Twenty or so years ago, it was impossible to watch cable TV and some broadcast stations during fringe-time without seeing an ad—or even a full-length infomercial—for the Time-Life compilation Guitar Rock.
If memory serves, there was also a version of the ad that included two dudes hanging out when one of them asks the other where he got all this great music. The second bro emphatically responds, “it’s Guitar Rock!”
Over the summer, I had a similar moment. I was working with a guy on printing some t-shirts, and he was playing a Spotify playlist consisting of Seals and Croft and the Doobie Brothers. After a few selections, I asked, “what are we listening to?” In a comparatively hushed voice, he responded, “oh, it’s Yacht Rock!”
Almost immediately, the term conjured up the kind of soft rock music enjoyed and created by wealthy members of the yachting class.
But it was also an online video series!
Premiering ten years ago, Yacht Rock was a web series that fictionalized the lives of soft rock stars, including Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, Toto, and Christopher Cross. And the series’s parody of Daryl Hall and John Oates explains why they were again popular in the late 2000s and why “I Can’t Go for That” was on heavy rotation on the jukeboxes around the East Village and around Williamsburg in 2007.1 But today, even more than the “guitar rock” appellation, “yacht rock” has survived as a signifier for soft rock of nearly forty years ago.
And like cassette tapes, I hope that the “kids today” realize how bad it really was and move on to something else.