Hell of a year, 1977. Star Wars in May. Jimmy Carter posing nude in Cosmopolitan. Bill Walton was the MVP of the NBA finals that year. The Johnstown Flood. New York Blackout, Son of Sam, and Rocket to Russia. Elvis died and Groucho died. Scientists found rings around Uranus in 1977, how about that?
And P-Funk played the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on June 4th.
This is the Coliseum:
The Coliseum was built by aliens around 12,500 years ago; every 300 years, the end zones line up perfectly with the Arcturus Manifold and a low note–estimated to be F# two octaves below middle C–resonates throughout the bowels of man and mammal for thousands of miles. It is a primitive building, constructed with the same techniques and materials as the Flavian amphitheatre for which it was named. There are urinal troughs that Calvin Coolidge once pissed in, and the bones of Bebe Didrikson are reportedly in a supply closet on the mezzanine level. It’s old!
And big! You could pack 100,000 people in there until very recently, and that’s just the stands. Let the crowd onto the field and you can get 134,000 souls in one place, as Billy Graham did in 1963. (Not the rockin’ Billy Graham, the shitty one.) When a real star comes to Los Angeles, this is where they set up the stage: the Pope, Mandela, Bigfoot. (Not the shaggy man-beast, the monster truck.) Evel fuckin’ Knievel, man.
Wattstax was here, and so was Springsteen and U2 and Metallica and Van Halen and the Stones a bunch of times. The Dead played the Coliseum only once, on 6/1/91, and they did not sell out.
As you can see:
And on 6/4/77, P-Funk was booked.
(The Dead, coincidentally, were in Los Angeles that day, playing at the much smaller Forum across town. The show is one of three not available as a SBD from the Spring ’77 tour, but the AUD is a Front Of Board and has good reviews. There is no evidence that Bobby reviewed P-Funk’s performance for any of the local papers.)
The Funk Mob was riding high in ’77: a #1 hit with Flashlight, a string of Top Ten records, and the Earth Tour had been shaking asses and selling tee-shirts for eight months. The Mothership Connection was upon us!
George brought friends, too:
A short list of notes:
- “P/Funk” is not right at all.
- Check out Cordell with the Rickenbacker.
- The Bar-Kays appeared at both Watts-Stax and this show.
- Why are there so many Bar-Kays, anyway?
- I think this is a race thing.
- The white groups all had three or four members.
- The black groups were, like, 19 guys.
This was the stage:
Well, the back of it. You can see the Mothership in the center there.
You can also see it here:
I was right: you’re not supposed to see the Mothership up close or in the daylight. It’s just haphazardly-glued mirror chunks and bad welding.
Never meet your heroes.
The show went eleven hours. The lineup was hot–P-Funk, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Rick James, Rufus w/ Chaka Khan, The Brothers Johnson, The Bar-Kays, and Rose Royce–but ticket sales were weak and the sound was crap. Plus, as each band had 35 people in it, the changeovers between acts were interminable.
And it wasn’t a crowd you wanted to keep waiting.
Holy shit, get a band up there. Entertain that guy or he’s gonna mean-mug us to death. If that was his face at a P-Funk concert, I don’t wanna meet him at a funeral.
Also: Heeeeeey, White Chocolate.
Those two are a cop show. Mr. Bones & the Skeleton. They fight crime, they love ladies, they drink aperitifs whenever the fuck they want. Y’know what? Forget P-Funk, forget the Dead. This site is now strictly about White Chocolate and Smooth Criminal.
Also: how annoying did that tambourine get after 30 seconds? I bet there was a fight.
After midnight, P-Funk took it to the stage. They looked like this:
That isn’t all of them. There’s a couple motherfuckers taking a breather, and one’s hidden behind Parlet. Pray for P-Funk’s road manager: imagine trying to get this many musicians on a bus every morning. Or through an airport.
Jesus, Fuzzy, put that thing away. That’s not potato salad, it’s just a whole potato.
That’s George in the dinosaur jacket with the foxtails, and Bootsy is behind. On the right is Ray Davis, who sung bass. Tear the roof off the sucka, tear the roof off the muthasucka? That was him. He was one of the original Parliaments from the barbershop in Plainfield, and the only one not to leave the group after this show. He died in 2005.
Fuzzy Haskins, along with Calvin Simon and Grady Thomas, would strike out on their own in a dignified and high-minded way. Nah, fucking with you: it was as Bush League as anything the Dead ever could dream of. After quitting acrimoniously for the usual reasons (money, control, personal bullshit), the three vocalists released an album called Connections & Disconnections–and even performed on Soul Train–under the name Funkadelic.
As you might imagine, this led to lawsuits.
That’s Glen Goins with the impossibly skinny legs in the impossibly bitchin’ trousers. He called the Mothership down every single show, and died right after the tour ended. That is not beautiful or poetic, because he was 24 and nothing can be beautiful or poetic about dying at 24.
Garry Shider is next to him, and Garry is dead, too. 2010. He was 57, which is also too young.
There’s a lot of dead people in P-Funk.
Cordell. Dead. 60.
Also: no one ever won a fringe-off with George in the 70’s, not even David Crosby. And you know the Croz can fringe.
Hey, it’s Eddie Hazel! He rejoined the group after getting out of jail. Eddie punched a stewardess in 1974. Grady Thomas is the guy who is not the lady, and the lady who is the lady is Dawn Silva. She and Lynn Mabry were the first Brides of Funkenstein. (The Brides had multiple lineups.)
I know. This is all very confusing.
Who says a funk band can’t do the goofy bullshit that the rock bands do? Hell, you wanna see some Rock Star shit? Look at this:
Same act as KISS, except performed by actual musicians.
But all was prelude on the Earth Tour that started October of ’76 in New Orleans and finished here in Los Angeles on this day in June of 1977. Appetizers. Foreplay.
Now they have come to reclaim the pyramids.
The Mothership landed in Madison Square Garden and the Sportatorium. Same venues the Dead played, but also Macon and Mason and Mobile.
There she was, much better under the stage lights. The Mothership needed to make an entrance, and did every show of the tour, blowing unsuspecting minds along the way. Remember: no internet. You had no idea what was coming and BOOM spaceship out of nowhere. Maybe you heard rumors, or read about it in Jet magazine, but check out the size of that fucker.
And there he is! Dr. Funkenstein! Swift lippin’, ego trippin’ and body snatchin’ and comin’ to you directly from the Mothership! Look at him!
But he’s not coming to you from the Mothership. There’s no door. There’s no inside. They darken the stage by the ladder, and the fog machines go into overdrive, and George walks up the ladder. Lights come up and there he is.
Never look too close at magic.
The next tour would be deliberately scaled back, and feature the entire group in army fatigues instead of their wild, individual get-ups. George would abandon the P-Funk name the year after that and spend the next decade smoking crack with Sly Stone and suing people.
But they played the Coliseum, which very few acts and even fewer monster trucks can say.