“Free your mind and your ass will follow,
the kingdom of heaven is within.”
– George Clinton
George Clinton: Essential as a stimulus to current and future psychedelic artists and for forward-thinking poets and thinkers. George Clinton: Essential because the music that he made between 1970 and 1978 remains some of the most spectacular rock’n’roll ever achieved on record and is still necessary not only to black people but to a white psychedelic audience. Clinton dared demand of black listeners that they open their minds while simultaneously dancing more than they had ever danced. He laid claim to everybody’s black ass. He laid claim to ass. He was ever-prescriptive in his endorsement of the medical properties of funk. He likened it to an eternal bottle of milk: “Funk gets stronger by the hour. Funk can sit and sit and never go sour.”
Whereas New York’s The Last Poets were intellectuals who threw down the gauntlet to Black America with titles like ‘Niggers are Scared of Revolution’, Clinton was inclusive: his was a multi-age group that brought everybody in. The four singers were already in their 30s, whereas Funkadelic’s teen rhythm section and 17-year-old guitarist Eddie Hazel appealed to the Hendrix element. The sumptuously outlandish record sleeves – the sleeve notes, the hand-written lyrics, the overt demands of his meticulously laid-out ideas – were all prog-rock in their execution, allowing fans to share that hippie dream of reaching deeper into their culture than ever before.
When these first Funkadelic releases arrived, Clinton’s dazzling and demanding soup of funk, guitar-heavy hard rock and sensationally visionary lyrical content upped the ante like no black artist before or since. He did all of this while managing this errant posse of loco lunatics, bringing forth month after month, year after year, LPs, singles and tours for which he rarely had the funds. He did all of this without fear of the repercussions or implications to his brain and created for his audience an entire worldview, nay, an inner world, so cohesive and carefully written that the main sequence of Funkadelic LPs could even be argued to have religious significance. He was still paying for the Funkadelic tours of the late ’70s over twenty years later. Clinton was unequivocally saint-like – a fucking visionary. What a hero.
Let us focus now on ‘Time Has Come Today’ by the Chambers Brothers, the so-called ‘integrated’ band – they showcased a white drummer – whose explosive hit was featured on their Columbia Records LP THE TIME HAS COME. Already veterans of the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, the four brothers had sung together in chapel until 1952, when oldest brother George received his draft orders. Regrouping as a soul quintet, the brothers were ‘psychedelicized’ (as they termed it) in this classic song. Check out the 11-minute version released the following year for its sheer breath-taking sound FX and eerily accurate re-enactment of an LSD trip.