Us pop-music bloggers live on anniversaries, so here’s one that oughta be a national holiday:
This week in 1975 was the 21st and final week in which Grand Funk Railroad had a U.S. Top Ten single.
The anal-retentives in the crowd will remind us that “Grand Funk Railroad” never actually had a Top Ten single. All four of the band’s Top Ten hits (and a couple of its lesser ones) happened after it split with original manager Terry Knight and dropped the “Railroad” from the end of its name.
True enough, this. But the name Grand Funk Railroad is so majestic, so redolent of glory, it begs to be used in full. Like John Maynard Keynes, or Ford Madox Ford, or Drungo LaRue Hazewood.
If I work the Time and Date Calculator correctly, the timespan between GF(R)’s first week in the Top Ten (Sept. 8, 1973) and its last (June 14, 1975) was 92 weeks.
So, during its purple stretch, the band had one of America’s 10 most popular songs almost one out of every four weeks — and there were a couple other weeks when it wasn’t far outside the Top Ten. Not a bad run at all.
The band’s final Top Ten entry, in my opinion, has always been its best.
“Bad Time” is worlds away from GF(R)’s early days as ear-bleeding, knuckle-dragging, festival-entrancing sludge-rockers.
The song doesn’t really sound much like the band’s other hits, either. It’s pure polished pop, a full pack of high-school bubblegum — complete with chiming rhythm guitars; a tight, hummable eight-bar guitar solo; a snare drum that pops like a locker door shutting; at least three expertly layered keyboards (I hear piano, Hammond, and clavinet); and even a string arrangement (a string arrangement!)
“Bad Time” found GF(R) working with super-pop producer Jimmy Ienner (Stamford High ’63) and arranger Tony Camillo (he did “Midnight Train to Georgia”), and it’s possible that, in their esteemed presence, the four sweathogs from Flint, Michigan, just stood in a corner and played what they were told.
No matter. All these years later, it’s what’s on the wax that matters.
And what we have here is a perfect piece of power pop; a timeless evocation of the complications of love; and one of the pound-for-pound finest singles of the Seventies.
The rest of America started getting sick of it this week 42 years ago, but it’s a song that (at least in my house) has never, ever overstayed its welcome.