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George Clinton

+ {Parliament} + {Funkadelic}

The supremo genius behind the un-separable 70s ensembles, FUNKADELIC and PARLIAMENT, colourful showman and frontman, GEORGE CLINTON, and his congregation of musos and supporters mixed a heady cocktail of JAMES BROWN soul, SLY STONE cool and JIMI HENDRIX psychedelia. Weighing in with over twenty albums in the dozen years the contingent were granted a licence to “P-Funk” on Planet Earth, both acts captured the imagination of post-flower-power stoners that still had one moccasin stuck in the late 60s. CLINTON’s unswerving belief in the power of the funk to set people free – in every sense – lends his music a delirious, hedonistic quality, which, together with his synthesis of disparate musical styles and technology, is an ever present influence on a diverse range of artists, not least the P-Funk sampling hip hop community.
Born July 22, 1941 in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey, the young George C was hardly recognisable as the leader of mid-50s doo-wop group, The PARLIAMENTS. Alongside an ever-changing line-up, the FRANKIE LYMON & THE TEENAGERS-inspired Clinton and group released their debut acetate, `Sunday King Of Love’, in 1956; `Poor Willie’ was issued in 1959, although only one further disc was issued: `Lonely Island’; music buffs should be aware that two completely unconnected “Parliaments” also surfaced in the early 60s: one changing their name from The Deltones, the other releasing a single, “I’ll Get You By”, in 1963. Meanwhile, George C was now part of the Motown team of writers, having duly moved to Detroit.
The second phase of The PARLIAMENTS came about in 1965, the line-up settling with Clinton, Fuzzy Haskins, Ray Davis, Calvin Simon and Grady Thomas. Unsuccessful in their attempts to land a record deal, the quintet delivered a one-off indie 45, `Heart Trouble’ (for Golden World), towards the fall of ‘66. To boost his stalwart singers, he created the earliest incarnations of his future psychedelic image, and added new musicians such as Eddie Hazel (lead guitar), Lucius “Tawl” Ross (rhythm guitar), Billy “Bass” Nelson (bass) and Ramon “Tiki” Fulwood (drums).
Signing to Revilot Records, The PARLIAMENTS cracked the Top 20 in summer ’67 with the single, `(I Wanna) Testify’. After a series of flops (from `All Your Goodies Are Gone’ to `A New Day Begins’), George was temporarily halted in his tracks by Motown writers, Holland-Dozier-Holland, from using The PARLIAMENTS name; one thinks there was a contract involved. During this slightly unproductive period, the Clint was becoming heavily influenced by HENDRIX, SLY & THE FAMILY STONE, FRANK ZAPPA, plus the primal throb of The STOOGES and radical politics, not to mention a hefty dose of LSD.
By the late 60s, to avoid a legal ruckus, he and his backing group had evolved into FUNKADELIC. The eponymous debut album for Westbound Records, FUNKADELIC (1970) {*8}, set the scene with its marriage of skin-tight rhythm, slow burning vocals and searing psychedelic guitar freak-outs. Hazel, Ross, Nelson and Fulwood were the main players, although there was guest space for organist Bernie Worrell, guitarist Ray Monette and Fuzzy Haskins, lead vox (on `I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody’s Got A Thing’), while Calvin Simon took his turn on `Qualify And Satisfy’; singers Grady Thomas and Ray Davis were also on board. The groove-a-lishous, 10-minute opening salvo, `Mommy, What’s A Funkadelic?’, might have had no answers, but who really cared among the toke-friendly “Mothership”; `Music For My Mother’, would also guarantee to “free your mind”.
Ironically, FREE YOUR MIND… AND YOUR ASS WILL FOLLOW (1970) {*8}, was delivered only a matter of months later, and according to genius George, it was an experiment to find out if a full LP could be written, rehearsed and recorded on “acid”. While many had tried previously (The BEATLES, SYD BARRETT, et al) – and since – no one had succeeded in producing exactly what it said on the tin. Opening with the freaky title track, it was an opportunity for one to get in touch with one’s own “Kingdom of Heaven”, while the socially-aware single spawn, `Funky Dollar Bill’, struck a chord with the ghetto children looking for a way to express dissention again “the man”.
Meanwhile, GC had been given back the rights to The Parliaments moniker, by way of changing it simply to PARLIAMENT, and, in turn signing a one-off deal to Invictus Records, a label run by the aforementioned Holland-Dozier-Holland. More or less the same line-up that’d recorded with F-Delic (plus the upgraded Mickey Atkins; Worrell, guitarist Garry Shider and drummer Tyrone Lampkin featured on session), OSMIUM (1970) {*7}, was R&B-orientated as FUNKADELIC were to psychedelic soul. While this album was more in keeping with the free range of anything-goes funk, co-producer/writer Ruth Copeland has her say on three tracks, `Little Ole Country Boy’, `Oh Lord, Why Lord – Prayer’ (based on Pachelbel’s Canon) and `The Silent Boatman’ (interpolating “The Skye Boat Song” and bagpipes!); other Clinton-Worrell contributions were best served by `Funky Woman’ and `Livin’ The Life’.
The “Parliafunkadelicament thang” effect was akin to a mind-bending 60s trip put through the blender of 70s excess with a soundtrack that combined soul, blues, gospel, psychedelic rock, sex and politics to create P-Funk. Over the coming years the collective would grow into a large musical corporation which featured over 35 members, FUNKADELIC initially keeping the pot boiling over with such classy albums such as MAGGOT BRAIN (1971) {*8}, AMERICA EATS ITS YOUNG (1972) {*6} and COSMIC SLOP (1973) {*7}. In turn, upgrading Worrell, Bootsy Collins (briefly) and Garry Shider (lead vox on a number of tracks), FUNKADELIC were again “standing on the verge of getting it on” in the Top 100. While frontman Clinton was always the focal point, surely the fret-bending of axeman Eddie Hazel, was as close to the late HENDRIX as one could possibly get – example the solo muscle-flexing on the `Maggot Brain’ epic title track, the equally exhausting `Wars Of Armageddon’ and `Super Stupid’. Also from that outstanding third set, the soul-searching `Hit It And Quit It’, the anti-racist `You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks’ and the WAR-esque `Back In Our Minds’, left other funk bands in their wake.
Disappointing by comparison and probably getting into the politics rather than the groove thang, “America Eats…” divided songs between ZAPPA-esque jams and orchestral-gospel ditties. Sounding like outtakes from a fantasy Parliaments LP, golden PARLIAMENT nuggets `Loose Booty’ (not the definitive version) and `I Call My Baby Pussycat’, duly made their re-appearances. The “Slop” album registered a bit of naughtiness in the opening `Nappy Dugout’ track, an ode to a certain part of the anatomy, while it was also down ’n’ dirty on `Let’s Make It Last’, `No Compute’ (a “head”-on collision into oral-sex) and the CURTIS MAYFIELD-ish title track.
In an attempt to hi-ZAPPA-fi the goatee one, STANDING ON THE VERGE OF GETTING IT ON (1974) {*6}, Clinton furnish his alumni with pseudonymous “Mothership” monikers, he himself adopting “Supreme Maggot Minister of Funkadelia” – see liner notes for further details. Co-authored by Eddie “Smedley Smorganoff” Hazel, the guitarist took the funky option on `Red Hot Mama’ and a re-birth of HENDRIX on `Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts’. Confusingly titled as if recorded live, LET’S TAKE IT TO THE STAGE (1975) {*7}, marked the vocal debut of Bootsy Collins (on the HENDRIX-like `Be My Beach’), although Hazel was posted missing on most of the record due to his time in the slammer. Investing as much humour as on previous outings, the descriptive `No Head No Backstage Pass’, `Good To Your Earhole’ and the JAMES BROWN-cloned title track, stood out from the pack.
Meanwhile, Clinton, Collins, Hazel, Worrell, Fulwood and past Parliaments already reunited as the sister-act unit, PARLIAMENT. A couple of dancefloor-friendly albums, UP FOR THE DOWN STROKE (1974) {*7} and CHOCOLATE CITY (1975) {*7}, cemented the groundwork P-Funk had worked upon over the previous half decade; in fact, they took it further back by revisiting sole hit, `Testify’. Almost impossible to distinguish the “mirrorball” PARLIAMENT from their much-touted funky sister act, the LPs’ best moments stemmed from `The Goose’, the Blaxploitation-addled `Chocolate City’ and `Ride On’.
These records set the scene for the landmark Top 20 breaker, MOTHERSHIP CONNECTION (1975) {*9}, an interstellar concept piece from the inner galaxy of GC’s fevered mind. His re-definition of the black man’s past and sci-fi vision of the future was underpinned by the precocious instrumental precision of former JB’s: Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley. Almost preaching from another intergalactic planet, space commander Clinton pushed the envelope on the name-checking `P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)’, plus smash hit `Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk)’ and `Mothership Connection (Star Child)’; the latter interpolating “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”.
Taking the “Star Trek” thread even further and the odd double entendre, it was Klingon on the starboard now for THE CLONES OF DR. FUNKENSTEIN (1976) {*8}, their second Top 20 entry in seven glorious months. LIVE: P-PUNK EARTH TOUR (1977) {*7} and FUNKENTELECHY VS. THE PLACEBO SYNDROME (1977) {*8}, kept the PARLIAMENT flag flying high above the ghetto; the latter showcasing the disco-romp of `Flash Light’ (a second Top 20 gate-crasher) and the “foonky” `Bop Gun (Endangered Species)’. Clinton had furthered his conceptual reach with the previous studio outing, in which he presented his ideas of “the man” keeping the kids oppressed through material dependency.
Overshadowed somewhat by PARLIAMENT’s flights of fanciful funk, FUNKADELIC drew their Westbound contract to a close by serving up leftover ditties on TALES OF KIDD FUNKADELIC (1976) {*5}, an album that almost embarrassingly colliding in release schedules with the band’s bona fide album for Warner Brothers: HARDCORE JOLLIES {*7}. For a few years now, usual suspects (Clinton, Haskins, Davis, Thomas and Simon on vox, plus Shider, Hazel, Collins and Worrell) had been joined by Michael Hampton (lead guitar), Glen Goins (rhythm guitar), Boogie Mosson (bass) and Jerome Brailey (drums). Taking it to the fringe of the charts, albeit without much penetration (and if one could ultimately dismiss the suggestive puns inside some of their funky forays), the people had elected PARLIAMENT to deliver the goods.
In the meantime, FUNKADELIC were up for the crack again on a further conceptual “power of P-Funk” album, ONE NATION UNDER A GROOVE (1978) {*9}. Buoyed by the anthemic celebration of its title track hit (on both sides of the Atlantic for once!), the record saw them reach a commercial and artistic zenith. A hybrid of R&B/dance and psychedelic heaviness (the latter provided by Hampton), fans could side with either `Who Says A Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?!’ and the ZAPPA-esque scat `Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doo Doo Chasers)’, or the free-bopping `Into You’ and `Cholly (Funk Gettin Ready To Roll!)’ – or indeed anything under the grooves.
Not content with scratching out a FUNKADELIC revival of sorts, GC shook out the umpteenth PARLIAMENT set, while “One Nation” was still riding high in the charts. A partying album dedicated to night-time fun and bedtime frolics, MOTOR BOOTY AFFAIR (1978) {*8}, took on an alter-ego of `Mr. Wiggles’, while his answer to the age-old stereotypical question of why “blacks can’t swim” was taken up by several pieces including the `Deep’ and `(You’re A Fish And I’m A) Water Sign’.
As if to repeat the formula of success, George and his groove-merchants unleashed the FUNKADELIC follow-up, UNCLE JAM WANTS YOU {*8} and PARLIAMENT’s pursuer, GLORYHALLASTUPID – OR PIN THE TALE ON THE FUNKY {*6}, towards the end of the decade. While both sets sold enough to reach the Top 50 (the latter set best served by `The Big Bang Theory’ and `May We Bang You?’), it was the FUNKADELIC “Mothership” that won the war of words through an edited minor hit take of the 15-minute `Not Just) Knee Deep’ (showcasing The SPINNERS’ Phillippe Wynne).
Also by the turn of the decade, there were so many side projects taking up the creative energy of the P-Funk posse (BOOTSY’S RUBBER BAND, Parlet, The Brides Of Funkenstein, Horny Horns et al), that both PARLIAMENT and FUNKADELIC fizzled out, the former combination delivering the creatively bankrupt, TROMBIPULATION (1980) {*3} and the latter releasing their swansong effort, THE ELECTRIC SPANKING OF WAR BABIES (1981) {*7}, another double-entendre S&M-styled party/political piece of American pie that only managed to reach No.105 in the charts.
GEORGE CLINTON and his P-Funk posse (Collins, Shider, Wesley, Parker and Walter “Junie” Morrison) duly offered up the excellent COMPUTER GAMES (1982) {*7} album, and from it, accompanying canine madness of the `Atomic Dog’ single and the 12-minute.`Man’s Best Friend – Loopzilla’. Breaching the Top 40, and his first for Capitol Records, his commercial and critical re-birth was at times tinny and synthesized, but bridging a gap between ZAPPA, RUNDGREN and PRINCE, the 80s were back on track for music’s most colourful character.
The rest of the 80s weren’t so pretty for the funky kingpin as he wrestled with legal/royalty problems accumulated from his 70s supergroups. While his solo recordings – including YOU SHOULDN’T-NUF BIT FISH (1983) {*5} and the THOMAS DOLBY-produced SOME OF MY BEST JOKES ARE FRIENDS (1985) {*5} – became more digitised and less convincing as the decade wore on, he also collaborated with Thomas on the Dolby’s Cube single, `May The Cube Be With You’.
CLINTON’s willingness to experiment still resulted in the odd – very odd – hit; witness the reversed bass-line in his last gasp minor UK hit, `Do Fries Go With That Shake?’, a record straight outta the greasy grooves of parent album, R&B SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET (1986) {*7}; his sense for the outrageous and fantastical was still in place for his witty `Electric Pygmies’ and the three-part `Mixmaster Suite’. Tying up his time with Capitol, he unloaded the part-soundtrack video/part live chaos that was the shambolic, MOTHERSHIP CONNECTION (1986) {*4}.
Going on to sign with PRINCE’s Paisley Park set-up in the late 80s, CLINTON released THE CINDERELLA THEORY (1989) {*6}, a bold attempt for a near-50-year-old to encompass sampling, hip hop and rap, while securing the services of PUBLIC ENEMY’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav; GC also guested on the purple one’s pallid soundtrack to Graffiti Bridge (1990), a link-up which should’ve stank to high heaven but which went off with barely a whiff.
1993’s HEY MAN, SMELL MY FINGER {*7} sparked off the obligatory double-entendre furore, but this time to generally positive reviews, even if the title was nastier than much of the funk. `Get Satisfied’, `The Big Pump’ and the almost prophetical, `Paint The White House Black’, were tracks to rack if one wanted sloppy seconds – or maybe not!
Hardly oblivious to the rise of hip-hop culture (he’d already begun to try out his rapping chops), CLINTON hit upon the idea of a series of samplers entitled “Sample Some Of Disc – Sample Some Of D.A.T.”, offering would-be samplers a low-cost array of back catalogue snippets.
GEORGE CLINTON and The P-Funk Allstars’ next couple of offerings, DOPE DOGS (1995) {*6} and T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (1996) {*5} – aka “The Awesome Power Of A Fully Operational Mothership” – were standard contemporary funk/R&B, while most of his latter-day releases were extended-jam live efforts also featuring variations on the revolving-door “Allstar” line-up.
2005’s HOW LATE DO U HAVE 2BB4UR ABSENT? {*6} saw the ageing, dayglo warrior reunite with old buddies Worrell, Mosson and the original Parliaments (albeit without Grady Thomas). While he’d guested on records by PRIMAL SCREAM and ICE CUBE, as well as playing to sold out shows worldwide with the P-Funk Allstars, the stellar cast of guest stars on board this double-set, including PRINCE, BOBBY WOMACK, et al, brought a sense of déjà vu to just about every track; one might recognise a BEATLES tune inside the medley of `Because – Last Time Zone’ and FUNKADELIC in `Viagra’, while there were re-vamps of CURTIS MAYFIELD’s `Gypsy Woman’ and JERRY LEE LEWIS’ `Whole Lotta Shakin’.
The reason behind the Papa CLINTON’s next venture was unclear, but the roping-in of friends and old-school celebrities to boost the almost mimic-y GEORGE CLINTON AND HIS GANGSTERS OF LOVE (2008) {*5}, was somewhat ill-advised. Produced by Bobby Eli (with The RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, CARLOS SANTANA, DE BARGE, SLY STONE, RZA, Kim Manning, Kendra Foster, and others at the ready), George impersonated and covered the likes of BARRY WHITE, CURTIS MAYFIELD and STEVIE WONDER.
Still going strong as he and his entourage of FUNKADELIC/PARLIAMENT backers at his side, 2013 saw GEORGE CLINTON take to the road. One imagines there might be an album in the pipeline.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD-BG/MCS / rev-up MCS Jun2013

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