Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Grand Funk Railroad -- "Sin's A Good Man's Brother" (1970)

One just like the other
Sin's a good man's brother, but is that right? 
You tell me that I don't
Then I say I won't, but then I might. 
You said this is the way it's supposed to be
But it just don't seem right to me . . . 

Part One -- Introduction (or, "Eight Posts About Grand Funk Railroad Music?  Are You Freakin' Kidding Me?")

Last weekend, we visited my son, who's a student at Duke University's law school.  While we were there, we went to the Duke-Boston College football game -- the first college football game I had attended in many, many years.

Duke kicks off to Boston College (November 13, 2010)

It was a beautiful fall day -- clear and calm and 70 degrees at game time.  It reminded me of all the balmy fall afternoons I spent with my college friends at Rice University football games when we were students.

One of the games I went to -- the November 17, 1973, contest against Texas A&M -- stands out from all the others we saw.  That game (which took place 37 YEARS AGO TODAY but who's counting?) will be the centerpiece of an eight-part series of posts featuring the eight songs that appeared on Grand Funk Railroad's "Closer to Home" album.

Yes, you heard right -- I said an eight-part post about Grand Funk Railroad music.  "He has finally lost his mind," you may be saying to yourself. 

But I believe you can't have too much of a good thing.  The question is, of course, whether a Grand Funk song can be a good thing.  I believe it can be.

These eight posts are going to address much more than just a football game and a Grand Funk album, of course.  For one thing, I'll place that game in the context of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and other current events circa 1973.

Do you remember Richard Nixon's famous "I am not a crook" speech?  Well, that speech was delivered on November 17, 1973 -- the very same day as the football game that is the main subject of this series of posts.

We'll also address the cultural differences between Rice and Texas A&M, my favorite daytime soap opera, and -- last but certainly not least -- a dastardly crime that I committed 37 years ago, and which I am admitting here for the first time.  (Having a heart attack makes you think about stuff like that, you know.)

I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations has run on my crime.  I guess I should have asked a lawyer before writing about all this.  In fact, I think I'll stop right here before I say anything that could tend to incriminate me and get some legal advice before posting the second part of this eight-part extravaganza.

Rice Stadium hosted Super Bowl VIII in 1974

I would have preferred to have completed all eight parts of this magnum opus before posting the first part, but I have a hard deadline -- November 17, the anniversary of that Rice-Texas A&M game.  (Did I mention already that the game took place 37 YEARS AGO?)  So I'm going to have to post on the fly, and take the risk that things won't turn out exactly like I planned.

Of course, it is a CERTAINTY that things won't turn out exactly like I planned.  That's part of the fun of doing this blog -- I'm as surprised as anyone is by what these posts end up being. 

I just hope I don't end up doing a seven-part series and fail to notice it before it's too late.  That would be tres gauche, wouldn't it?

Speaking of surprising myself, I'm once again learning a lot about my own history.  After deciding to write about this football game, I e-mailed several of my Rice classmates to ask what they remembered about the game -- more importantly, what they remembered about the Rice marching band's halftime performance at that game, and the aftermath of that halftime show.  Several of them responded with detailed reminiscences, which not only helped fill in some of the gaps in my memories of the whole affair, but also resulted in me writing something that is very different than I originally planned to write.

Rice University
For one thing, I had planned to do a lot of research for this post -- look up a lot of facts about the two universities involved, get the game statistics, dig out the news coverage of the whole affair, etc.  I did do some of that, as you will see.

But mostly I've decided just to go with my memories -- and with the memories of my classmates.  Does it really matter what really happened?  Or does it matter more what we remember happening?  Is it possible that what we remember actually reveals something more essentially true than the mere facts do?

I originally planned to write some thing joky and light-hearted and smart-assed -- in other words, the usual "2 or 3 lines" crap.  But that wouldn't have shown due respect to the history I shared with the people who were at the game -- and I'm including the people from Texas A&M, none of whom I knew personally.

When you're 58 years old, the things that happened when you were young are very important.  I don't care how silly or trivial they were.  Each of those events and experiences contributed to what you became -- to what you are today. 

For those of you who share my cluelessness about what it all means -- and what we all mean -- these posts are for you.  This summer, my high-school reunion unleashed a flood of memories and emotions that I'm still turning over in my mind.  Writing about this college football game -- an event of no great significance, and an event that I watched from from afar -- has had a similar effect. 

By coincidence, I've just finished reading a remarkable novel -- The Way the Crow Flies, by Ann-Marie MacDonald -- which delves into the childhood tragedies of a character who is about my age, and with whom I feel like I share a lot.  The book is about memories -- because memories are what you are, whether true or not:

Memory breeds memory.  The very air is made of memory.  Memory falls in the rain.  You drink memory.  In winter you make snow angels out of memory. 

(Actually, that "snow angels" line is a bit girly.  I may have gilded the old lily a bit there, eh?)

You put all this together and you end up with one of those "perfect storm" phenomena you're always hearing about.  The memories are bombarding me from all directions.

To use an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote I've used before and will probably use again, "we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."  

In Part Two of this series of posts, I'll confess a long-hidden crime.  But now, here's the first track from Closer to Home, "Sin's A Good Man's Brother."  It starts off with several bars of soft chords played on an acoustic guitar, then hits you over the head with a hammer.  Most people wouldn't rank Grand Funk with Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and other great power trios, but this is a classic power-trio song.

Here's  a link you can use to buy this song from iTunes:

Sin's a Good Man's Brother - Grand Funk Remasters: Closer to Home

If you'd like to order this song from Amazon, here you go:

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