“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.