Tonight (September 21st) on the world famous Classic Album at Midnight on Radio Nova we’re playing The Doobie Brothers’ The Captain and Me.
The album is presented in full with no commercials or interruptions.
Named for their love of a certain illegal substance, The Doobie Brothers formed in San Jose, California in the early 1970s with an original lineup of singer/guitarist Tom Johnston, drummer John Hartman, guitarist Patrick Simmons and bassist Dave Shogren.
The band’s commercially unsuccessful 1971 self-titled debut album was a mainly acoustic, country influenced affair. The Doobie Brothers would find success with their 1972 followup Toulouse Street, which saw the band bring southern rock, R&B and soul influences into their repertoire, establishing what we now think of as the quintessential Doobie Brothers sound.
By 1973 The Doobie Brothers had added a second drummer in Michael Hossack, and had replaced bassist Dave Shogren with Tiran Porter. This new lineup entered the studio to record their third album, The Captain and Me.
The Doobie Brothers’ record label Warner Bros. pressured the band into getting a new album out quickly to cash in on the success of Toulouse Street. To save time the band returned to some early unrecorded material, reworking old tunes to fit their new sound. One of the band’s most famous tunes, Long Train Runnin’ was birthed when lyrics were added to an instrumental piece the band had been playing at live shows. Without You, an album track that would become a favourite of radio DJs, similarly began as an instrumental jam originally developed to showcase their two drummers and composed as a tribute to The Who.
Lyrically, much of the album reflects the hippy ethos of California at the time. Most of the songs are written by Tom Johnston, who sings of his love of the land and of the benefits of people working together to improve the world. On Clear as the Driven Snow, Johnston acknowledges the toll the band’s drug use was beginning to take on them.
Producer Ted Templeman expanded The Doobie Brothers’ sound by adding strings and synthesizers, creating a “cosmic” sound on some tracks that comes off as a more playful American cousin to Britain’s prog rock movement of the era.
Joining the band on The Captain and Me are Little Feat pianist Bill Payne and Steely Dan’s guitarist Jeffrey ‘Skunk’ Baxter, who would join the band the following year.
In its original release The Captain and Me features 11 tracks. On Side A are Natural Thing; Long Train Runnin’; China Grove; Dark Eyed Cajun Woman; and Clear as the Driven Snow. Side B gives us Without You; South City Midnight Lady; Evil Woman; Busted Down Around O’Connelly Corners; Ukiah; and The Captain and Me.
The Captain and Me was released on March 2nd, 1973 and peaked at number 7 on the US album chart. Singles Long Train Runnin’ and China Grove would reach positions 8 and 15 respectively in the US, while the former peaked at number 7 on the UK chart and reached number 30 when covered by Bananarama in 1991.
You can revel in The Doobie Brothers’ distinctive mashup of rock, country and R&B at midnight tonight when we’ll be playing The Captain and Me in full without interruption.