Horror in Your Funk
By James Goodridge
Spring 1975 my brother Barron had scored some tickets for us to see the Ohio Players,Graham Central Station and Parliament Funkadelic perform at historic Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The Players were headlining,the Station was holding down the middle and P-Funk was relegated to opening act. Looking back big brother had scored some nice seats, in the middle down near the front rows (the first concert he took me to, an ear shattering Edgar Winter Group concert at Madison Square Garden we were in the nose bleed seats, the year before, didn’t matter though, Edgar turned it out).For Radio City a special added attraction the lockers a pop locking/robot dance group from the west coast featuring a rotund kid who, I would a few years later see on the ABC comedy “Whats Happening” Nick named Rerun. After a short break the house lights went down and the great Radio City curtains pulled back to reveal a dimly lighted in frosty moon light stage, the only other lights coming from the row of Marshall amps indicating that they were on. The silvery glisten of the a drum set and the power lights from a small command center of key boards. We are focused on the coffin in the foreground of all of this.
The first sorrowful feedback notes of Maggot Brain flow through the hall, played by guitarist Mike (Kidd Funkadelic)Hampton off to the side of the stage. As Hampton’s solo grows most intense, rising and dropping to this writers youthful horror, the lid of the polished brown wood coffin begins to open. Rising from the dead is George Clinton maggot overlord of THEPARLIAMNTFUNKADELICTHANG aka The Funk Mob. Face painted white, hair in a style that predates punk (was that bantu knots?) and chains. Lord, I can’t remember was those boxers or briefs, bare foot and wearing a metallic green cape, George is making the front row concert goers nervous. Spitting and yelling gribberish, George is a show stopper as we use to say back then. Which means GCS and OP have to step up their musical game. After running around stage and then jumping off and into a buxom woman’s lap in the front row, George is back on stage. Keyboard master Bad Bosco, Bernie Worrell, gets behind the keyboards as music director while the rest of the mob appears from behind the amps, the line up at the time :Cool Cal Simon(vocals/Congas), Shady Grady Thomas(Genie vocals), C. Boogie Mosson (Bass/vocals), Clarence Fuzzy Haskins (Werewolf vocals), R.Tiki Fulwood(Drums/man in the box)and Sting Ray Davis(bass vocals) an bizarre assortment of genies, men in diapers, psychedelic werewolves and magicians. A cosmic robed Kidd Funkadelic comes on stage so they can jump into Alice in My Fantasies.
One of the foundations of Afrofuturism along with Octavia Butler, Sun Ra and Samuel Delaney, George Clinton’s music has served as a sound track to black worlds of horror and science fiction and real world social commentary. Briefly George’s musical history starts in New Jersey as a owner of a barber shop in Plainfield in the late 50’s early 60’s. After closing time George gets his buddies together and sing do-wop. Forming Parliament they sign with Motown’s smaller New York area label Jobete and have a minor hit with I Just Want to Testify (1966) but are soon dropped by the label. He goes up to Boston in 1968 drops acid and to paraphrase, his doors of perception open.The album Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow (1971) with its Provocative nude cover (actually this was their second album, their self titled debut album is more scifi to this writer maybe even Afrosurreal) but the title track is what sounds like a very BAD acid trip your listening in on. Maggot Brain released the same year, this album with the now classic cover a afro sister silently screaming her head just above ground.The story goes that when recording the title track George told guitar master Eddie Hazel(RIP) then with the group to “play as if you just heard your Mother died”. War of Armageddon on side two of the same album sounds like all hell is breaking loose, a combination zombie up rising/revolution. 1972 finds Funkadelic releasing America Eats its Young.A double record set Miss Lucifer’s Love is a song that upon revisiting all these years later I feel, showed a dark side of George that went over all our heads back then. The next release, Cosmic Slop (1973) is important and pivotal in that George finds an artist that can match the acid laced,urban horror/scifi sounds and lyrics witch images on the album covers. That artist is Pedro (Sir Draw) Bell. Mutant pimps, ghoulish hookers, cross bred space aliens, talking maggots, singers dripping puss and slime. This is the artwork of legend that Bell would create on the next few albums.The title track, Cosmic Slop, about a child witnessing his mother and father arguing about her selling her body to feed her children, while the Devil sang “ Would you like to dance with me we’re doing the cosmic Slop”. Trash A GoGo in which a pimp is trying to cop a plea are both soundscapes of inner city life back then.
The track that most conveys that era’s horror is March to The Witches Castle. George’s voice is alter to more deep bass levels and monotoned. The Witch is a metaphor for heroin and those on the march are the black, white, brown, yellow and red Vietnam Vets that came home strung out. On this album, George had a young guitarist Ron Bykowski do the leads, he also has the distinction of being the first white Funkadelic or as George called him with love “my token white devil”. The next year found the Parliament side of the THANG free from a contract issue and ability to record the album Up For The Down Stroke (1974). For the rest of the 70’s handle the science fiction side of things, The Mothership Connection(1975), The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein (1976). Being that George says “he’s tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe”, it’s no wonder Standing on The Verge of Getting it On (1974) is a roller coaster ride in the Funkadelic universe.
The altered voice banter at the beginning of the album which to this writer sounds like demonic elves. Lets Take it to The Stage (1975) was a straight up horror statement. The cover art by Bell featuring a Linda Blair of the “Exorcist” fame with the title burned on her stomach set us up for the first track Good to Your Earhole. It’s from the pits of hell guitar solos, Better By The Pound a sex and occult/funk anthem, Be My Beach where George’s right hand man and friendly ghost Bootsy Collins seems to channel Jimi Hendrix in his vocals. No Head No Back stage Pass self explanatory, Lets Take it to The Stage George throws down the gauntlet to other bands (other bands were known to cut the power while Funkadelic would be on stage performing), Get Off Your Ass And Jam, an early hip hop staple. Side two, I Owe You Something Good an underrated old school Gothic heavy metal gem, Stuffs And Things could have been in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Song is Familiar George in a quiet moment, Atmosphere starts off as a little X rated pun but turns into a witching hour blast as Bernie Worrell lets loose on the keyboards. For the rest of the decade P-Funk under George produced more strong funk hits but a little less horror themed work, Although, I would submit Tales of Kidd Funkadelic (1976) from the album of the same name, Hardcore Jollies (1976) and Booty Snatchers (1979) by Parlet part of the Parlet/Brides of Funkenstein crew.
The following decades were more of a focus on a cyberpunk/funk for George and company. Which, while it did produce a ton of funk, it lacked the horror except Jugular (1989) from the faux Way of The Drum CD. Thankfully, P-Funk alumni Eddie Hazel and his group Axiom Funk released Funkcronomicon (1995) Once again, Bell sets the tone with his cover art and Bootsy Collin’s work with BucketHead (2002) is bloody fun. The year 2015 found the return of Funkadelic First You Gotta Shake The Gate (Pedro Bell returns) , 33 Song Opus (33 songs for every year Funkadelic was on hiatus). The three disc set is best listened in a marathon session. The title track, Shake The Gate and Jolene pulled this writer back into Funkadelic’s horror vortex along with Where Would I Go ? This set also introduces us to P-Funk horror rap with Not Your Average Rapper and Goth metal with Dirty Queen (featuring God’s Weapon). All in all, it’s said “you can’t go home again to your horror” (just funin’ as George say) but this 3cd set will more than do. Along with Mr. Clinton’s genius, over the years you have legendary groups like Death, recent and new groups like Slipnot,Vodoun,God’s Weapon,Stage Fright, Travis Travis, and blk Vampires(blkvampires offical site) to carry on. So, stay cool and rock on. To any P-Funk fans who reads this: if I forgot any songs, my bad.
Born and raised in the Bronx, James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently, he is writing a series of short “Twilight Zone” inspired stories from the world of art, (The Artwork) and a diesel/punkfunk saga (Madison Cavendish/Seneca Sue Mystic Detectives) with the goal of producing compelling stories