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Perceptions Of Funk And Misconceptions About Music

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                                       What your seeing above you is from Issue 34 of Mojo magazine-from September 1996. Since I last came to you with an article about how critics can both shape and misshape the perceptions of the music admiring public,an example of such a phenomenon came to me that was not only more individual but merited an entirely separate article. Its important to note the context with which I was reading this article. There was funk revival occurring during the 1990’s in general. Many record labels were reissuing sometimes long forgotten funk albums and compilations right and left. George Clinton’s P-Funk was no exception. But there was a tremendous vastness in terms of the level of material P-Funk was releasing record wise. So at the time of this articles’ publishing a lot of the albums discussed in it were unavailable on cassette or CD. And the original vinyl versions were next to impossible to locate. Of course the article might’ve been implying the need for a reissue of this music in and of itself. But due to the fact that was a time of incomplete musical knowledge for me,I missed out on some other crucial implications you may even see here. To clarify further,I’m going to take you back literarily backward in time to my own adolescence, when most people are at the peak of their musical interests if so inclined,which also happened to be in the mid to late 1990’s.

                                          A period of self imposed isolation from the pop culture of the era resulted in me exploring a good deal of music from the 70’s/early 80’s funk era from about the ages of 16-18. Although it existed,I was not online. Didn’t even own a computer or knew very much about Windows or Internet Explorer. It was too new and overused for what at the time was an uncertain technology-riddled with obvious flaws which have long since been resolved. So therefore I became heavily involved in a long and exhaustive search of record stores. Everywhere my family took me,I would always look for one. Mentioned that before here,in fact. Interestingly enough it was my fathers love for jazz that was a major influence on me. He would befriend and seek out other like minded people to have conversations about the music with. Many of these people had actually become fascinated by the funk revival too.  In these little brick and mortar record stores: Wild Rufus in Camden,Enterprise Records in Portland and a myriad of other similar places scattered around the coastal cities of Maine,New Hampshire and wherever else we’d travel this would continue to come up. Searching for funk was always like a game at that time. I knew the artists by name,and some things about their albums. But there was no guarantee anything could be found easily. So it was exciting to find a rare funky vinyl treasure…somewhere in these stores 50 cent to $1 bins.

                                         As liberating and happy an experiences as this was,a very different story would occur when I would go to major record store chain such as MusicLand,Borders,Strawberries of Record Town.  I would walk into these places and be greeted by shrieking music that was so abrasively loud,it psychically hurt my ears to hear it. Usually this would be the music of Pearl Jam,Alice In Chains or I don’t know what. At one such store during my overlapping interests in P-Funk and Prince,a man at the counter mentioned he was interested in Prince too. He loaned me a cassette tape of a guitars named Stevie Salas. And upon listening to it,I simply didn’t see how this loud guitar oriented rock music related to what I loved about the music I was listening to at the time. And I couldn’t really comprehend why because of that incomplete education and lack of cultural understanding coming from the self imposed isolation. If I mentioned my interest in P-Funk I would always be directed towards similar artists such as Buckethead. At the time I very much disliked the loudness. Didn’t like the edgy,aggressive sounds that I was hearing. The music of Parliament/Funkadelic,Sly Stone,Stevie Wonder-even songs with stronger rock guitar aspects offered a strong sense of solace for my heart,mind and soul. They glisened and sparkled like due to me. By the late 90’s I became interested in Rufus/Chaka Khan and the Brothers Johnson. These seemed like musically harsh times-with foul mouthed hip-hop on one end,and violently confrontational alternative punk rock on the other. So the cleaner the funk and/or the soul…the more it did for my own personal soul as it were.

                                       Now we return to the present. I’ve been online for over the decade now. And have researched much of the music I love personally. I also met and befriended people such as Henrique and Dameion in Oakland,California,Thomas Carley in Oregon and Dale Rohrbach in Michigan. On different levels these people bought me out of the hermit-ism of my late adolescence/early adulthood into a place where I could have productive social contact with culturally aware and open minded people-something I felt I’d lacked beforehand. What I realize about that Mojo article above,and why the only way so many could relate to my own musical interests was through more rock guitar oriented music was because of the filter through which the 90’s funk revival was shown through. Its true: George Clinton was extremely popular in that time. But the truth was mainly via his association with funk inspired rock bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers and his being embraced by the alternative rock festival culture. Knowing what I know now about George and other funk icons of the 70’s strong ethnic connection to their African American musical heritage? I sometimes even wonder if funk was appreciated as mainly a novelty music during that revival. As something campy and kitschy. That would explain a lot of how my own interest in it was perceived since I took any form of funk/soul music I heard completely seriously. And when I was laughing it was always with the music and lyrics,not at it-especially in the case of P-Funk. The 90’s have been over for almost fifteen years. I only hope,if people ever loved funk/soul music as something to laugh at,that their views have or will broaden as mine did.

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