Tuesday, November 25, 2014

the last book I ever read (Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? excerpt seven)

from Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? by George Clinton with Ben Greenman:

The two artists who did this better than anyone else, obviously, were the Beatles and Bob Dylan, which is why they not only survived the era but set the tone for everything that came afterward. When the pressure started to mount for them to be spokespeople, when fans and reporters started fishing around for deep thoughts, they had sharp-enough instincts to deflect and say something off the wall. They made an art out of nonsense. Even when John Lennon got in trouble for saying that the band was bigger than Jesus, he was doing it sarcastically and snottily, to make a point. He wriggled so you couldn’t catch him. It got into his art, too, and you can see it clearly in a song like “I Am the Walrus.” Was it deep because it showed how shallow everyone else was? Was it making fun of the idea of being deep? Was it just a matter of opening people’s heads up a little wider than they had been before? It was the same with Bob Dylan, though it took me longer to understand how he was operating. At first, he seemed especially sincere: just a guy out there with his guitar, singing in a nasal voice about love and politics. But when I started seeing his interviews, and then especially when he broke out of that troubadour mold, I saw more clearly what he was. He was a poet, and he was using language to open things up.

Those two influences fed me during that first phase of Funkadelic, along with many others. I was also doing lots of reading: Black Power books, novels, pulpy shit, underground comics, and then all those best-sellers that people now think of as the classics of the hippie era. One of the most influential books of that time was Erich Von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods. Everyone had a copy of it. He had a theory that the greatest achievements of human history, from the pyramids to crop circles, were the work of aliens. They had come down from outer space and given the gift of advanced civilization to humans. Why else would the Egyptians embalm somebody to last so long and put all their belongings in the tomb with them unless they thought that they’d be collected later on? Maybe the aliens were coming back for the pharaohs. It was an intriguing idea that didn’t seem entirely crazy on its face. It seemed like something to explore. These ideas of serious wisdom, these intriguing theories that bordered on historical conspiracy, they all got mixed together in my head. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that they were dissolved in acid. Free Your Mind . . . and Your Ass Will Follow was written almost entirely on LSD. You can hear it in the guitar sound we got, and the way we produced it, and you can read it in the lyrics and the song titles.

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