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Jan 10 2018

Parliament – Flash Light

Parliament Funkadelic (casecadetickets.com)

Parliament Funkadelic

Introduction

In 1978 funk band Parliament released the single Flash Light. An extremely influential song, particularly by deploying the Minimoog synthesizer as bass.

Flash Light

Parliament - Flash Light - single (genius.com)

Parliament – Flash Light – single

Flash Light is a song by funk band Parliament, written by George Clinton, Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins. The song was released as a single on January 10th, 1978, and stems from the album Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome, which was released in 1977.

While Parliament isn’t really known for its static music, Flash Light nonetheless redefines the word funky. Just the song’s bass-line alone is so addictive, you want to hear the song over and over again.

Parliament had the ultimate funk-bass-player within the band. However, on this song Bootsy Collins plays the drums.

So where does the bass come from then?

Keyboard player Bernie Worrell created the bass by connecting three (or four) Minimoog synthesizers to one another. The typical wobbly, elastic, down spiraling bass-motif, including all other synthesizer pieces, are done by Bernie Worrell.

Minimoog (audiochocolate.com.au)

Minimoog

As mentioned above, the drums are done by Bootsy Collins. Guitars are played by Bootsy’s brother Catfish. The vocals were spread out over several tracks while recording. George Clinton recorded over 50 voices in total. The choir Pa ra ra di ra ra ra ra ra ra ra is based on a chant Clinton heard at a bar mitzvah party.

Sir Nose D’Void Of Funk

On the 1975 album Mothership Connection the character ‘Starchild’ was introduced, as a positive character, the funky messiah, who wanted to show everyone the way into the world of funk and inviting the listeners to come on up to the Mothership.

After the introduction of ‘Dr. Funkenstein’ (who is preoccupied and dedicated to the preservation of the motion of hips) on the 1976 album The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein, the character ‘Sir Nose D’Void Of Funk’ gets its first mention on the album Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome. ‘Sir Nose’:

I have always been
Devoid of funk
I shall continue to be
Devoid of funk
I am the subliminal seducer
I will never dance

© 1977, George Clinton Jr. / William Bootsy Collins / Bernard Worrell

Half way through the song ‘Starchild’ appears who busies himself with chasing Noses away and proclaims himself to be the Protector of the Pleasure Principle. From then on, the word ‘Nose’ was a recurring term for negativity. The term was used regularly in well-known p-funk sayings, like a funk a day keeps the Nose away. The character ‘Sir Nose’ is derived from the song The Pinocchio Theory (off the album Ahh…The Name Is Bootsy, Baby! by Bootsy’s Rubber Band ): if you fake the funk your nose got to grow.

Parliament - Sir Nose D'Void Of Funk - Poster (revengerists.wikia.com)

Sir Nose D’Void Of Funk (Poster)

‘Sir Nose’ wants to spread the Placebo Syndrome. This ensures people to stop thinking and dancing. In its worst case scenario the Placebo Syndrome makes the brain sleep permanently, thus making its victims enter the Zone of Zero Funkativity.

On following albums ‘Sir Nose’ kept returning: on the 1978 album Motor Booty Affair, in which the story takes place under water and swimming is identical to dancing, ‘Sir Nose’ claims he can not swim and hates water in the song Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop). On the 1979 album Gloryhallastoopid ‘Sir Nose’ defeats ‘Starchild’ and punishes ‘Starchild’ by turning him into a mule. He is so content with his victory that he taunts ‘Starchild’ Where’s your Flash Light? Where’s your Bop Gun? Where’s the Doctor, Starchild?.

But in the end of the story the funk prevails: ‘Sir Nose’ goes searching for knowledge and, along the way, learns the truth behind the cause of the big bang: funk created the world. ‘Sir Nose’ declares he and all future generations will be, and remain, funky forever.

Stories and worlds like these make the whole p-funk universe irresistible to me and provide a unifying theme over several albums. The Parliament live shows incorporated the stories. Every night the Mothership landed on stage bringing ‘Dr. Funkenstein’ to earth. Using prosthetic noses ‘Sir Nose’ was portrayed. The end-result was the same every night. Organized anarchy, in which all came together on the first count of the beat: the one, the supreme number. A gloriously funky music fest.

Sir Nose and Flash Light

Parliament - Flash Light - 12inch (deejay.de)

Parliament – Flash Light – 12inch

In the song Flash Light ‘Sir Nose’ meets ‘Starchild’. ‘Starchild’ wants ‘Sir Nose’ to dance and at the end of the song he has his way: ‘Sir Nose’ dances! ‘Starchild’ prevails in the song.

And rightfully so, if ‘Sir Nose’ is able to withstand the urge to dance to this song, the world is certainly doomed (for it means victory for ‘Sir Nose’). The nearly six minutes the song lasts are pure p-funk. Extremely irresistible and infectious.

What stands out is the timelessness of the song’s sound. 40 years later it still sounds as if it could have been recorded yesterday.

Legacy

Because of its timelessness, the song’s influence is humongous. Not just on funk music, but also on new wave and hip-hop. The number of times the song has been sampled (as far as known today) is 173!

A lot of Parliament’s output has turned out to be influential, but Flash Light is exceptional. The influence on important producers like Dr. Dre has been immeasurable.

Everybody’s got a little light under the sun

© 1977, George Clinton Jr. / William Bootsy Collins / Bernard Worrell

In closing

What do you think of Flash light? Let me know!

 

3 comments

  1. Wayne Pernell

    “Flashlight”,
    “red light”,
    neon light,
    stop light.
    Now I lay me down to sleep.
    One of my all- time favorites, of the parliament funkadelic experience which I first heard of in the summer of
    1967.
    “I just wanna testify, what your love has done for me”
    (they were then
    parliament).

    1. Wayne Pernell

      A Pop Life English Your quite welcome.

    2. A Pop Life (Erwin Barendregt)

      Wow, I was just 1 year old in 1967. Thanks for the story, great!

Compliments/remarks? I´d love to hear them!