This song has been played a bunch on the radio but Joe Walsh’s intro doesn’t get old to me. The song peaked at #59 in the Billboard 100 in 1971.
The James Gang is best known for their guitarist, Joe Walsh, whose playing on this track helped establish him as a superstar guitarist. Walsh joined the Cleveland-based group in 1969 after making a name for himself as one of the top guitarists in Ohio. He replaced Glenn Schwartz in the band, who Walsh considers a mentor. They were a 5-piece when Walsh joined but was down to three when they released their second album James Gang Rides Again.
With just three members, it meant Walsh had to play both rhythm and lead guitar parts, and also sing (he got a lot more help when he joined the Eagles in 1975). It was quite a learning experience for Walsh, who left the James Gang in 1971 after recording three studio albums with the group.
It was the producer Bill Szymczyk who signed the James Gang to ABC Records after seeing them perform at a show in Ohio. Szymczyk produced the band and began a long association with Joe Walsh, producing his solo albums and most of the Eagles output in the ’70s.
Walsh wrote this song with his bandmates, drummer Jim Fox and bass player Dale Peters. The song is about a girlfriend whose wild ways the singer just can’t tame (the female equivalent of Joe Walsh’s character in his solo hit “Life’s Been Good”). There isn’t much in the way of lyrics, as the song is mostly a showcase for Walsh’s guitar work. He explained in the book The Guitar Greats, “I came up with the basic guitar lick, and the words never really impressed me intellectually, but they seemed to fit somehow. It was a really good example of how we put things together, bearing in mind that it was a three-piece group, and I don’t think that there was any overdubbing. The only thing we really added was the percussion middle part, which the three of us actually played, putting some parts on top of the drums, but that’s the three-piece James Gang, and that’s the energy and kind of the symmetry we were all about.”
The first James Gang album (Yer’ Album, 1969) contained the track “Funk #48,” which according to producer Bill Szymczyk, got its title “out of thin air.” When they came up with what would become “Funk #49,” they were once again faced with no logical title based on the lyrics, and followed the sequence. There was a “Funk 50,” but not until Joe Walsh released it on his 2012 album Analog Man after being asked to rework “Funk #49” for the ESPN show Sunday NFL Countdown.
“Funk #49” became a staple of Album Oriented Rock and Classic Rock radio, but it wasn’t the biggest chart hit for the James Gang – that would be “Walk Away,” which made #51 in 1971 and was later reworked for Walsh’s 1976 solo album You Can’t Argue with a Sick Mind. “Funk #49” is one of Joe Walsh’s most popular songs, and by the mid-’70s he admitted that he couldn’t stand playing it anymore, but did so because fans loved it.
Uh, sleep all day, out all night,
I know where you’re going.
I don’t that’s a-acting right,
You don’t think it’s showing.
A-jumpin’ up, fallin’ down,
Don’t misunderstand me.
You don’t think that I know your plan,
What you try’n to hand me?
Out all night, sleep all day,
I know what you’re doing.
If you’re gonna a-act that way,
Think there’s trouble brewing.