CULT CLASSIC: FUNKADELIC-FREE YOUR MIND…AND YOUR ASS WILL FOLLOW.
Cult Classic: Funkadelic-Free Your Mind…and Your Ass Will Follow.
Although George Clinton was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, in 1941, he grew up in New Jersey, where he formed the doo wop group The Parliaments in the late fifties. At the time he co-owned a barber salon in Plainfield and spent much of his day straightening hair. That was about to change.
The group feathered Ray Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas and George Clinton who became the leader and manager of The Parliaments who entertained customers in the barber shop. This was good practice as it allowed the group to hone their sound.
In June 1959, The Parliaments released their debut single Poor Willie. Although it failed to trouble the charts this was the start of career that that spanned twenty-one years.
As the fifties gave way to the sixties the group had honed a sound that fused elements of soul and funk with increasingly bizarre and surreal lyrics. Initially, this didn’t find favour with record buyers. To complicate matters, The Parliaments were constantly switching between record labels. Still, though, a hit single continued to elude The Parliaments.
In 1964, George Clinton hired Frankie Boyce, Richard Boyce and Langston Booth to back The Parliaments. They were now a quintet which he hoped would result in a change in fortune for the group.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be and two years later, in 1966, Frankie Boyce, Richard Boyce and Langston decided to join the US Army. This left George Clinton looking for three new musicians.
George recruited bassist Billy Bass Nelson and guitarist Eddie Hazel in 1967. Later, he added guitarist Tawl Ross and drummer Tiki Fulwood. This was the lineup of The Parliaments that headed to Detroit.
By 1967, George Clinton was working as a staff songwriter at Motown. He had also arranged and produced numerous singles for other independent labels in Detroit. However, his own group The Parliaments had still to make a breakthrough.
This was about to change when The Parliaments released I Wanna Testify in May 1967, on the Detroit-based label Revilot Records. It reached number twenty on the US Billboard 100 and three on the US R&B charts. At last, The Parliaments had enjoyed a hit single, and it looked as if this was the breakthrough that they had been working towards.
It may well have been if Revilot Records weren’t forced to file for bankruptcy. This resulted in The Parliaments becoming embroiled in a contractual dispute which led to the band losing the rights to the name “The Parliaments.” For a band that had just enjoyed the biggest hit of their career, this was a disaster.
What The Parliaments needed a new name. That was when Billy Bass Nelson came up with the name Funkadelic. It stuck and the group adopted the new name.
This allowed the newly named Funkadelic to continue to record for other labels, and in 1968 they signed to Westbound Records.
Having signed to Westbound Records, Funkadelic’s music began to evolve. Doo-wop was yesterday’s sound. The newly named Funkadelic needed a new, and much more contemporary sound. Psychedelia, rock, soul and funk were the musical flavours of the month. So were Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. So, it made sense for Funkadelic to fuse these musical genres and influences.
This is what Funkadelic did. However, Funkadelic were no ordinary band. This was, after all, the era of the civil rights movement. Just like many other bands, the civil rights movement inspired Funkadelic. Their lyrics were full of social and political comment. Funkadelic’s music would prove to be a heady brew.
By then, George Clinton had decided that Funkadelic would be a funk-rock band which featured five backing musicians and The Parliaments as uncredited guest artists. This would be the lineup of Funkadelic that featured on their debut album which was released on Westbound Records.
Before Funkadelic entered the recording studio for the first time, they’d spent two years honing their sound. The newly named Funkadelic were a much more tighter band and ready to record their debut album.
During 1968 and 1969 they recorded seven tracks at Tera Shirma Sound Studios, Detroit. George Clinton penned Mommy, What’s a Funkadelic, Good Old Music and What Is Soul and cowrote three other tracks on the album. This included I’ll Bet You With Sidney Barnes and Theresa Lindsey plus Qualify and Satisfy with Eddie Hazel. The pair then joined forces with William Nelson to write Music For My Mother. Fuzzy Haskins a prodigiously talented young musician and songwriter wrote I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody’s Got A Thing. These tracks became Funkadelic which was produced by George Clinton.
When Funkadelic released their eponymous debut album, on ‘11th’ May 1970, it was well received by critics. Rolling Stone magazine gave the album a positive review. Other critics followed suit. Some critics remarked upon Funkadelic’s rhythm section and said they were at the heart of everything that was good about the band. This included the lengthy jams where Funkadelic took the opportunity to stretch their legs. George Clinton’s new band had already made a strong impression.
Funkadelic’s genre-melting eponymous debut album was truly ambitious and found them fusing blues-tinged acid rock, lysergic space funk and conventional soul songs whose sound hinted at Stax and even Motown influences. It was an innovative and imaginative debut album that showcased what George Clinton and the rest of Funkadelic were capable of.
Funkadelic reached 126 in the US Billboard 200 and eight in the US R&B Charts. The future looked bright for the psychedelic, funkateers, Funkadelic.
That was despite Music Is My Mother stalling at fifty in the US R&B charts. Then I’ll Bet You reached sixty-three in the US Billboard 100 and twenty-two in the US R&B charts. The third and final single was I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody’s Got A Thing which reached eighty n the US Billboard 100 and thirty in the US R&B charts. This was the start of the Funkadelic success story.
Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow.
Just two months after the release of Funkadelic, George Clinton and Co. returned in July 1970 with Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow. It was unlike any album ever released.
After all, no band had tried to record an album while tripping on acid. That’s until Funkadelic tried. George Clinton had a brainwave and wondered if Funkadelic could record an album whilst tripping on acid. The result was Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow, Funkadelic’s sophomore album.
When Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow was released the album was mired in controversy. This was down to the title-track. It was a ten minute epic where amidst a feedback drenched backdrop, Funkadelic managed to offend Christians everywhere. Their subversive attitude towards the sacred and specifically, The Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm meant Funkadelic were unlikely to sell many albums in America’s bible belt. They would make up for this elsewhere.
Following the positive reception of Funkadelic’s eponymous debut album, Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow received mixed reviews. It seemed Funkadelic couldn’t please all the critics, all the time. Record buyers however, were won over by Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow. It reached number ninety-two in the US Billboard 200 and number eleven in the US R&B charts. This made Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow the most successful album of Funkadelic’s career.
Only one single was released from the album, I Wanna Know If It’s Good To You. It reached eighty-one in the US Billboard 100 and twenty-seven in the US R&B charts. This was the fourth hit of Funkadelic’s career.
By July 1970, the group had only existed for two years and already they had established a reputation for creating ambitious and innovative music as they pushed musical boundaries to their limit and sometimes beyond. However, sometimes their music was controversial and subversive which alienated some record buyers.
Despite that, Funkadelic’s genre-melting music was already growing in popularity and record buyers were won over by the combination of blues-tinged acid rock, lysergic space funk, jazz, psychedelia, P-funk, rock, soul and social comment. It was heady and tantalising musical brew.
Funkadelic’s ambitious and groundbreaking eponymous debut album launched the group’s career, and they followed this up two months later with their acid fuelled epic Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow which although it was seen as subversive and controversial is nowadays regarded as a cult classic and one of the finest moment’s of the group’s three decade career.
Cult Classic: Funkadelic- Free Your Mind…and Your Ass Will Follow.