‘Can You Do It’: Grand Funk’s Final Hot 100 Hurrah, With Frank Zappa
In the summer of 1976, the band was on a strange lap of honor.
By the time they entered the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1976, Grand Funk Railroad – they had re-added the last part of their name earlier that year – were on a strange lap of honour.
The multi-million-selling Michigan rockers had effectively split up after the release early that year of the uncharacteristically dark Born To Die. That peaked at No.47 in the US, the lowest ranking of their seven-year chart career there. But then came word that a certain highly creative maverick had expressed an interest in working with them.
That prompted the final hurrah, in Grand Funk’s 1970s history, of the Good Singin’ Good Playin’ album, produced by none other than Frank Zappa. The album’s chart debut was preceded by the single “Can You Do It,” which unlike most of the rest of the album, wasn’t written by the band’s Mark Farner.
Instead, the song was another in Grand Funk’s series of covers of old tracks from their collective youth. “Can You Do It” had been a Top 20 R&B hit in the US in 1964 for Motown group the Contours, co-written by Richard Street (formerly of the Distants, later the Monitors and ultimately the Temptations) with label boss Berry Gordy’s ex-wife Thelma.
Listen to the best of Grand Funk Railroad on Apple Music and Spotify.
The single entered the Hot 100 at No.82, and over the next month it looked set fair for a good chart run, as it rose swiftly to No.51. But it peaked at No.45 in what turned out to be Grand Funk’s final showing on the US singles countdown. Good Singin’ Good Playin’ peaked at No.52, and the band called it a day, again.
In a postscript, Zappa then stepped in. “I immediately offered [GFR drummer Don] Brewer a job since he wasn’t doing anything,” he told the NME. “He’s terribly nervous and insecure but he’s a really good rock’n’roll drummer…every once in a while he grows a full beard to hide behind.” Zappa and Brewer did work together for a while, but Brewer and other Grand Funk bandmates soon formed the new group Flint.
Buy or stream “Can You Do It” on the Grand Funk compilation 30 Years of Funk: 1969-1999, The Anthology.
Peter E Jr
December 30, 2017 at 2:08 am
I think you guys do an excellent of giving classic rock artists such as Grand Funk and Kiss the coverage that music fans like me think they are important enough to receive. I hope you also write about GFR albums such as Born To Die, Grand Funk Lives, and What’s Funk? They are all very classy albums. “El Salvador” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll American Style” and others from the 1983 LP What’s Funk are really great hard rock, and the 1981 comeback LP Grand Funk Lives is perhaps their heaviest sounding albums. Mark Farner’s solo career, especially noting his Christian rock LPs, is very noteworthy too, and lastly the band Flint that Brewer, Shacher & Frost formed after the original GFR split is a very interesting listen.
April 30, 2020 at 2:59 pm
I am a fan, have been since I first heard Grand Funk Railroad. Growing up with 10 brothers I would hear the music blasting out of our basement every day! These days I am much older, but when I want to hear real American rock & roll, I crank up some Grand Funk!
Peter Egley, Jr.
January 17, 2023 at 5:50 am
That is such a great quote from Frank Zappa about Grand Funk Railroad drummer, Don Brewer: “I immediately offered [GFR drummer Don] Brewer a job since he wasn’t doing anything,” he told the NME. “He’s terribly nervous and insecure but he’s a really good rock’n’roll drummer…every once in a while he grows a full beard to hide behind.” I am not a musician, but I agree.