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Sea shanty goldrush continues as Decca signs The Longest Johns

By | Published on Tuesday 26 January 2021

The Longest Johns

Have we reached peak shanty yet? You might think that Nickelback getting involved is the death knell. But seemingly not, as the latest TikTok fad is still resulting in deals aplenty.

Today it’s the turn of The Longest Johns, who hit the UK top 40 on Friday with their version of nineteenth century song ‘Soon May The Wellerman Come’. They’ve just been snapped up by Universal imprint Decca and booking agency UTA.

The band made it to number 37 in last week’s singles chart, thanks to postman Nathan Evans’ viral version of the song. That TikTok video also saw Evans sign to another Universal imprint, Polydor, last week, and his full recording of the shanty is set to make it to the top five this week.

As well as their new label signing, The Longest Johns have a new deal with talent agency UTA. They are set to announce UK and Ireland tour dates this week, and are apparently expected to be a big live draw in 2021 and into 2022. Or – if you’re a pessimist/realist – only in 2022. And even then, assuming that this sea shanty fad lasts that long. Bit of bonus pessimism for you there.

So, it’s already looking like there will be two versions of ‘Wellerman’ in the charts this week. How about a third? Because singers Jonny Stewart, Bobby Waters, Aaron Sloan, Luke Taylor – along with another TikTokker, Sam Pope – are releasing their own harmonised version of the song.

Originally posted on TikTok, the group’s video has spread across various social media and been featured on US TV show ‘The Colbert Report’. They are now releasing a full recording of the song in aid of the Marine Conservation Society.

“We wanted to make something of this amazing opportunity and the MCS seemed like the obvious partner to go with”, they say. “Their work in helping protect the seas and ecosystems are so vital, we’re proud to be able to support in any way we can”.

Quite why sea shanties have become so big on TikTok and other social media right now is still a bit perplexing. For labels though, it’s good news. They’re easy to record at home on lockdown, can be released fast, and the publishing is all public domain. So, for as long as this whole thing continues to be a thing (3.7 more days?), everyone should probably think about releasing a shanty or two.

Imagine a top 40 made up entirely of different versions of ‘The Wellerman’. This can be a reality! Let’s make it happen.