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.
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 by Capitol Records. After a raucous, well-received set on the first day of the festival. Patterned after hard-rock power trios such as Cream, in August 1969 the band released its first album titled On Time, which sold over one million copies and was awarded a 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.