The Midnight Special was an late-night television series that broadcast in the U.S. from 1972 – 1981. The 90 minute show featured bands and musicians playing in front of a live studio audience. Presenting viewers with the opportunity to see their favorite music performing live on television. A rare opportunity back in those days.(Did I say that?) Adding to the fun was DJ, host and 70s pop-icon, Wolfman Jack, who attempted to provided some hip-comedic aspect to the show.
For younger fans the Midnight Special presented a problem. The showstarting long after my parents had ordered me to bed. So a bit of strategy was needed before I could make my silent journey to the family television set. Typically, I sprang into action right after The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson ended. That was the signal: my parents were off to bed. And as soon as their light went off, I was on the move;sneaking down a short hallway, through the darkened kitchen and, finally, into the living-room. One simple “click” of the television and it was Midnight Special time! And there I would sit for the next 90 minutes. Crosslegged in the floor in front of the screen. Hoping for a rare glimpse of perhaps Kiss or David Bowie. My ear pressed hard against the tiny television speaker so I could keep the volume low but still hear the Wolfman’s introduction of each new act. To be honest, the show was often filled with disappointments; band’s like the Bay City Rollers or those soft-rock mavericks Breador America dominating the program. But life is like that, so I waited impatiently for the good stuff. And there was always at least one performance each show worth seeing; the chance to see the New York Dolls or Roxy Music or AC/DC was simply a revelation. And made the entire high-risk, late-night operation worth all the effort. Remember, this was long before there was easy access to music videos or live performances.
Of course, Funkadelic never performed on the Midnight Special. No such luck. But I did discovered the band from watching the show. It happened during a commercial break when a 30 second promo-video played for GeorgeClinton’s other band, Parliament. Somehow the clip managed to get past the network marketing department and into the living-rooms (and bedrooms) of Americans across the country. Just a quick shot or two of the band performing live in support of their latest album, ParliamentLive. And let me tell you, those few moments were enough to make a remarkable impression on me. Parliament was a band unlike anything I had ever seen or heard before; the wild music, those outrageous costumes and a spaceship(?!). Amazing shit and eye opening for a young music fan from Detroit. Filling my head with thoughts of what a P-Funk concert would be like. Fortunately for us now, that same 30 second television promo is available; Parliament / Earth Tour. Just 30 seconds of video, resulting in a lifetime of pursuing all the Cosmic Slop. Be warned and check out the Vinyl Dreamscape’s Top Ten Funkadelic / P-Funk Family Albums;
This is serious business. Creating a Top 10 album list for the strange and wonderful world of Parliament-Funkadelic is no task to be approached lightly. Think about all the possible complications. Only just the right combination of dark, thick coffee and bitter red wine facilitates my focus on the task at hand. Finding just the right balance between the alcohol and caffeine to hit the sweet spot of creativity. The contrast between the two setting my mind in motion. Providing me with the insight and clarity needed to move this monumental project forward.
Be forewarned. The P-Funk discography is a complicated mess. A labyrinth of bands and solo slbums; Funkadelic, Parliament and P-Funk, George Clinton, Bernie Worrell, The Mothership, The Bubber Band, Brides of Funkenstein and many, many other artist and bands overlapping depending on the year, availability and the inclination of the visionary leader Mr. George Clinton. The Cosmic Dog. Like so many destined for true greatness, Clinton started his music career in one of the two greatest cities on the planet. That’s right, Detroit Michigan. After moving to Detroit in the mid-sixies, Clinton became a full-time songwriter for the Motown label. While also writing, producing and arranging music for other acts on independent labels. Eventually, he scored his first hit record of his own material with Parliament’s (I Wanna) Testify.
Make no mistake, there was a method to Clinton’s madness of operating multiple creative vehicles for his output. By spliting his creative vision into two or more camps, he had the best of both worlds; Parliament would be the more commercial or mainstream sound the record companies wanted from him. While Funkadelic was the contract he sought for his own artistic vision. The strategy worked so well that Clinton was able to increase both his creative autonomy and his revenues. From that foundation grew a mighty family tree of like minded musicians carrying the P-Funk banner.
Between 1970 – 1980, that incredible family of musicians gave us an enormise amount of funky, fun, creative and intelligent music that didn’t just sounded great at a party. The band challenging their listeners and the entire society on every level; creatively, culturally, politically and economically. Using their outrageous image to show us something about our own prejudices and the systemic racism and classism of the society in which we all live. But before we get too hung up on the cultural and political aspects of the parliament funkadelic coalition, let us not forget that this music is not some intellectual exercise. The Funkadelic albums on this list delve deep into the pain and joy that the human family. With music full of love and lust and messy passions. So let us get on with it, shall we? Below is the Vinyl Dreamscape’s Top Ten Funkadelic / P-Funk Family albums. But really, the list is just a taste of the great music made by Clinton and Company. Sit back and relax while we jump into an amazing catalog of music. Our list is intentionally iconoclastic. Examining the sometimes forgotten albums of the strange beautiful world of Parliament-Funkadelic All-Stars.
10)Bernie Worrell / All The Woo In The World / 1979: Founding keyboardist of the Parliament-Funkadelic organization, Bernie Worrell was vital to the P-Funk sound. This solo debut finally gave him the opportunity he deserved to shine at the end of the decade. Co-produced by George Clinton, Worrell takes some real chances on the album. Some will find the record’s shifting diversity and spinning polarity a complete cosmicslop. And in a certain sense they would be correct. The music laced into these grooves reeks of that loose but funky playing. A sound that only Worrell could bring to P-Funk. And within only a few years of this release, Worrell would become a full-time tour member of the Talking Heads. Sound Sample: Woo Together.
09)Funkadelic / Hardcore Jollies / 1976: Often overlooked in the George Clintion Galaxy of Stars, Hardcore Jollies bring the Funkadelic sound into the later half of the 70s. Funkadelic refused the boundries the music industry was always trying to imposed. Fighting the powers of greed and racism with music full of complexities and thoughtfulness. There is real depth to the musical and lyrical content of this overlooked masterpiece. But you need to take the time to look for it’s treasures. Funkadelic reaches beyond the stereotypes and limitations of society; the music is funky as hell, but more than that, this is funk with a greater purpose. Mixing the sweet Detroit-soul of early Parliament with hard rock and the philosophical symbols of Afrofuturism. This is the music that both Prince and the Beastie Boys found such an amazing inspiration. A weird, bass-heavy acid trip into a universe where anything and everything is possible. Sound Sample:CosmicSlop.
08) Funkadelic / America Eats It’s Young / 1972: George Clinton in full rebellion mode on this musical road trip. Raging against a corrupt establishment and the myth of the American Dream. As Malcolm X said,”I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare”. On AmericaEats, Funkadelic makes an overt political statement that grows more valid and relevant as we get closet to the great reset. A critique of the Hypocrisy of a country that profits from the greed of global war. Clinton creating a political statement that needs to be heard and understood by the American masses. This album top ten status will come with some controversial for many P-Funk aficionados. I accept that. This two-record set is can seem sprawling and overwhelming. A vast audio environment with many dark and beautiful detours and layers into the back-alley of the P-Funk sound. As always, the music has great bass and Hammond interplay. A sound that is really the bread and butter of this great album. The band adding brass and strings elements to their palette. There is just so much music here for a music fan to feast upon. A party for both your head and your ass. Do us this favor snd check it out. Sound Sample: ifyoudontliketheeffectsdontproducethecause.
07) Bootsy’s Rubber Band / Out in Bootsy’s Rubber Band / 1976: William “Bootsy” Collins(Bass), his brother Phelps Catfish Collins and Frank “Kash” Waddy setting their sights for the heart of the sun on the combo’s first album. Of course, that is what you come to expect from a George Clinton production job. Side A is all fast, funky and hot. A summer night in the city. While Side B, explores the creepy, smokey late-night grooves of the clubs and the bedrooms on a Saturday night. The strange and beautiful places to meet your lovers, muggers and thieves. This was the music that my parent had warned me about. Sound Sample: Vanish In our sleep.
06) Funkadelic / Standing on the Verge of Getting It On / 1974: Here we have the return of guitar player Eddie Hazel after leaving P-Funk after the Maggot Brain album. Hazel has presence on the record is vital to a unique sound. Co-writing every song with our other hero, Mr. Clinton. There is a demented and deranged aspect to the sound here. A creepy danger that has been missing since Hazel left the scene. The highlight is the heavy metal groove of Alice in My Fantasies. Frantic, vulgar and bat-shit smart. The song is everything Frank Zappa ever achieved and more. The difference?Funkadelic can have fun but they never became a joke. Sound Sample: Standing on the Verge.
05) Eddie Hazel / Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs / 1977: If you think you have explored the Funkadelic universe without hearing the brillant album then you need to start over again. Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs is the hidden gem that fans love to find. It’s so good that even the Beatle’s cover, I Want You(She’s so Heavy) finds a place in our heart. Proving it isn’t always the songs that makes this album so special. Hazel’s plays with a style and emotional-beauty that is a rare gem to behold. Why isn’t he mentioned when lists of great players get mentioned? You know. Sound Sample: California Dreamin’
04)Parliament / Osmium / 1970:Osmium is the very first Parliament album. Or was it the first Funkadelic record? Parliament being the slicker R&B/Soul side of the Funkadelic team. Oddly, the personnel for this album included the five Parliament‘s singers and the five backing musicians from the Funkadelic. The overlapping personal confusing anyone trying to keep score of the sound and players. Confusing? Perfect!. The music is heavenly, psychedelic soul pushing the edge of the industry playbook. The magicial balance between the bitter and sweet. A funk-soul masterpiece by any reasonable standard . Sound Sample: I call my baby pussycat.
03) Funkadelic / 1970: Ladies and gentlemen, the Funkadelic cosmic-trip starts here. Mixing the more conventional, psychedelic-soul of the Temptation’s hit Papa Was a Rolling Stone. Mixing lightening speed and the freaky, fuzzy, groovy guitars. What makes this early album so irresistible? The moments of near breakdown. Don’t forget; the chaos of the trip is the reason we are taking the ride in the first place. This album is the band at the crossroad between Detroit street-soul and The psychedlic-acid-funk that would soon become the bands calling card. Sound Sample:I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody’s Got a Thing
02) Funkadelic / Free Your Mind…And Your Ass Will Follow / 1970: The experimental album. Don’t expect an easy listen here. Free Your Mind… is a hot damn mess if you’re looking for a coherent storyline. The music is a distorted and unhinged spinning-wheel of voices and sound. And there’s danger and damage awaiting you on very track. The result will leave first-time listener’s feeling disorienting but oddly satisfied with the powder-keg of ideas you witnessed. On this album the sweet Detroit soul steps back to the ambition and experimentalism of Krautrock. The vision often outpacing the dexterity of the music. Everything coming apart and being put back together again in new and challenging ways. The Afro-futuristic / Motorik vibe layered deep within the background of music and voices. Chants rising from deep within the sound. You can feel the pulse of music. This is the music to subvert and mock an empire. A difficult but remarkable album. And completely original. Sound Sample: I Wanna Know If It’s Good to You
01 Funkadelic / Maggot Brain / 1971: How could it be any other way? Maggot Brain could only have been made at a certain moment in time. With this specific group of musicians. All the forces of cosmic energy coming together when the needle hits the groove. Changing everything that you heard before and distorting everything that you will hear after. George Clinton knew what he was doing with this masterstroke. Using the studio effects to manipulate the sound of the music as the musican’s were recording. Of course, we have heard that kind of promise before. But this is no Sergeant Pepper disaster. This was real music created from the vision of the Cosmic Dog himself. I don’t know if this is high-art. Who cares? And you won’t be hearing from the tambura player on these tracks. Instead, you will hear music and commentary that hasn’t aged a bit. Sound Sample: Can You Get to That?
I once had a life or rather,
life had me
I was one among many,
or at least I seemed to be
But I read an old quotation
in a book just yesterday
Said you're gonna reap just what you sow,
the debts you make you have to pay (Can you get to that?)
Can you get (I wanna know)
I wanna know if you can get to that
I recollect with mixed emotions
all the good times we used to haveBut you were making preparations for the coming separation
and you blew everything we had
When you base your love on credit
and your lovin' days are done
Checks you signed with a love and kiss'll later come back
signed "insufficient funds"
Can you get (I wanna know)
I wanna know if you can get to that