“I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)” is one deep, spiritual, uplifting piece of rock and roll grandeur. The song is long and flowing and it lifts you up. Judging by Mark Farner’s words on how the song came about, that is exactly what he had prayed for.
In a Songfacts.com interview Mark Farner, the lead singer and author said, “Initially the song came to me after I said my prayers one night and I put a P.S. on the end of my prayers. I asked God to give me a song that would touch the hearts of people that the Creator wanted to get to. I got up at 3 o’clock in the morning… I’m always getting up at different times of the night and writing things down. A lot of them are not songs but this happened to be one.”
“As I’m writing it, I’m between the state of subconscious and conscious. I’ve got one foot in dreamland and my pen is writing these words down. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense. It was kind of weird, I thought, as I was writing it. I didn’t sit there on the edge of the bed and read it over and over, I just wrote it down, and when I got to the end of it, I just folded it over and put it on the nightstand. There it was.”
The following day he started working on the music. “I made a mistake. I was going for the G and it was a little short and I hit the C. And I looked down because that chord spoke to me in such a way. I’ve never heard that come out, that inversion of the C. I thought, Wow, that’s a cool chord. Then I thought maybe with those words in the other room, maybe that’s a song, so I grabbed the legal pad and laid it down on the table next to my coffee and just started strumming, ‘Everybody…’ And it just started coming out.”
Drummer Don Brewer explained this part of the songwriting process for “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home), “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.”
Brewer also explained how the orchestra came about. “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. We’ll get Tommy Baker, our friend down in Cleveland, to write the score for 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 and 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 two weeks later, it just blew us all away. It was a religious experience.”