Classic Rock News

(L-R): Mel Schacher, Don Brewer, Mark Farner and (not pictured) Craig Frost of Grand Funk Railroad were born in Flint in 1948; Schacher in '51.

“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.

Mark Farner

In a 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.”

Musician Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad performs on stage at the...

Musician Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad performs on stage at the San Diego County Fair on July 5, 2014 in Del Mar, California. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images

Don Brewer

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.”

“I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)”

The 8 Most Played Videos on MTV

Do you remember the first video you saw on MTV? I do. It was “Rock the Casbah” by The Clash. My mind was blown. I have to give MTV credit for exposing me to music that I didn’t know existed.  Because of this, I attribute my lasting love of 80’s-90’s Alternative Rock to my days of watching MTV. As much as I loved my MTV, it was back in the early days when MTV really was MUSIC TELEVISION.. that’s when you had me, fools. One of our recent Throwback Thursday tracks, “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel, made me think about MTV and wonder, “What were the most played videos on MTV?”

“Sledgehammer” HAS to be on the list. In my opinion, this video was groundbreaking. It was one of the first to use stop-motion claymation. “Sledgehammer” had Stephen Johnson directing the video… he had given a similar treatment to The Talking Heads’ “Road To Nowhere” the year before. These types of videos are not plentiful. I have to believe that the budget dollars and time required to put them together were all insanely high.

The “Sledgehammer” video cost a ton of money and had some crazy issues. Peter Gabriel kept getting electrocuted by his light-up suit. They had to Scotchlite tape HIM and THE ENTIRE SET to fix the problem.  I read that they also used model chickens for the chicken dances in the video.  The chickens are postmortem.  As a result, the shelf life was an issue. I’m going out on a limb and saying they went through a LOT of chicken models. I know. It is gross.  Suddenly, the chicken dances seem less funny to me, but let’s move along.

The end result was amazing. In 1987, “Sledgehammer” swept the MTV Video Music Awards.

What Were the FIRST videos played on MTV?

MTV debuted on August 1st, 1981. Chances are good you and I both know the first song: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.  I have recently rewatched Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run” video.  It’s so great to see her at a time when she’s about to take off. Third: Rod Stewart’s “She Won’t Dance With Me.”

Oh, and a sidenote of trivia that I love, did you know that the first “rap” song played on MTV was actually Blondie’s “Rapture?” To check out more of the first day of MTV’s videos CLICK HERE.  Now let’s find out which songs got the MOST SPINS on MTV.  My list is reflective of actual play on MTV.  For a list of 29 videos with over a billion YouTube hits, CLICK HERE.

The 8 Most Played Videos on MTV

  • #8 "Addicted to Love" - Robert Palmer

  • #7 "Sabotage" - The Beastie Boys

  • #6 "Sweet Child 'O Mine" - GNR

    Side note:  I have not heard this song the same way since I discovered the story behind the lyrics “Where do we go now?”  You can read the story here: Classic Rock Songs that Started as Jokes.

  • #5 "Walk This Way" - Aerosmith / Run DMC

    Many would agree that this collaboration revived Aerosmith’s career.

  • #4 "Sledgehammer" - Peter Gabriel

    I KNEW it had to be one of the top videos!

  • #3 "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - Nirvana

    Not only is this song one of the most played by MTV, but it also has more than 1.5 BILLION hits on YouTube. Personally, I love a lot of the music that gets put in the box of “grunge.” When “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came out, it was a game changer, It was different than anything I’d heard before it.

  • #2 "Vogue" - Madonna

    No, Madonna is not rock, but she is number two (who does number two work for?)

  • #1 "Thriller" - Michael Jackson

    “Thriller” is 100% iconic. This video stands the test of time and is still bad a$$ in my book. “Thriller” has been changing Halloween costumes and wedding party entrances since its inception.


    Classic Rock Songs That Started as Jokes

    Inspiration for songs comes from SO MANY places. Songs that started as jokes are some of my favorite stories.  KISS has a couple, plus  GNR, BTO, Elton John, and Stealers Wheel. If you don’t know the story behind “Stuck in the Middle With You,” please read on.  That happy-go-lucky ditty has an extremely sarcastic side.

    If you’re looking for jokes not related to classic rock, Big Jim and Ryan lead the world in DAD JOKES.

    If you know of a song and a story that fits this topic please let me know!  I’d love to expand the list!

    Classic Rock Songs That Started as Jokes

    • Christine Sixteen - Kiss

      Gene Simmons wrote and sang “Christine Sixteen.” Gene was ripping on Paul Stanley for writing songs about girls and love.  He said, “All you ever do is write girl songs like ‘Christine Sixteen.”  Gene thought about his made-up title and decided it was actually a great name for a song. The rest is KISStory.

    • "Sweet Child 'O Mine" - Guns N Roses

      This song’s signature lick started as an exercise. Slash doing a string-skipping exercise while he and Steven Adler warmed up. Axl heard what Slash was playing and wrote lyrics to the riff. Originally, the song has three verses, but the producer decided to cut it to two and added a final breakdown. Axl had not prepared for this. He sang, “Where do we go now?” because he didn’t know where they were going next with the song.  The producer said, “Just sing that.”

    • "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" - Bachman-Turner Overdrive

      Randy Bachman never considered “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” a song that would be anything really.  Many of the lyrics he improvised because he used the song as a warm-up.  Bachman originally recorded the stutter version of the song as a private joke for his brother, Gary, who had a stutter.  The song was never meant to be heard outside the group.  When it came time to release their album, the record company wasn’t overly impressed with any of the songs Randy played them.  Randy decided to play them the private recording and they loved it.  Randy agreed to put it on the album if he could record it WITHOUT the stutter, but the record company insisted on the original.  The song went on to become the first and only number one on the Hot 100 for BTO.

    • "The Bitch Is Back" - Elton John

      This story is AMAZINGLY FUN.  Elton was on a roll complaining  about everyone and everything one day, when Bernie Taupin’s wife, Maxine, saw him and said “Uh-Oh, the bitch is back.” Bernie thought this was a fantastic song title and wrote the song about Elton.  Elton wrote the music.  Elton was an extremely good sport about it and has referred to “The Bitch is Back” as, “kind of my theme song.”  Some radio stations tried to edit the song, but since “bitch” is in the song 42 times, the edit sounded ridiculous.

    • "Stuck in the Middle With You" - Stealers Wheer

      This song is one of the biggest disses ever written.  Gerry Rafferty wrote it to mock Bob Dylan.  I straight up think Dylan is an amazing lyricist, but the business Rafferty gives him is impressive.  The lyrics about clowns and jokers refer to Dylan’s tendency toward paranoid song lyrics.  Even the vocals are meant to mimic Dylan’s voice (many times this song has been mistaken for a Dylan song). Gerry Rafferty mocked one of the most legendary singer-songwriters and got a number one hit out of it. #powned

    • "Beth" - KISS

      “Beth” or “Beck” as it was originally written, is a song that predates Peter Criss joining KISS.  Peter was in the band, Chelsea, at the time with Stan Penridge.  The song is about another band member’s wife, Becky.  She would constantly call and interrupt band practice.  After Peter Criss joined KISS he and Penridge revived the song.  With the help of their producer, Bob Ezrin, “Beck” became “Beth,” and the original lyrics, “I know you love complaining, but Beck what can I do?” were changed to “I think I hear them callin’, Oh, Beth what can I do?”  According to Penridge, many of the lyrics were direct responses from fellow bandmate, Mike Brand, when answering calls from his wife.

Donielle Fynn is a Michigan native with two kids, two dogs, two cats, a love of yoga, and all things classic rock.

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