announcing SHEA concert
- who needs the press?
Grand Funk Railroad held a press conference a few weeks back to announce that they would attempt to fill Shea Stadium on July 9th in a solo concert. The results were more than eyebrow-raising. Below are manager Terry Knight's comments on that strange press conference, that announcement, and Grand Funk, in a conversation with Richard Robinson. It took place one day after the conference, more than 100 of the establishment press, also the people who claim to represent the generation which is much more important, man. We invited Rolling Stone, we invited Changes, we invited Rock. We invited the confessed, real enemies like of Grand Funk, the ones that say in print "we wanna hurt 'em." We invited Zygote and everyone we could think of who has anything to do with the media.
We ended up with a total turn-out of less than fifteen, five of whom ate lunch and left. Which I thought was fantastic, 'cause I mean we can afford that. If they needed lunch we can afford it. But we ended up with U.P.I., Associated Press, the three trades and, ironically, Rolling Stone: Tim somebody. Tim was the only one who, apparently thought it was groovy to get up and walk out in the middle of the conference which was hysterical. But that isn't the point. The point is this: Richard, we know, any person in the business knows, that to announce you're playing Shea Stadium ,is news. It is news. I can't possibly cop out and say Grand Funk is not popular, therefore they didn't draw the press. The situation was hysterical, we fell down laughing in the car, we absolutely went into hysterics. The fact of the matter is, it is news to announce that anybody is gonna play Shea Stadium. But it's equally big news to announce that no American entertainer in history has ever attempted it before. It's also news to announce that they're going to be the only American act in history to appear in concert in the World Series baseball stadium in Tokyo. We laid it out for the press. They still chose not to attend. Now that didn't hurt our feelings, cause we don't care for the press anyway. But the incredible thing is this in between the laughter there were mental tears.
"The reason I asked you to come here is to tell you that, man, history really was made yesterday.
RICHARD: I know that. That's why Bill Graham closed the Fillmore. It's a new music man.
TERRY: Music has nothing to do with it.
RICHARD: Well, I know that. One thing you gotta realize is that rock and roll has nothing to do with music.
TERRY: Deeper than that. . . . 'Cause there's something much more important. The Maysles [David and Albert Maysles who made Gimme Shelter] picked up on it, 'cause they got it in the film. The most incredible thing. We all remembered that they were at The Beatles press conference and the Stones. And the frivolity and the lightheartedness of The Beatles press conference as opposed to the down at that press conference yesterday. . . It was like a funeral in there yesterday. And the tenseness! I mean I'm not jiving you now, man. The press was like this. I mean everybody was like five cigarettes and their hands were shaking. It was really tense, man. I'll make a flat comment to you now: The establishment is afraid of Grand Funk Railroad.
RICHARD: Both establishments are afraid of Grand Funk Railroad.
TERRY: Now, how do we relate to that?
RICHARD: Both. . . .
TERRY: No. There is only one establishment. Rolling Stone and The New York Times are one and the same.
RICHARD: Okay, but there are two levels, the beaded level and the suited level.
TERRY: Exactly, exactly. Now I have never in two years set out to define Grand Funk, definitively. Yesterday helped make this definition possible. I think what was missed yesterday was an historic event. That was a summit conference. The press was put on so badly it was sickening.' The Grand Funk is no hype. Grand Funk sold more records last year than any other artist in the world. They sold more than The Beatles. Collectively, more records and tapes than any other group. That should be news in this business. It should be news that Grand Funk broke every existing attendance record in every city they appeared in, including L.A., New York and Chicago, where they had the largest indoor attendance in the history of the city. We had to stop the door at 20,000; we estimated we turned away another 10,000. Thirty thousand people in Detroit came to see Grand Funk Railroad. It took the Rolling Stones five weeks to sell out Detroit, it took Elvis Presley nine days, it took The Beatles two days. It tookGrand Funk two hours and 15 minutes.
Now we know that we have the support of the people. We never asked the support of the press. Alright, so the point I'm making is that we held a summit conference. And what should have been of interest was that these three boys volunteered, man, they volunteered themselves to be picked apart on a human level if you will. The press could take any shot they wanted. The boys were willing to sit up there and let the press throw anything in the world at 'em. But they were afraid to talk to Grand Funk!
RICHARD: let me outline some of the problems that the press have with Grand Funk, Terry. First of all they are aware that Grand Funk is happening-maybe not totally aware of how incredible it is, but still that it's happening. So they go to the albums and they don't hear it.
TERRY: I must stop you. We've got to eliminate this whole talk. We must eliminate music. Music has nothing to do with it.
RICHARD: Alright, what they do on stage. I happened to be at the Sly Stone concert at Madison Square Garden when Grand Funk opened the show. And when Mark Farner got up onstage, fell to his knees, ripped off his shirt with one hand, held up his guitar with the other hand, I just screamed.
TERRY: I've gotta stop you again. I'm still trying to get right directly to today's problem, alright? First of all, what Terry Knight did was offer a catalyst to something that was there. Now, never before has Terry Knight ever said what he's saying now. It was never more apparent that everything those three boys said at that press conference was misunderstood. What I said was understood. My role with Grand Funk, I've never given anybody the answer to "What is your role with Grand Funk?" I've let them decide it. But I'll tell you my role with Grand Funk. I'm an interpreter. It's very simple. I haven't manmade that group, Richard. I've interpreted their message to the media. Not to the kids. I haven't sold that group to the kids.Okay, so the point is this. The opening line of the Grand Funk concert in Detroit was "Terry Knight's man-made musical monster." That's false. Terry Knight did not make this group. Terry Knight interpreted what this group said. I had to interpret to them yesterday. I had to say the words that the press would understand. The point is this: the establishment fails to recognize Grand Funk Railroad. In fact nobody recognizes them but the kids. Now, Richard, the story that really must be told is this, is what happened in that car afterwards.
We were laughing, we were hysterical. Then came the sudden realization that we just didn't really come through for our people. For two years, Richard, we fought hard to go to that press conference, that press conference which, one day I hope, will be written up as THE PRESS CONFERENCE, if somebody writes a book of us, man. Cause it was a turning point for Grand Funk. Cause it gave us more direction, more unity, more singleness of purpose than anything in the last two years. Because what it showed us is this: those press people that were invited knew that anybody who has the power to assemble 55,000 people together at one time is a frightening threat to the establishment. And somebody better tell the kids of this generation that Changes, Zygote, The New York Times, ABC, NBC, CBS only wanna show one side of our generation. They wanted to give prime time coverage on that day to the kids rioting in Washington. But when one person, man, when Mark Farner. . . listen, Mark Farner could get up on that stage and say to Shea Stadium's 55,000 people: "Brothers and sisters, now is the time to go out there and take that city," and there isn't an army in the world that could stop those 55,000 people. Now we've gotta do away with the music. Because the establishment, everybody, has gone about it in exactly the wrong direction. The kids are the only ones who have gone about it right. It's not what Grand Funk plays that's important. It's what they say and do that's important. They know Mark Farner's words, man. And they can see on stage, and they can hear in his voice, something that the other people can't hear. From the first minute Grand Funk walked onstage in Atlanta, they saw it. The fact is that Mark is real and means what he says. When he walks onstage it doesn't make any difference whether the press criticizes him for not being a competent guitarist. Who are they to say what's a competent guitarist? Can they play a guitar?
You know, Jimi Hendrix was backstage at so many Grand Funk shows. I can tell you that, backstage in Flint, Michigan, when Jimi Hendrix heard Mark Farner play he said, "Kid, you're outasight." I could tell you about the times at the Fillmore.
I'll tell you why I think Grand Funk is so powerful and why I think the press blew it yesterday. Grand Funk is powerful because of what they represent. Those three boys have proven that, if in the face of the enemy, man, the establishment, you can still make it, you can still break out from that crummy town, man. You can get away from white socks and skinhead haircuts. You can get away from working at the hardware. You can be anything you wanna be. And when they stand on that stage it's like a symbol. The kids go out and get their heads beat in everyday. Grand Funk comes to town and gives them purpose again. Those kids don't go to hear Mark Farner play his guitar, man. They wanna see. That's why the top price tickets go first. The cheapie tickets go first at rock shows. Not with Grand Funk. They wanna be close. They wanna touch 'em.
The press failed to realize anything yesterday. And the tragedy is this: Mark Farner made some terribly pertinent comments. And they turned a deaf ear to him. They asked, What do you think about revolution, should there be a revolution? I can't quote Mark's words but the essence of his answer was: "I believe in revolution, there's got to be change, there's got to be a revoluton, but I don't believe it can be accomplished violently." They asked him and he gave them the answer, man. And nobody was there to hear it. Five people. Five people! You stop to think for a minute, man, how important that kid's words were. That's the tragedy, that's what was lost yesterday. So we say we don't need the press. . . . we don't need the press ever! I never ask the press to print a review of Grand Funk. I never ask for the press to go to a show. In fact I refuse to give one free ticket. On this whole tour. The press was un-invited and un-wanted. Because we didn't want any downs, any bummers, man; we can take care of our own. We didn't want the press.
ATLANTA POSTER 1970 - Where is Grand Funk?
The sad thing is, they don't wanna hear the spokesman of the generation 72 say there shouldn't be a violent revoiutior.. But just let Mark Farner drop his pants man. . . . or let him get busted in Europe! They don't wanna ask questions about what does your generation think. All they wanna know or show is the violence. They asked Mark Farner, What are you going to do with the money? And he said, "I want to take the money that I've made personally and do something to make the world a better place to live in." And they said, "How?" He answered, "It would take a long time to tell you because there are a lot of things I want to do, and I have a lot of money to do it with." Well, I can tell you in greater detail now what Mark wants to do, and what he was too uptight, because of the tenseness of the situation, to disclose to the press. There's a factory with several thousand rotting, rusting 50 gallon metal drums. Mark wants to buy every oil drum this country has. Buy everyone of them! Buy them with his money and paint them red, white, and blue, because, man, they're the colors of his country. And he wants to put them out in cities so people can put trash in them instead of on the ground. He'll start in his hometown, Flint. That's what he wants to do with his money. The press related to them as a musical group. But it's time to stop relating to Grand Funk Railroad as a
recording act. It's great, man, your reaction when Mark got up and ripped his vest off and held his axe up. But I would love it more if you related to it for the same reason that the kids love to see him do it. They tell us why they love it. Because in doing that Mark Farner stands on that stage as a symbol of freedom. He takes that guitar and he holds it up and he's saying, "See this, brothers and sisters, this is how I broke the mold. I found one thing and I stayed at it. This is the power that put me here that drew us all together."
I promise you that Grand Funk Railroad could grind the city of New York to a halt. All they would have to do is announce on New York radio that Grand Funk Railroad would give a free concert in Central Park. I promise you it would make Altamont look silly. And that's what frightens the establishment. It frightens them that Grand funk has the power to draw together that many Of the establishment's enemy. So we've got to stop looking at Grand Funk as a rock and roll act, man. They're more than that. Let me just make one thing clear, which I tried to make clear at the press conference. We did not decide to play Shea Stadium to pull down the flag of The Beatles, to pick off the financial record. Grand Funk Railroad wanted to play at Shea for free. We could not get Central Park. - They would not give us the Park, man, the Park's Department. So it's costing us more than $l00.000, us, Grand Funk, to play Shea Stadium. But we wanted to play it for free. They said, no, when you play for free, man, crowds have a different motive for getting in. And it's who ever can punch the hordest that gets in. We didn't want violence, we didn't want an Altamont. So I said, great, make it one dollar. They said, no, flat no! I said, then make every ticket five dollars. If it's got to be dollars and cents then we'll play your nothing game, man. We've played the game for two years now; if you're going to force us to continue the game now, okay, make it five dollars, does that make you happy? They said, you can't do that because the kid who sits way up on the top will bitch and cause trouble because he paid five dollars the same as the kid who sits right in front of the stage. Well, man, we went through some real hassles. They forced us to scale it. So we scaled it the same as every Grand Funk show in history four, five and six. First come, first served. It was never our goal to "sell out" Shea Stadium; we just want to fill it with our people. I don't want the press there. You understand? To distort it. We don't want the world television there, man, we don't want that kind of coverage. We do want the Maysles there. The Maysles think highly enough of Grand Funk to be working on their new film with them. They showed Altamont as it really was, and they'll show Shea Stadium as it really was. Never mind what the press says about it.
PLANET Magazine October 1971
Circus Magazine January 1970
The nights they never forget
Bigger than The Beatles
Press Quotes '70 '71