They’re an American band, and this was their first album. Grand Funk Railroad played their first gig in March 1969 and On Time came out five months later on 25 August. The LP was recorded in the immediate aftermath of the first Atlanta Pop Festival, which had taken place on the 4th of July weekend. The band had gone over a storm with the 50,000 audience, prompting Capitol Records to sign them.
Their debut single, the bluesy ‘Time Machine,’ was taken from their debut album and it came out at the same time. A month later the single made the Billboard charts making a slow steady climb up to No. 48. A few weeks later, on 11 October, On Time made the Billboard album chart and it too made steady progress, eventually peaking at No. 27 in late November. While this may have been a little disappointing for the band, the album made up for it in longevity, spending over a year on the bestsellers.
GFR had their origins in a group called Terry Knight and the Pack that included Mark Farner and Don Brewer, who were joined by bass player Mel Schacher; he had previously been in ? & the Mysterians, of ’96 Tears’ fame. Farner sang, played guitar and harmonica and was very much the on-stage leader of the band, while Brewer was the drummer and second vocalist. In the mould created by Cream, their powerhouse blues-rock went over a storm in concert.
It was GFR’s relentless gigging that drove the sales of the album, and wherever the band played, their album sold. According to one reviewer, “Grand Funk played at the Fillmore East when their first album had only been out for three weeks. But, regardless of this, the audience was screaming out their favorite songs for the group to play.”
One of those songs was ‘Heartbreaker,’ the band’s third single, which was released in early 1970 and also made the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100. It featured vocals from both Farner and Brewer, and it’s a really good track that belies some of the criticism the band received. With Farner’s bluesy guitar and his and Brewer’s harmony vocals it set a template for so many rock and metal bands that would break through as the 1970s progressed.
Other standout tracks include ‘Into The Sun’ which starts off in a mellow mood and transforms itself into hard-rock heaven over the course of six and half minutes. Along with ‘Are You Ready,’ it remained a staple part of Grand Funk’s live set for many years (check out the band’s Live album from a year later.)
On Time is not without its flaws, but like so many debut albums it was pointing the way forward. GFR would become one of the biggest bands in America over the first half of the 1970s, and this is where it all started.
Purchase On Time here.