G is for Grand Funk Railroad, by Sam Wolk.
Of all the rock bands who came about in the decade of my birth, none are more raw, more visceral, or more American than my pick this week. One cannot discuss rock in the 70s and not include them. They sold out Shea Stadium quicker than The Beatles. They’ve influenced popular artists and acts such as The Black Crowes, The Smashing Pumpkins, Foghat, Sammy Hagar, and KISS.
They are the American band. They are Flint, Michigan’s own power trio, Grand Funk Railroad.
Their first five studio albums were released between 1969 and 1971 and contain some ferocious licks and outstanding melodies. Their music had a rough, hard edge to it that other bands of their day were missing. They sang about freedom and peace and fun, and their working class roots show in their lyrics. They have funky grooves, soulful vocals, and charismatic energy.
While they enjoyed widespread adoration from those who attended their gigs, they were eviscerated by the music press of their day. They used to include clippings of nasty reviews in the liner notes of their LPs as a “screw you” to their critics. They got almost no radio play in their heyday, amassing a legion of loyal fans through little more than word of mouth.
Mark Farner sings like an angel and plays guitar like a demon, and also picked up keyboard duties on the early albums. Don Brewer beats the crap out of his drums and his vocal chords - he was Jim Henson’s inspiration for Animal, the drummer for The Electric Mayhem. Mel Schacher is one of the most dynamic bass players in the history of rock, and the reason I took up the instrument in 1995. They later added a full time ivory tickler, Craig Frost.
Take a look at this footage of them on television in 1970, playing one of their biggest crowd-pleasers from their second album. It’s actually a cover of a song by Eric Burdon and the Animals. But I like this version better. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x6chChxzV0