This little known British band produced some killer power pop during the early 80s and should have been huuuuuge stars – but sadly they weren’t and their two LP’s remain a secret enjoyed by the knowledgeable few.
Formed in Liverpool by Henry Priestman and Martin Dempsey from the remains of an R&B band called Albert Dock in June 1977, Yachts sported short-sleeved pastel shirts, permapress trousers, deck shoes and haircuts only a mother could love.
The group pulled off smashing pop-rockers that in other hands could have sounded overblown and boring. Floating and complex keyboard parts with rich three and five-part harmonies, and pointedly clever lyrics.
Behind the geeky image lay a wry wit, spotted by Elvis Costello when the band supported him at Liverpool club, Eric’s in July 1977.
A contract with Stiff followed in October ’77, and the band released pop gem Suffice To Say before defecting with Costello to Radar Records (at which point JJ Campbell left the group) where they recorded two albums.
The sound on their self-titled debut album was reminiscent of Squeeze (same cheesy Farfisa keyboard sound) with very catchy tunes and clever funny lyrics – as in Mantovani’s Hits which imagines a world where Elvis Presley records had not been hits but Mantovani’s had, or Box 202 where the guys’ girlfriend is killed in a plane crash so he puts out a classified ad to look for a replacement.
Love You Love You, meanwhile, was a bonafide new wave classic, featuring an immortal chorus: “I wouldn’t climb any mountain for you/Ford any stream/That’s a daft thing to do”.
The Yacht’s second LP, Without Radar (the album title referred to the emasculation of their former label, Radar Records), was released in 1980 and contained classic songs with intricate structures such as Life Saving is Easy and March of the Moderates.
Sadly (along with The Sinceros), Yachts will probably always remain one of the great underrated bands of British pop history.
JJ (John) Campbell