A column by Flintside writer Jeff Piechowski
FLINT, Michigan — Everybody…listen to me. I have a love-hate relationship with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It seems that each year controversy abounds when the selections for that particular class is announced, and I completely get where the debates come from. I’ll get angry and puzzled some years and vow to myself that the Hall is a joke. Then again, when bands like Pearl Jam are inducted in their first year of eligibility I find myself tipping my cap to the folks in Cleveland.
Yet, if we look at the nominees for the class of 2019 I once again see two glaring omissions. One is the New York City alternative band Sonic Youth. They had a near 30-year run that began in the mid-80s, and their style of music took on the punk scene of New York that was born out of CBGB in the 1970s. You can hear the influences of artists like The Ramones, Patti Smith, Talking Heads and Television. However, they invented a sound drenched in guitar versus amp feedback and featured melodic slow tempo songs that sometimes turned quickly into heavy rock and roll that could cause one’s ears to bleed. If there were no Sonic Youth, there would have been no Nirvana.
However, the focus is not on Sonic Youth. You may have picked up the fact that the first sentence of this entry comes from a 1970 song by the band of which I will focus. First though, let’s look at some of the nominees for the Class of 2019. One would assume that there are three locks: Janet Jackson, LL Cool J and Radiohead. After that, there are bands like Def Leppard, The Cure and Roxy Music who all have a chance. Plus, bands like Devo and Kraftwerk who had a niche following. There is one band from Detroit, who may well be the creators of punk rock in the MC5. I could see going in simply because they were an influence. However, I dare any music fan to name another song of theirs other than Kick Out The Jams.
Where I continually get irked is the fact that each year when the nominees are announced, Flint, Michigan’s Grand Funk Railroad are never anywhere to be found. Over the past decade, we’ve seen bands like Nirvana and Guns N Roses go in, despite the fact that they had very short runs of five or so years. We need to look at the history of Rock and Roll music, and in doing so remember that for a five-year period beginning in the early 1970s, Grand Funk was a huge band worldwide.
Between 1970 and 1974, they had five albums reach the Billboard Top 10. One reached No. 6, three reached 5 and “We’re An American Band” reached No. 2 in 1973. The title track on that album reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. A year later in May of ’74, their cover of “The Loco-Motion” became their second No. 1 song. They followed that up with two top 5 singles. “Some Kind of Wonderful” reached No. 3 in February of ’75 and “Bad Time,” which reached No. 4 just four months later.
Despite all of the chart success, Grand Funk is in the Rock and Roll record books. The record they hold should alone warrant them induction into the Hall. That record? Some of you may already know this, but on July 9, 1971 the band sold out (55,000 tickets) Shea Stadium in 72 hours. This was faster than it took The Beatles to sell out Shea just six summers prior. This alone is a mighty impressive feat. I have spent time reading on the topic, and have yet to find a valid reason as to why they are not in.
It isn’t because I’m a homer of sorts. Do I like some of their music? Of course I do. However, I’m not waiving the flag just because they are from my hometown or home state. I only like a handful of Bob Seger songs, but still agree that he should be in … and he is. Someday I believe The White Stripes should be in, and similarly they were a band who only had four major albums they released between 2001 and 2006, Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Or am I all alone?