[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 22 July 2005, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
What does Rod Stewart's Sailing mean?
Rod Stewart
Come on, Wolverhampton, let's see those Union flags
A West Midlands councillor briefly proposed that Land of Hope and Glory should be replaced by Rod Stewart's Sailing at Remembrance Day celebrations. Everyone knows Sailing, so what does it mean?

Few songs invigorate the passions as much as the rousing anthem Land of Hope and Glory, especially at the Albert Hall on the Last Night of the Proms.

But it's not to everyone's taste and certainly not Peter O'Neill, a councillor in Wolverhampton who said the words, which were added to Elgar's music, were "too political".

He suggested the song be replaced with Sailing by Rod Stewart, for the city's November festival, although he later dropped the proposal.

Sailing is another anthem, often belted out by Scotland football fans, but why has it become a modern classic?

    I am sailing, I am sailing,
    home again 'cross the sea.
    I am sailing, stormy waters,
    to be near you, to be free.

Sailing is associated with the jingoism of the Falklands War, says Andrew Male, deputy editor of music magazine MOJO, because it was used to rally the Navy after the war. He is not a fan of the song.

It [Sailing] will always have a shoulder-padded melancholy about it
Andrew Male
MOJO magazine
"It's incredibly bland," he says. "There's a vague sense of destination with no resolution. It's very wimpy with quite an insipid, pastel melody and also has something quite niggly and annoying about it."

Land of Hope and Glory has more relevance today because it's about a nation trying to remain hopeful with a stern face and a sense of pride, he says. And although it's sung with fervour, it actually questions these notions at the same time.

"Sailing has no notion of pride and it's about 'I' not 'we'. It will always have a shoulder-padded melancholy about it."

Gushing nostalgia

Rod Stewart fan Simon Harper, editor of music magazine Clash, thinks Sailing is an "embarrassing blip" on an otherwise decent album, Atlantic Crossing (1975).

"Where 'Land Of Hope And Glory' is sung as a song of loyalty and devotion, it still seems more appropriate in its gushing nostalgia than a pop song whose purpose has evolved into a soppy excuse to wheel out the bagpipers and raise aloft scarves in a fit of misplaced patriotism," he says.

Sailing has come to represent the isolation of modern day transience
Simon Harper
Clash magazine
He says it seems that, for the three minutes of this song, everyone becomes Scottish.

But what about the lyrics, penned by Gavin Sutherland before Stewart made the song famous?

"Sailing has come to represent the isolation of modern day transience, whether this be commuting on buses and trains or simply walking to the sterile replacements that serve our shopping needs," says Mr Harper.

"Travelling is part of everyday life yet its very core reason of why we journey, that is to be with someone we love, has become corrupted and almost entirely devalued by the loneliness of the trip and the disappointment upon arrival.

"Rod knew that no one loved him."

Last Night of the Proms
Would Sailing work at the Albert Hall?
But there's full support for their choice from Neil McCormick, music critic of the Daily Telegraph, who says Sailing is great.

"This is a song full of emotion that people do know and it's a song about aspiration, wishing to be somewhere. It's a magical song that captures a magical moment.

"It's got a fantastic melody and it's one of those songs that's bigger than it ever has any right to be."

Here is a selection of your comments.

Aside from being a mawkish song, "Sailing" is also a symbol of deceit and censorship - it was falsely named as "number one" to avoid focusing attention on the Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen" (which actually sold more) during the jubilee.
Duncan, UK

A novelty song for drunks and fake nationalists. Try listening to the song more than once in a single sitting, and it's more than sea-sickness you begin to feel.
Paul Ward, Belfast, Ireland

Sailing is a very beautiful tune with wonderful words. We played it at the funeral of my dear friend as the coffin was carried from the church by his sons and other bearers. It was his favourite tune and he was also ex-World War II Navy. If you listen to ALL the words they are very beautiful and appropriate to a funeral.
Linda Hulks, UK

The Ark Royal Documentary was actually made in 1976, 6 years before the Falklands - Rod Stewart was in his 'Baby Jane' phase by then. Sailing was released as a hit single in 1975 and was re-released again the following year and was agin a hit. It was the perfect school disco last dance - not that I had any success with it...
Stuart Goodacre, UK

I have recently moved from the UK to Germany and heard Sailing by a local group at a birthday celebration. I was surprised that it moved me to tears, perhaps because I'd left the country I love to be with the person I love. This is one powerful song!
Toby MacManus, Germany

Sailing is an anthem that arouses emotions when one has had a drink or two. It is superficial and flimsy. Land of Hope and Glory has more depth, the emotions it evokes are pride in a country that was once proud and strong.
Margaret Hutchins, United Kingdom

I think it is a great song. We heard Rod singing it live in Bristol last month and very emotional. Anyone who has been away from this Country can relate to it, coming home to a land for which so many died to allow us our freedom. I have to say though Land of Hope and Glory would be first choice for myself and my husband, but Sailing would come close.
Shelley Cox, Great Britain

The words to Elgars 'Pomp & Circumstance' were added to the tune in 1901. 'Sailing' is a very good song, but will people still be singing it in 2079?
John, Yorkshire

Andrew Male is wrong - Sailing was used in 1978 by the BBC as the theme music for the documentary about the penultimate HMS Ark Royal.
Simon Lord, UK

Strange. I remember 'Sailing' as commemorating the last voyage of the old HMS Ark Royal, our last old style aircraft carrier, thus being part of all our history.
Stephen Corlett, Germany, formally Liverpool

I like "Sailing", however I resent the description that if refers to "the jingoism of the Falklands War". The Falklands was a 100% just war. Nearly 300 British soldiers & sailors died protecting our people. If "Sailing" reminds us of their sacrifice then include it before "Land of Hope & Glory" rather than instead of it.
Peter, Nottingham

An abominable dirge. Absolutely dreadful. Worst track on the album Atlantic Crossing without a doubt. Will that do?
John Dean, Japan

Sailing isn't the best song ever, but it is certainly the one I always associate with Rod and the Navy, so it has some relevance on national occasions, although I think Land of Hope and Glory is a much better sing-along rouser.
Isobel, UK

Vera Lynn was the first person to have a hit with Sailing - Rod Stewart only covered it - so what is all this about the Falklands War - I suggest more people reflect on the Second World War and the difficulties faced by both naval and merchant shipping during that period.
Tricia, GB

My dad was in the Falklands conflict and starred in the program Sailing when it was broadcast with Rod's tune as the theme. It fitted the time and feeling exactly, however if we want to play Land of Hope and Glory which is a fine and very fitting anthem to our nation during this period of remembrance then we should. The 'individual' who thought otherwise will have us singing Robbie Williams instead of the National Anthem next. He should stand silently and pay his respects.
Pete V, British

Can't be worse than Elton's vile, mawkish, saccharin 'Candle In The Wind', which looked like becoming the new national anthem for a few days in 1997.
Tim Footman, Thailand

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific