“Sky Pilot” is a 1968 song by Eric Burdon & The Animals, released on the album The Twain Shall Meet. When released as a single the song was split across both sides, due to its length (7:27). As “Sky Pilot (Parts 1 & 2)” it reached number 14 on the U.S. pop charts and number 15 on the Canadian RPM chart.The Sky Pilot of the title is a military chaplain, as revealed by the opening verse:
He blesses the boys, As they stand in line…The smell of gun grease… And the bayonets they shine…He’s there to help them…All that he canTo make them… feel wanted…He’s a good holy man
The line-up includes Eric Burdon on lead vocals, Vic Briggs on guitar, John Weider on guitar and electric violin, Danny McCulloch on bass guitar, and Barry Jenkins on drums.
The song is a balladic slice of life story about a chaplain who blesses a body of troops just before they set out on an overnight raid or patrol, and then retires to await their return.
“Sky Pilot” is organized into three movements: an introduction, a programmatic interlude, and a conclusion.
The introduction begins with the verse quoted above, sung a cappella and solo by Eric Burdon. Thereafter the band joins in with instruments for the chorus. Several verse-chorus iterations follow, leaving the story with the “boys” gone to battle and the Sky Pilot retired to his bed. The verses are musically lean, dominated by the vocal and a pulsing bass guitar, with a strummed acoustic guitar and drum mixed in quietly.
The interlude starts as a guitar solo, but the guitar is quickly submerged under a montage of battle sounds.
First come the sounds of an airstrike; then the airstrike and rock band fade into the sounds of shouting, gunfire, and bagpipes. Near the end of the interlude the battle sounds fade, briefly leaving the bagpipes playing alone before the third movement begins. The bagpipe music is a covert recording of the pipers of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards playing “All The Bluebonnets Are Over The Border”, captured by Burdon while performing at a school.
He received an angry letter from the UK government (or possibly the Crown) over his use of the recording in the song.
After going backstage at Squeeze at least 20 -30 times in 35 years I finally worked up the courage to say hello to Glenn. After his amazing gig at The Rams Head last night Crazy? I know! The Sherry Fairy, Rock and Roll Teen Queen being too frightened to talk to anyone for the first time ever. especially one of the nicest , friendliest guys you could ever hope to meet. so… why? and what did i finally have to say after all this time? well believe me it wasn’t easy to cram all i wanted to say into a three min meet and greet. but i gave it my best shot. maybe its best if i start at the beginning while i have all the time in the world to explain why it is how it was
its usually is a good place to start. this is me . About 1979-1980.
i first saw Squeeze as a warm up act for Elvis Costello in College Park Maryland that year. two things happened that night, i cant remember in what order but i will start with the concert because its probably much more interesting to you. When Squeeze came on stage i was mesmerized and by Another Nail for My Heart i was awestruck.
I loved their music so much from the very first moment of each successive song , something that had never happened to me in all the gigs i had ever been to so far and i had been to hundreds by then. Glen with his olden curls in a white suit was shining like an angel on the stage. he moved like no one i had ever seen. up on his toes as if any moment he would levitate right of the stage, as if he were doing the best he could just to cling to it with the tips of his shoes the single white spotlight was doing its best to draw back up into the heavens where he belonged. He was stunning to look at and amazing to watch. his hands flitting and fluttering across the guitar like butterflies doing tachi and constantly drifting off and away from him as he strummed, then having to be dragged back for the next notes. i was a little too young for a bad case of Beatlemania, but when i saw Squeeze was so overcome by their talent and how their music spoke to me i think it must have been what it felt to see and hear Lennon and Mccartney for first time for me . And i have always felt that way about the band .
So no matter how many times ive been backstage or had the opportunity to speak to any of them i was sure there were only two possible outcomes. I would be so nervous i would blurt out a whole bunch of stuff like this which would make me sound either obsessed or insane about how much they had come to mean to me as the years went by or i would stand here like Beeves and Butthead only able to drool and repeat like an idiot” hu hu uh huh I really like your band” and one was too much and the other too little ( and moronic lol) so in all these years until last night i’ve gone out of my way never to speak to them. i was just too shy around them and too intimidated by their talent.
The second thing that happened was i fell from 90 floors high into a mutual case of lust at first sight with Beautiful Boy on the crew. So much so when they left that night I went with them. There was no possibility or doubt on either part that he would leave without me or I would let him go. I had to go home eventually because i had left with no more than the adorable tank top on my back and a pair of tiny shorts and with him living out of a suitcase there really wasn’t enough wardrobe for two, although i did look pretty cute in his shorts and tee shirts. But mainly because it really isn’t very nice or fair the other boys living on the bus for us to be carrying on constantly(we couldnt keep our hands of each other) and or B.Boy have his very own carry-along own dress up doll when no one else did.
I tell you this for two reasons. because this relationship carried on for many years and thats why i was lucky enough to see elvis costello and a few other bands AND BEST OF ALL SQUEEZE very often many different times and places from knowing him and he rest of the crew through him and because maybe, just maybe… someday he might read this. when i stopped going backstage because i had a serious real -life everyday local boyfriend and then married him i pretty much quit going to concerts at all. And of course that meant quitting my beautiful boys too.
Who wanted to sit in the boring old audience and go home at the end of the show? the only way to forget that world and those friends and that part of my life and not miss it was to forget all about its existence. but i still went to see Squeeze. I just bought a ticket and never ventured backstage and never asked if he was here. the last time i saw him we didn’t know it would be the last time so we never even got to say goodbye. so if he gets a chance to read this someday i want i to know that sherry from washington still thinks of him when i think of Squeeze just like i am now and i did miss him when it was over and hope he is happy and doing well . so here’s three tears for you B. Boy, one of sadness for the goodbye we never got, one of joy if you are reading this and even just for a moment remembering me and one of regret and sentimentality for the end of the old days and the good times,
So thats enough about that, it was just to explain how i was lucky enough to see them backstage so often.
They were always so NICE too, everyone spoke of how kind and friendly Glenn was, why did i still feel terrified to say a word to him? As time went on they and their music started to mean more to me as the years passed. i was only buying the albums or going to see a few of my special favorite bands where i had really good friends nick lowe, tom petty, ian hunter, and of course Eric Burdon www.evenrockandrollhasfairytales.com and Squeeze, once i gave up the rock and roll lifestyle for being a wife, a mother and teacher, and running my own business. but somehow whenever i needed a break , whenever I got that rock and roll itch Squeeze was there somehow to scratch it. Coming to town or putting out an album of some sort, turning up for a gig whenever i needed a show. and when i reached for my records i always played all the Squeeze first . i got to take my ten year old son to a Squeeze show 15 years ago and they couldn’t have been nicer to him.
My Jayme’s always been a superstar, he an actor in LA now but even at ten i could let him do all the talking lol. I was never fanatical ,only a fan and i’m sure here was all sorts of drama and music and make-ups and breakups i missed out on knowing anything about, and i couldn’t for the life of me tell you the dates of the gigs or the album releases, but i always had theirs when they came out even when i wasn’t buying anyone elses and could play them for hours and they always made me happy.
About ten years ago when he kids were big i started spending a lot of time at my best friend Simon who lived in in London’s flat. it was the time of my life! no responsibilities, just pubs, clubs, gigs, shows, galleries, festivals, restaurants, even west end shows every now and then. a very far cry from the boring suburban maryland town where i lived with a crabby autistic preteen and four just-become adult know- it- all s whose favorite sport was ganging up on mom and reminding her constantly of everything she did wrong every min of the day. i loved living in London almost half the year . two months at home, one month in London. i had loads of friends at my home away from home and i adored Simon. he was like one of the family. we had the best fun! we went to the stonehenge solstice and camped and then to glastonbury every year, we even braved the mud to see Glenns show in a tent about a million miles from ours.
But i want to tell you about the summer of 2007. things had been really rough at home, so i took i said fuck it and spent almost the whole summer in london! seven whole weeks of pure bliss, friends to do things with, underground clubs where every one knew me, and the greatest gigs and best things to see and do in the most exciting city in the world. we did Stonehenge , we did Glastonbury and before i knew it, time to go home came and i wasn’t happy about it. Not at all .The only thing that gave me any joy was knowing a week after got home i had pretty good seats at Wolf Trap Park in Virginia to see Squeeze touring together for the first time in ages! if i hadn’t i’m not sure they would have been able to drag me on to the plane home.
I was exhausted from the non -stop excitement and not feeling well and Simon said,” Come on, its your last weekend here. Come with me out to Kent for this 40 year anniversary of the summer of love festival.” His band The Green Ray were playing there, with Barry Melton, “Please don’t stay in the flat alone and get even more depressed.”
So very reluctantly and feeling very sorry for myself we got in the car on Saturday morning and left.i didn’t want to think about catching that plane back to my dull world and my real problems but it was all i could think about.
We arrived and a lot of good friends with the band were there which of course only made me feel even sorrier for myself because i knew all this great stuff like this day would be carry on without me, as normal for London, once I was gone
It was a beautiful day and the festival was tiny little thing , like a backyard barbeque, with a couple of bands and maybe a hundred people (though they were so spread out it seemed like much less) in the yard of someones beautiful old home. i was completely drained from all of the non-stop partying the whole seven weeks and basically just being a miserable git so I climbed into the back of the band car for a private pity party, table for one. Simon gave it his best shot he came and pulled me out to see a beautiful double rainbow but even then i was still sulky . this was undoubtedly going to be the worst day of my life.
Then, i heard Simon say , a his voice sounding a bit funny… “Now I’m going to tell you something and at first you are going to think that its a very cruel joke then when you realize its not you are going to flip out. are you ready?” i nodded my head morosely. he made me look up the hill.” Now stay calm because i know what a wreck you are his weekend but you see those two caravans pulling up? well inside one of them is Glenn Tilbrook and in the other Chris Difford. they really are here, i’m not fucking with you and i think they are going to do a set and stay for the festival.”
I’m sure you have heard the term my mind was blown. Well you will never truly comprehend it until it REALLY DOES happen to you! A week from now they were going to be in an arena down the road from my house in america ! i had proof! i had tickets for the family!what the hell were they doing here?
And all of he sudden he worst day of my life turned into the best.
and ever since then i’ve found it really hard to ever feel sorry for myself again. because once you’ve been sitting in the middle of a field out in the middle of nowhere and your favorite band magically appears and plays just for you, when you need it most, its pretty hard not to know your life is, and has been absolutely amazing! now its time to go to Glenn’s other show tonight! In Virginia. So i guess there will have to be a Part Two tomorrow!
Simon and the back of my very blown mind, Coming soon Part 2