50 Years Ago: Grand Funk Railroad Continue Their Rise With ‘Live Album’
After bursting onto the music scene in 1969 with their rock-solid debut On Time, Grand Funk Railroad rapidly started turning heads and ears to their bare-boned, no-frills hard rock and roll.
Those ears they turned, however, were not those of your local music critic, but rather of your everyday rock fan. The tag of "people's band" stuck for a reason: critics be damned, the fans loved 'em.
Both On Time, and the follow-up simply titled Grand Funk, were released in 1969 and both made good showings, their debut hitting Top 30 and the sophomore just missing Top 10. A few singles released fail to bring them to radio, but their reputation as a live act continued to grow.
Their third album, Closer to Home, found the band finally hitting pay dirt, hitting the Top 10 and going gold. It also spawned the classic title song as a single, which smashed into the Top 30 and has remained one of the band's signature songs.
Aside from their own abilities as performers, part of their rise to prominence was due to manager Terry Knight. Once a singer with the Pack (which also featured Grand Funk members guitarist Mark Farner and drummer Don Brewer), Knight had turned to management and was a ruthless force in getting his clients on the map.
Listen to Grand Funk Railroad's 'Are You Ready'
Capitalizing on the band's reputation as a live attraction, it was decided to release a document of a Grand Funk concert. Simply titled Live Album, the two-record set was released on Nov. 16, 1970 and sold over half a million copies in its first week of release. The recordings were culled from a handful of dates on the band's summer 1970 tour.
Unlike countless 'live' albums over the years, Live Album truly is a live, warts and all, no-frills recording. So much so, that it is, at times, a brutal ride. The collection featured live renditions of highlights from the three studio albums, some stretched out in a concert setting, including a rousing take on the Animals' "Inside Looking Out" which clocks in at close to 15 minutes.
Live Album did nothing to change their status with the music press, but that mattered little to Grand Funk Railroad. Their legion of fans continued to grow leading up to their legendary appearance at Shea Stadium in 1971, where they sold out the venue in a couple of days, and making headlines for the fast sell and beating the Beatles attendance record there. The LP remains a raw, solid document of the band firmly in their element.