Thursday, March 22, 2018

Parliament – Live P Funk Earth Tour

I was walking home from school when I saw a very unusual object lying on the side of the road. It was a record album from a band that I had never heard of before. The thing that was even more stunning to me was that someone would leave a record, any record, by the side of the road. I have always treated books and records with the utmost care and respect and I just couldn't imagine how this had happened. The cover was intriguing and I decided that I had to take this home, and if the record itself wasn't all scratched and ruined, I had to listen to it.

The record was Parliament's live classic from 1977. My 14 year old lily white suburban life had been rocked a few months earlier when I heard Richard Pryor's “Bicentennial N****r”, and now this one made it clear to me that I was missing out on something. Listening to both of these albums and discovering that there was a whole world out there that I naively knew nothing about was a very good thing. But it was also a shock to the system. Pryor spoke of experiences that I never imagined, he made me laugh but also think about society, and made me realize that things were not the same for everyone. Hey, I said I was naive.

Parliament was the musical equivalent of Richard Pryor. There was stuff going on in this music that I had never heard before. Dirty limericks, lyrics substituting “funk” for that other “f” word, songs about funky extraterrestrials coming down to earth in the mothership to teach us all how to groove, this music had it all for me. I was already a lover of music at this point in my life, and this just blew the doors open to a whole new world of music. I had never experienced funk before and man, what an introduction this was.

The album itself was recorded over two nights in January of 1977 and captures what a potent band they were at that time. Some songs are really not much more than George Clinton singing/speaking over a groove, but man what a groove. The audience sounds like they are all having the time of their lives and its not hard to hear why. The band just clicks and there are some monstrous extended jams with both the vocalists and the instrumentalists showing off their chops. Even listening to this today, more than 40 years later (that just can't be possible!) this is music that is fun and funky, freaky and psychedelic, and just an outright good time. I have somehow never done this, but I bet if you put this on at a party the mood would change instantly for the better.

So thank you George Clinton for introducing this naive white boy to the much wider world of funky aliens, one nation under a groove, and the awesome power of a fully operational mothership. On a more serious note, thank you also for opening my eyes and my mind to the fact that people of different races did not have things the same. I did not know many people of color at the time I discovered this album, but it gave me a bridge that allowed me to connect with people who loved a good groove regardless of what they looked like. Finding the funk made me a better person, a more understanding person, a more compassionate person. All because of an album I found by the side of the road.


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