Ride Captain Ride by Blues Image (Atco, 1970)

Every time I hear this song, I get faked out, thinking the band is going to sell me some Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat (whatever the hell that means). But Blues Image wasn’t even from Frisco; they were from Florida. And the boat that pulled into the bay with 73 sailors seemed to be based on nothing but the number of Fender Rhodes keys and lots of weed. Guess it made sense that this Rhodes-led tune made it into the Top 10 in 1970, since San Fran and ‘trips’ were still current topics with young folk. Everyone else dug it because it seemed like a real story. Or maybe it was the uniqueness of a rock song with an electric piano as the main instrument. Or because it was a stone gas, baby!

The lyrics are as vague as cruise liner brochure and give no clue to what they were talking about (which is perfect for misinterpretation). What ship was this? Why were they pulling into the San Fran harbor? What trip were they promising? It almost sounds like the pitch the natives of Africa heard before they were tossed onto slave ships. I’m not getting on anything until you tell me where we’re heading. But that’s me. And why was the narrator scoffing at those watching the raindrops fall? Were they heeding bad weather approaching? Or were they just preoccupied with a B.J. Thomas show they were watching?

Whatever it was, the mystery ship was here and then gone by the end of 1970. Lead singer Mike Pinera joined Iron Butterfly and the band’s 3rd LP disappeared into a world that others must have missed. But Ride Captain Ride remains a nice little artifact from a time where bands were caught between the socially charged political rock of the 60s and the soft rock pop of the early 70s.

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