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.
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.
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