Smooth Sailin’ – Yacht Rock Putting The Hard On In Chardonnay

When I was little, I used to pour over my Dad’s records, which were mostly divided into two camps: Beatles and Rolling Stones. I loved the colorful Beatles record jackets, especially Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Peppers. The Stones records intrigued me; I knew the zipper on Sticky Fingers records was something I wasn’t supposed to touch, but I wasn’t sure why. Between Bowie, Queen, some K Tel classics and my Star Wars records, these were in heavy rotation.

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Curiously there was a third pile, which I didn’t quite get. The Doobie Brothers, Loggins and Messina and their ilk, with their long hair, Hawaiian shirts, and high-pitched harmonies, annoyed my post-toddler glam rock sensibilities and thus, those records remained on the shelf.  I guess between Chewbacca and Ch-Ch-Changes, I didn’t have time for the pastel suited dudes who looked like guest stars on a fey version of Miami Vice. But with my up bringing, you’d think I would have…

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I grew up summering on Cape Cod, where the adults wore coral necklaces and collars up at clambakes and spoke about the Vineyard (Martha’s) and Vicodin. I was basically bred as the preppy spawn of Yacht Rock, yet it repelled me. Like hair metal, I looked down on it until later on in life, when I could appreciate both the kitsch value and sonic delight. I can now fully appreciate those deliciously smooth sounds.

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Cut to the new millennium and mid-naughts. A resurgence in sampling, especially the ever-popular Michael Jackson, has led to a lot of smooth music being used in contemporary tracks. The YouTube comedy series “Yacht Rock” becomes a massive cult hit. Popular electro dance band, Chromeo, appear, un-ironically, on Daryl Hall’s internet program ‘Live From Daryl’s House‘.  Yacht Rock’s captain, Michael McDonald, recurs as a running punch line over several seasons of 30 Rock and then makes an appearance singing on their finale episode. Andy Samberg raps about the pleasures of being on the great big watery road with a nautical themed pashmina afghan.  As the Marina music clans begin putting together reunion tours and retrospectives, yacht rock parties start popping up around Hollywood. It’s a ‘Wassup Yacht Rockers!’ world. Everyone seems to want to rock out on the open sea.

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Enter the Knights Of Monte Carlo. They play hard-core soft rock and ‘put the ass back in class and the hard on in chardonnay’.  The Knights of Monte Carlo are distinctly rich, gorgeously handsome, flawlessly refined sextet dedicated to resurrecting the best music ever to have hit the airwaves– 70’s soft rock. Because of their incredible talent and unparalleled style they frequently attract chic and pulchritudinous admirers from around the world, making Knights of Monte Carlo the most popular and internationally sought after soft rock tribute ensemble of all time…this is all self-professed.

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I regale a friend about this group and convince her to dress in tropical splendor and accompany me for this three-hour tour. We decide that we need a yacht club persona. My friend chooses the soccer mom sensitive Cheryl Connerson, while I choose Debbie Finkelstein. Half way to the show, I decide to change the name to St Germaine, knowing a Finkelstein can sometimes have issues with the advisory board at a yacht club.

At the Key Club, a nautical flag sign denoted a VIP Entrance (actually the elevator), which whisked us aboard a room decorated with a Tequila Sunrise backdrop, and life preservers. Men in white linen suits and mirrored sunglasses beckoned us to come aboard for some pina colada and wine spritzer specials. For those not into health food, but into champagne, Knights Of Monte Carlo bass player, Brad Bayliner, held court at his International Cheese and Cracker Tasting – complete with gouda, Carrs, grapes and a Wall Street Journal. Yuppies Ahoy!

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With tongue firmly planted in cheeks, the sextet took the stage and posed, postured, and karate kicked and flexed their way through a set including Doobies, Ambrosia, Loggins, Cross, Air Supply, America and Chicago. Can you Dig it? Yes, I can.  But wait, there’s more in this K Tel show. Toto? Yes, Toto too. Was the set missing some McDonald? That’s what a fool believes – he was aptly represented. A show sans Hall and Oates? No can do. The Knights can’t go for that, and neither should you.

The Knights were totally smooth, save for a few Rolexes and rope bracelet in danger of getting in the way of their fret work. Hey, that’s what a little Riuniti on ice will do to a guy. While Doc Spyders crooned the Escape song and shook his ass, Montague, dressed like a judo master, gave a shiatsu massage to the congos, elbows and all. During the drum break, Doc did yoga poses as Brad lit up a tobacco pipe.

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Next the Knights sequed into some Fleetwood Mac, a rousing rendition of Go Your Own Way which would have made Lindsay and Stevie at the Staples center across town, very proud. There were hits for the ladies too. Somebody’s Baby, Summer Breeze, Easy Like Sunday Morning, Ride Like The Wind and Africa, made the ladies sway like they were finding their sea legs at high tide. Knights drummer, Bobby Colada, even dedicated a song to Debbie St. Germaine (nee Finkelstein) noting how hard it can be to get into the yacht club with their (ahem) restrictions. Then the band launched into Rosanna. Meet you all the way, indeed.

Rounding out the night with some Robbie Dupree and Gerry Rafferty, KOMC’s Rico Morgan, was a master on the Korg keys and saxophone. Nelson Borealis wandered out onto the deck amongst the passengers for some smooth electric guitar. Brad gave a cheese update. Doc pulled up his white socks from his deck shoes and leapt over the mic stand; a finale of their white man choreography. I haven’t danced, or laughed, that hard in a while.

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The normally staid preppy crowd whistled and yelled for more as if we were watching Bon Jovi in ’88. But the Knights had such a long way to go to make it to the border of Mexico. So they bid us all a bon voyage and asked us to come get smooth next Thursday for the continuation of their residency. It’d take a lot to drag me away from them.

Key Club – Thursday nights. Ya mo be there.

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