“Heave away, me jollies, heave away!”
It’s a phrase that Canadian hockey fans couldn’t get enough of at the world junior hockey championship — a Celtic melody played each time Team Canada scored a goal.
And for Billy Sutton, one of the members of St. John’s band The Fables, it’s a reminder of why their 25-year-old recording of the traditional sea shanty “Heave Away” has stood the test of time.
“It’s the song that never dies,” the 50-year-old multi-instrumentalist said in a phone chat from his home in Newfoundland.
“He keeps popping his head up every so often.”
Originally from their 1998 album “Tear the House Down,” the Fables’ recording of “Heave Away” has lived many lives and the latest comes with a happy ending.
Team Canada brought home the championship win on Thursday, beating Czechia 3-2 in a dramatic overtime finish that was punctuated by the foot-stomping anthem echoing through the arena.
Long before Team Canada’s win, the Fables’ “Heave Away” was already their biggest hit.
Around the year 2000, the recording was embraced as a favourite of line dancers in the United Kingdom, Sutton said, which led to appearances by the band on several compilation albums.
Several years later, the Toronto Maple Leafs picked “Heave Away” as their victory song, exposing it to a new audience.
“That was going on for years, much to my dismay because I’m a Habs fan, you see?” Sutton joked.
“Heave Away” was chosen this year by Team Canada’s coaches and management given the location of the tournament. It replaced their use of “Can’t Stop” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Since its adoption, “Heave Away” has proven its appeal off the rinks as well.
The song climbed to No. 12 on the Spotify Viral 50 Canada chart as of Friday, suggesting more listeners are discovering the track and sharing it on social media.
Sutton first learned about the song’s selection by Team Canada after returning home from a run of tour dates. Friends had excitedly messaged him on Facebook to say they heard the Fables song when Canada scored a goal.
He said he’s stumped as to why “Heave Away” continues to resonate as much as it does.
“Maybe it’s just as simple as (it’s a) straight-up four-on-the-floor song,” Sutton said.
“Those kind of songs are uplifting and people want to stomp their foot.”
Will the renewed interest in “Heave Away” inspire the Fables to reunite for a 2023 tour? Sutton said he’s doubtful.
Even though the band played a few shows together last year, he said most of the players have moved on to new gigs. Everyone is “really busy in their own music careers,” he said, pointing out that one member lives in Nova Scotia.
He’s also focused on his job as a studio engineer, working with an array of St. John’s natives including Kim Stockwood and the Ennis Sisters.
As for whether the Fables has seen a financial windfall from “Heave Away” as of late, Sutton insists that’s far from the case. He said songs played in sports arenas don’t pay TV royalties to the artists, a lesson he learned when the Leafs used the track.
“I’ve had a lot of people say to me, ‘Oh, my God, you must be making some fortune now.’ And I was like, ‘No, actually…’”
But maybe it will help increase downloads or “sell a few more records,” he added.
“I’m just glad that they’re using it and are enjoying it. That’s great stuff.”