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George Clinton and P-Funk: An Oral History (For the Record) Paperback – June 1, 1998
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From a Plainfield, New Jersey, barber shop to the Mothership and beyond, George Clinton and P-Funk: An Oral History is the riotous story of the Parliafunkadelicment thang straight from the mouths of those who created and witnessed it: Clinton himself, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, and dozens of others. Clinton's transformation of the band from a bunch of acid-crazed former doo-woppers with loud amps into a slightly less crazed juggernaut that ruled late-'70s stages and airwaves is the main story here. But the heart of the book is the voices of those in and around the act; for instance, Clinton's explanation of how the Apollo moon landing affected his concepts: "I doubted logic ... 'cause the minute you say what goes up don't have to come down ... [when] they broke gravity, it was no longer true. So to me, everything else was suspect. When I heard, 'Man, that's bad,' and they meant good, I ain't gonna bet my life on nothing that's being said, 'cause it's too easy to change the meaning of a word. I don't believe in bad words. I was able to play with it." --Rickey Wright
About the Author
Dave Marsh was a founding editor of Creem and an editor at Rolling Stone, where he created The Rolling Stone Record Guide. He is a music critic at Playboy, publisher of Rock & Rap Confidential, and a prolific author of books about music and pop culture. His Before I Get Old is the definitive biography of The Who, and Glory Days and Born to Run, both about Bruce Springsteen, were bestsellers. He lives in New York and Connecticut.
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There's surprisingly few documentary products about Parliament-Funkadelic, and those that exist are sometimes hard to find, so if you're interested in their story, you have to read this book. I certainly have a better understanding of the Funk Mob now, more so than I was getting from what you can find on the web. Some of the stories are hilarious, and the interviewees are often insightful and seem to be pretty honest. This is an important, minimalist, self-reflexive record of the groups' histories, without much author bias (you get editor bias - the selection and arrangement of quotes).
That said, a more comprehensive P-Funk biography would greatly benefit from a more coherent voice from a single author and from the kind of details that a diligent researcher would use to contextualize the group members' quotes. As noted by other reviewers, there are big gaps in the narrative (the "Electric Spanking..." album isn't mentioned at all, for instance).
Going into the book, I was particularly interested in the musical mechanics of the band. I mean, these guys cut more than 20 albums in about a decade, plus touring! That's an insane work ethic, and seemingly impossible if you consider the amount of drugs that were being consumed. What I was really hoping for was more of a cut-by-cut, album-by-album, tour-by-tour explanation of how that incredible output was realized, with details about songwriting and arranging and tour managing. That's not what you get with this book. What you get mostly is how people got involved, how they left (or stayed), who they liked, and who they didn't. And then a Clinton quote is inserted to summarize something.
For a quick ride on the Mothership, find a cheap used copy of this book, and devour it on a weekend beach trip. Enjoy it for what it is, but keep your expectations low...