Sloop John B

Infobox Single
Name = Sloop John B

Cover size =
Caption =
Artist = The Beach Boys
Album = Pet Sounds
A-side =
B-side = "You're So Good to Me"
Released = March 21, 1966
Format = Vinyl
Recorded = Western Studios
July 12, 1965
December 22, 1966
December 29, 1965
Genre = Baroque Pop
Length = 3:01
Label = Capitol 5602
Writer = Traditional
Producer = Brian Wilson
Certification =
Last single = "Barbara Ann"/"Girl Don't Tell Me" (1965)
This single = "Sloop John B"/"You're So Good to Me" (1966)
Next single = "Wouldn't It Be Nice"/"God Only Knows" (1966)
Misc =Extra track listing
Album = Pet Sounds
Type = studio
Tracks = #"Wouldn't It Be Nice"
#"You Still Believe in Me"
#"That's Not Me"
#"Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)"
#"I'm Waiting for the Day"
#"Let's Go Away for Awhile"
#"Sloop John B"
#"God Only Knows"
#"I Know There's an Answer"
#"Here Today"
#"I Just Wasn't Made for These Times"
#"Pet Sounds"
#"Caroline, No"

"Sloop John B" is the seventh track on The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" album and was also a single which was released in 1966 on Capitol Records. It was originally a traditional West Indies folk song, possibly recorded earliest by The Weavers under the title "Wreck of the John B", the song taken from a collection by Carl Sandburg (1927). Alan Lomax made a field recording of the song in Nassau, 1935, under the title "Histe Up the John B. Sail". This recording appears on the album "Bahamas 1935: Chanteys And Anthems From Andros And Cat Island". [ [ listing for Alan Lomax field recording] ] The song was adapted by Weavers member Lee Hays. The recording of the song which directly influenced The Beach Boys was by The Kingston Trio.

This version was ranked #271 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time [cite web|url=|title=The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time||accessdate=2008-09-21] .

The "John B." was an old sponger boat whose crew were in the habit of getting notoriously merry whenever they made port. It was wrecked and sunk at Governor's Harbour in Eleuthera, the Bahamas, in about 1900.Fact|date=March 2008

Beach Boys version

Idea for the song

The Beach Boys' Alan Jardine, who was a keen folk music fan, suggested to Brian Wilson that the Beach Boys should do a cover version of "Sloop John B". As Jardine explains::Brian was at the piano. I asked him if I could sit down and show him something. I laid out the chord pattern for 'Sloop John B'. I said, 'Remember this song?' I played it. He said, 'I'm not a big fan of the Kingston Trio.' He wasn't into folk music. But I didn't give up on the idea. So what I did was to sit down and play it for him in the Beach Boys idiom. I figured if I gave it to him in the right light, he might end up believing in it. So I modified the chord changes so it would be a little more interesting. The original song is basically a three-chord song, and I knew that wouldn't fly. So I put some minor changes in there, and it stretched out the possibilities from a vocal point of view. Anyway, I played it, walked away from the piano and we went back to work. The very next day, I got a phone call to come down to the studio. Brian played the song for me, and I was blown away. The idea stage to the completed track took less than 24 hours. [The Pet Sounds Sessions: "The Making Of Pet Sounds" booklet, pg. 25�26 ]

Choosing the lead vocalist

Al Jardine then explains that Brian "then lined us up one at a time to try out for the lead vocal. I had naturally assumed I would sing the lead, since I had brought in the arrangement. It was like interviewing for a job. Pretty funny. He didn't like any of us. My vocal had a much more mellow approach because I was bringing it from the folk idiom. For the radio, we needed a more rock approach. Brian and Mike ended up singing it. But I had a lot of fun bringing the idea to the band. It was very rewarding in every way but one; I was never given label credit for my contribution." [The Pet Sounds Sessions: "The Making Of Pet Sounds" booklet, pg. 26 ] On the final recording, Brian Wilson sang the first and third verses, while Mike Love sang the second verse. The box set "The Pet Sounds Sessions" includes two alternate takes, one with Carl Wilson singing lead on the first two verses, and one with Brian Wilson singing all parts.

Lyrics changes

Brian Wilson changed the lyrics in three of the lines of the song. He changed the lyric "This is the worst trip since I've been born" to "This is the worst trip I've ever been on". He also changed the lyric "I feel so break up" to "I feel so broke up." The line "broke into the people's trunk" is changed to "Broke in the captain's trunk."


The single, backed with the B side "You're So Good to Me", was released on March 21, 1966. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart on April 2, and peaked at #3 on May 7, remaining on the chart, in total, for 11 weeks. It also charted highly throughout the world, remaining as one of the Beach Boys' most popular and memorable hits.


*"Written by:" Traditional
*"Arranged by:" Brian Wilson
*"Time:" 2 min 56 sec
*"Produced by:" Brian Wilson
*"Instrumental track:" recorded July 12, 1965 at Western Recorders, Hollywood, California. Engineered by Chuck Britz
*"Vocals track:" recorded December 22, 1965 at Western Recorders, Hollywood, California
*"New lead vocal and 12 string electric guitar overdub:" recorded December 29, 1965 at Western Recorders, Hollywood, California
*"High harmony lead and additional backing tracks:" recorded January 1966 at Western Recorders, Hollywood, California


*Brian Wilson: Lead Vocals
*Mike Love: Lead Vocals
*Al Jardine: Harmony Vocals
*Carl Wilson: Harmony Vocals
*Dennis Wilson: Harmony Vocals
*Hal Blaine: drums
*Ron Swallow: Tambourine
*Lyle Ritz: String Bass
*Carol Kaye: Electric Bass
*Al Casey: Guitar
*Jerry Cole: Guitar
*Billy Strange: Guitar, 12-String Electric Guitar (overdub)
*Al de Lory: Organ
*Frank Capp: Glockenspiel
*Jay Migliori: Clarinet
*Steve Douglas: Flute
*Jim Horn: Flute
*Jack Nimitz: Baritone Saxophone

Cover versions

The song has been recorded by many artists, including The Calypso Bandits, japanese rock band Ulfuls, Joseph Spence, Tom Fogerty, Roger Whittaker, Johnny Cash, Jimmie Rodgers, Jerry Jeff Walker, Dick Dale, Catch 22, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Relient K, Dan Zanes, and Okkervil River. In 1960, Lonnie Donegan had a UK Top 10 hit with it under the title "I Wanna Go Home".

Cultural references

On occasions the song is chanted at Football and Cricket grounds, firstly by Manchester United fans, then FC United. The song recently caused controversy in Scotland when fans of Glasgow Rangers sang the tune of this song with lyrics relating to the Irish potato famine during an Old Firm match. Dubbed "The Famine Song" it includes the lyrics "the famine is over why don't you go home."
*Dr. Miguelito Loveless, in the TV series "The Wild Wild West" sang a version of this in a duet with Antoinette in the episode titled "The Night of the Raven" (original air date 30 September 1966).
*In the episode "Open Water" of the television show "", which was about a double murder on a cruise ship, the song is played at the end of the episode.
*The indie folk rock band Okkervil River adopts the chorus of the song, making it a song about John Berryman, as an outro to the final song "John Allyn Smith Sails" on their "The Stage Names" LP.
*The song can be heard being played off the radio faintly in the background of the movie Forrest Gump for a brief moment while in Vietnam.
*During the BBC programme Three Men and Another Boat with Griff Rhys Jones, Dara O'Brien and Rory McGrath, McGrath is heard singing the popular song whilst out sailing in the English Channel.
*In the film Full of It, the main character Sam and his family sing the song while driving Sam to school.
*In Alan Dean Foster's book "Spellsinger", the main character finds himself in a boat at sea and sings this song as a spell to get his companions and himself home, but only succeeds in getting everyone drunk/sick - and just missing his chance to get back to his own dimension.
*In Calendar Girls, the song is heard as a "victory" song just as the protagonists realize that their "failed" press conference has only been re-located to a larger room and was a bigger success than previously expected.
*Bill Mumy sings this song in an episode of "Lost in Space."
*The song is played to close out the episode "The Sword of Orion" of the television show "Sports Night."

See also

*List of songs by The Beach Boys
*The John B. Sails


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