Your Big Sister’s (Record) Rack

tn2_almost_famous_4

In the movie Almost Famous, the main character William is a teenager who inherits his rebellious sister’s record collection around 1970.  You know what happens: he listens and the music he hears helps to shape his world, his future and his career.  What a sister – she was played by Zooey Deschanel, after all – she left her brother some really primo stuff.

But that’s the movies.  What did your big sister, or big brother, have in their bedrooms back when you were a kid?  (Uh, I mean music.)  Thank god I didn’t have big brother or sister (I was the oldest; I was that dude, man) but I suspect that elder sibling’s record collection wasn’t as quality as William’s sister’s stack.  She had the Who’s Tommy along with the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, some Stones, some Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Hendrix’s Axis: Bold As Love … and the Mothers of Invention!

Well, we are starting a short series on the records your real-life brother or sister had stuck under the bed.  The album purchased after hearing only the first single on the radio, the thing that pretty much sucked even as that solitary sensational song was fading out.  The impulse purchase, the flash-in-the-pan, the utter mistake.  You know what I mean?

So now that I’ve explained this concept ad nauseam (and still have only a tenuous grasp on it) let’s begin: Grand Funk Railroad.  Their second album, from 1969, showcased what this trio had to offer: straight-ahead, meat-and-potatoes rock (they rarely played funk, despite their name).  The popular take of the day was that Grand Funk were hated by critics, but the people loved ’em.

“Mr. Limousine Driver,” which got some radio airplay, showcased the vocal skills of Mark Farner, but the guitar was turned up on this and other songs.  Farner’s guitar was red, so the album cover was red, and this is known as Grand Funk - Front“The Red Album.”  Mel Schacher played a really fat fuzz bass and drummer Don Brewer gave the songs a kick that resembled the propulsion provided by Zep’s John Bonham.  On “Inside Looking Out,” a cover of a song by the Animals, the Funksters flirt with psychedelia but never fully embrace it or any other trappings of the time.  These boys were a bit clueless about their surroundings, which probably gave their music a longer shelf life.  Today, Grand Funk Railroad sounds great.

Grand Funk was a gold record but the radio hits would come later: “I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home)” would break them out in 1970.  And, of course, you remember what happened when Todd Rundgren produced Grand Funk for We’re An American Band.  Hurry, put the record back – I think I hear your sister comin’.  We’ll be back!

MP3: “Mr. Limousine Driver”

MP3: “Inside Looking Out”

MP3: “Got This Thing On The Move”

Grand Funk Railroad website – official home of the “American Band”

5 Responses to “Your Big Sister’s (Record) Rack”

  1. In the late 1960s, early 1970s, my big sister had Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” and a couple of Leo Kottke’s first LPs (one on the indie Symposium label). Good stuff! She also had some Glenn Yarbrough LPs, one John Denver and an odd album titled “Traditional Jewish Memories.” After I started collecting vinyl seriously in the early 1990s, I spent a lot of energy and cash finding all of those, even “Traditional Jewish Memories.” And I still love all of them like I loved them years ago. (I was not an overly hip kid and still have eclectic tastes!)

  2. All of the Beatles, all of the Beach Boys. Dylan’s Greatest Hits and probably other of his albums. Most Simon & Garfunkel. James Gang. Stuff I didn’t want (at the time) like Joni Mitchell, Tim Hardin & Leo Kottke.

    Best of all were the hundred or so 45s. That’s what everyone’s elder sibling was buying until 1968 or so. Zombies, Gary Lewis, Archie Bell, Motown, Lou Christie, Four Seasons, Kinks, Aretha, the whole spectrum.

    There weren’t cult bands to discover like today. Every genre was covered by Top 40 radio. There was Ed Sullivan, Bandstand, Shindig and Hullaboo as well. You didn’t need a brother or sister to turn you on to what was hip.

  3. All of the Beatles, all of the Beach Boys. Dylan’s Greatest Hits and probably other of his albums. Most Simon & Garfunkel. James Gang. Stuff I didn’t want (at the time) like Joni Mitchell, Tim Hardin & Leo Kottke.

    Best of all were the hundred or so 45s. That’s what everyone’s elder sibling was buying until 1968 or so. Zombies, Gary Lewis, Archie Bell, Motown, Lou Christie, Four Seasons, Kinks, Aretha, the whole spectrum.

    There weren’t cult bands to discover like today. Every genre was covered by Top 40 radio. You didn’t need a brother or sister to turn you on to what was hip.

  4. dkpresents Says:

    I was the oldest, but my Mom basically gave me a stack of 45s that she had as a teenager. My favorites among these when I was a kid were The Beach Boys ‘I Get Around’ and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer In The City’. Still love those tunes…

  5. My brother had an amazing record collection in the late 1960’s to early 1970. I heard Johnny Winter’s Progressive Blues Experiment, Savoy Brown’s Blue Matter, The MC5 Kick out the Jams and Hendrix. Unfortunately he got married in 1970 and moved out, too his LPs with him.

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