Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Blues Image And I Got A History Lesson

Formed in Tampa Florida in 1966. The Blues Image's claim to the One Hit Wonder parade was a song they titled "Ride Captain Ride". The inspiration for the song has often thought to be found either in the exploits of Sir Francis Drake and his Golden Hind, or in the USS Pueblo incident which occured in 1968. There are those who are probably more accurate in their assessment that call it an "acid trip".

During my background research I could not find any reference in naval history to a ship with 73 men aboard that sailed from San Francisco Bay. The crew of the Golden Hind numbered anywhere from 80 to 100 men at any given point in time, and of course sailed from England. The USS Pueblo's captured crewmembers numbered 83, and they sailed from Japan before the incident occured, not San Francisco Bay.

In 1968, North Korea hijacked the USS Pueblo which was sailing in international waters off the coast of Korea. It was a naval spy ship. It left Japan on a spying mission on January 5, 1968. It was under orders to intercept and provide surveillance of Soviet activity in the Tsushima Strait. The purpose of this mission was, of course, to gather signal and electronic data on North Korea. Somehow they were not informed of the North Korean attempt to assassinate South Korean leaders on January 22, and the next day they were approached by a North Korean sub chaser and the Pueblo's nationality was challenged. After displaying the American Flag, North Korea demanded that the ship stand down or be fired upon.

An attempt to get away was outmanouvered by the Koreans faster sub chaser with the help of Soviet style Mig-21 fighters and a Soviet torpedo boat whose guns were not manned. The US claimed that the Pueblo was well outside the 12 mile limit which is the international standard. North Korea, however claims that their waters stretch to 50 miles from their shoreline. Constant radio contact with Japan allowed the US to be fully informed about the incident. Since it couldn't run away being obviously outmanned the Pueblo did follow the Korean sub chaser as demanded. It stopped when it reached the 12 mile limit and was promptly fired upon, killing one crew member.

For 11 months the captured crew were kept in POW camps and subjected to serious incidents of torture and mistreatment at the hands of North Korea. The United States offered an admission of spying, an apology, and a ransom for their release. The men were bussed to the DMZ between North and South Korea. Led by their Captain single file across the Bridge of No Return into South Korea, the US verbally retracted the admission, the apology and the ransom offer. North Korea kept the ship which is now a tourist attraction. It is also still fully commissioned by the United States Navy.

I suppose the song "Ride Captain Ride" could be a paean to the men of the USS Pueblo, but the song says 73 men, not 83 men. The Songs co-writer, singer/guitarist of the Blues Image, Mike Pinera says that the inspiration behind the song came from his electric Rhodes piano which has 73 keys.

"So I say, Okay, I need a first word. And what came into my head was 73. I liked the rhythm, and I went, "73 men sailed in, from the San Francisco Bay." ... The song sort of just wrote itself from there"....Mike Pinera. Yep...acid trip.


  1. You KILL me......great Wednesday/great post...

  2. I KILL you? Must be that's a good thing. Glad you enjoyed it.