I was minding my own business enjoying John D. Macdonald’s The Quick Red Fox when the protagonist Travis McGee pulled into Sausalito as part of his latest adventure and suddenly I was thinking of a song I hadn’t thought of for decades: Diesel’s “Sausalito Summernight.” I distinctly remember hearing this song on the radio in 1981 and playing it at some of the first high school dances I deejayed for a mobile sound company. Diesel joined the lonely ranks of Dutch hitmakers in the United States, groups like the Shocking Blue (“Venus”) and Golden Earring (“Radar Love,” “Twilight Zone”). Looking back now, the song sounds incredibly tightly focused and executed – the addictive lead line that propels the song never lets up, the multilayered vocals are drenched in reverb, and so on. It’s like a soft drink that is just too sweet. But I still love it.
The song peaked at 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart but went to number 1 in Canada. It was featured on the band’s 1980 album, Watts in a Tank, which also contained two songs that charted in Holland, “Going Back to China,” and “Down in the Silvermine.” Later albums did not repeat their American success but did contain some tantalizing song titles (like “Leader of the Pacman”). A version of the band is still performing, though under the slightly modified name, Deazol.