Frankly Funky - How  Zappa Got Railroaded

By David Brown

Record Mirror, September 25, 1976

IF YOU'VE been called the worst rock band in the world and constantly been slagged by the critics, who produces your next album?

Answer: find someone with a similarly evil reputation, who has also managed to build up a worldwide following (not to mention a healthy bank balance).

Grand Funk Railroad have grossed many dollars down the line, despite more than a fair share of putdowns by the rock press.

Therefore they can easily afford someone who admits he's only in it for the money .... or is he?

Big bad Frank Zappa was the man brought in to twiddle the knobs for their latest piledriving rock-buster 'Good Singin' Good Playin'. The title reflects their two-fingered attitude to their critics – quite rightly they couldn't care less. They're happy, as are all the kids who fill the stadiums to see them.


The GFR story has its beginnings in two youthful enterprises: The Jazz Masters and Terry Knight and the Pack. But a heap of blistering heavy metal statements soon put them in the top league.

"We went through an experimental stage," drummer Don Brewer recalls. "We'd lost our image of ourselves, let alone our public.

"But we're back to honest rocking, just trying to be ourselves. That's why it was essential for the new album to be so good."

Though they had never met Zappa – and vice versa – they thought he would be the man to get the most out of their music.

"We both had one thing in common – the critics hate us," Don laughed.

"I think Zappa is crazy, but not in the sense some people imagine. You hear all these weird stories about him but he's really together. Not exactly business minded but very into what he's doing. Very professional.

"Our influence came mainly from the fact that he strived to lay down what we were doing, not inject himself."

There are the occasional touches of Zappa fun, but it's left to the intervals between tracks. His one appearance as a guitarist is on the track 'Out To Get You'.

"We didn't want people saying 'Aw, that's Zappa on that bit' – it's our album," Dave affirms.

On the album is one number not written by the band, 'Can You Do It'. It makes a powerful choice for a single and is strong enough to give them a boost over here, where they haven't appeared for many moons due to the amount of gear they carry around.


They are currently at their country homes planning a new high energy and much illuminated stage show, as well as thinking about the next LP.

"We don't like working the big stadiums much – the sound is usually awful. But at the other end you get the small halls. We tend to be pretty heavy on stage and the noise can be painful.

"Also we're into putting on a show – not glitter rock, though we do wear stage costumes. We ain't slick," Don chuckles. "More a spontaneous afterbirth."

Perhaps just a little or Zappa has rubbed off on them after all ...