Smooth sailing still for Yacht Rock se­ries

Re­vivals from ’70s and ’80s fuel grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of web show born 11 years ago


There aren’t too many web sen­sa­tions of 2006 that can still en­ter­tain us: few are de­lighted by Jud­son Laip­ply’s “Evo­lu­tion of Dance” any­more, and a pass­ing ref­er­ence to Snakes on a Plane is un­likely to elicit even a smile. Yet some­how, Yacht Rock en­dures — and thrives.

The mock­u­men­tary se­ries about the cre­ation of smooth Cal­i­for­nia rock (Michael McDon­ald, Kenny Log­gins, Christo­pher Cross, etc.) from roughly 1978 to 1983 hit a sweet spot — hu­mour, proper sto­ries told with a crack­ing pace and gen­uine rev­er­ence for well-crafted ra­dio sta­ples — right from when it de­buted at Chan­nel 101, an L.A. in­die-film event.

Soon that first episode and those that fol­lowed were posted on­line — “not an easy thing to do” at the time, se­ries co-cre­ator J.D. Ryz­nar re­mem­bers — and a part of web his­tory was made. And it’s not over: a lively cult per­sists and will take over the Royal Cinema on Wed­nes­day for a screen­ing of all 12 episodes and a con­cert by a band lov­ingly bring­ing the genre of the ti­tle — a genre named and de­fined by the se­ries creators — to life.

The se­ries is en­tirely “re­spon­si­ble for me lis­ten­ing to and ac­tu­ally en­joy­ing the smooth, pol­ished music that I’d pre­vi­ously dis­missed as adult con­tem­po­rary ra­dio schlock,” says David Ber­trand, the Royal film pro­gram­mer re­spon­si­ble for the night’s fes­tiv­i­ties. He reg­u­larly screened the se­ries for friends at a Mon­treal cine- ma years ago, and fell un­der the spell of the likes of “I Keep For­get­tin’ ” and “Ride Like the Wind” un­til the music be­came, he says, part of his life’s fab­ric.

“I would not have bought tick­ets to Hall & Oates last year were it not for watch­ing Yacht Rock,” Ber­trand says in an email, “nor would ‘You Make My Dreams’ have been the tune at my wed­ding af­ter we tied the knot.”

Ryz­nar, talk­ing from Cal­i­for­nia, re­mem­bers how he and some friends, mostly strug­gling to break into Hol­ly­wood, came to fall for the music in a sim­i­lar way, es­pe­cially its re­laxed, earthy ’70s es­thetic: “We were just ob­sessed with that time pe­riod, as I think a lot of guys in their 30s and 40s are . . . cool guys with hairy chests.”

And so they be­gan to retell the story of that music’s cre­ation, as they imag­ined it: Log­gins and McDon­ald get into a back-al­ley song brawl with Hall and Oates; Vin­cent Price uses the su­per­nat­u­ral to coax “Hu­man Na­ture” out of Michael Jack­son; a movie sound­track hit is needed to de­feat an alien race. Cults, karate, me­dieval agri­cul­ture: it all got thrown into the mix.

The early days of Chan­nel 101 fea­ture an im­pres­sive ros­ter of hus­tling sto­ry­tellers from the per­spec­tive of 2017: Dan Har­mon, of Com­mu­nity and Rick and Morty is the co-cre­ator of sev­eral pro­grams; Rick and Morty’s other orig­i­na­tor, an­i­ma­tor Justin Roi­land, started here with the now in­fa­mous House of Cos­bys; the ef­forts of the Lonely Is­land team (Andy Sam­berg and friends) led di­rectly to Satur­day Night Live.

Yet maybe even more than those ef­forts, it’s Ryz­nar’s show (co-created with Hunter Stair, who por­trays Log­gins, and Lane Farn­ham) that con­tin­u­ally gets re­dis­cov­ered on­line, and its legacy grows in sur­pris­ing ways.

In 2015, Sir­ius XM created a sea­sonal Yacht Rock satel­lite ra­dio chan­nel and soon made it per­ma­nent. In 2007, John Oates cred­ited the se­ries with re­viv­ing Hall and Oates’ for­tunes; Log­gins and McDon­ald helped cre­ate Thun­der­cat’s re­cent hit “Show You the Way” and, ear­lier this month, per­formed it with him on The Tonight Show.

Ryz­nar shrugs off any credit for the resur­gence by the artists he loves, say­ing that at most, the se­ries’ con­tin­ued pop­u­lar­ity “gives their peo­ple some­thing new (to use) to say ‘Let’s give these guys another push.’ ”

Its legacy for him, though, is un­de­ni­able. Sir­ius XM brought in him and fel­low Yacht Rock alumni to help pro­gram the chan­nel and the ex­pe­ri­ence in­spired them to cre­ate Be­yond Yacht Rock, a lively pod­cast in which they name and de­fine new mu­si­cal sub-gen­res (some quite in­spired: you hardly need to be told what “Divorcecore” is).

Be­yond that, the se­ries helped Ryz­nar break into Hol­ly­wood and into what he calls “a blue-col­lar writ­ing ca­reer,” adding that one fan of the se­ries has proved im­por­tant far be­yond the realm of busi­ness.

“Got a wife and two kids out of it,” says a sat­is­fied-sound­ing Ryz­nar. “That’s not too bad.”


In Yacht Rock’s 11th episode, J.D. Ryz­nar stars as Michael McDon­ald, Hunter Stair as Kenny Log­gins and Wy­att Cenac as James Ingram. All 12 episodes of the show will be on tap at the Royal Cinema on Wed­nes­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.