Retro Spin: “Sausalito Summernight” by Diesel

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Except for perhaps the most ardent of rock fans, many audiences might have forgotten a song by Diesel called “Sausalito Summernight.” The song was released in 1980 and it captured a spirit of youthful adventure. “Sausalito Summernight” came from the group’s album “Watts in a Tank.”

Who is Diesel?

Diesel is a band from the Netherlands. The group’s history is long, and the number of past members reads like the cast of a small movie. What is important about the development of Diesel as a band is that their humor and their approach to pop-rock continues to resonate with audiences.

Diesel is unique in that at the time, it was one of few Dutch groups to have a charting hit in the US. “Sausalito Summernight” was not the first time Diesel reached US charts. In 1979, they had an entry with “Goin’ Back to China.” The song peaked at No. 105. So far, “Sausalito Summernight” is the last song of Diesel’s to reach US charts. However, the band reformed several times after its initial run from 1979 to 1985. More breakups followed, along with new versions of the band. The band’s latest release was 2017’s “Like Hell I Will.”

The sound of Diesel: “Sausalito Summernight”

The opening chords get audiences’ attention. The almost-ringing riff that continues for a few measures sets the stage for danceable pop-rock. From there, the song does not disappoint. The lyrics describe a disastrous trip to San Francisco. The tone is humorous, and the overall effect is one that reflects young people doing adventurous things, like drive to San Francisco in a Rambler with mechanical problems.

“Sausalito Summernight” reached No. 25 on US charts; it went to No. 1 in Canada. The charting success of the song speaks to its relatability to audiences. Despite its popularity, “Sausalito Summernight” fails to sound like standard radio fare. Maybe the vocal quality accounts for this, but there are plenty of tenor voices in rock and pop. Certainly the guitar riff that opens the song is not heard anywhere else. The song’s buoyant opening is recognizable after years of not having heard it. The energy and spirit of the song lingers long after “Sausalito Summernight” ends.

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