It’s not hard to explain the appeal of Parliament-Funkadelic, especially to white people, who follow the great maxim of liking black music that nobody listens to anymore. Now while that unfairly throws honkies like myself under the bus – after all, great music is great music no matter where or when it comes from – by the same token it is evident that the unfathomably upbeat and occasionally uncritical has immense appeal to the rock and jazz audience who aren’t completely sold by the material generated by the hip-hop, indie-rock and electro generation.

Much of this draws from P-Funk’s complete lack of pretension. Unpretentious may seem an odd descriptive to apply to a band at times consisting of over 10 members, producing nigh 20 albums in one decade, several of them concept albums, largely concerned with the role and nature of black people in modern society, without even mentioning the utter ridiculousness of their stage shows (including one memorable moment when P-Funk doyen George Clinton actually summons a UFO onto the stage). All of this may seem to have much in common with a Pink Floyd or Genesis show, were it not for the utter ridiculousness of Parliament-Funkadelic itself. While much of the music may be borne out of social and political unrest, particularly in Funkadelic’s early music, Clinton responds by tapping into his imagination; by giving birth to a new reality, one in which people challenge power at its source, in which black Americans can not only run Washington D.C. but have their own space flotilla overtaking the airwaves to play funky music.

Okay so Clinton is more of a motivational speaker than an ideas man, it’s fair to say, and certainly there’s little to be found of much political consequence in Flash Light. Yet it remains one of the most iconic works of Parliament, and not simply because of its killer bass line. It depicts the band at their funky peak, before the onslaught of disco and punk which effectively brought the end to real funk, uncut funk, the Bomb. It’s the complete encapsulation of every good party in the 1970s in the space of 6 minutes. Sure the chords don’t change, the drums and bass remain in the same loop and the lyrics consist of little more than mumbled gibberish with the “Flash Light” refrain, but what’s precisely the point. There are plenty of songs which demonstrate the musical prowess of this band, but this ain’t one of them; Flash Light is about George Clinton waving a giant sized gun prop and dancing with Sir Nose.

Which is what separates Parliament-Funkadelic apart from any other band, past, present and future. The pure unadulterated party going on the stage has never been replicated, or even attempted since. No other band in the world has ever got so close to being a perpetual dress-up party with your friends and family. It’s a shame that they’re not properly recognised as being one of the greatest and most original bands to grace the airwaves. Free of any kind of pretension, save for the pure elements of groove and good times, one can forgive crackers for loving this kind of music. And if you can’t enjoy George Clinton taking off in his starship at the end of this fantastic song, then frankly you’ve misunderstood what life was about.

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