Finding Funk

For the beginning funkster:

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.

Finding 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 want to.

(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, non-college towns.

(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 on the 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 skills:

(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 Particulate Funk.
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.)

what is funk? -- where is funk?
funky links -- funky trader's list
bones in motion
The Artists of Funk:
classic funk - the 70's -- electrified funk - the 80's
support your local funk
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