Synopsis of Pop Music
"We want the funk, give up the funk..."
KISS are widely regarded as the superheroes of popular music, but they aren’t the only ones who adopted a larger-than-life appearance to get their music across. In fact, the other great example of superhero-music existed side by side with them on their record label. They were called Parliament, and if KISS were the comic-book kings of rock and roll, then Parliament were most definitely the superheroes of the r&b world. During the mid-to-late 1970’s, they created a series of spacey funk classics built around outrageous characters that seemed to leap from a comic fan’s fevered imagination. In the process, they became one of the most influential r&b bands of all time.
Although they became well-known in 1970’s, Parliament actually began way back in 1955 as the Parliaments. This vocal-harmony group was led by songwriter/producer George Clinton and was modeled after Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. They continued into the late 1960’s and scored a hit in 1967 with the gospel-flavored “I Wanna Testify.” When they found themselves at odds with their record label, they reformed under the new name Funkadelic to pursue a new style of funk driven by heavy guitar riffs and rock attitude. It paid off in big success with high-selling albums like Maggot Brain and Cosmic Slop.
After Funkadelic became a success, George Clinton and his musical team decided to revive the Parliament concept. They shortened the name to Parliament and released the Funkadelic-ish album Osmium in 1970. However, four years would pass before their next outing, Up For The Down Stroke. This classic combined group-chant harmonies with plenty of horns and slithery bass riffs to create a series of slick, danceable funk songs. The new approach paid off in a big way when Parliament scored big r&b chart hits with the title track and a remake of “I Wanna Testify.” The next year, the group continued on in the same vein with Chocolate City, whose title track became another r&b chart success.
Parliament grew stronger with each album and by the time Mothership Connection arrived in late 1975, they were ready to conquer. On this classic, George Clinton worked sci-fi concepts into the group’s music and harnessed the skills of keyboardist/arranger Bernie Worrell and bass wiz Bootsy Collins to create a sound that was intergalactic funk at its purest. Meanwhile, the group began to dress in outlandish comic-book style spaceman outfits for their concerts (which also incorporated a giant spaceship prop). The group’s combination of great music and a fantastic image caught on like wildfire and led to a Top-20 hit in “Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk).”
Six months later, Parliament unleashed another conceptual sci-fi epic called the The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein. It spawned r&b hits in “Do That Stuff” and “Dr. Funkenstein” and was followed by Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome. This album included comic book art to tell its spacey story and spawned a #1 r&b hit with “Flashlight,” the first big hit to use a bass line created by a synthesizer. The aquatic-themed Motor Booty Affair followed in 1978 and featured another #1 r&b smash with “Aqua Boogie,” a fierce groove full of wacky underwater vocals and synth bass.
Parliament continued to score big into 1980 with albums like Gloryhallastoopid and Trombipulation. At this point, Clinton decided to drop both the Parliament and Funkadelic names because of record-company legal hassles. He embarked on a successful solo career that spawned hits like “Atomic Dog.” Meanwhile, the many musicians who played on Parliament’s albums moved on: Bootsy Collins did quite well as a solo act and Bernie Worrell’s keyboard skills were put to good use by the Talking Heads. Periodically, Clinton will reunite with the various members of Parliament and Funkadelic to tour as the P-Funk Mob.
Although they have not put out a new album in two decades, the music of Parliament is still as popular as ever thanks to the rise of hip-hop. Albums like Mothership Connection and Motor Booty Affair have become required listening for any self respecting b-boy, and an endless array of hip-hop performers have sampled Parliament’s classic funk on their records. The most notable example is Dr. Dre, who made prominent use of “Mothership Connection” in his huge hit “Dre Day.” The originality of their work and its powerful influence on modern music ensure that Parliament will always be ‘the bomb.’
Artist Release History1970 - Osmium
1974 - Up For The Down Stroke
1975 - Chocolate City
1975 - Mothership Connection
1976 - The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein
1977 - P-Funk Earth Tour
1977 - Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome
1978 - Motor Booty Affair
1979 - Gloryhallastoopid
1980 - Trombipulation
1984 - The Bomb: Greatest Hits
1993 - Tear The Roof Off: 1974-1980
1995 - Give Up The Funk: The Best Of Parliament
1999 - The 12-Inch Collection and More
Pop Sub Categoriespop
Essential Music AlbumsTear The Roof Off (1974-1980) (Polygram)
Band MembersGeorge Clinton vocals
Fuzzy Haskins vocals
Grady Thomas vocals
Bernie Worrell keyboards
Bootsy Collins bass, vocals
Cordell Mosson bass
Eddie Hazel guitar
Garry Shider guitar, vocals
Michael Hampton guitar
Fred Wesley horns
Maceo Parker horns
Tiki Fulwood drums