The Kingmans were away this weekend so we are a few days late. But July 9 was the 40th anniversary of Grand Funk Railroad's epic concert at Shea Stadium
We love talking rock history at Shea and Grand Funk's appearance was legendary. One fan even posted a video comment offering his eyewitness account
Over the weekend, Mark Farner himself posted his thoughts
on the day. He had some fantastic things to say about Shea Stadium and its demise. This will warm the hearts of all Loge 13'ers:It was July 9, 1971, and Mark Farner couldn't believe what he was
seeing and hearing.
As the former lead
singer of the multi-platinum rock group Grand Funk Railroad, the
Michigan native had seen plenty of packed arena crowds grooving to his
music in the recent months as they climbed up the charts. But this was a
little "heavy," to use a popular period term.
Grand Funk had
already set a record by selling out Shea Stadium faster than anyone,
including a quartet from Liverpool, England, known as the Beatles. And
when Farner and his bandmates were whisked from Manhattan to the Shea
parking lot by helicopter, the magnitude of this accomplishment hit him
like a Tom Seaver fastball to the ribs.
"We took off from East
River, and we were supposed to land in the parking lot, where a limo was
going to pick us up," Farner said. "And when we got over the stadium,
with Humble Pie already on stage, we could actually see the building
bouncing up and down from the fans so excited from the music.
to really describe it, I'd have to say it was something you'd have to
experience to really know what it was like. The emotion that comes over
you when you see that -- there are no words for it."
police escort to the backstage area, Grand Funk pulled off what Farner
still considers their most memorable gig.
Among the high points
was the ballad "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home)" which would become a
radio hit but at the time was simply the song that connected the most
with the younger audience, Farner says.
"New York had been a
great audience for Grand Funk Railroad, and we had done shows at Madison
Square Garden and Randalls Island with Jimi Hendrix," Farner said. "The
people loved what we stood for and what we had to say, and that's why
we were popular."
courtesy Mark Farner Music
particular, the ending of "I'm Your Captain," in which Farner sings,
"I'm getting closer to my home" over and over, became the refrain that
seemed to truly captivate the crowd.
"It was the Vietnam era and
everybody wanted the war to stop," Farner says. "They got behind 'I'm
Your Captain,' and even today, it's the most requested song of all
Vietnam veterans. It's easy to see why. A soldier who's dug in, he wants
to be closer to home, and maybe that's why he can survive day after day
with the bullets flying. It still fits today in that theater of war.
it was powerful. Women were crying. Guys were crying. It was a very
emotional time. New York City in 1971 was ready not only to hear the
song but to react to the feelings it stirred up. And they reacted. They
sang it louder than the damn PA, dude. I could hear them singing louder
than I was singing."
"It saddens me," Farner says. "As long as it was standing, it was a
visible memory. It was a reminder to everybody that was there. And now
that it'll no longer be that landmark that it's been for all these
years, it's disturbing to think about. But it's also a happy memory
because that was a high point in my life."
Grand Funk would go on
to play more memorable shows in baseball stadiums, including a
particularly wild -- and wet -- one during monsoon season in Osaka,
Japan, in which the band was forced to "dodge manhole covers that were
blowing up from the street in front of us," as Farner remembers.