The old dreams were good dreams; they didn't work out but I'm glad I had them.
― Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County
Dreams are a funny thing. Very few of them actually come true. Yet we keep building new ones daily. We can’t help it, we need them. They are born from all our random feelings and thoughts and seem to appear just in time to heal our wounds of disappointment: “Maybe I’ll still visit China one day,” “Maybe I’ll get that job next time” or “Maybe I’ll accidentally meet someone who appreciates me.” It’s a simple concept. What fails to happen is first transformed into a litany of “maybes” and then before you know it, a fully-fledged dream has formed, reassuring us that all might not be lost, that there’s still time for us to achieve things, to even find happiness.
An older colleague once told me that by the time we approach our fifties, we go through what he referred to as an "inventory of dreams” to figure out which dreams have come true, which have been buried and which ones we’re still stocking for future reference. I suppose this makes sense. Seems to me the older we get, the more we reflect on our past. For the most part, it’s realizing how different our life turned out to be from what we once imagined, and how few of our dreams actually came true. These are bitter sweet moments and it’s during moments like this that I usually go to my CD collection and pull out Sailor’s Third Step and treat myself to the wonderful instrumental that closes the album, “Melancholy.”
I must admit, I don’t much listen to instrumentals. This is for the simple reason that for them to truly work, they need to be spectacular. You see a song with mediocre lyrics can be a kick-ass tune if it has a great melody. Similarly, a brilliant set of lyrics can save a weak composition. Also, if the band is hot, I might enjoy a solid delivery even if I don’t think much of the song. However, with instrumentals, it’s a different story. They don’t necessarily have that hot little band to fall back on nor do they have a vocalist delivering a set of lyrics with passion. It’s like they are a lot more naked to the ear than vocal music, which makes them more fragile, in a sense at least. Yet, over the years, I’ve encountered quite a few outstanding instrumental pieces that I keep returning to from time to time and Sailor’s “Melancholy” is one of them.
The thing about this British pop group from the seventies led by Georg Kajanus is that it produced a wealth of great material both in the seventies and nineties and yet, radio stations all over the world seem to play only two songs by them, “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Glass Of Champagne.” These are great tracks but let’s face it, they are not the only Sailor tunes worthy of attention. Of course, it doesn’t help that Sailor decided to go on without Kajanus (their lead singer and principal songwriter) when the charismatic front man decided to call it quits in the mid-nineties. The group soldiered on, churning out songs and albums that were mediocre at best, leading many to believe there wasn’t much more to them than the few hits we sometimes hear in their car on our way to work. Mind you, it wasn’t that the ultra-musical Picket, Serpell and Marsh weren’t great songwriters. They were. They just couldn’t quite match Kajanus’ talent in writing memorable tunes. And in the world of pop music, this usually makes all the difference. Even though this threesome wrote songs such as “Put Your Mouth Where Your Money Is,” “Nickelodeon Nights” and “Stranger In Paris,” all of which I rank among the group’s finest songs, the consistency in writing tunes of this caliber just wasn’t there anymore sans Kajanus.
An intriguing figure, Kajanus was born in 1946 to a family that was far from ordinary. His father was Prince Pavel Tjegodiev of Russia and his mother Johanna Kajanus, a French-Finnish sculptress. Although a prince himself, Kajanus was always more interested in exploring the world of fine arts than his royal heritage. As a grandson of Robert Kajanus, a famous composer and confident of Jean Sibelius, Kajanus had a natural gift for music, which he began to develop early on. However, although his primary interest, Kajanus has made it clear time and again in interviews that music has never been the only art form he feels passionate about: “When I write music, I am a composer. But when I paint or write, my interests are simply painting or writing.”
In terms of Georg’s family heritage, having famous parents and relatives has also had its disadvantages, especially in the case of his rumbunctious grandfather. Once he achieved fame with Sailor, Kajanus has been on numerous occasions accused of inheriting his grandfather’s less flattering traits. Says Kajanus jokingly in a 1991 fan-club letter to his fans:
I finally made my way to Helsinki so that I could shift through the mountains of material in various archives and sort out, once and for all, the facts concerning my great-grandfather Robert Kajanus. He was a celebrated conductor and interpreter of the work of his close friend, Jean Sibelius, and was instrumental in bringing his music to the rest of the world. In Finland, Kajanus was equally well known for his womanizing and living it up in the shady milieu of the decadent arts community of turn-of-the-century Helsinki. I have, on several occasions, been accused of having inherited some of his more disreputable traits. These are, of course, all lies.
Be that as it may, one trait Georg did share with his grandfather was his love of music. His first musical crush was Elvis Presley and slightly later, the French chanson. Throughout his childhood, Georg was surrounded by classical music due to his grandfather’s legacy and while living in Canada in the early sixties, he became interested in both folk and Latin music. Keeping these diverse influences in mind, it’s hardly surprising that when Georg teamed up with Phil Pickett in the late sixties to form Sailor, his vision was that of a group that would not be tied down to just one genre. In the case of Sailor, quite often all these different musical styles were melted into something thoroughly original that at best can be described as the definitive sound of Sailor. I challenge you to listen to this band and attempt to find a sound-alike. If you truly understand music, you’ll find this a tricky task.
Another tricky task for anyone checking them out is to make sense of their discography. So many original albums and compilations have been released under the name Sailor that for a casual fan, it’s difficult to know which ones are the classic albums. Sailor recorded seven albums with Kajanus at the helm (five in the seventies and two in the nineties) and it’s these albums that the band is famous for. To avoid confusion, I’ll list them at the end of this post. However, a good rule of thumb is that if you are holding an album that doesn’t have Georg Kajanus on it, put it down and keep looking. And in case you are wondering what Georg himself would recommend to you, here’s what he said in a FRK radio interview in 2003, when asked whether he has a favorite Sailor tune:
It's really difficult because I wrote so much of it, or pretty much all of it. It's a little bit difficult to have favorites, but I think if I'm really honest I suppose the very first album meant probably more to me than any of the subsequent ones simply because it was the realization of a dream if you like.
Speaking of dreams, while it’s great that some of them do come true (especially if they result in something as spectacular as Sailor’s debut), one thing I’ve grasped over the years is that it’s actually fortunate some of our dreams never materialize. We don’t always know what’s best for us and let’s face it, most things we want aren’t necessarily what we need – sometimes they are the exact opposite. In addition, we shouldn’t really get lost in too many “what ifs.” You see, as soon as you start reflecting on issues carefully, you realize that if you remove just one person from your life, with him or her goes out quite a few accomplishments and experiences. I know I’m not ready to sacrifice the good that came with the choices I’ve made. Hence I never really look back with regret. You shouldn’t either. In fact, if it’s not too much trouble, why don’t you pour yourself a stiff drink, put on your headphones, follow the above link to YouTube, press play and celebrate with me the choices we’ve made. And as “Melancholy” transports you to a more tranquil and lucid part of your mind, remember, nothing ever happens without a reason. Close your eyes and let this beautiful, albeit a short composition, remind you of the old saying I find myself whispering under my breath more and more as the years pass on: Be careful what you wish for because it just might come true.
Due to "Melnacholy" not being available on Spotify, I’ve added another killer Sailor track to the playlist, “Precious Form.” Go give it a listen.
1976 The Third Step
1992 Street Lamp
Track Sponsor Of The Month: Effigy by The Impersonators
“Effigy” describes that moment in all our lives, when we realize that we‘ve grown tired of protecting our ego, that moment when we are done worrying about how we appear to others. Rather than wanting to be cool or important, we want to be happy and discover our true identity. And the best way to achieve this is to kill our ego.
You can learn more about Sailor here:
About the curator - Tommi Tikka
Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.