How, pray tell, was Grand Funk like Jethro Tull?

Jethro Tull

I let Spotify make some suggestions to me this morning, only to end up scoffing at them.

Seriously, how was Grand Funk Railroad anything like Jethro Tull?

And how do you get from Joni Mitchell to Bonnie Raitt, beyond the superficial commonality of them both being female? Their music is nothing alike. Bonnie was sort of this bluesy rock performer who I always thought rather run-of-the-mill, while Joni was something of a folk-pop genius. Carole King was a genius, too, but the stuff she performed herself was all piano-based.

And what, other than the time in which they were popular, did the Mills Brothers have to do with Jimmy Dorsey? They were all about the vocals, not the band — the harmonizing of those unbelievably smooth voices.

Come on, Spotify — make an effort, OK? If you know I like a certain sound, at least suggest music that is somewhat like it…




8 thoughts on “How, pray tell, was Grand Funk like Jethro Tull?

  1. Bryan Caskey

    “How, pray tell, was Grand Funk like Jethro Tull?’

    Both blusey/hard rock in common time period. Sorta makes sense to me.

    Although I got nothing for ya on Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, come on! Jethro Tull was wildly idiosyncratic, like something out of another century, fronted by a demented-seeming flute player. Nobody was like Tull. Called progressive rock, their music really defied classification.

      Grand Funk was pretty straightforward hard rock (before they hit paydirt with the pop stuff). I mean, really… aside from that distorted-guitar Da-da-da-da-DAHHH-da at the start of Aqualung, how was Tull similar?

      1. Bryan Caskey

        I’m not saying they’re exactly the same. I’m saying I understand how Spotify would make the connection. Similarly, I would understand if the next song that came through was one of Led Zeppelin’s later albums, something from Cream, or even something from the Allman Brothers.

        It’s not like Spotify went from Streisand to Steppenwolf.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      As for the “common time period”… I’ll admit to being a tad touchy about the way these algorithms go, “Oh, a boomer. Then obviously you like…”

      It’s a bit irritating. And often wildly inaccurate. I could never stand Cat Stevens, for instance. Always changed the station when he came on. Yet Spotify thinks I like him because I listen to Paul Simon.

      Pandora, with its Music Genome Project ®, does this much better. While most algorithms — such as Netflix’s — just don’t seem to get me (although I notice Netflix is getting better), Pandora offers me unfamiliar stuff that I find myself liking…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Nothing against Grand Funk, mind you. I sort of liked their early stuff, before they went all commercial.

    My favorite may have been “Can’t Be Too Long.” A classic of the mock-epic, melodramatic sort of song that tended to appeal to adolescent males.

    I saw, heard and felt Grand Funk at the Honolulu International Center in 1971. Had the best/worst seats I would ever have at a concert. I was on the fourth row, a little to the left of the stage, squarely in front of this Stonehenge-like wall of speakers that seemed to stand twice as tall as my house.

    The vibrations actually made my clothes flap as though I was standing in a high wind. I lost my hearing for three days.

    So, you know, good show…

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, can you see that a guy who likes Jethro Tull, Joni Mitchell and the Mills Brothers — and Elvis Costello, Herb Alpert, Radiohead, and Astrud Gilberto — just MIGHT resent it a bit when he gets pigeonholed as yet another Boomer who MUST like X, Y and Z?

    Yeah, I like the Beatles — but who doesn’t regardless of age (except for some younger people who SAY they don’t like them just as a way of protesting the Fab Four’s hegemony, which I can understand — I wasn’t subjected to my parents’ music the way ’60s rock has been thrust upon younger folk).

    If you want to know what I like, pay a little attention to the qualities of the music I choose…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      As I said parenthetically, the culture wasn’t as saturated with my parents’ music the way it has been with Boomer music ever since the 60s.

      But I was somewhat influenced by it. I wouldn’t have known about the Mills Brothers if not for that Greatest Hits album my parents had.

      Also, I was deeply impressed when we lived in Ecuador and my Dad went to a conference in Rio and brought back some samba records. I love that stuff to that day. To a lesser extent, I also liked the Latin dance music my parents used to play into the wee hours when they hosted a party (no Ecuadorean party ever broke up before 4, in my experience).

      But that I never hear, anywhere. And I don’t know the names of any of the tunes or performers to look them up. It was just grownup dance music to me.

      You know what it sounded like? You know that Paul Simon song, “Late in the Evening?” The musical bridge, with the horns (at 1:56 in the linked video), sounds just like what I used to hear in Ecuador. At least, I remember it that way. It’s been more than 50 years…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *