On This Day, The ‘Mothership’ Landed On Us Forty Years Ago

Posted December 16, 2015 by J Matthew Cobb in News

George Clinton’s magnum opus, Mothership Connection, turns forty

We wanted the funk. And we got it, with the landing of the mothership. Mothership Connection, the third full length album from the rock-funk outfit Parliament, explored the depths of George Clinton‘s braniac activity. It showed off a trifecta of radio cuts: “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker),” “P-Funk (Wants To Get Funk Up)” and “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” (also featuring the hip-hop sampling coda of “Swing Child Sweet Chariot”). The end result was a brilliant masterpiece, launching Clinton’s conclave into orbit. It would cap off with a monster US tour loaded with the works, from pyrotechnics to a giant alien spacescraft that now sits in the Smithsonian. The end result: Live: P-Funk Earth Tour, a double-disc LP released in 1977 chronicling their best performances at the Los Angeles Forum and the Oakland Coliseum from their January ’77 stops.

Mothership Connection is also the first album of Clinton’s discs to feature the contributions of Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, both from James Brown’s J.B’s. They exited Brown’s horn ensemble to align with Clinton’s forward funk, pushing the brass section to higher heights of professionalism. “Everyone in the P-Funk Orchestra were the elite among funk musicians,” wrote Peter Lavezzoli in the book The King of All, Sir Duke. “All of the finest players wanted to work with George Clinton, because they knew they would be appreciated for what they could do….George Clinton was the opposite extreme from James Brown as a bandleader. George actively encouraged everybody to experiment as much as possible, leaving the playing field wide open for new ideas that he could incorporate into his own vision.”

Before Mothership Connection, Clinton’s music was still considered quite underground. Chocolate City, the group’s previous disc, had only climbed to a dismal number 91 on the Billboard 200 and only eighteen on the Black Albums chart. But radio opened up to them with the kickoff of “Give Up the Funk,” the album’s second single. The song, now one of the group’s most recognized staples, settled at number five R&B and number fifteen pop, becoming the group’s fiercest single to date. It also was certified gold by the RIAA. The album itself would eventually be crowned platinum by the RIAA.

And to speak of the wealth of power that Mothership Connection yielded, The Library of Congress added the album to its National Recording Registry in 2011, declaring “he album has had an enormous influence on jazz, rock and dance music.”

Listen to the classic album below in Spotify:

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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