On November 28, 1977, Parliament released their sixth album, a funk concept album, which is widely regarded as one of the many highlights in their body of work and as a funk classic.
Op December 15, 1975, Parliament, the funk collective led by George Clinton, released the album Mothership Connection. A classic in the history of funk, which had a profound impact on jazz, rock and dance music. The album introduced the Star Child character, bringing the funk from outer space. On July 20, 1976, The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein was released, where we get to know Starchild’s boss, Dr. Funkenstein. The final part in the trilogy was Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome, introducing the nemesis of Starchild and Dr. Funkenstein: Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk, the most un-funky person/entity known to mankind.
The trilogy perfectly aligned with the times. During the albums’ releases movies like Star Wars and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind opened in theaters. By the way, the inspiration for the Parliament trilogy stems from Clinton and bass player Bootsy Collins’ claim they actually saw a real UFO.
The trilogy is the source for the great number of characters that makes the entire P-Funk universe so irresistible. The lyrics are funny, intelligent and well written. The entire universe is in its own unique balance.
Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome
On November 28, 1977, the third and last part of the trilogy is released by Casablanca Records. The album’s story complements the previous albums. It represents the climax and introduces Starchild’s nemesis, resulting in a battle between good (funkentelechy) and evil (the placebo syndrome).
The album’s story focuses on Starchild, the Protector of the Pleasure Principle, the funky messiah who wants to spread the teachings of funk to all, who encounters an opponent for the first time (in the trilogy), who quickly turns into his ultimate foe: Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk, whose ultimate purpose is 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.
The title contains the word “entelechy” which stands for a person reaching his/her full potential. With the placement of the word “funk” in front of it, it represents the realization of one’s funkiness, which is man’s ultimate reachable state.
The album is extremely funky, danceable and puts keyboard player Bernie Worrell, bass player Bootsy Collins, guitar player Garry Shider and horn players Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker to the fore. Their contributions are indispensable on this classic funk album.
Song by song
The albums starts off with Bop Gun (Endangered Species), where the “endangered species” represents the funk. The “bop gun” is a weapon designed by Dr. Funkenstein (who is preoccupied and dedicated to the preservation of the motion of hips). With this weapon anyone can be freed from the spell of the Placebo Syndrome: “On guard! / Defend yourself / I’m gonna shoot them with my Bop Gun”. Bootsy Collins makes his bass huff and puff and sounds spacey. The guitar riff is just as irresistible.
Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk introduces Sir Nose: “I am Sir Nose’d / D’Voidoffunk / I have always been / Devoid of funk / I shall continue to be / Devoid of funk / Starchild / You have only won a battle / I am the subliminal seducer / I will never dance / I shall return, Starchild”. But Starchild can be heard as well: “This is the Starchild / On another day / Chasing the noses away / Protector of the Pleasure Principle”. This epic fight between the characters lasts over 10 minutes, yet it doesn’t feel one second too long. The fight in itself is funny as hell, but the music plays a big part as well. The horns, the bass, the rhythms: it’s all equally beautiful.
Wizard Of Finance seems to be some sort of oddball on the album. Musically, it harks back at Clinton’s early beginnings when Parliament was still called The Parliaments and had a 1967 hit with I Wanna Testify. The song details love portrayed as a Dow Jones investment.
Funkentelechy handles consumerism: “Would you trade your Funk for what’s behind the third door? / The big deal!”. Consumerism and sedation don’t do the job and will never work: “When you’re taking every kind of pill / (The bigger the headache, the bigger the pill) / Nothing seems to ever cure your ill”. Funk is the ultimate solution: “A Funk a day keep the Nose away / Mind your wants ’cause someone wants your mind / Funk is a non-profit organization / Peck me lightly, like a woodpecker with a headache / ‘Cause Funk is not domestically produced / It is responsive to your mood / You can score it any day”.
Placebo Syndrome is nice, nothing more: “What used to be such fun to do / Can often lead you weak / Into the Syndrome”.
The closing Flash Light arguably is the album’s highlight. It is widely regarded as a highlight in the history of funk, because it’s “the first of the songs with the synthesizer as the bass”. An instant funk classic that was the subject of its very own article on this site: Parliament – Flash Light. Starchild wins, Sir Nose dances! “Dance, Nose! You know you on my funk street? / Oh, funk me / Get on down, Nose! I like it! Dance, then”.
The original release contained a poster containing an image of Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk and an 8 page comic book, aimed to provide the background to the alum’s story. Both were designed by Overton Loyd.
I absolutely adore the P-Funk universe. This doesn’t limit itself to just Parliament, I also love all the Funkadelic albums (like the fantastic One Nation Under A Groove). Other P-Funk bands like Parlet, The Brides Of Funkenstein and of course Bootsy’s Rubber Band, who all released albums simultaneously, oftentimes containing the very same musicians, are equally good.
The output was huge. During the Parliament trilogy, ending with Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome (a period of less than two years), George Clinton and co released no less than 11 albums, one even more funky (and successful) than the other. Over the course of 1978 8 (!) albums were released, a truly staggering amount of great funk music!
The trilogy is Parliament’s highlight, both lyrically and musically. The P-Funk focus, including its mythology, lies on these 3 albums. It’s impossible not to move to the music on these records. All 3 are indispensable in the collections of music lovers that take themselves seriously.
Three singles were culled from the album (Funkentelechy had a generic cover).
- Bop Gun (Endangered Species)
(released on October 29, 1977)
- Flash Light
(released on January 28, 1978)
(released on June 3, 1978)
All songs written by George Clinton with multiple writers, named between brackets.
- Bop Gun (Endangered Species) (Garry Shider, Bootsy Collins)
- Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk (Pay Attention – B3M) (Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell)
- Wizard Of Finance (Ronald Ford, Glenn Goins)
- Funkentelechy (Bootsy Collins)
- Placebo Syndrome (Billy Nelson)
- Flash Light (Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell)
- George Clinton, Ray Davis, Glenn Goins, Garry Shider, Debbie Wright, Jeanette Washington, Lynn Mabry, Dawn Silva, Cordell Mosson, Mallia Franklin – vocals
- Bernie Worrell – keyboards and synthesizers (keyboard bass on Flash Light
- Michael Hampton, Glenn Goins, Garry Shider – guitar
- Phelps Collins – guitar on Flash Light
- Cordell Mosson, Bootsy Collins – bass
- Jerome Brailey – drums
- Bootsy Collins – drums on Flash Light
- Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Rick Gardner, Richard Griffith, Clay Lawrey, Darryl Dixon, Valerie Drayton, Danny Cortez – horns
- Bootsy Collins, Phelps Collins, Frank Waddy, Rick Gilmore, Gary Cooper, Robert Johnson, Billy Nelson, Ron Ford, Lou Goldman, Joel Johnson, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, The Brides of Funkenstein, Parlet and The Horny Horns – “extra-extra terrestrial funk bearing alumni-strokers, chokers, clappers and chanters”
Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome was very successful and reached the second position in the R&B charts in the US and was certified platinum within 6 months. The single Flash Light was the first number 1 P-Funk release.
Parliament would never again reach the same height of popularity. Also, the music would never reach the same level of the trilogy. After the albums Motor Booty Affair (1978), Gloryhallastoopid (1979) and Trombipulation (1980) Parliament was over. One year later Funkadelic was laid to rest as well.
In the 1980s George Clinton would be successful using his own name and would later go out on tour using the moniker P-Funk All Stars and Parliament/Funkadelic.
What do you think of Parliament and the trilogy? Good as well? Let me know!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Parliament – Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome: the end of the P-Funk trilogy. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
See the original television commercial for Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome here.
Dr. Funkenstein descends from the Mothership (1977) image: wpr.org
Parliament – Mothership Connection (1975) & The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein (1976) en Parliament – Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome images: spotify.com
Parliament – Bop Gun – single image: rateyourmusic.com
Parliament – Flash Light – single image: genius.com
Parliament – Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk – Poster image: revengerists.wikia.com
Parliament – Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome – Page from the booklet (Sir Nose dances!) image: innerspacelabs.wordpress.com
Parliament – Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome – Ad Billboard 12/10/1977 image: billboard.com