[A picture from a Grand Funk concert]

Photograph by Lynn Goldsmith.

The Music

(A special thank you to Richard D. Cappetto (RickDC@AOL.com) for ferreting out the additional "gold" and "platinum" status on the Web!)


That first album released in 1969 was called On Time and gave evidence for the powerful, bluesy, funky style that had made Grand Funk so popular at the festivals. Some of their critics like to point to this album as an example of how simple the band was. However it contains many great songs -- some of which have become classics. There were even two hit singles from this album: Time Machine and Heartbreaker. And, of course, the album went gold (10/12/70).

Late in 1969 the trio came out with their second album. This one, simply entitled Grand Funk, showed that the band had further developed their heavy, blues-based style. Anyone who decried the first album should have been immediately converted by this one which is, to this day, one of the most popular LPs with the hard-core Grand Funk fans. Although there was no hit single from this album, the track which covered the song Inside Looking Out was a popular FM staple for many years showing some classic and innovative guitar work by Mark Farner. This album also went gold (7/6/70 -- Platinum on 12/3/91).


Another album quickly followed in mid 1970 which showed a more mature song writing ability. Moving away from a blues-oriented style towards something more rock-oriented, this album quickly became a favorite among many different types Grand Funk fans -- especially its orchestrated title track called Closer To Home. This song became the hit single off the album and remains a "classic rock" standard to this day. In fact, this album was a staple in Capitol's catolog for many years and was the first Grand Funk album to make it into CD format. And, as you might have guessed this album also went gold (8/12/70 -- Double Platinum on 2/12/92).

Believe it or not, the band managed to put out another album before the end of 1970. This fourth record was a live recording and simply entitled Live Album. The album was able to capture some of the real magic of a Grand Funk live performance -- especially in the innovative and classic drum solo from Don Brewer in T. N. U. C. Every Grand Funk fanatic mentions this album as a classic, style-defining epic record of what truly made the band popular and is a must-have for every serious fan. The hit single from this album was the live cut of Mean Mistreater which had been a track on the previous studio album. And Grand Funk had yet another gold album to their credit (11/23/70 -- Double Platinum on 12/3/91).


In 1971, Mark, Don, and Mel went through a sort of transition in their studio work. It isn't so much that the music changed -- they were still very rock-oriented (losing a bit more of their blues heritage) -- but more that the production quality changed. Instead of trying to convey the powerful, bluesy feel, their fifth album -- entitled Survival -- showed a more refined and professional kind of production in its recording. And, the lyrics from this album started showing a little more depth. Hit singles included covers of Feelin' Alright and Gimmie Shelter and, of course, the band had another gold album on their hands (4/30/71 -- Platinum on 12/3/91).

The sixth album also came out in 1971 (six albums in less than three years!) and was distinguished by its round, coin-shaped cover. It was in this album that the trio started showing some social consciousness with one song that was aimed at protesting against the Viet-Nam war and another that lamented problems with the environment and over-population. The hit single from this record was the powerful and fun Footstompin' Music as the album show-cased some innovative, musical, and lyrical bass work by Mel Schacher. Although the album cover was rendered in a distinctive coin-colored silver, it too eventually turned to gold (11/29/71 -- Platinum on 12/3/91).


It was after the sixth album that trouble beset the band. Disagreements arose between Mark, Don, and Mel and their manager Terry Knight. In the words of Don Brewer: "We were naive kids and we had signed our lives away -- he was making everything and we were making nothing." The disagreement expanded into litigation which continued throughout a good deal of 1972 and 1973. This gave Grand Funk a much needed rest but Capitol Records wasn't going to sit by and watch idly. In 1972, Capitol released a double compilation album entitled Mark, Don & Mel which, without the benefit of a hit single, also went gold (6/8/72). During this respite Craig Frost joined the band on keyboards.

The band "arose from the ashes" late in 1972 with their eighth album entitled Phoenix. Craig Frost's keyboard work allowed Grand Funk to achieve a fuller sound and gave the band some additional flexibility. The sound of the band changed a little more as the tunes on this album ranged from the light and philosophical to the hard-core, party rock 'n roll. The incredibly energetic, and rocking title track, Flight Of The Phoenix, featured Doug Kershaw on electric fiddle and introduced us to a "new" Grand Funk Railroad. The hit single was a song called Rock & Roll Soul and, like all other GFR albums, this album went gold (10/12/72).

[A picture Mark, Don, and the funky Funkettes]

Photograph by Lynn Goldsmith.
Photo scan courtesy of Kenny Stevens -- kstevens@iclub.org


With a long string of gold albums to their credit, it only made sense for the band to release a "real" gold album. The classic ninth album -- released in 1973 -- was actually pressed into gold-colored vinyl while the photo inside of the gold-colored album jacket had a rock-era "first" with the band posing in the nude. With two exceptions, all previous Grand Funk original material had been written by Mark Farner. On this album, Don Brewer started flexing some of his song-writing muscle -- especially with the hit single,the classic, all-time popular party song (and title track) We're An American Band which still gets a fair amount of "classic rock" air play today. And it should come as no surprise that this gold-colored album, produced by Todd Rundgren, also went gold for the band (8/21/73 -- Platinum on 12/3/91).


The tenth album produced another innovative cover design. The album cover for the 1974 release of Shinin' On had a pseudo-psychedelic design on it that was printed in a red and green, three-dimensional pattern. The album even included a pair of 3-D glasses that you could use to get the full effect of the graphic design. This album continued in the heavy rock 'n roll tradition with some interesting production effects (again from Todd Rundgren) and gave way to two hit singles. One, a cover of Little Eva's The Loco-Motion, and (the title track) Shinin' On. And, yes, the album went gold (3/29/74).

At the presentation ceremony, Mark, Don, Mel, and Craig received more than a gold record for Shinin' On and their hit single The Loco-Motion, they also received an incredible surprise. Capitol Records had done a little checking, and found Shinin' On had not only qualified as a gold LP for selling a million dollars' worth of vinyl, but also as a platinum LP after selling over 1,200,000 copies (and they did this within eight weeks of release!). A little further digging showed that, in fact, all of the band's LPs had by then been marketed to over a million turntables. The surprise followed as a curtain was drawn back to reveal the biggest award ever collected by a rock band -- 33 platinum albums. There were ten each for Don, Mark, and Mel and three for Craig Frost.

The eleventh album was released late in 1974 and was given the title All The Girls In The World Beware!!! This album signaled another shift in direction for Grand Funk as they seemed to be aiming their music at a more popular, top-40 type of audience. Even the album cover seemed to indicate a change with an interesting juxtaposition of the heads of the band members atop the bodies of body-builders Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbo. Two hit singles were produced from the LP's tracks. One, a cover of a song called Some Kind Of Wonderful, and another entitled Bad Time. This record produced yet another gold album for the band -- unfortunately, it was the last record to turn gold (12/18/74).


1975 saw the release of another double live album. The twelfth album, Caught In The Act, was released to, yet again, show the power of a live Grand Funk performance. Still a popular album to this day, the second to be released in CD format by Capitol, it showcased most all of the band's more popular hit singles and a couple of the latter-day concert favorites. The only drawback to this otherwise excellent live set is the unfortunate break in the segue between Closer To Home and Heartbreaker which was also retained on the CD. There was no hit single from the album and the record failed to turn gold.


The last album on the Capitol label, the band's thirteenth album, was called Born To Die and was released in 1976. This album was interestingly different from a couple different perspectives. First, was the thought-provoking cover design which showed all four band members in open caskets (there have been all sorts of rumors as to the actual meaning of the graphics). Second, the style of the music seemed to shift again. Drifting away from the top-40 orientation back to a more rock-like feeling -- the music had other differences which seemd hard to pin down. And then there was the fan response: depending on who you talked to they either loved it or they hated it -- an interesting dichotomy. This album also failed to produce a hit single, did not go gold, and Grand Funk Railroad's popularity appeared to be on the decline.

In an attempt to pull themselves up from their downward slide, the band switched to MCA records in 1976 and had Frank Zappa produce their last album entitled Good Singin', Good Playin'. The record was of excellent quality, showed some great musicianship, and was very well produced but it failed to produce that needed hit song, the album did not go gold and, shortly after its release, Grand Funk Railroad derailed and the band broke up.

[A picture of the band members with Frank Zappa]

Photo scan courtesy of Kenny Stevens -- kstevens@iclub.org

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