Certain Songs #533: Grand Funk Railroad – “We’re An American Band”

grand funk we're Album: We’re An American Band
Year: 1973

Fuck yeah, I owned this single. I mean, gold vinyl, right!? But of course, that wasn’t the reason that “We’re An American Band” became a #1 hit single in the early fall of 1973.

40 years later, it seems improbable that a song which was this much rawk, both musically and lyrically, ever scaled the charts. Hell, even at the time, it felt pretty weird.

I mean, first off, “We’re An American Band” starts out with a short cowbell-lead drum solo which leaps directly into a guitar solo. Not normally the stuff of pop glory.

All of that happens before they even get to the actual riff, which is equal parts big, stupid and gnarly. In other words, totally awesome! And already we’re an unimaginable 30 seconds into the song before Don Brewer even opens his mouth to sing. By this time, most monster hits have already finished their first chorus.

Out on the road for forty days
Last night in Little Rock, put me in a haze
Sweet, sweet Connie was doin’ her act
She had the whole show and that’s a natural fact

Oh, that’s right. First verse, and we’re inundated with sex, drugs and rock n roll. The basics of life.

And maybe it’s the first time you’re hearing this song on the radio, and after that long intro and first verse, you’re intrigued. As they continue to the second verse you wonder who could these righteous dudes be? These rock ‘n’ roll fellas who are playing poker with Freddie King and boozing it up with the ladies?

And you wonder: are they yet another one of those British bands you’ve been reading about that drive cars into swimming pools and wreck hotel rooms?

Hell no!!

We’re an American Band
We’re an American Band
We’re comin’ to your town
We’ll help you party it down
We’re an American band

U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A!

That’s right: the great message of “We’re An American Band” was “American rock ‘n’ rollers could tear it up, too.” Damn straight. We can take illegal drugs, bang groupies and party all night and then still get up on stage and rock the fuck out, too!

Kiss just wanted to rock and roll all night and party every day. Grand Funk Railroad did it!!

Even better, Grand Funk Railroad somehow had it both ways. Listening to “We’re An American Band” now, it becomes clear they were both celebrating and taking the piss out of their own bad behavior. While inspiring kids like me to want to become rock stars so we could behave that badly as well!

But, of course, I was 10 years old, so it wasn’t like I was going to meet some fine ladies and tear down a hotel with them, no matter how much fun that sounded like.

But what I could do was sing that irresistible chorus over and over again. Guessing that ringer producer Todd Rundgren had more than a little to do with adding the manly harmonies and killer one-note piano that made “We’re An American Band” utterly leap from the AM radio and into the hearts of right-thinking Americans everywhere.

Promo film for “We’re An American Band”

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