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The P-Funk mythology is a group of recurring characters, themes and ideas related in a series of concept albums and live shows, primarily from George Clinton and his founded bands Parliament and Funkadelic.
Funkadelic and Parliament are, in effect, the same band, with both bands at one time employing their musicians from the same pool, namely James Brown's backing bands (both the JBs, and the later Soul Gs). Musicians such as Bernie Worrell, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker all at one time played with Parliament and/or Funkadelic. Due to contractual issues, where the names changed because of multiple switches in record labels, these two bands, along with George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars and Bootsy's Rubber Band are nowadays collectively known as P-Funk.
On Mothership Connection (1975), the first track, "P Funk", concerns a DJ character, who inspired the Lollypop Man (alias the Long Haired Sucker). According to Clinton (who shares credit for the song with Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins), he was frustrated that radio stations refused to play his songs and invented his own station (called W-E-F-U-N-K) and a DJ to man it.
On Mothership Connection, Starchild first appeared (inspired equally by Sun Ra's "Black Noah" and Jesus); he is a divine alien being who came to earth from a spaceship (his arrival is "the Mothership Connection") to bring the holy Funk (with a capital "F": the cause of creation and source of energy and all life) to humanity. As it turns out (according to The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, 1976), Starchild secretly worked for Dr. Funkenstein, the intergalactic master of outer space Funk, who is capable of fixing all of man’s ills, because the "bigger the headache, the bigger the pill" and he’s the "big pill" ("Dr. Funkenstein", from The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein). Dr. Funkenstein’s predecessors had encoded the secrets of Funk in the Pyramids because humanity wasn’t ready for its existence until the modern era. The titular "clones" are the Children of Productions whose job is to ensure that everyone is on the One.
Starchild’s nemesis is Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk ("Sir Nose Devoid of Funk" from Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome, 1977). Inspired by the single "The Pinocchio Theory" by Bootsy's Rubber Band, Sir Nose attempts to end the Funk because he is too cool to dance. He is the master of the Placebo Syndrome, which causes unFunkiness (a combination of stupidity and no dancing). His goal is to place the minds of all humanity into a state called the Zone of Zero Funkativity. Starchild, on the other hand, uses his Bop Gun ("Bop Gun (Endangered Species)", from Funkentelechy Vs the Placebo Syndrome) to achieve "Funkentelechy" for all humanity. With the Funky powers of the Bop Gun (which are augmented by the Flash Light....Shine the light on them suckas!!!), Starchild causes Sir Nose to reach Funkentelechy, and find his Funky soul. He then dances away the night.
Sir Nose’s return (along with ally Rumpofsteelskin) is detailed on the Motor Booty Affair (1978). Here, Sir Nose is too cool to dance or swim, but Mr. Wiggles and the good citizens of Atlantis (a place where one can dance underwater without getting wet) cause Sir Nose to dance the Aqua Boogie. At the end of Motor Booty Affair, and after Sir Nose's defeat, the citizens of Atlantis raise their home out of the sea on the song "Deep" ("We need to raise Atlantis from the bottom of the sea, dancing 'til we bring it to the top ...").
On Gloryhallastoopid (1979), Clinton flips the script on "Theme From The Black Hole" (later sampled by Digital Underground for "Same Song") and allows Sir Nose to win one battle by turning Starchild into a mule. While gloating over his victory, Sir Nose alludes to multiple songs from Funkentelechy and Clones, mockingly referencing the scat singing from "Sir Nose" ("humdrum, twiddly-dee-dum Starchild!"), and pointing out the fact that Starchild is temporarily without weapons or allies ("Where's your flashlight? Where's your bop gun? Where's the Doctor [Funkenstein], Starchild?"). Sir Nose’s machinations are undone three tracks later by the "Big Bang Theory", which reveals that the Funk caused the creation of the universe, though the only legible clue is the ethereal backing vocal line, "So we the clones were designed."
Another Sir Nose appearance is on Trombipulation (1980), where he traces his ancestry back to the Cro-Nasal Sapiens, who were especially Funky, leading Sir Nose to reclaim his Funky heritage, along with his son, Sir Nose Jr.
The last recorded Sir Nose guest spot is on the lengthy 1982 song Man's Best Friend/Loopzilla off of the P-Funk stable's last commercial hit, Computer Games. In this song Nose says, "This sounds familiar! Let me stick my nose in it and see what I smell this time! Ahahahaha."
Funkadelic albums are rather more ethereal and abstract when compared to Parliament’s. Rather than tell the story of a cast of characters, the mythology of Funkadelic is a socially conscious spiritualism.
The Funk is described on the very first song ("Mommy, What's a Funkadelic?") of the very first Funkadelic album (Funkadelic, 1970), in the lines "By the way, my name is Funk/I am not of your world/Hold still, baby, I won't do you no harm. (...) I am funkadelic dedicated to the feeling of good."
On the second album, Free Your Mind... And Your Ass Will Follow (1971), Funk is said to lead to the Kingdom of heaven, which is described as being "within" (the titular song). "Funky Dollar Bill" (off the same album) describes multiple unFunky priorities, all revolving around materialism and consumerism, which have taken over all that is good and true in society (including, on "Eulogy and Light", religion).
One central concept is Maggot Brain (Maggot Brain, 1971), which is an unenlightened small-mindedness, and which must be overcome for humanity to avoid its destruction and decay. It is explicitly ascribed to the titular junkie in "Super Stupid," who has "lost the fight" with fear. Other songs on the album advocate universal love, peace, and brotherhood, and war is explicitly compared to insanity in "Back In Our Minds." The album ends on an apocalyptic note with "Wars of Armageddon," in which the sound of a crying baby can be taken as a direct reference to the speech at the beginning of the title track: "Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time, for y'all have knocked her up." With its noisy improvisation and activist chanting, the track appears to depict a final confrontation between good and evil.
One Nation Under a Groove (Funkadelic, 1978) introduces Funkadelica, a nation wherein the Funk rules and can’t be either stopped or labeled. The people of Funkadelica are called Funkateers (as are P Funk fans) and are led by Uncle Jam. Their mission is to rescue dance music from the doldrums (unFunkiness).
P-Funk mythology in popular culture
- Adult Swim's 2010 animated special "Freaknik: The Musical" featured psychedelic aliens voiced by George Clinton and Bootsy Collins.
- Playing on the storyline of Mothership Connection, an episode of The Mighty Boosh, "The Legend of Old Gregg" (season 2, episode 5), depicts the Funk as a living, multi-breasted extraterrestrial entity accidentally tossed overboard the Mothership by George Clinton. The episode further contains a sly reference to mythology with offerings of maggot-laced items at the local pub frequented by stodgy local fishermen. Near the episode's end, transformed by milk from the Funk, characters Howard Moon and Vince Noir perform a maritime parody of "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)".
- Filmmaker Yvonne Smith created an animated segment for her documentary, Parliament-Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove, featuring a P-Funk mythology-inspired character, "Afronaut." The character was voiced by comedian Eddie Griffin. The documentary first aired on PBS in October 2005 as part of the Independent Lens series.
- In the 2015 episode of Doctor Who, The Zygon Invasion, the Doctor refers to himself as 'Doctor Funkenstein'.
The many identities of Bootsy Collins
On Stretchin' Out in Bootsy's Rubber Band (Bootsy's Rubber Band, 1976), Bootsy was Casper "not the Friendly Ghost, but the Holy Ghost", who educates children at the Psychoticbumpschool ("Psychoticbumpschool").
On Bootsy? Player of the Year (Bootsy's Rubber Band, 1978) Bootsy is a rhinestone-bedecked doll of a rock star called Bootzilla ("Bootzilla") who is far superior to Barbie, on account of his ability to sing, dance and play.
- "The Mighty Boosh: The Legend of Old Gregg", TV.com
- Eric Olsen, "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker Tonight on PBS with PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC: One Nation Under a Groove", BC Blogcritics, 11 October 2005. Retrieved 1 January 2010.