Ain’t no party like a P-Funk party!
Calling all funkateers and cosmonauts! Wrap your peepers round this!
The history of Parilament-Funkadelic is sorely under-written. From their beginnings in 50s New Jersey, to their formative years in revolutionary 60s Detroit, from their glorious heyday in the 70s to their implosion in clouds of debt and cocaine in the early 80s, the P-Funk story is one of the most epic in all of popular music.
One Nation Under A Groove may not be perfect, but it’s a start. I guess there’s just too many people and stories surrounding the band(s) to fit into one hour-long program, it would really need to be a mini-series, but ONUAG is a great introduction, essential viewing for anyone with an interest in the more out-there elements of popular culture.
George Clinton is heavily featured, of course, as are all the original members of The Parliaments (his barbershop doo-wop group that would go on to form the vocal nucleus of the Parliafunkadelicment thang) but there’s not enough Bootsy for my liking, and synth wizard Bernie Worrell, so fundamental to the establishment of this musical empire, is notably absent.
It goes without saying that I frikin LOVE this band. Or bands, whatever. P-Funk not only made some of the outright funkiest records of all time, but they also created an aesthetic world their fans could get completely emerged in. P-Funk to me is TRUE psychedelia, made all the more powerful by reflecting the outsider-ness of the black experience in America at the time. Surely just the very nature of the Parliament-Funkadelic—mixed race, gender, age, sexuality, etc, all united by the dance and the physical act of perspiring—is he essence of the liberal dream come to life? Historical documents about P-Funk are important not just ‘cos they were so awesome, but also for the generations born after the 1970s that discover P-Funk through the filter of G-Funk. Gangsta rap strip-mined P-Funk for the grooves but casually tossed aside the outsider elements that made the band(s) so vital, replacing them instead with a kind of coked-up, uber-macho, gang-colors conformity. It’s probably a post for another day, but I think Dr Dre/Death Row/et al robbed the funk of its freak flag.
Anyway, if you want to know more about the history of Parilament-Funkadelic (and who doesn’t?!) let me point you in the direction of the book For The Record, George Clinton And P-Funk: In Their Own Words, which is the P-Funk story told by the band and crew members themselves, with refreshingly little editorial input. I recommend it very highly, but for now, and for the newcomers, dig this: