It’s almost a crime that so many young people who have come of age in the twenty-first century have never heard any Grand Funk Railroad songs. Grand Funk Railroad was HUGE in the 1970’s. Every teenage rock fan had at least one or two Grand Funk Railroad albums in their collection. The band was known for their high energy shows. If you ever saw the band live, you were taken on a journey of foot stomping, high energy rock, that few bands could compete with. We didn’t call them Grand Funk Railroad, we called them Grand Funk.
In 1969, Grand Funk Railroad released their first album entitled On Time. From their debut album in 1969, to their break up album in 1976, the band would release eleven albums of pure rock and roll that straddled the line between Progressive Rock, and soul infused loud pure rock and roll. Some of the band’s biggest hits were covers of classic 1960’s songs that the band made their own with Mark Farner’s high, yet deep tenor vocal performances. The band broke up in 1976 after they released Good Singin’ Good Playin.’ The album produced by Frank Zappa, stands as one of the best records of the band’ career. A few years later in 1981, Grand Funk returned with the album Grand Funk Lives. The band’s last album of their career was released in 1983 entitled What’s Funk?
# 10 – Out To Get You / Can You Do It?
We open our top 10 Grand Funk Railroad Songs list with a selection from the last great Grand Funk Railroad album entitled Good Singin’ Good Playin.’ The track “Out To Get You,” was a semi-instrumental track that was the opening song on side two of the record. The song featured a brilliant guitar solo by Frank Zappa that fit in perfectly with band’s hard rocking groove. It’s sad that the band broke up after this album because Frank Zappa took the band to an entire new level of musicianship on the record.
We picked two songs in a tie in opening up our Grand Funk Railroad songs list because we thought the single released by the band called “Can You Do It?” was the band’s most underrated single of their career. Just the drum groove alone at the start of the song was worth the price of admission. If you’re a Grand Funk Railroad fan and you don’t have this record, than your missing out on one of their best.
# 9 – Black Licorice
The We’re An American Band album featured the most successful and popular song of the band’s career. However, the album also featured a great selection of Grand Funk songs that would become album oriented rock staples for years to come. The song “Black Licorice,” was a great example of Grand Funk’s heavy sound that resonated with a groove that would lift you off your feet the moment you dropped the needle.
# 8 – All The Girls In The World Beware
Listen to the opening bass line of this amazing song and dare to say this is not incredibly underrated music. When the Hammond organ tares into that bad as* bass line, one can not help but become addicted to this band forever. This is great rock and roll. It blew me away the first time I heard it and it still knocks me out every time I play it. The song “All The Girls In The World Beware,” was the title track of one of the great rock albums of the 1970’s entitled All The Girls In The World Beware.
# 7 – Heartbreaker
While most of the Grand Funk Railroad songs on this list are heart stopping barn burners, this great track entitled “Heartbreaker,” defines just how great the vocal skills of lead singer Mark Farner were. We had a hard time choosing between the studio version of this song and the live version on Caught In The Act. There are both brilliant recordings. The great rock bands of the 1960’s and 70s were all defined by a common thread. Bands like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and so many more, owed so much to the art of the blues. In Grand Funk’s “Heartbreaker,”one can hear that Grand Funk understood the importance of the blues just as well.
# 6 – Shinin’ On
The great guitar work at the beginning of “Shinin’ On,” defines the progressive rock side of the band Grand Funk. The impact that the Hammond had in Grand Funk Railroad songs echoes the importance of the Hammond B3 in bands like the Allman Brothers Band, Deep Purple, Traffic, The Doors, The Edgar WInter Group, Procol Harum, Santana and so many others. The track “Shinin’ On,” appeared on the Grand Funk album Shinin’ On which was issued in 1974. The album was the follow-up record to the very successful We’re An American Band album. “Shinin’ On,” was released as the second single off the record after the initial release of “The Locomotion.”
# 5 – Bad Time/ Some Kind Of Wonderful/ The Locomotion
We decided that if we wanted to cover a wide range of Grand Funk Railroad songs on this list, we would have to only choose one of these three great Grand Funk songs. The only problem was we couldn’t choose. The three of these songs are connected in the way they were huge hits for the band. These three Grand Funk songs defined the way Grand Funk was able to take a pop oriented song and add their brand of rock and roll, while keeping it commercial enough to garner great success.
The song “Locomotion” was a cover of the classic Carole King song that was written for Little Eva in 1962. It was released on the Shinin’ On album. Grand Funk’s “Some Kind Of Wonderful,” was a cover of a John Ellison song written for the Soul Brothers Six in 1967. “Bad Time,” was an original Mark Farner song. Both “Bad Time,” and “Some Kind Of Wonderful,” were released on the great All The Girls In The World Beware album in 1975.
# 4 – Into The Sun
What we always loved about Grand Funk was the band’s ability to release music and albums that presented listeners with a wide range of styles glued together by fabulous playing and singing. “Into The Sun,” defined the band’s progressive side. This great piece of music that opened up side two of their great debut album, On Time in 1969.
# 3 – Foot Stomping Music (Live Version)
When we think of great live albums in classic rock history, we are reminded of albums like The Who’s Live At Leads, The Rolling Stones Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, Neil Young’s Live Rust, Yes Yessongs, Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal, Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous, The Ramones It’s Alive and Bob Seger’s Live Bullet’, In 1975, Grand Funk Railroad released their classic live album titled Caught In The Act. Like many great live albums, Caught In The Act, was a two record set. The album’s opening number showcased Grand Funk Railroad at their finest. The live version of “Foot Stomping Music,” served as the perfect concert opener. It was easily our number three choice on our Top 10 Grand Funk Railroad songs list.
# 2 – We’re An American Band
In 1973, Grand Funk released their seventh album entitled We’re An American Band. The band enlisted the talents of the great Todd Rundgren to serve as producer of the record. It was a smart move because Todd Rundgren helped the band garner their most successful album of their career. The lead off single from the album was the record’s title track “We’re An American Band.” The song reached all the way to the number one spot on the United States Billboard Hot 100 music charts. It was the band’s first number one single. The lead vocal on “We’re An American Band,” was sung by drummer Don Brewer. It does not matter what age you are, where you live, what language you speak. If you are breathing oxygen on planet Earth, you have heard this legendary song “We’re An American Band.”
# 1 – I’m Your Captain /Closer To Home
Classic rock history is defined by the classic guitar riff. Classic Rock history is also defined by the concept album and the mini rock opera. There are a handful of long classic rock songs with multiple movements that have become the hallmarks of classic rock. For many they are considered masterpieces. We are talking about songs like Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Foghat’s “Slow Ride,” Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell,” Springsteen’s “Jungleland,” King Crimson’s “In The Court Of The Crimson King,” The Outlaws’ “Green Grass and High Tides Forever.” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” These are all songs that are considered those band’s signature songs. They have all become legendary in the hearts of classic rock fans.
Grand Funk Railroad’s masterpiece is their epic composition and recording entitled “I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home.” Many writers describe the song as a two-part recording. Since the song’s title is split into two phrases, one could understand the two-part description. But to us, it simply sounds like a piece of art in which its different segments flow beautifully into each part. The song never stops. It does exactly what it says it will. It’s a brilliant piece of music by the most underrated band in Classic Rock and Roll History.
Updated May 24 2021
Top 10 Grand Funk Railroad Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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