Grand Funk

ARTICLE ABOUT Grand Funk FROM SOUNDS, October 20, 1973

I don`t think people in Europe realize how incredibly huge this band was in the US and Canada in the period from 1969 until around 1975. They sold regularly to Platinum and even double platinum with their albums, meaning they shifted several million copies in those golden years.
This band is still out on the road in the US with ex-Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick and Max Carl (a renowned musician for a whole lot of bands/artists) filling the void after Mark Farner who continued his solo career in 1998.
Do yourself a favour and check them out if you can.

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Grand Funk rise from the ashes

Interview by Pete Makowski

Banal and incompetent are just some of the criticisms that have been laid on Grand Funk Railroad. Their first album was dismissed in one paragraph in an American paper and they have been slandered non-stop since their first successful concert at Atlanta right up to the release of “We`re An American Band”, their ninth and best selling release, where the media opened their eyes and recognised the validity of this band – and it`s about time too:
It seems senseless that a band who have – and I`m quoting the publicity handout – broken every existing attendance record in every city they`ve appeared in, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have been ignored by the networks and totally massacred by the music press.
They sold out New York`s Shea Stadium in 72 hours; more than 12,000 fans camped out all night to be the first in line for tickets. Five years before it had taken the Beatles 80 days to sell out the same stadium. They grossed a staggering two million dollars in one single 52 day tour.
The prime argument against them is the hype factor which in some ways is justifiable, but if this were completely true then you can dismiss the old adage “You can`t fool all of the people all of the time”.
Personally I credit their success to the situation around them at the time of their inception. There was a new generation of kids in their mid-teens who didn`t particularly turn on to acid or any other forms of hard dope it was more the alcohol and pill scene more commonly known as wine and reds.
They weren`t susceptible to or aware of the music around them, the music didn`t contain the aggression they wanted. So when Mark Farner, Don Brewer and Mel Schacher stepped on stage in Atlanta in 1969 and played a set with the rawness and power the kids were looking for, they were accepted as the new generation`s rock`n`roll saviours.
They turned onto Farner`s frantic stage act as Chuck Berry turned them on two decades ago – a decade later it was Mick Jagger. The new breed of audience hadn`t been associated with their elder`s musical evolvement so this sexually orientated stage performance seemed a whole new thing to them.

IDOLIZE

So what is it about them that enables them to be in such high regard? Firstly, I must admit to the felenous act of being a keen fan of the band and I can honestly say I enjoy listening to their albums. But why? As musicians they can be regarded as competent but they`re definitely no virtuosos, their lyrics are by no means awe inspiring but cannot be condemned as trite, and anyway you rarely get inspiring lyrics in rock and roll. So why do a few million or so people idolise them?
Since the band broke their liaison with Terry Knight, their ex-manager and professed mentor, they have expanded from a three piece to a quartet with addition of old colleague Craig Frost on keyboards. They`ve also become more accessible to the press than when Terry Knight acted as the band`s mouthpiece.
I spoke to Don Brewer, the band`s volatile percussionist, who was lazing in his Detroit apartment and he seemed to be quite excited about the groups new album: “I`m really knocked out with the album, specially with the single getting in the charts, it`s our first hit single.”
The boys have certainly come a long way and their musical history stems back to the pre-psychedelia era, the age of punk rock, when the Electric Prunes` “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” and the Standell`s “Dirty Water” were riding high in the charts.
The band were all born and bred in Flint, Michigan, Detroit which has always been recognised for its raucous bands (Alice Cooper, MC 5 and Iggy Pop). Don Brewer played in a band called the Jazzmasters and, as legend goes, Terry Knight a locally famous DJ who quit, spotted the band (who were on the verge of splitting) saw their hidden talents and joined as vocalist.

PENNILESS

Their name was promptly changed to Terry Knight and The Pack. Mark Farner joined temporarily on bass then left to play in Dick Wagner`s Bossmen but after The Pack`s guitarist was given notice to quit Farner rejoined as lead. The band was fairly good as far as punk rock goes and they recorded a couple of albums on Lucky 11 label a subsidiary of Cameo Parkway.
A lot of their songs sounded uncannily like rip offs of old Beatles and Yardbird numbers. Eventually Terry split to pursue a solo career and the Pack tried to make it on their own but found themselves stranded in Cape Cod penniless and hungry.
Terry was playing in a club nearby and when he met up with them decided to manage the boys. They hunted around for a bassist and found Mel Schacher a one-time member of Mark and The Mysterians who made chart success with “99 Tears”. The band signed a whole load of contracts, went into rehearsals and before they knew it were playing Atlanta, a huge venue for a band so young and inexperienced.

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EXPOSURE

They played the gig for free to get a little more exposure and were plunged straight into the deep end, a very risky business. I asked Don how he felt about playing venues so large: “I didn`t like Shea Stadium it was only a promotional concert and it was too big, the acoustics were bad and you couldn`t get close enough to the people.”
Their gigs went so well that their newly acquired company, Capitol, released a single “Time Machine” and followed it up with their debut album “On Time” which sold well. Knight pushed their name in every outlet available and made sure their gig sheet was consistently full, even though they were playing for a mere pittance and travelling in a beaten up old Volkswagen.
It was their third album “Closer To Home” which had the critics screaming `hype`, due to Knight`s huge billboard across Times Square and the way the boys were presented as a peoples band. Then came “Grand Funk Live” which gave the band international recognition they played two successful gigs in England, one being in Hyde Park.
“I really liked the Hyde Park concert,” Don told me. “I was so surprised at the amount of people that came, there`s been a representative from Island from England come over to see us at our latest tour and he wants us to do a British tour. I`d like that, I think the kids would like our new stage act, I think we`ll be over soon.”
After the live album came their most controversial record “Survival” which features renditions of Dave Mason`s “Feelin` Alright” and the Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” and it seemed as if the band were mellowing down and this began to win the critics favour. Don recalls the album with some disdain “I don`t play it much, it reminds me of some bad times we were going through personally I prefer “Closer To Home” and the new one.
“Survival`s” sales weren`t high in comparison to the rest although it struck gold and the next album “E Pluribus Funk” reverted back to their old ballsy style. It was at this time – when Funk were reaching the pinnacle of fame, a world tour underway and a film was in the can – that the band split with Knight and the court cases began.
Everyone predicted this as the end of the line for the Railroad and for a while it seemed as if they might be right. Then they released “Phoenix” a title indicating the new start. I asked Don why the band split from Knight:
“I`m afraid I can`t say anything because we`re still fighting court cases and if we say anything it could be used, so all you could use is what has already been written.”

CAMPAIGN

There certainly has been a lot written about the case, easily enough for another article but in condensed form it seems that the band`s whole life was being saturated by Knight`s excessive hype campaign and this was affecting their music as well as introverting their personalities.
But, I hasten to add, the guy must be given his dues, if it wasn`t for all the risks and schemes he undertook for the band they wouldn`t be as big as they are now – although it doesn`t mean they wouldn`t have ever come about.
But to them it`s all past now and they have been given a new lease of life devoid of the past, apart from 55 million dollars worth of court orders.
Mark Farner`s role in the band comes over as the leader. I asked Don if he and Mel felt as if they were just a backing band? “No we felt guilty because Mark had so much responsibility, he had so much to cope with but it`s not like that any more because we come over as band, as Grand Funk.”
Mark has written a lot of socially conscious songs and is concerned with ecology. “Yeah, Mark knows that he`s in a position where kids will listen to him so he feels it`s his responsibility to make them aware of the situation around them but people say `Mark should stop writing pollution songs,` and `Mark should do this,` but he`s really concerned about the situation around him.”
The band must obviously have strong opinions about the press. I asked Don how he felt about the criticisms laid on the group, “It used to get me at first but now I don`t take so much notice of the criticisms although I`m aware of them but I`m more concerned about the people than the press.”
Rightly so, I asked Don what the differences were in the approach of recording “We`re An American Band.” “It was much looser before, we would rehearse and record the albums in a couple of days because of the tight touring schedule. We still recorded the whole album in five days.”
Don describes the band`s music as American funk and explained the whole concept of the album was to show they were just an American band. He blushingly admits to being pleased about the album`s success as he wrote and co-wrote most of the material, including the single.

MANAGER

The band are now being managed by their old road manager Andy Cavaliere. “He`s great, he came in at a rough time and handled the situation really well I mean it must have been hard to make that transition from road manager to manager. “They`ve also acquired a new member Craig Frost on keyboards who was originally intended to be in the band but due to various complications didn`t get round to joining till now although he`s always been closely associated with them.
Funk have also just completed a tour. “The reactions been fantastic,” said the enthusiastic Mr. Brewer, “I never expected it to be as good as this. Right now the band are resting,” Mark at his ranch breeding horses, Mel whose the quitest in the band lives in the woods where he spends most of his time building motorcycles and me I`m the business man of the band I stay in an apartment in the city.”
I asked Don how long the band intended to be around? “We don`t intend to be around for any fixed amount of time it just depends on how long we feel like being Grand Funk as long as it feels right, that`s how long we`ll stay together.”
With their new album and single riding high in the charts and their tours going so well it looks as if Grand Funk aren`t go to be just an overnight sensation. They`ve managed to sustain their gargantuan success up till now and it seems as if the phoenix has risen from its ashes for good and the Railroad`s going to be back for a helluva long time.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Free, Elliot Mazer, Kevin Coyne, Gentle Giant, Yes, Judy Collins, Dr. John, Stackridge, Eumir Deodato, Camel, Jerry Lawson and Jimmy Hayes.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

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ARTICLE ABOUT Grand Funk FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, April 19, 1975

This is a great interview with the main writer, guitarist and lead singer of Grand Funk. The band is more famous in America than in Europe, but if you never heard them, check them out! Have a fun day!

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Straining and soaring against the entire Dark Ages of Rock…
…When all he really wants to do is muck out the cows `n stuff.

`Jus` wan` grow mah own vegetables.`
`I dig the doom pow-wow powdoo popapoppop poooow!`

Yes friends, just two examples of the wit and wisdom of Mark Farner, guitarist and mulcher-in-chief of GRAND FUNK.

Pitchforks at the ready. Here we go…

By Tony Stewart

Mark Farner sits rigidly upright in a hotel room, his rippling biceps folded firmly over an impressively expansive chest. If it`s possible to stand to attention in an armchair, he`s doing it.
Tell me, Mark…
(He smiles pleasantly, showing off a set of teeth so sparkling white that it looks like he`s got a mouthful of piano keys.)
…and this is a question of considerable import, since it could well affect your life-style and the very future of Grand Funk…
(He`s curious. The sharp, clear eyes squint slightly as he concentrates, and his head nods understandingly.)
…and possibly even your own appeal…
(He`s listening really hard now.)
…why did you get your hair cut?
His mouth drops open, and a look – if not of complete horror, then certainly one of total incredulity – creeps across his rugged Dan Dare features.
“Why did I get my hair cut?”
Well – yes.

After all, it was a conversation piece earlier in the day, but somehow the exact reason why Farner had boldly lopped off four feet of his famous brown locks had never been put.
Quite a number of Grand Funk fans have recently failed to recognise their hero off-stage, it`s that savage.
“Because,” Farner finally manages to answer, “I work around my farm machinery all the time and on several different occasions I would bend over, be working on some equipment, be bailing hay or something, and that tractor motor has got a helluva lot of horsepower y`know, 125 horses, and it`s turning the power take-off shaft…an` my pony tail has damn near got jerked into it.
“An` that tractor wouldn`t stop just for my head gettin` jerked into it, y`know.
“I don`t wear bell-bottom jeans at my farm either when I`m working. I use straight legged pants coz I don`t want my leg gettin` jerked into none of that equipment.
“Plus,” he continues, turning to look at his publicist, a young American chick called Lynne Goldsmith who`s the only other person present, “how much money did my hair make for charity? We auctioned it off.”

Yes, sports fans. Mark`s a farmer-boy at heart.
But would you buy a second-hand cow off him?
“That`s what I`m working for y`know,” he goes on. “That`s what I went into rock music and strived for.
“I wanted to have enough money where I could buy me a farm and do what I want to do and be my own boss an` jus` grow m`own vegetables.
“I raise my own beef, I raise my own pigs and horses. One of these days I`m jus` gonna be self-sufficient.”
So you`re “into” it, eh?
“Oh yessur. It`s in my soul, it`s in my blood. I`m one-sixteenth Indian, an` I believe it`s in my heart.
“I`ve been round the world a coupla times,” he continues, “an` I don`t want anythin` but the land, because I relate to it. I don`t worship land, an` it`s not sacred to me, but it`s essential.
“I don`t know if anybody feels the exact same way about it as I do, but I cried when they strip-mined down in West Virginia, and they ruined all the trees an` the mountains an` the countryside. They jus` went through `em, took all the coal and fuck everything else, y`know? At the price of our future and our children`s future they`re jus` makin` money an` money, an` money. Money, money, money!

“Nothin` is gonna be in the way of these guys. The bankers` bankers and the ultra-rich who`re doing this sort of thing an` makin` a livin` ain`t gonna stop, I mean, `coz they`re runnin` the World.”
You don`t use spray deodorants, do you, Mark?
“Uh-uh. Roll on.”
“About the aerosol cans? Well, because they made a study down at the University of Michigan…an` they discovered while makin` tests that the outer layer of ozone, which is in the outer layer of the earth`s atmosphere an` which filters out the ultra-violet rays from the Sun, is gettin` more thin and gettin` eat up by these gasses that they pressurise these cans with. Freton or something they call it.
“When it`s released from the can it goes out and it goes right up to the outer atmosphere, coz it`s so light, an` it`s eatin` away at the ozone.
“They predict that within five years it`s gonna have an effect on the crops, an` people will be gettin` skin cancer from laying out in the sun too long. In ten years,” he continues, beginning to get down and get with the topic, “people won`t be able to go out in the sun, they say, if the use of aerosol cans keeps up.
“So that scares me. In fact, I`m writing a song about it.”

What`ll you call it?
“`Aerosol Can.` The first verse is” – he breaks into song, clicking time with his fingers – “`The rays of the sun are gonna burn ya, hun. You can`t kill a villain with a bomb or a gun. You can`t blow him out of his dhooooes. So it`s time to choooose.`
Protest, huh?
“They listen to my music now, an` I`ve said things in song that would be political, I guess. It`s my opinion, an` people have come to me an` said, `I get behind what you`re sayin` in that song`.
“As long as those people are listenin` to the words, I`m gonna keep sayin` it, because I feel obligated to say it. An` they`ll listen to the music coz it`s a good, funky beat.
“That`s the thing behind it – the drive.
“The doom pow-pow powdoo popapoppoppooow.
“It`s gonna cook. An` people`ll be boogie-ing and they`ll be saying, `Hey, what`s he saying? Yeah! He`s right!”
Yeah. But roll-ons are stickier than sprays.
“But,” he comes back eagerly, “the stick deodorants – like Brut – are good. They don`t leave a mess under your arms.”

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On an otherwise uneventful Sunday night in Copenhagen, Grand Funk arrive at a half-full concert hall for the first date on the European leg of a five-month World tour (which includes one date at Wembley this weekend).
All is not well.
The audience is jeering and slow hand-clapping because the support band are half an hour late. Their disenchantment intensifies when the group`s equipment is removed from the rostrum and it becomes apparent they`re not going to appear at all.
This occurence does, however, allow us time to reflect on the main attraction.
Emerging as the opening act at the 1969 Atlanta Festival, Grand Funk were virtually an over-night commercial success in America – though the acclaim they have subsequently received from capacity houses throughout the states has created so little consternation in musicbiz and Press circles.
Reactions have been extreme.
On the other hand, they`ve been described as the most hideous of all Heavy Metal creations, while on the other (that of ex-manager Terry Knight) they`ve been ecstatically declared the phenomenon of the 70s.
“It has often been said,” he once solioquized, “that Art becomes great not when it is `good` or `bad`, but only when it absolutely cannot be ignored.”
He has a point, actually.

Having released 11 albums (one a double) in their seven-year existence, each of which – according to Farner – has achieved platinum status, it would be…unfair to ignore them. Though time has shown that laughing at them is another matter.
At Copenhagen I didn`t laugh. I was too bored.
This, however, was not the concensus. By the end of a dozen numbers, a film-show projected on a screen above the stage, and some rather dazzling lighting effects, the audience response was rapturous.
Farner is the only focal point. Naked to the waist, wearing a pair of red satin pants possibly on loan from a pantomime genii, he leaps about the stage athletically, guitar strapped tightly to his barrel chest.
Drummer Don Brewer enthusiastically beats time, his afro-frizz lolling over the snare as if controlled by a puppeteer, while an immobile Mel Schacher rounds out bass riffs with apparent disinterest.
To the far left of the stage Craig Frost sits between two keyboard instruments, one of which resembles a fish tank.
The sound is elementary and repetitive. The only distinguishable difference between the first three numbers, “Are You Ready?”, “Foot Stompin` Music” and “Rock And Roll Soul” is a slight variation of tempo…somewhere.
Unlike other bands in the genre (Purple, Heep, etc.), Funk seem to place very little emphasis on spontaneity or improvision, their main philosophy apparently being: Find that riff and sit on it.

Back in the hotel room Mark`s saying how important he believes the lyrics of his songs to be. I`d like to have taken him up on this, except that I couldn`t actually hear them the previous night.
“When I write a song,” he expounds, “I`m behind that son-of-a-bitch 100 per cent. I mean, there`s no doubt in my mind whether it should go on disc that way. It`s going down that way an` it`s gonna be said. If anybody tried to fuck with my words, I`d just…”
And he smacks a powerful right fist into a large left hand, drawing Lynne to laugh and a resolution on my behalf not to delve too deeply into that particular area.
His unshakeable views on this subject have caused him some difficulties within Grand Funk.
When recording “We`re An American Band”, the other members refused to use some of his material because they considered it too political. Now he intends to record his own album and use these songs.
“I just feel obligated – because I`m where I`m at, in this position. A lot of other bands have been in this position, too. Like The Beatles – they were really political. They were social conscious and a lot of people were listenin` to `em, like on that `Magical Mystery Tour`.
“It was The Beatles, though, who inspired me to go on and do this, because I said, `If I ever get in that position` – an` I had my fingers crossed – `if I ever get as big as them guys were, or even halfway near it, I`m jus` gonna keep puttin` what I believe down on record`.

“We got 11 albums,” he states proudly, “an` all of `em are gold, an` all of `em are platinum, an` they`ve all sold a million copies a piece. That`s my testimonial.”
Commercial success, I cliche loudly, doesn`t necessarily indicate quality.
“Well, when we started down at Atlanta the people felt that music,” he defends. “When we went out it was 110 degrees in the sun, and the people were jus` dyin`, but they got up and gave it back to us.
“An` that was like my inspiration from that point on. Two hundred and fifty thousand got up an` called us back for an encore. And the guy even said our name wrong when he announced us.”
But wasn`t it mostly manager Knight`s hype at that stage?
“If we were a hype it would have stopped at Atlanta, or have stopped when people said, `Hey they can`t play, it`s a hype`. If it`s a hype you can tell by what`s comin` outa bands.
“And Terry Knight didn`t create us, because it`s our original music, which he had nothin` do with at all, except to produce it – if you can call it producing.
“I`ll tell you what: when we split with Terry Knight you couldn`t have put our money and assets together and made a million dollars. We were in debt.
“I owed the government $400,000 or something like that. I just got it paid off last year.
“Like we were working in the red for a long time…until our last American tour.

“If Grand Funk broke up tomorrow I`d go back to my farm and be a farmer. I wouldn`t try to go out with nobody because there`s not that combination in the world.
“An` I don`t have to have that elaborate amount of money because I don`t live that way. Like I told you, I`m getting to the point where I`m self-sufficient.
“My number one concern is my physical condition. I wouldn`t be any good if I didn`t have myself together – fit. So I work on my farming. I wanna die old; I wanna be in good condition. I don`t wanna get fat.”
“The first time Mark had a satin pants fitting,” says Lynne Goldsmith. “He didn`t have his shirt on and the woman fitter looked at him and said, `How do you get your chest like that?`
“And Mark said, truthfully, `I shovel shit everyday`.”
“I`m staying right down here on the ground,” Farmer maintains, stoutly. “I`m not a superstar who`s got his nose up in the air and who don`t recognise anybody else. I`m just like you and her.
“You kick us all out in the street and take our clothes off and we all look the same.”
Unless you`re shovelling shit.
“I`m very grateful to the people who put me where I`m at,” he continues, his eyes glistening, “and I jus` can`t repay them enough.
“It`s like my family…and I try to help them as much as I can. I could never do enough for my parents or the people who`ve put me where I`m at.”
“Well then,” interjects Lynne immediately, “you can take me to dinner.”
“You buying?” He laughs innocently.

Cutest Bass player in the history of music?

Cutest Bass player in the history of music?

I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Phil Manzanera, Curved Air, Tammy Wynette, “How to compile an album”, “An investigation into Japanese Rock”, Alice Cooper, David Crosby, Hedgehog Pie, Ralph McTell.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail, if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be around or upwards of 12 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.