Campfire Songs Part 3: Sloop John B.

On holiday a few years ago I was sipping a beer after a day out in the shade hiding from the sun. The “entertainment” that the hotel had put on was singing his way through a few hits, and then pointed out that he had had a number 1 hit in Germany at some point in the past. I made a joke to my compatriot that I had probably had a number 1 hit in Germany at some point, to which she shushed me. He started to sing a song that suddenly had me rapt with attention – he was singing a Scout campfire song. And so were all these other punters. I was confused – how the hell do these German, Italian, Turkish and British tourists know this song? Are they going to jump up and start singing Ging Gang Goolie Goolie Wotcher in one songs time?

It turns out, much to my surprise, that the song I had been singing at Camfires was performed by The Beach Boys on their seminal record Pet Sounds. Obviously, since then, I’ve investigated the song much, and that album, but it still will to me be forever a campfire song, not Rolling Stones’ 271 Greatest Song of All Time.

We come on the sloop john b
My grandfather and me
Around nassau town we did roam
Drinking all night
Got into a fight
Well I feel so broke up
I want to go home

So hoist up the john bs sail
See how the mainsail sets
Call for the captain ashore
Let me go home, let me go home
I wanna go home, yeah yeah
Well I feel so broke up
I wanna go home

The first mate he got drunk
And broke in the capns trunk
The constable had to come and take him away
Sheriff john stone
Why dont you leave me alone, yeah yeah
Well I feel so broke up I wanna go home

So hoist up the john bs sail
See how the mainsail sets
Call for the captain ashore
Let me go home, let me go home
I wanna go home, let me go home
Why dont you let me go home
(hoist up the john bs sail)
Hoist up the john b
I feel so broke up I wanna go home
Let me go home

The poor cook he caught the fits
And threw away all my grits
And then he took and he ate up all of my corn
Let me go home
Why dont they let me go home
This is the worst trip Ive ever been on

So hoist up the john bs sail
See how the mainsail sets
Call for the captain ashore
Let me go home, let me go home
I wanna go home, let me go home
Why dont you let me go home