An American band
February 23, 2009 2:18 PM   Subscribe

They sold out Shea Stadium faster than The Beatles. They played benefit concerts for Bosnia. And they're about to embark upon their 40th anniversary tour. To prepare, here's everything you always wanted to know about Grand Funk Railroad.

Absent from the tour will be guitarist/singer Mark Farner - who found Christ and continues a solo career as the Rock Patriot - and manager/producer Terry Knight - who was stabbed to death by his daughter's boyfriend in 2004. (previously)
posted by Joe Beese (51 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Nobody knows the band Grand Funk? The wild shirtless antics of Mark Farner? The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drumwork of Don Brewer?
posted by box at 2:19 PM on February 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Aren't they an American band?
posted by not_on_display at 2:21 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


That was an excellent band. Sorry to hear it was killed by Jeebus. To this day I never hear the name "Connie" without hearing those magic cowbells.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:23 PM on February 23, 2009


In an American land?
posted by Xurando at 2:23 PM on February 23, 2009


D'oh, I shoulda RTFT. OK then: They're neither grand, nor funk, nor a railroad. Discuss.
posted by not_on_display at 2:24 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


They were also my first introduction to blue and red 3-D glasses.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:26 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


No Farner? Then it's not Grand Funk. He's their captain, yeah, yeah, yeh...
posted by jonmc at 2:28 PM on February 23, 2009


BTW, that Shea Stadium footage was shot by Albert Maysles of Gimme Shelter / Grey Gardens fame.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:28 PM on February 23, 2009




They're commin' to your town.
and
They'll help you party it down.

Such nice boys.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:39 PM on February 23, 2009


For more information on Grand Funk, consult your local library!
posted by porn in the woods at 2:43 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of my faves.
posted by DonnyMac at 2:44 PM on February 23, 2009


here they are doing mr limosine driver and please don't worry on playboy after dark - well, pretending to do it

tony randall doesn't approve but barbi benton does
posted by pyramid termite at 2:52 PM on February 23, 2009


god, they're awful!
posted by dydecker at 2:53 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Their version of Feelin' Alright, written for Traffic but popularized by Joe Cocker, is the only one I can listen to.
posted by eclectist at 3:01 PM on February 23, 2009


I made a bet with myself before I clicked in here about how many comments it would take for someone to reference that Simpsons line. I said three. I should learn to have more faith.

Moving on, I'm kind of torn about this band. On the one hand, they embody pretty much everything wrong with 70s rock- that macho, very white school of rock that was loud without being very exciting, and dumb (see lyrics quoted above) without being very much fun. At a time when people were doing amazing, crazy, never-seen-before things with rock music, they seemed determined to drive straight down the middle of the road to dumb-riff-and-lackluster-"party"-lyrics-ville. Far from making it sound exciting to be a rock star, the lyrics just sound like a bored, journalistic recitation of facts:

1) we drive to towns and play shows.
2) we rock out.
3) we have groupies.
4) We are from America.

On the other hand, they did rock pretty hard.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:02 PM on February 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


who found Christ

Where, exactly...?
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:02 PM on February 23, 2009


Wasn't Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad in the Butthole Surfers?

This is a trick question.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:02 PM on February 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


The weirdest thing I ever got in the mail was about 50 xeroxed pages of press clippings; everything I ever wanted to know about Grand Funk Railroad. At the time I was a minor, minor, minor music journalist at a fairly well known magazine, so I guess some kind of rabid Grand Funk fan saw my name, found out my address and sent me the clippings. To this day I have absolutely no idea why he (I suspect the rabid fan was a he, but I've got no evidence) sent me the material, all I know is that every time I see the words "Grand Funk Railroad" somewhere I break out in a sweat and take cover behind the nearest venetian blinds.

Anyway, I kind of like the fact that down home no nonsense hard working rock'n'roll combos have got crazed die hard followers. You kind of suspect those kinds of fans to find refuge in other genres, but no, they're pretty much everywhere. That's what I learnt from said package.

posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:12 PM on February 23, 2009


...and, oh yeah, the above story takes place in Sweden, of all countries. An added bonus.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:13 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


> that macho, very white school of rock that was loud without being very exciting, and dumb (see lyrics quoted above) without being very much fun.

Quoted for truth. See also: Vanilla Fudge, Blue Cheer, Humble Pie, Iron Butterfly, Ten Years After...
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:19 PM on February 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


they embody pretty much everything wrong with 70s rock- that macho, very white school of rock that was loud without being very exciting, and dumb (see lyrics quoted above) without being very much fun

From my reading of Lester Bangs, I gather that certain kinds of music are suited to downers like Quaaludes - whose popularity coincided with the band's.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:23 PM on February 23, 2009


The Grand Funk website reminded me of the pure beauty of Sebastian Bach's website, which I haven't looked at in a few years. Update: it's still amazing.
posted by davebush at 3:49 PM on February 23, 2009


This bears repeating: No Mark Farner, not Grand Funk!
posted by bonefish at 3:54 PM on February 23, 2009


You take that back about Vanilla Fudge, Card Cheat.
posted by jtron at 4:44 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who are these "Beatles" of which you speak?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:44 PM on February 23, 2009


When are the Archies going to tour again?
posted by jfuller at 4:58 PM on February 23, 2009


“Far from making it sound exciting to be a rock star, the lyrics just sound like a bored, journalistic recitation of facts”

Y’know, a lot of bands did that in the 70s. Steve Miller’s stuff was amazingly self referential. I found and listened to ‘The Joker’ a bit ago, but while looking I noticed he’s got a tune called ‘space cowboy’ and stuff like that. And that references another tune, etc etc.

I think they were just copying off of blues artists who did it, y’know, well, and thought they could get away with it. Which they sort of did if you blast the tune so loud the lyrics don’t matter.
I mean, every AC/DC tune sounds like “The Hokey Pokey” to me (especially Money Talk) and the lyrics seem almost stream of consciousness and repetative, but it’s just straight up rock and roll and so, fun.
I like watching the old 60s and 70s videos and candid slice of life t.v. work. They just seem so cheezy and in earnest. Naive to the point it’s sort of endearing with the handlebar mustaches and the hair, shag carpet, wide ties, oh, and custom vans.

(Although I can’t think of Iron Butterfly that way anymore, not after watching William Peterson slow motion crash through a plate glass window in Manhunter)
posted by Smedleyman at 5:15 PM on February 23, 2009


Wasn't Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad in the Butthole Surfers?

This is a trick question.


Because one of the Butthole Surfers had a dog named Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad that toured with them (the Buttholes, I mean)?
posted by scratch at 5:25 PM on February 23, 2009


We're an American Bland. Woooo.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:34 PM on February 23, 2009


See also: Vanilla Fudge, Blue Cheer, Humble Pie, Iron Butterfly, Ten Years After

Subgenre: "biker rock."

Actually, Humble Pie's pretty good. Huge influence on the Black Crowes.
posted by scratch at 5:38 PM on February 23, 2009


Actually, all of them had their moments. and you forgot Mountain, Wet Willie and Cactus.
posted by jonmc at 5:51 PM on February 23, 2009


I first found out about Grand Funk Railroad after a friend saw a concert on television in 1969.

It was a strange time in music. I never heard a GFR song on radio until the release of "American Band", but we had all bought all four (Grand Funk, Closer to Home, On Time, Grand Funk Live) albums before that.

The sound of "American Band" was so heavily processed, unnatural and completely unlike the preceding albums that it led us to refer to it is GFR gone "Hollywood"

Incidentally, the bass line in "Inside Lookin' Out" is sampled on a Beastie Boy song somewhere...
posted by mmrtnt at 6:08 PM on February 23, 2009


jonmc: "Actually, all of them had their moments. and you forgot Mountain, Wet Willie and Cactus."

And there's the James Gang - which is mentioned in the insane recording at the "everything you always wanted to know" link as an example of a post-Cream power trio who didn't make it due to a lack of the indefinable magic possessed by the Railroad.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:34 PM on February 23, 2009


Joe Beese: I like GFR, but I'd rank the Joe Walsh-era James Gang as better due to Walsh's guitar style, songwriting and sense of humor. YMMV.
posted by jonmc at 6:42 PM on February 23, 2009


Quoted for truth. See also: Vanilla Fudge, Blue Cheer, Humble Pie, Iron Butterfly, Ten Years After...

One of these bands is not like the others... it's the one with Steve Marriott on vocals. That one only sucked a *little* bit. Until 1974, anyway. By then, they sucked as bad as all the rest.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:49 PM on February 23, 2009


My favorite '70s power trio is Blo.
posted by box at 7:15 PM on February 23, 2009


it's kind of funny really - i've spent some time exploring the music of the late 60s and early 70s and one can find all sorts of obscure bands that were trying to be grand funk railroad at the same time they were recording their first album and trying to get noticed

but as long as we're talking

vanilla fudge sucked - the beat goes on is pretty much revolution no 9 done by a draggy ass no talent band for a whole fucking album - renaissance was another draggy ass album full of songs that are too long and too slow - and their side long "break song" - god, you know, they weren't the grateful dead - they weren't even rare earth - they had two hits - hit one was "you keep me hanging on" which was done a lot faster and a lot better by the supremes, who by the way, had a GOOD bass player on their sessions - their other hit, bang bang was first done by sonny and cher - yeah, they were such a heavy, underground band, they did covers of sonny and cher songs ...

james gang was very good - the first album is a classic, and yes, indeed, they were a lot better than grand funk - they didn't make it? - they got on the radio before grand funk did and when joe walsh left them, he managed to have a huge hit with rocky mountain way - james gang went through a procession of guitarists and were increasingly mired in mediocrity as time went on

the big influence on the black crowes is the faces, not humble pie - of course, before steve mariott was in humble pie he was in the small faces, so the confusion's natural - 30 days in the hole was their best song

you forgot Mountain, Wet Willie and Cactus.

mountain was a good band, but they often failed to come up with enough good songs on their albums - there's some live stuff out there that's worth a listen

wet wille was a southern rock band and doesn't really belong here

cactus weren't all that good

well, back then i was in jr high or high school and much preferred prog bands to grand funk, who sounded like an inferior version of led zeppelin to me - other popular bands, such as deep purple and black sabbath, also seemed to be a lot better

where i lived in michigan, i'm your captain was played a lot on the radio - as was footstompin' music, upsetter, rock and roll soul, and sometimes paranoid and inside looking out - as time passed, i got to appreciate them more, although i still think their versions of gimme shelter and feelin' alright are pathetic - (it's rare earth's version of feelin' alright that i like) - of course, in michigan, at that time, a lot of us thought bob seger was better ... *cues rosalie, katmandu and get out of denver* (all of which were played on our radio stations before the live album came out)

hmmm, no one mentioned uriah heep - just as well ...
posted by pyramid termite at 8:09 PM on February 23, 2009


(yeah, there it is. Nobody jumps through a plate glass window like Petersen. Oh, Charles Durning is ok, but y'know, great version of Inna Godda DaVida)
posted by Smedleyman at 8:44 PM on February 23, 2009


I really liked I'm Your Captain.

Confession: I still do.



While we're namechecking dumb 70s bands: Black Oak Arkansas. Jim Dandy to the rescue!
posted by jokeefe at 8:50 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Blue Cheer"

Blue Cheer was great. Not as psychedelic as some of their contemporaries, but very heavy and acid-soaked. They filled a need. I love their cover of "Summertime Blues." They're still around today, though not sure how well that stuff wears, although they've released new material.

Iron Butterfly was great for In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, if for no other reason. It's kind of a stupid song, sure, but I love the fact that radio stations played the full length version, drum solo and all, and that the lyrics were a result of a drunken accident. But if they hadn't released that song, not sure if their music would have stuck in so many memories. Still, the Simpsons episode where Bart replaces the sheet music with a song by I. Ron Butterfly would not have been the same without it.

But Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer and Jimi Hendrix helped lay the foundation for heavy metal. They weren't really the same direction as Grand Funk, which is more of a beer and weed mainstream rock band.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:00 PM on February 23, 2009


"Bart replaces the sheet music "

... in church ...
posted by krinklyfig at 10:01 PM on February 23, 2009


And, yes, James Gang with Joe Walsh was excellent. Sort of inconsistent, like Joe Walsh, but fucking great when they were really on. My high school garage band loved to cover Walsh tunes. Funk #49 was always fun. Rocky Mountain Way ... Saw him in concert back in the '80s. Good show, but he meandered into the tunes and I think frustrated some of the audience because he wouldn't just play it straight, though I loved it. He'd screw around and sort of wander up to a tune, tease it, and then lay into it. Loved it, but he was in no hurry, that's for sure ...
posted by krinklyfig at 10:09 PM on February 23, 2009


"vanilla fudge sucked"

Yes, although they did play a prominent role in Zappa's "The Mud Shark." So, you know, at least they could contribute something of value.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:13 PM on February 23, 2009


Another forgettable band in this genre was Montrose. And Robin Trower. And REO Speedwagon. The Sex Pistols melted all these guys away like a dropped ice cream cone on a Cincinnati sidewalk in August.
posted by telstar at 4:37 AM on February 24, 2009


telstar: "Another forgettable band in this genre was Montrose. And Robin Trower. And REO Speedwagon. The Sex Pistols melted all these guys away like a dropped ice cream cone on a Cincinnati sidewalk in August."

Are we talking about Art or are we talking about The Business?

Cuz if it's the latter, the Pistols have "less than zero" to do with any of this. Grand Funk were replaced by Foreigner who were replaced by Night Ranger who were replaced by Poison... (all of whom had their moments as well)

It wasn't until Nirvana that punk had anything to do with anything, commercially speaking.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:37 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who are these "Beatles" of which you speak?

I think that was the band Paul McCartney was in before Wings.
posted by ElvisJesus at 5:42 AM on February 24, 2009


If you don't feel like reading all 47 posts, here's a summary:

Your favorite band sucks. Mine rules.

________________ is great.



________________is not great.



_______________knows more about music than you.


I know more about music than ________________.

We can all carry on now.
posted by scratch at 7:48 AM on February 24, 2009


That Shea Stadium footage is incredibly good. It seems that is the only that song is available as a bonus to some music, anyone know where I can find more, other than by traveling back in time to February of 2007 New York? I think that the guy at around 4:15 definitely has an account on Metafilter...
posted by mike_bling at 8:05 AM on February 24, 2009


"Another forgettable band in this genre was Montrose. And Robin Trower. And REO Speedwagon. The Sex Pistols melted all these guys away like a dropped ice cream cone on a Cincinnati sidewalk in August."

and with their reunion tours and platinum records and TV appearances and merchandise catalogs, the Pistols and many of their peers could be seen as dinosaur rock themselves, so why not just enjoy the tunes and the spirit behind them and leave the petty cliquey sniping and 30 year old third-hand faux-punk cliches to the kids at Hot Topic?
posted by jonmc at 9:24 AM on February 24, 2009


While we're namechecking dumb 70s bands: Black Oak Arkansas. Jim Dandy to the rescue!

"Lord have mercy on my soul" by BOA was a gas, too. and Ruby Starr, their female vocalist, was ssssexxy as hell. I say 'was' since she sadly passed on in 1995 at age 44 from cancer.
posted by jonmc at 9:37 AM on February 24, 2009


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