Music Flashback: Teen Sensation: The Loco-Motion & Me

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By Randal C. Hill 

In 1962, fad dances were all the rage among record-buying teens. Included among the steps was the Loco-Motion, where participants shuffled their arms to simulate the driving of steel rods that turned a locomotive’s wheels.  

A chug-a chug-a motion like a railroad train now
Come on baby, do the Loco-Motion 

Songsmiths Carole King and husband Gerry Goffin had created “The Loco-Motion” for 17-year-old Eva Boyd. Called Little Eva on records, Boyd’s million-selling single soared to Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

Fast-forward a dozen years, and “The Loco-Motion” regained the top chart slot again, but this time by a Flint, Michigan power trio called Grand Funk Railroad. Lead singer and guitarist Mark Farner had apprenticed in two bands in high school before dropping out and assembling an eardrum-cracking aggregation with pals Don Brewer (drums) and Mel Schacher (bass). They took their play-on-words name Grand Funk Railroad from a Michigan rail line named the Grand Trunk Western Railroad.  

Related: Music Flashback: “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett

“Shinin’ On,” the headbangers’ tenth album, included “The Loco-Motion.” Don Brewer recalled that, during a break in the recording studio, Mark had begun singing, “Everybody’s doing a brand-new dance now!” Farner had been goofing around, but everyone that day declared that the band could possibly pull “The Loco-Motion” off as a valid recording—if it were done right.  

Their top-notch producer was Todd Rundgren, who recalled the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” had been done in a studio but made to sound as if at a casual music jam. Rundgren, a wizard at the recording console, made the band’s “The Loco-Motion” sound live. Brewer explained, “Todd could really crank up everything with the hand claps and all of that stuff. It just had this huge sound to it. It sounded like a big party!”  

“The Loco-Motion” became the band’s second Number One single. Farner and friends never abandoned their roots. “People want the real thing,” Farner once proclaimed. “As long as there’s room for sledgehammer rock and roll, there’s room for Grand Funk Railroad!”