Ever found yourself frantically searching for a song you really
dug, but don't know what it's called or who it's performed by?
It can be really frustrating to come across something you
like and have no idea where to find more.
I might first recommend that you find some funk compilations.
These can be found in a compilations section in most music stores.
All kinds of retro items are in style now, from clothing to music
to disco balls. So there is no shortage of funk compilations.
Next, decide which two or three tracks on the compilation are
your favorites. Some might really turn you on while others might
not. Note which bands perform those tracks and find a "Best of" or
"Greatest Hits" album of each band. Always try to find an album
with good liner notes... a little information about the band, pictures
of the band,
a discography, a list of "thank you's" from the band to those who were
influential. Reading these liner notes will help you make connections
to other bands, as well as educate you in funksmanship. Mercury\Rhino
Records has put out a number of compilations labeled "Funk Essentials",
which have great liner notes.
Typical of the entire musical spectrum, many funk bands
spin off into other funk bands. Isaac Hayes' band, The Bar-Kays,
was a very successful stand-alone band. Herbie Hancock's
Headhunters have produced several funkworthy albums. P-Funk
spun off into a number of bands, including Sweat Band, Quazar,
Brides of Funkenstein, Parlet, Bootsy's Rubber Band, and more.
The point here is that some initial exposure to funk bands will
ultimately yield exposure to OTHER bands; you'll find yourself
making connections, noting a new name or producer here and there.
Before you know it, it will become a LANDSLIDE, funk rolling in
faster than you can manage it.
Expanding your exposure to the funk
Try searching the Web for the word "funk", or for the names
of funk bands you know of. The word "web", after all, implies
that if you can locate one thing, you will probably wind up
linking to a whole series of related subjects. Some of my
searches for funk have brought up everything from Dolemite
to Richard Pryor.
Search your local library for books or articles on
funk. Some libraries may even have funk records.
Look in music stores for sections labeled "Early Soul", or something
similar. You will likely find some funk nestled within.
Most importantly, try to locate and network with other people
who are into funk, and simply ask them what they have to say
about funk and what groups they can recommend.
Tracking down that good old funky music
Once you start getting into funk, you'll notice that there
is a limit to what you can find on cassette tapes or CD's.
VINYL is really where the funk is at. Tapes and CD's feature
only selected funk albums, and even then, albums from only
the more popular groups. In order to access a much wider range
of music which was popular in the 70's, you have to seek out
the predominant recording medium of the time: LP's and 45's.
Many folks, including this reporter, prefer vinyl over the other
recording mediums. For one thing, it seems to have a much crisper,
"live" sound than CD's. Yes, it's true. Compare them sometime
and see for yourself. A record in excellent condition played on
a high quality turntable will bury a CD every time. Also, CD's and
tapes have involved a size reduction in album art. The album art
is, after all, a pretty significant part of the whole experience.
Many records came with bonus posters, stickers, iron-ons, and other
prizes which can't be stuffed into a CD or tape.
But one way or the other, vinyl is plain-and-simple COOL.
There is something indescribably funky about vinyl.
(1) For funksters of this generation, your parents' old record collection
is a good start. Or, if your parents weren't particularly hip, then
see if any of your friends' parents have funky vinyl. Make sure they
don't mind giving it up.. if they're funkateers they probably won't
(2) Thrift stores are a good place to find vinyl. The disadvantage
here is that the vinyl might not be in the best condition, and isn't
arranged in any systematic fashion. But it's most likely cheap, and
since piles of disorganized records in thrift stores are frequently
overlooked, you might find a few goodies. All things retro are
in style these days, so you might find a better selection in smaller,
(3) Record sales occur here and there from time to time. Keep your
eye on the newspaper and keep your ear on the radio to find out
when and where.
(4) Ultimately, if you are serious about collecting funk, you are
going to have to find stores which sell records exclusively or
mail-order services. Several such services exist on the Web.
Under these circumstances you will probably be paying considerably
more. Consider, though, that you are not leafing through piles
of unalphabetized, scratched records hoping to find a funky hit
or two. This has all been done for you. Some stores specialize
in funk. Track these places down, and go nuts.
(5) One more way to acquire funk is by trading. Many funksters
love to trade vinyl, as well as live recordings. This is where
the Web really comes in handy. There are at least two places to
trade funk-related material on the Web: on the
Booty Bone, and
Quasi-Official On-Line P-Funk Fanzine/Club Thang.
Tuning your internal funk detector
The supreme challenge when browsing through records is not
to locate funk bands you have already heard of; it is
to be able to see an album by a band you have NEVER heard of
and know it's funk. There is an art to this which becomes,
like anything else, easier with time; like a sixth sense.
A funky album shines out with a particular style.
Here are a few hints with which to hone your funk detecting
(1) The most obvious thing to consider is that most (but not
all) funk groups are predominantly black. You can safely
assume that an album with a picture of five white guys in cowboy
hats is probably not a funk album. (Average White Band is a
blatant exception to this rule.)
(2) Fashion: Funk fashion often invoves bell-bottoms, tall boots,
sequins, spangles, fringe, fur, feathers, jumpsuits, low-cut v-necks,
"pimp"-type outfits, huge butterfly collars, bare chests with gold
chains, etc. Any combination
of these elements is a good sign of funk. Funksters are variously
flambouyant, sexy, and macho. Space suits, or any
celestial/interplanetary themes are also dead giveaways.
(3) Song Titles: Any song title with the word "funk" within it is
a good sign. Examples: "El Funko", "Senor Funk", "Get the Funk
Outta My Face", "This is the Way We Funk With You".
Look for phrases referring to dancing or partying, ie. "get down",
"give it up",
"bustin' loose", "groove", "boogie"etc.
Look for titles which command you to perform a task,
ie. "Squeeze the Fruit", "Patch it Up", "Cut the Cake", "Drop
it in the Slot", "Give it What You Can", "Take It to the Bridge", etc.
Anything overtly sexual or romantic, ie. "I Can't Get Enough", "Your
Sweetness is my Weakness", "I've Been Watching You (Move Your Sexy
Body", "That's the Way I Like It", etc.
Once you understand the kind of sweaty, sexy aesthetic of funk, it's
not at all difficult to recognize a funky song title.
Constructing your funk dowser's wand
This is an adaption of the original dowser's wand which was
believed to aid the user in locating water.
Find a nice sturdy stick. A wooden dowel will also work, but
a stick is more organic and natural. If you cannot obtain either
of these, a carrot or perhaps even a toilet paper tube will suffice.
Lay the stick on top of one of your stereo speakers, and play
funk for one week straight. This will charge your wand with
Decorate the stick in any way you see fit with sequins, jewels,
and other shiny, decorative items. Attach fringe to one end
of the stick, and place the other end in the back of your pants.
(The fringe should be swinging freely downward.)
Walk around in areas where you think there might be funk,
waving your ass this way and that, back and forth. When your
ass begins to tremble and shake beyond your control, you have
found the Funk.
How to listen to funk
(1) Mandatory Funk Listening Rule: You must have a stereo capable of
pumping out at least 100 watts per channel with speakers to match,
and play your funk LOUD. Make sure to turn up the bass. Funk isn't something
to listen to while you're studying, enjoying a quiet meal, or sleeping.
Preferably you should be standing up, directly in front of the stereo,
waiting for great changes to occur within your bones and organs.
(Note: Prolonged exposure to loud noises of any sort will eventually
result in hearing loss. Try to keep a grip on yourself, so that you
can enjoy your funk well into your elder years.)
(2) Try taking the grill off one of your speakers, and sticking your
head directly into the woofer. It feels like your face is melting.
(3) Share your funk with others. Blare it loudly on your car
stereo when you drive down the street. Make funk mix tapes
and hand them out. See if you can't find a time slot on your
local radio station to do a funk show.
(4) Plug your stereo output into the AUDIO INPUT on the back
of your VCR and make a six hour funk tape. (This is no joke;
it's really possible.)