have his troubles he may have had a few more but he gave plenty

      Like

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