Big news, weirdos: Today marks the one-year anniversary of The Weirdest Band in the World. And they said we wouldn’t last! Okay, actually, they didn’t really say anything, because they pretty much didn’t notice us when we first started this thing. Anyway, the point is, we’re still here. So thanks for reading.
To mark this special occasion, we felt we couldn’t blog about just any old band. So we went back into the vaults (read: Jake’s iTunes, the fruitful result of many a late-night Limewire bender) to see if there were any truly worthy “classic” weird bands that we had overlooked. And there it was, slapping us in the face like a Bootsy bassline: After a year of chronicling weird bands, we had yet to Give Up The Funk. Clearly, this situation had to be rectified at once. (Plus, P-Funk is frequently played at special occasions, like weddings, bar mitzvahs…and the anniversary parties of music blogs, probably. Right? We’ll try and let you know how it goes.)
We can’t really say much about George Clinton’s twin towers of funkitude that hasn’t already been said. We’ll just note, in the interest of establishing their TWBITW bona fides, that in its heyday, the Parliament-Funkadelic experience included the onstage arrival of a gigantic spaceship, out of which would emerge a dude in a white suit (Clinton) named Dr. Funkenstein, who would use his “Bop Gun” to vanquish his sworn enemy, Sir Nose D’voidoffunk, by getting him to dance to songs with titles like “Funkentelechy” and “Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop).” It’s fair to say that no band, funky or otherwise, ever went to greater lengths to develop their own elaborate mythology. And they were doing this at a time when the other stuff topping the R&B charts was crap like “Le Freak” and “Three Times a Lady.”
I had the privilege of going to a couple of P-Funk All-Stars concerts in the mid-’90s, when the band still featured many of its key members: I don’t think keyboard wizard Bernie Worrell was touring with the group, but bassist Bootsy Collins was there, as was the amazing guitarist Michael Hampton (his live lead on “Maggot Brain” could blow any rock band off the stage), as well as memorable characters like Robert “P-Nut” Johnson, Carlos “Sir Nose” McMurray, Clinton himself, and of course, the late great Garry “Diaperman” Shider, who passed away earlier this year. I want to say Maceo Parker was at one of the shows, too, but I could be making that up.
Those ’90s shows had no Mothership, but it hardly mattered—with Clinton and his cohorts crammed onstage, sometimes 20 or more at a time, and riding one space-age groove after another, it felt like we were witnessing an alien visitation. About a zillion artists have drawn from the P-Funk well at this point, from Afrika Bambaataa to Prince to Snoop Dogg to OutKast, but somehow, a P-Funk show remains a wholly unique experience.
Anyway, here’s a clip from one of those crazy ’70s Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership Connection tours—which, by the way, were the most expensive tours ever mounted by a black music act up to that time. So it wasn’t just the music and the sci-fi mythology that was groundbreaking.