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Grand Funk guitarist Mark Farner wrote this and sang lead. Literally, the song is about the captain of a ship who is sick and fears he is going to lose his vessel. The song has much more metaphoric significance, however. Farner explained to Nightwatcher's House of Rock
: "I had gone to bed and prayed. Our mother had taught us kids to pray the 'Now I lay me down to sleep,' so I finished that part of the prayer, and put a P.S. at the end of it, and I asked the Creator to give me a song which would reach and touch the hearts of people that he wanted to touch. With love, because I just felt the love. I just felt for my good friends, my high school buddies who had died in Vietnam. I saw their parents, and I saw their families, and I think that's what inspired it.
It came in the middle of night to me as words, and I didn't even realize it was a song, because I write words all the time. In fact, my wife has a file that she has where she's picked up napkins and notes here and there that have all these words that come out. At least we have a place to start putting them together, like a puzzle. But I grabbed those words in the morning, because I was playing my guitar in the kitchen of the farm. I was sipping on my coffee, had my feet kicked up in the chair, and I had my flattop guitar. As I was strumming the intro chords to 'I'm Your Captain,' I went, 'Hey man, maybe this is a song.' So I went and got the words, and started constructing the song out of it. I took it to rehearsal that day and the guys said, 'Man, this song's a hit.' And, lo and behold they were right."
One of the band's biggest hits, this got extensive radio play even though it was almost 10 minutes long. On the album, this was labeled as "I'm Your Captain," and was sometimes considered 2 songs - "I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home." Some stations played an edited version that was cut to about 5 minutes, eliminating most of the fadeout.
Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer told us: "We used to rehearse at a place called The Musicians Union Hall in Flint, Michigan. We used to work all of our stuff out there. Mark came in one day with basically the beginning of the song, the 'I'm your captain part.' We always worked out everything with a jam - he would have an idea, somebody would have an idea for a bass part of whatever, and we'd just kind of work on these things and jam out. For a day or two we worked on this song and it just didn't go any place, that was about as far as we could get with it. One day, coming out of a jam that we were working on, we fell into that half time part, and that's when Mark came up with the lyrics, 'I'm getting closer to...' So we had that, and we all felt, 'Oh man, that's great, we'll put that piece together with that, and that's going to work,' then we said, 'What are we going to do from there?' So we got into the guitar part where it breaks into full time again. Then we had a brainstorming session, 'What are we going to do for the rest of the song?' At the time, Rock bands had experimented with orchestras, and we said, 'Let's put an orchestra on this thing, we'll just play endlessly, and we'll get Tommy Baker, our friend down in Cleveland, to write the score for it, and we'll put an orchestra on it. It was a new thing for us, kind of new for the day - there hadn't been too many bands using orchestras. When we recorded the song in Cleveland, we didn't have the orchestra there, we didn't know what the final outcome was going to be, we hadn't even recorded the string arrangements, we just recorded the end of the song on and on and on over and over, knowing they were going to come in and put an orchestra on it later. When we finally heard the song about 2 weeks later, it just blew us all away. It was a religious experience."
Brewer: "We weren't concerned with FM radio, we knew FM radio could play 7 or 8 minute songs. It wasn't a matter of being confined to anything, so we knew it could get airplay - that wasn't a restriction. Capitol wanted to cut it and do an edited version for a single, and we said,'No, you can't edit that song, just leave it alone.'" (thanks to Don for speaking with us about this song)
When this was released, their record company bought a billboard advertisement in New York City's Time Square promoting the album. This resulted in lots of publicity and helped get the song a lot of airplay.
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