An American Band – A Six-Pack of Grand Funk Railroad

Back when Grand Funk Railroad showed up they were slogged unmercifully by the rock press, especially Rolling Stone. Not quite sure why other than that the tastes of that (slightly) younger generation weren’t up to their predecessors. Well hell, Sixties hippies, I tell you what. Grand Funk sounded great to me then and they sound great to me now and pound for pound I’d rather listen to them any day versus say, the Grateful Dead. Needless to say, my favorite whipping boy, douchebag Robert Christgau gives them a C. I’d love to debate that useless motherfucker on stage one day.ย 

Wikipedia: “Grand Funk Railroad (a play on words for the Grand Trunk Western Railroad) was formed as a trio in 1969 by Mark Farner (guitar, keyboards, harmonica, vocals) and Don Brewer (drums, vocals), and Mel Schacher (bass) from Question Mark & the Mysterians.

First achieving recognition at the 1969 Atlanta International Pop Festival, the band was signed byย Capitol Records. After a raucous, well-received set on the first day of the festival. Patterned after hard-rock power trios such asย Cream, in August 1969 the band released its first album titled On Time, which sold over one million copies and was awarded aย gold record in 1970.”

I actually hadn’t listened to Grand Funk in quite some time. But recently, a drummer-turned-bass player friend said, Hey let’s jam and tossed over the idea of doing their version of “Some Kind of Wonderful.” We threw that one overboard as it sounds like shit with a guitar and a guy who (frankly) is just learning how to play bass.

But that got me to thinking, shit, not only have I not listened to these guys in a while I don’t believe I’ve ever posted on them. So here we go.

I don’t do these six-packs chronologically so I’ll start here with a tune from GF’s fifth studio album, E Pluribus Funk. It kicks off with a goodie, a tune called “Footstompin’ Music.”

What kills me is how Cream-like these guys are and how badly they were treated. I guess if they were British it might have been different. From their 1969 album Grand Funk, here’s “Got This Thing On the Move.”

You can hardly turn on classic rock radio without hearing “Closer to Home (I’m Your Captain.)” I still love it.

I’ve been lost now, days uncounted,
And it’s months since I’ve seen home.
Can you hear me, can you hear me,
Or am I all alone.

In 1973, the boys released their first (Todd Rundgren-produced) number one song, “We’re an American Band.” It’s a fun, autobiographical look at life on the road for a band (at least in the Seventies.) They play poker with blues great Freddie King, meet sweet, sweet Connie (a famed groupie who recently passed on) and party with some ladies who were out to meet the boys in the band. I don’t know what they would find to do together but my guess would be sightseeing and ice cream.

By Federal law, every band must eventually have a song called “Heartbreaker” or some variant thereof. Hadn’t heard this one in ages. Still dig it.

There were a few missteps for these guys along the way. They once did “Do the Locomotion” which, frankly, I always thought sucked anyway. Their version of “Some Kind of Wonderful” is pretty good and I can imagine that would go over great in a club.

All that said, I’m gonna leave you with “Flight of the Phoenix” another tune (along with “Lazy” and “Chest Fever”) that has the Phantom of the Opera intro. Hey kids, remember when bands had the chops to play instrumentals? From the 1972 album Phoenix.

David Fricke, a Rolling Stone writer I have a lot of respect for, said, quote, “You cannot talk about rock in the 1970s without talking about Grand Funk Railroad!” He went on to say the fans were right. All due respect Rolling Stone, fuck you. Too little too late.

Grand Funk is touring in 2022. They’re not coming here but if they did I’d probably only go see them in a small club like I did Blue Oyster Cult. In any event, if I saw them and shit-for-brains Kid Rock was opening for them, I’d wait till he left the building.

 

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “An American Band – A Six-Pack of Grand Funk Railroad

  1. They were the opening act at the Texas International Pop Festival in 1969. They pretty much blew us in the crowd away. I give them a lot of credit for performing around mid-day in 100 degree heat. They lived through it and performed the next day in the cool of the evening.

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    1. You know, it kinda pisses me off that I somewhat internalized the feelings that Rolling Stone and others had about the band. But frankly, I dug them and on listening to them, still do. Those guys have chops.

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  2. I know Grand Funk Railroad primarily by name. Based on songs I’ve heard like “Closer to Home”, “We’re an American Band” and “Some Kind of Wonderful”, I’ve always thought they were a pretty solid rock band.

    I didn’t realize the lack of respect they got. That’s definitely puzzling to me. All of the tunes you highlighted sound great.

    Frankly, I had no idea GFR are still around. Assuming tickets are fairly affordable, I’d consider seeing them. I could definitely do with Kid Rock, however!

    They already played Red Bank, N.J. a couple of weeks ago. That would have been too early for me, given where we are with Covid numbers. Another opportunity would be March 4 in Atlantic City – that’s a bit far.

    In any case, I’d much prefer outdoors in the summer.

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    1. Yeah, they got fucking hammered by Rolling Stone. A lot of that slogging happened in the shift from the Hendrix/Joplin/Airplane crowd to the Zep/Sabbath/Grand Funk listeners. Truthfully, in some ways, there was a harder-edged “dumbed-down” sound compared to what came before. But that didn’t mean it was bad, just heavier.

      “Some kind of wonderful” is pretty easy to play. But like I was mentioning, there isn’t much a guitar and bass can do with it. It’s a party song for sure.

      GF would be a blast to see live. I’m sure they’d get a big boomer crowd who could sing along with every tune. Like It or not. ๐Ÿคฃ

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  3. No more Grammy’s or Rolling Stone for you pal. It isnt good for your blood pressure. Not a major Funk fan but a fan none the less. ‘We’re An American Band’ was a radio saver back when.

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    1. Yeah, fan but not major either. Hell, it’s the first time I’ve mentioned them in six years of blogging. But they pass the ME “good rock and roll for the car” test.

      As to Stone, well yeah, but the thing is I loved that rag back in the day. It tapped into the countercultural zeitgeist, had great articles and informed me about of what I listened to then and now. And frankly, taught me how to write about music. But there were a few dickhead reviewers. Fortunately we ignored them.

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  4. I’d go see them in concert except they are opening for Kid Rock so that kills it. I’d love to see Bruce Kulick again live as I hadn’t seen him with GFR only with Kiss.

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    1. That’s funny. I thought Kid Rock was opening for them. Yeah, I wouldn’t spend a dime on that shithead. I hope that Grand Funk takes a page from Blue Oyster Cult, recognizes they’re not quite as big as they were and plays smaller venues by themselves. I saw BOC in a small club and it was great. Overly packed, but great.

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        1. Yeah, I haven’t bought anything by them for a long time and they’re pretty much coasting on old glories. But like Los Lobos, pre-COVID they toured pretty relentlessly

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        2. Nothing wrong with touring on the old glory. Whatever pays the bills. Plus 90% of the people only want to hear the popular stuff anyway. Not like us, who want new stuff too!!

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