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Posts Tagged ‘Parliament/Funkadelic’

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By Joel Francis

This weekend marks the first time Wakarusa will not be held at Clinton Lake near Lawrence, Kan. After establishing itself as a second-tier destination festival in 2004, Wakarusa has moved to Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Ark.

The Daily Record covered the previous four incarnations of Wakarusa. Join us now in a look back at the festival.

2005 – Wakarusa grows in its second year, offering what may be its greatest lineup to date, including Son Volt, Wilco, Neko Case, Calexico, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, String Cheese Incident and a then-unknown Matisyahu. Promoters are rewarded with a turnout of about 15,000 fans each day, doubling the inaugural turnout. Read more Wakarusa 2005 festival coverage.

2006 – The third annual Wakarusa Music Festival gets off to a sour start when music fans are greeted with highway patrol drug checks near Clinton Lake. “Narcarusa” is further sullied when it is revealed police strategically placed infrared cameras around the festival grounds to catch drug activity. Despite these setbacks, the festival once again reaches its 15,000-fan daily capacity and features the Flaming Lips, Les Claypool, P-Funk sideman Bernie Worrell, Gov’t Mule, Robert Randolph and the Family Band and back-to-back sets by Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. Read more Wakarusa 2006 festival coverage.

2007 – Security is toned-down, but Mother Nature rages with hard winds on Friday and Sunday rain during the fourth Wakarusa. Crowds are down to 12,000 fans each day, which might be a reflection of the festival’s most mediocre lineup. Michael Franti and Spearhead close out the festival and the lineup also includes Be Good Tanyas, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Widespread Panic and Ben Harper. Read more Wakarusa 2007 festival coverage.

2008 – Heavy rains capsize Wakarusa’s final festival to date at Clinton Lake. The downpour ends Friday’s sets prematurely and the swamp left inside most concert tents force fans to abandon shoes at the perimeter or in the muck. Further disappointment hits when Bettye LaVette, Dweezil Zappa and Emmylou Harris cancel performances. An return engagement with the Flaming Lips in addition to sets by Old 97s, Ben Folds, Alejandro Escovedo, members of the Meters, Ozomatli and a Friday afternoon infusion of hip hop from Blackalicious and Arrested Development still leave fans with plenty to love. Read more Wakarusa 2008 festival coverage.

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(Above: George Clinton is an “Atomic Dog.”)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

For the third consecutive spring, George Clinton brought the Mothership Connection to Crossroads KC.

Unfortunately, Friday night’s two-and-a-half-hour set could never build momentum and was capsized by too many limp numbers. Although the repertoire hardly changed from previous years, the band’s setlist-free jams were a double-edged sword. Songs were either exciting or went nowhere.

Clinton’s P-Funk All-Stars are less a band than a troupe. At one point there were six guitarist stretched across the front of the stage. Everyone was in costume. There’s axeman with the rainbow-colored Afro, angels out of a Victoria’s Secrets ad, Diaper Man Gary Shider, another male guitarist in a wedding dress and veil, several backup singers in Mardi Gras masks and Sir Nose, the acrobatic agitator in a white fur coat.

In the middle of it all was Clinton himself, clad in a black jacket and pants, sporting his trademark Crayola-sponsored headpiece and a necklace that looked like it was borrowed from Flava Flav.

While the depth and diversity of the ensemble is a great strength –- musicians can cycle on and off stage leaving fresh fingers and never-ending jams -– it is also an Achilles heel. For a band so tight, the performances tend to sprawl. And while his democracy is to be commended, Clinton gives each of his performers often unnecessary time in the spotlight. I’d much rather have heard “Bop Gun” than watched Roller Girl dance and sing the next-to-closing number.

The night got off to a solid start with perennial opener “Funkentelechy” and the instrumental “Cosmic Slop.” The evening’s high point came early. The 15-minute version of “Flashlight” featured a pair of wicked horn solos and the band demonstrating why Clinton’s songs hold up so well over a generation later.

“Freak of the Week” initially seemed like a great follow-up, but despite incorporating parts of “Sentimental Journey” and a scat-vocal interlude, the song was stuck in a slow pace that never really got off the ground.

This set the pattern. The dynamic “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)” was part of an uber-medley with “Up For the Down Stroke” a sax solo and a tribute to James Brown. It was sandwiched by an unusually mellow “One Nation Under A Groove” and the turgid “Bounce 2 This,” which was little more than a bassline and repetition of its title.

At the start of the night, the two-thirds-full lawn was ready to dance and get down, but the crowd started thinning during “Maggot Brain,” the instrumental tour de force that appeared an hour into the set. By the end of “Bounce 2 This” the lawn was empty past the sound tent, save a few pockets of dedicated dancers.

The night ended on a high note with “Atomic Dog,” but by then it was too late. Too many stops and starts had killed the night’s groove. Fortunately, everyone will likely be back next spring to redeem themselves.

Keep Reading:

Feature: George Clinton is bringing the funk

Concert Review: George Clinton heats up cold night

Concert review: George Clinton (2007)

Concert Review: George Clinton, May 6, 2005 at the Beaumont Club

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Brenda Holloway – “Every Little Bit Hurts,” Pop #11
Motown may have been “the sound of young America,” but this song was clearly aiming for an older audience. Lee Cobb’s writing is obviously influenced by the Burt Bacharach/Hal David team, but Brenda Holloway’s pristine, nuanced delivery elevates the song above imitator status. Her restraint is the key – Holloway trusts the melody and structure will carry the song further than her lungs. She was right. Although the style is closer to supper club than street party, Holloway and Cobb inspired a legion of artists to take it on.

The Spencer Davis Group, fronted by a young Steve Winwood, had a hit with it in 1965. A year later, the Small Faces tried their hand on it. Funkmaster George Clinton turned the song into a duet in 1972 when he performed it with Diane Brooks. Alicia Keys released a more faithful version on her 2006 live album “Unplugged.” Proving once again there were few musical stones they wouldn’t turn over, The Clash recorded a cover in the early ‘80s. Fellow English punkers The Jam also cut a version about the same time. — by Joel Francis

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Above: The Flaming Lips “Race for the Prize” at Wakarusa 2008.

By Joel Francis

The Kansas City Star

Arrested Development – Friday afternoon, Revival Tent

The sound of Arrested Development warming up was funky enough to send a crowd scrambling to the Revival Tent and its ankle-deep mud, but the group had trouble keeping them there.

The group’s Afrocentric rap harks back to De La Soul’s daisy age and capped a three-act run of hip hop in the Revival Tent, including Blackalicous and Del tha Funky Homosapien. Their low-key approach had difficulty translating to the half-populated tent, but part of the problem could have been the 15-plus years since the band last hit the area.

Flanked by two vocalists and backed by a guitarist, DJ and rhythm section, MC Speech warmed the crowd up on a couple newer numbers before heating the crowd up with “Fishin’ 4 Religion” and a spirited gospel arrangement of “Tennessee.”

Fans who weathered the bass solo were treated to a karaoke romp through “Billie Jean” and a full-band cover of “Redemption Song.”

Although the set’s energy lagged at times, the greatest hits still sounded, well, great. “Mr. Wendall” is still as fun and timely as it was nearly 20 years ago. The closing one-two of “Mama’s Always Onstage” and “People Everyday” had a sea of smiling faces hoping it wouldn’t be another half-generation until the next show.

Flaming Lips – Friday night, Sun Down Stage

The Flaming Lips performed nearly the same show at their Wakarusa debut two years ago. Damn if it didn’t work just as well the second time.

Flanked by a horde of Teletubbies, the band took the stage as front man Wayne Coyne rolled over the crowd in a giant hamster ball. “Race for the Prize” kicked off the night as confetti, streamers and smoke snowed over the crowd.

It would be easy to get lost in the spectacle of a Flaming Lips concert and forget about the band onstage if the music wasn’t so good. “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” rocked so hard that Coyne himself called it “glorious.” The group funneled their anger and passion for a better America after the November elections into a devastating version of “The W.A.N.D.” that was prefaced by an anti-war airing of “Taps.”

The quartet also got some help from their fans. Coyne encouraged the crowd to get naked during their cover of “The Song Remains the Same” and a half dozen women jumped onstage and took him up on the offer. Spontaneous fireworks from the back of the lawn punctuated the trippy “Pompeii am Gotterdamerung” and heightened the atmosphere of “Vein of Stars.”

The night ended with “Do You Realize.” A million pieces of yellow and orange confetti falling from the sky created a nice cinematic moment that made the song sound even more majestic than usual.

Set List: Race for the Prize/Free Radicals/The Song Remains the Same/Fight Test/Mountain Side/Vein of Stars/Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (pt. 1)/Pompeii am Gotterdamerung/The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song/Taps->The WAND/She Don’t Use Jelly/(encore:) Do You Realize

“Christmas On Mars” – Friday night, the Flaming Lips tent

The chance to catch a band-hosted screening of the Flaming Lips’ seven-years-in-the-making movie “Christmas on Mars” overpowered the need for sleep for many Wakarusa campers.

Shortly after the Lips’ spectacular set on the Sun Down Stage, 200 fans lucky enough to snag a free ticket earlier in the evening were ushered into the band’s large “Eat Your Own Spaceship” tent. Inside, it felt a lot like summer camp. Everyone sat on long wooded benches and roadies handed out popcorn.

After a short personal introduction from lead Lip Wayne Coyne and a longer recorded interview, the film finally started around 1 a.m.

The movie follows the descent of paranoia and psychosis on a crew of astronauts in their Martian space station on Christmas Eve. Multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd plays the main astronaut while Coyne portrays an emerald-hued, antennae-sporting Martian who swallows an asteroid, is detained by the space crew and then forced into the role of Santa Claus.

The results are pretty much what you’d expect from a group with no acting or screenwriting background, paying for their production as they go. Fans started sneaking out almost as soon as the rock-show volume movie started. When I finally succumbed an hour into the movie a herd of fans were seated on the ground outside the tent for the next showing. Live and learn.

Ozomatli – Saturday afternoon, Sun Down Stage

Listening to Ozomatli is like flipping through a National Geographic. The L.A.-based band deftly mixes traditional South American music with African rhythms, hip hop, rock and a splash of Indian raga.

Opening with consecutive songs in Spanish could be an obstacle for some bands, but Ozomatli’s groove needs no translation. Although a moderate crowd had gathered on the lawn in anticipation of the set, each song saw more arms raised as the multitude grew.

The septet kept the energy high for all of its 90-minute set, from the Indian-influenced improvisation on “Believe” to the straight hip hop of “City of Angels” and vibrant African rhythms of “Como Ves.”

Ozomatli is not only proficient with different styles of music, but its members all play more than one instrument. This broadens their palate even further. The clarinet solo introducing gave “Cumbia de los Muertos” a Yiddish flavor, while the horns on “Magnolia Soul” added a New Orleans feel.

The appearance of Tre Hardson, aka Slimkid3 of the Pharcyde, who has been touring with the band since last winter, was an unexpected treat. He led the band through a great cover of “Passing Me By” that drew big cheers from the crowd.

Porter Batiste Stolze – Saturday afternoon, Sun Up Stage

Porter Batiste Stolze was more than 30 minutes into their set when Ozomatli wrapped up. I entered just in time to hear the band roll into a faithful cover of “Like A Rolling Stone” with a sidestepping backbeat that definitely gave the drummer some.

In front of me a father and son stood with their arms on each other’s shoulders, belting out every word with absolute delight. Proud mom looked on, her face radiant.

The Dylan cover gave way to the booty-shaking, Bo Diddley beat of “Not Fade Away,” which, in turn, fed into “Little Liza Jane.” No matter how many gnarled honky tonk guitar licks Brian Stolze threw at his band mates, George Porter, Jr.’s bass kept things funky while drummer Russell Batiste, Jr. shuffled the beat like a Vegas card dealer.

The New Orleans-based trio honed their chops together as in-demand session musicians, and worked Art Neville as three-fourths the Funky Meters until 2005. PBS’ three-part harmonies and musical sensibilities sounds like The Band filtered through Kool and the Gang and given a late-night run on Bourbon Street. They touched on nearly every style of American music in the half hour I heard, and could groove on them all.

Jennie Arnau – Sunday morning, Sun Up Stage

From a distance, Jennie Arnau sounds a lot like Kathleen Edwards. Both have mournful country vocals supported by muscular rock hooks. Up close, however, Arnau’s alt-country sound is less plaintive than Edwards and owes as much to Fleetwood Mac as it does to Emmylou Harris.

Backed by a four-piece band, the blonde South Carolinian performed four songs from her latest album, “Mt. Pleasant,” and one song from each of her last three.

While Arnau’s “Float On” is not a Modest Mouse cover, its buoyant melody should please fans of Edwards, Neko Case and Caitlin Cary. Set closer “You’re Not Alone” is the type of song that Sheryl Crow should be doing. It ended the show on a strong note.

While late morning, closing day festival gigs are never coveted, the two dozen folks who showed up for Arnau’s set seemed genuinely appreciative of the music and pleased by the 45 minute performance that held nothing back. Hopefully Arnau will be invited back at a better time slot and in front of the bigger audience she deserves.

Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk – Sunday afternoon, Sun Down Stage

Dumpstaphunk know how to ride a groove and aren’t afraid to hop on at a moment’s notice with several hundred hip-shaking hitchhikers in tow.

Opening with the aptly titled instrumental “Stinky,” the band quickly drew a dancing crowd to the lawn in front of the stage. By the time their hour-long set reached its midpoint the congregation had easily doubled.

With staccato riffs from his Hammond organ, Ivan Neville led the quintet through songs like “Shake It Off” and “Ugly Truth” that sounded like a streamlined, less bizarre P-Funk.

While vocal responsibilities shifted, they were always soulful. Between songs, Tony Hall would sometimes abandon fellow guitarist and Ivan’s cousin Ian Neville, and drop one string and several octaves to add another bass guitar and even more bottom to the sound.

Dumpstaphunk aired their views on the handling of their native New Orleans in “Meanwhile.” Easily the most fun Hurricane Katrina protest song to date, the band’s philosophy was summarized with the chorus “might as well have a good time/it might be the last time.”

Although, many of its members have worked with Ivan Neville’s father Aaron and the Neville Brothers, Dumpstaphunk is firmly rooted on The Meters side of the family tree.

Keep Reading:

Wakarusa Music Festival (2007)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2006)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2005)

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George Clinton in concert

By Joel Francis

The Kansas City Star

George Clinton’s show hasn’t changed much over the past several years, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to attract new fans.
Saturday night’s show at Crossroads KC marks the third time Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic have performed in Kansas City in the last four years, and each time the legion of hands branded with an “X” – signifying under 21 – is prevalent.
The forecast of a chilly evening – temperatures dipped into the 40s – and rain didn’t keep the lot behind Grinders from filling up over two-thirds with a crowd that cut through every demographic in the city.
The band opened with “Funkentelechy” followed by “Bop Gun.” Clinton wouldn’t emerge in his rainbow dreadlocked-glory for another half hour, but his crew of funksters were more than capable of keeping the music and spectacle rolling in his absence.
Parliament-Funkadelic shows may be closer to a three-ring circus than a traditional concert. Onstage at any moment are longtime band leader Garry “Diaper Man” Shider and backing singers dressed like roller girls and buffalo soldiers. Toss in characters like the Poo Poo Man, a pimp in zoot suit who lead the band through a James Brown tribute they’ve been doing since before Brown died, and Sir Nose, a dancer and agitator, and you’ve got a cross between Cecil B. DeMille’s cast of thousands and Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters.

Of course having a first-class catalog doesn’t hurt either, and Clinton’s stable is definitely up to the task. The philosophy is simple: if you have something to add to the song, go out and play it. If not, get off the stage and make room for someone who does. The result can be up to six guitars wailing away on the metal instrumental “Maggot Brain” or horns and keyboards leading a charge through “Tear the Roof off the Sucker” and “Up for the Down Stroke.”
Though the predicted rain never appeared, when the wind picked up around the two-hour mark the crowd thinned so quickly it was like watching time-lapse video. The hearty souls who stuck around for the final hour were treated to a devastating medley of “Standing on the Verge of Gettin’ It On,” “Pumpin’ It Up” and a cover of Chuck Brown’s go-go classic “Bustin’ Loose.”
The evening ended with Clinton and nearly all of his two dozen musicians onstage for “Flashlight” and a ferocious “Atomic Dog” with several audience members dancing up alongside the group. There were so many people onstage it was hard to differentiate the band from the audience. But maybe that was the point. We were “One Nation Under A Groove.”

Concert Review: George Clinton, May 6, 2005 at the Beaumont Club

Feature: George Clinton is bringing the funk

Concert review: George Clinton (2007)

Review: George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars (2009)

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Clinton_al_fy_050907_371f2_2

By Joel Francis

The Kansas City Star

Kansas City got both versions of the funk Wednesday night in the Crossroads.

New Mayor Mark Funkhouser opened the show with a thanks to all who, “Helped a big white guy get elected mayor.”

He was succeeded at the microphone by a guitarist wearing a diaper who signaled the end of Funkhouser’s reign and the beginning of George Clinton’s.

Initially, the show felt like more of an event than a concert. The sold-out crowd drew from nearly every demographic in the city, creating a festival atmosphere, and “Bop Gun,” the second song of the night, had them all dancing.

Clinton’s troupe, Parliament-Funkadelic, also heightened the atmosphere. Between the Diaper Guitarist, Sir Nose, the Pink Pimp and a back-up signer in a gold shirt and crown, P-Funk has enough personality and characters to rival a Broadway cast. Clinton emerged 40 minutes into the set wearing a black track suit and a shock of bright orange hair.

The show started strong, but it peaked after the first hour. After a strong performance of “The Big Payback” in tribute to James Brown, Clinton tried getting a jam started that went nowhere and took too long getting there. “Dr. Funkenstein” failed to reignite the groove and a trip through the “Maggot Brain,” a proto-metal dual-guitar instrumental and Hendrix-laced bass/guitar/drums jam, pulled the show off course.

Fortunately things got back on track in the final hour. A drastically slowed-down blues arrangement of “One Nation Under A Groove” whetted the appetite for “Flashlight,” which was followed by “Freak of the Week” and “Atomic Dog.”

Clinton closed the show doing the Twist, the Monkey and the Swim to a medley of ’50s rock and roll hits. The man who taught a generation how to dance was reveling in the moves that schooled him.

Even though the show was light on the hits until the end, most people walked out happy. At three-plus hours, there was more than enough to please everyone, even if the best moments came with long intermissions.

Keep Reading:

Feature: George Clinton is bringing the funk

Concert Review: George Clinton, May 6, 2005 at the Beaumont Club

Concert Review: George Clinton heats up cold night

Review: George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars (2009)

Read Full Post »

https://i1.wp.com/images.starpulse.com/Photos/Previews/George-Clinton-ap03.jpg

Parliament comes to the Crossroads with just a trace of James Brown.

The Kansas City Star

By Joel Francis

If James Brown cleared the road from soul to funk, then George Clinton paved it.The link between the two is undeniable, not only in the style of music Brown and Clinton created, but because they used many of the same artists to create that music, and because Clinton modeled his P-Funk empire in part on Brown’s business blueprint.

Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, which includes his longtime drummer Frank “Kash” Waddy, play Crossroads, 417 E. 18th St., on Wednesday with 4 Fried Chickens and a Coke and Browntown.

The Godfather of Soul

George Clinton’s first impression of James Brown was not favorable.

“Back then, in my Motown days, we used to criticize him, until we knew better,” Clinton said of his days in the mid-’60s as a songwriter at the legendary Detroit label. “At Motown, we specialized in lyrics. Berry (Gordy, Motown’s president) made sure we got a story out of every song.”

Brown’s storytelling skills didn’t measure up to Hitsville U.S.A.’s standards.

“Everyone thought James wasn’t saying anything,” Clinton said. “It wasn’t until hip hop came along that we realized James was saying more in one ‘unh’ than all of our stories combined.”

Clinton left Motown and started a doo-wop group called The Parliaments. When The Parliaments record label folded, their backing band, The Funkadelics stepped into the spotlight. Funkadelic ushered in the 1970s with an aggressive blend of Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and James Brown.

While Clinton was tinkering with the formation of Funkadelic, Brown was turning America on to hard funk and inspiring countless imitators.

“Bootsy Collins, his brother Catfish and I all grew up in Cincinnati together playing music,” said Frank “Kash” Waddy. “Back then, every town would have a group that tried to sound like James Brown. We’d come up with false IDs, draw moustaches on our faces, wear sunglasses and a shirt and tie — anything to try to look as manly as possible so we could sneak into bars and play.”

The mid-adolescent trio of Bootsy on bass, Catfish on guitar and Waddy on drums did well enough on regional tours and local shows to eventually attract the attention of The Godfather himself.

“Little by little James got word of us and he’d come and sit in on our shows. That was some major validation,” Waddy said. “Really he was prepping us for if he needed us to join his band, but we didn’t know because we were totally naïve.”

After sitting in on studio sessions and short tours with Hank Ballard, Arthur Prysock and other artists on Brown’s King record label, Waddy and the Collins brothers got the call to join James himself onstage.

“It all happened so fast. He start by calling off a song and a key and count off,” Waddy said. “Since I was behind the drums I could see the whole scene. Bootsy and Catfish were bunched up by me. Kush (trumpet player Richard Thompson), Strawberry and (saxophonist) Pee Wee Ellis — all guys we idolized — were onstage with us, and in front was the biggest crowd we’d seen. We were scared out of our minds.”

Brown formed the original lineup of The J.B.s around those musicians and for the next couple years, Kash, Bootsy and Catfish toured the world with Brown.

“It was a good two months that we went around pinching ourselves, because we went from nothing to James Brown,” Waddy said. “James Brown had hotels. He was so powerful it was unbelievable. He had his own radio stations and record label.”

Brown had built a vertically integrated empire of recording, publishing, airplay and promotion, but he didn’t have everything.

“We got to looking at the guys who were with James all the time, and they all seemed to be kind of depressed,” Waddy said. “We didn’t understand it, but it wouldn’t be nothing to see a grown man cry or be upset, and James would keep them like that. I began to realize there was not happiness at the end of this rainbow.”

In 1971, the Cincinnati trio bolted from Brown and formed The Houseguests, a band whose sound was constantly being compared to Funkadelic’s.

“We had never heard Funkadelic before, but one night in Detriot we were playing on a bill between Funkadelic and Gladys Knight,” Waddy said. “George heard us that night and hired the whole band. The rest is history.”

The Hardest Working Man In Show Business

Recruiting Brown’s old rhythm section opened the door for more defections, as Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker and others eventually joined the Funkadelic family.

“At one time, we had all of James Brown’s band with us,” Clinton said through a laugh. “Working with James was something they’d complain about and idolize at the same time. You had to be the best in the world to be with James, because coming out of it almost any of those guys could run their own organization.”

Freed from the militaristic management of Brown, Clinton’s band was a playground for Brown’s former musicians.

“We left such a regimented, staunch environment with James, and got total freedom from George,” Waddy said. “It was a happy medium. We brought professional discipline and introduced George to The One (Brown’s style of emphasizing the one beat in his grooves).”

Clinton didn’t manage, he made sure shows were lined up, studio time was available and let the results speak for themselves.

“Man, I just got onstage and let them play what they wanted to play,” Clinton said. “Personality-wise I’d just let them be the bandleaders and tell them what I wanted.”

Building on the Motown model and Brown’s King label, and foreshadowing Prince’s Paisley Park empire, Clinton let his musicians front their own outfits under his production and input. Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker led the Horny Horns, while Waddy and Catfish became core members of Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Other Clinton combos included The Parlets, The Brides of Funkenstien and Parliament, a happier, dance-friendly outlet for the Funkadelic musicians.

“We had a whole studio in Detroit called United Sounds to ourselves,” Waddy said. “We weren’t told you work on this and you work on this. You’d just go in, listen to a track and jump in if you could. George would come in and listen and might give one cut to the Horny Horns, another to the Rubber Band. Sometimes we’d go in and wouldn’t see daylight for three days.”

By the end of the decade, nearly all of Clinton’s bands were dominating dance floors and concert stages across the country. The ripple effect of that music was inescapable from the onslaught of imitators trying to capture that sound and feeling.

“For us funk was a way of life,” Waddy said. “We wouldn’t listen to TV or the radio because we didn’t want our stuff to be tainted. That’s why these songs have stood the test of time; they weren’t a fad, they were a way of life.”

Soul Brother No. 1

Clinton first got the idea for the mothership watching Lt. Uhura on an episode of Star Trek.

“I was thinking about putting black people where folks wouldn’t picture them. That’s why I got the idea of a spaceship with me sitting outside like a pimp mobile,” Clinton said. “Once Parliament got a hit record with ‘Up for the Downstroke,’ I took the royalty money and bought a spaceship. I wanted to do something big onstage like Sgt. Pepper or The Who’s Tommy.”

With the Brides of Funkenstien, The Parlets and Bootsy’s Rubber Band opening the show and everyone onstage for Parliament-Funkadelic’s set, Clinton set the new standard for stage performances.

“It changed the whole industry, because prior to us it was all three-piece suits with bass, guitar and an amp. Black guys would try to get by with as little as possible to keep overhead low,” Waddy said. “Now after us, all acts had to invest to compete.”

The stage wasn’t the only place Clinton was reinventing music.

“Our language was street talk,” Clinton said. “At the time black DJs with personalities were on the way out for Quiet Storm. We became our own DJs on our records and made that the standard. After that, DJs in the club started doing the same thing. Give yourself a few more years and artists were doing it over records, which became hip hop.”

There’s not much subtlety in the Clinton catalog, but the political content of his lyrics are a consistently understated element.

“I never wanted to write about boy/girl, black/white issues. I wanted to keep it vague, Clinton said. “I always avoided strict interpretations of politics, because I thought if people got caught up in that, the political winds were libel to change and people would just end up fighting against a particular stance.”

There are brains behind the bounce on songs like “Chocolate City” and “Think, It Ain’t Illegal Yet.”

“I applaud George, because he was always reading and wanting to teach. Issues we’re talking about today, like cloning, we talked about 30 years ago on ‘Placebo Syndrome’ when they were not mentioned,” Waddy said. “Politically, George was East Coast and James was Southern. James was just a dead hit with his lyrics. George was a little slicked up, more coy.”

Mr. Dynamite

Despite all his success and innovation, shortly after the 1980s dawned, Clinton and his bands found themselves without record contracts.

“One or two somebodies orchestrated all the negotiations with the labels in 1980,” Clinton said. “I didn’t think they’d throw us to the curb that quickly with all our hit records, and it all stopped at the exact same time I started Uncle Jam records.”

Clinton likened his experience to what happened to Prince in the early ’90s and revealed, “we’re just starting to get into the courts to see those papers and see what really happened, and I promise the full story will come out soon.”

“A lot of people say we got high and used up all our money on drugs,” Clinton said with a laugh. “It’s not true. We hadn’t gotten paid yet!”

Clinton had some success, but several of his musicians drifted away. Fortunately, for every musician who left, seemingly 10 rappers discovered the P-Funk sound. Clinton’s songs, along with Brown’s, are the most sampled in hip hop.

“Hip hop kept funk alive,” Clinton said. “I made a relationship with the artists, that instead of fighting them, I kept them close to me. Our records are like James Brown’s – they never get old.”

The proliferation of Clinton samples kept his catalog fresh. Even if listeners had never heard a P-Funk song, they probably knew “The Humpty Dance,” which relies on Clinton’s “Let’s Play House,” “Me, Myself and I,” which uses “(Not Just) Knee Deep” or any number of songs that liberally borrow “Atomic Dog.”

“We’ve been traveling around and playing so long that live music has caught back on,” Waddy said. “People don’t want to hear music from sequencers anymore. They want to hear live instrumentation and be entertained. Our crowds range from high schoolers to middle aged people.”

Or as Clinton puts it: “The charts don’t mean near as much anymore once you have a following.”

Today Clinton has a reality TV show in the works, a new record label, a reputation as a great live act and when Brown died on Christmas Day, claim to being the biggest living link to the funk era.

“There’s a lot of James Brown in our music, but it’s not only James Brown. We’ve got Motown and Jimi and Sly Stone and Ray Charles,” Clinton said. “There’s always so much of that stuff built into our music that by the time it got there, it was hard to pick out just one thing.”

Waddy, who is working on a book about his times with Brown and Clinton, is less modest.

“In my mind, James and George were nose and nose for years, but James always had a bit more of the edge because of seniority,” Waddy said. “Now that James is gone, George is the man. People are feeling it without realizing it. The public always has to have their guy, and right now George is on top of the heap.”

Keep Reading:

Concert review: George Clinton (2007)

Concert Review: George Clinton, May 6, 2005 at the Beaumont Club

Concert Review: George Clinton heats up cold night

Review: George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars (2009)

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