"Ride Captain Ride, a top 5 hit from May of 1970, is one of those magic moments in pop music - a "perfect storm" of writing, production and performance which form a feeling and sound that is as hard to duplicate as it would be to recreate Michelangelo's Pieta. It's a moment that probably influenced The Looking Glass when their "Brandy" brightened up the beaches two years later. And by making over a masterpiece I'm not talking about David Clayton-Thomas destroying the exquisite melody with his trademark bull-in-a-china shop force as found on Live And Improvised, a 1975 concert recording from Blood Sweat & Tears, or Roger Clinton's lame pseudo-reggae version from 1994's Nothing Comes Easy disc (President Bill's brother does outdo Clayton-Thomas, but that's not saying much). The desecration being discussed here also won't be found in Jeff Arundel's respectful 1993 version on his Compass album. No, it's the remnants of Blues Image who couldn't recapture their claim to fame as when Mike Pinera had Gail MacGregor write some additional lyrics for "Ride Captain Ride Revisited" on his In The Garden Of Eden CD from 1996. The original composition from keyboardist Frank "Skip" Konte and guitarist Pinera generated a beautiful summer tune which broke out in the springtime and helped usher in the 1970s. Producer Richard Podolor and his engineer Bill Cooper, the men who put the gloss on Three Dog Night hits of the day like "Celebrate" and "Mama Told Me Not To Come", knew how to take this gem and polish each phase of it, and the result is a masterpiece of 70's blues/rock. Rumored to be about the Pueblo incident of January, 1968 when 83 U.S. sailors -including
Commander Pete Bucher - Captain of the ship, were captured by North Koreans, the otherwise fantasy lyrics point to that diplomatic problem with the eerie line "No one heard them calling/no one came at all". Was the choice of 73 men on the ship a decoy, or was that number used because the line "seventy three men sailed out" has better meter than eighty three? Outside of Mike Pinera's re-write a number of dreadful covers have been issued on various compilation albums under the name "Blues Image" - a disc entitled Wolfman Jack's One Hit Wonders is a good case in point - but it is the original Blues Image/Richard Podolor "Ride Captain Ride" which is simply amazing, either in its 45 RPM edited form or the longer album track which found its way to Classic Rock radio years later. Interesting that Mark Farner came up with his masterpiece, Grand Funk Railroad's first (and some say their best) hit single, "Closer To Home (I'm Your Captain)", around the same time. That Top 25 song has a theme that could also have been inspired by the Pueblo incident, and a similar bluesy/pop presentation.