“Listen – Super Stupid MP3″
It’s Friday, which means it’s almost – practically – Saturday, which means despite the fact that I have to work all day, I have my eyes on the prize and no one – noBODY – is going to make me like it.
I guess I’m back to wrestling with the absurdity of working for a living, coupled with/compounded by irritation inherent in my job, nailed to the insanity of the “Protestant work ethic”-worship that’s been stinking up this country for the last 300 years, scotch-taped to the fact that my life is consumed by a pastime that has little or no remuneration associated with it (spiritual riches never having been enough to put food on the table or coal in the furnace, a flaw that’s never far from my mind).
In the spirit of kicking a figurative hole in the sheetrock, I decided that today was the day where I was going to whip something on you that’ll make your face look like the test pilot guy on the rocket sled, i.e. eyelids peeled back, cheeks flapping in the wind, teeth and gums exposed to the world. While this might seem sadistic in the hands of lesser mortals, I do this because it has purgative effects, clearing the slate as it were and allowing the addled mind to regroup (defrag for my fellow IT folk) so that it might return to some semblance of normalcy (whatever that is).
So, grab something to cleanse your palate, hold on tight, and get ready for Funkadelic.
I remember very clearly the first time I heard today’s selection. Not too long after grabbing the first Funkadelic album, and having my mind blown by it, I returned – much to the consternation of my wallet – to the local record store and got my hands on the next two, i.e. ‘Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow’ and ‘Maggot Brain’.
As I worked my way through these albums, soaking up the soulful psychedelia therein, I thought to myself – “How could I have missed the boat on this band for so long?”.
I was certainly aware of the Parliament-Funkadelic “thang”, with the space ships, crazy tin-foil suits, platform boots, star-shaped guitars and all that, and I had a couple of Parliaments 45s, with the group harmony, conks, and the Northern soul and that whole bag, but I had never explored the dark area in between those two extremes.
It would be a mistake (or at least a foolish simplification) to describe the Funkadelic era (1969 – 1973) as transitional – which it kind of was – because that would suggest that there was some kind of logical progression – a bridge as it were – between ‘I Can Feel the Ice Melting’ and ‘Flashlight’. There might be one in theory, but when I finally settled down to feed my head from those first three Funkadelic albums, I had no idea how much of a stylistic left turn George Clinton and his merry band of maniacs had in mind.
When the Parliaments shed their matching suits, turned on and fuzzed out, they created something that was simultaneously too tripped out for the soul fans and too “black” for the rock fans. While there were elements of post-Experience Hendrix, and Family Stone-isms in orbit around Funkadelic, their sound was something else entirely.
I’m not going to go into the complexities of the “Black Rock” sub-genre here (with the mid-period Bar-Kays, Fugi, Chambers Brothers et al) but I will say that while Funkadelic were certainly on the vanguard of that particular mini-revolution, they were also taking their thing much further. They were light years ahead of their time, and like most “real” innovators, Funkadelic were far beyond the sounds of those first three LPs, and into a whole new bag, before anyone noticed.
The track I unleash upon you today, ‘Super Stupid’ quite literally shocked me the first time I heard it. When the opening fanfare started, my first thought was “Oh, this should be interesting.”. Then the song started – things getting interesting-er with every passing second, and then…and then….the verse started, producing an effect not unlike those films you see of a post-atomic blast shockwave, where everything gets sucked in one direction, only to be suddenly rocketed in the other.
Eddie Hazel’s lead guitar opens up with a riff, over Bernie Worrell’s organ, and then all of a sudden the singing and the drums (courtesy of Mr. Tiki Fulwood) come in, and HOLY SHIT!
It’s like John Bonham and Clyde Stubblefield had a baby and the little bastard turned out to be a hard-hitting motherfucker.
I had to plug in the headphones, restart the song and crank up the volume to a level that I knew would leave my ears ringing.
In a period where I had just sold my Led Zeppelin CDs*, any regrets I might have had were no longer an issue because I was now hearing the heaviest music my ears had ever savored, and those drums – especially the bass drum which was hitting like some kind of syncopated locomotive – were freaking me out (they still do).
The next time some greasy haired, poorly tattooed hesher sidles up next to you and wants to hep you to something “heavy” (if he’s hip, Sabbath, if he’s sniffing glue, Slayer), take out the copy of ‘Maggot Brain’ you keep ready for just such an occasion and whip a little ‘Super Stupid’ on him. When it’s done, he will either have knocked you on your ass and jacked you for your CD, or will be laying in the gutter, sucking his thumb and crying for his mama.
Your basic win/win situation.
* Back in the early 90’s I was listening to a LOT of delta blues of 20’s/30’s vintage. As time wore on I began to realize just how much of the Zep catalog had been out and out stolen from long gone bluesmen incapable of taking those slackjawed, Crowley-worshippers to court and shaking every last sixpence from their embroidered jeans (though it must be noted that the mighty Willie Dixon was still around and just happened to have his attorney’s phone number handy, much to the consternation of Messrs Page and Plant). It was years before I could/would listen to Led Zeppelin again.
NOTE: The scan above, and the vinyl rip of this tune are from a 1977 ‘Best of the Early Years’ LP.
NOTE NOTE: Thanks to the folks at Soulstrut for inspiring me to post this one…