Everybody knows Funkadelic brought the funk, but not all know they brought it to Toronto. “It became easier for us to stay up there and do the stuff we were doing,” says George Clinton, on the new CBC radio documentary Funk Getting Ready To Roll. “So we all moved our family up there.”
The “stuff” they were doing resulted in the band’s fourth album, America Eats Its Young, a freaky, sprawling statement of discontent. In 1971, needing a break from the heaviness of Detroit (a city battered by the riots of the late 1960s and musically wounded by the departure of Motown to Los Angeles), some of Funkadelic decamped to Toronto, where the band’s management was located.
The audio documentary by the Toronto music journalist and DJ David Dacks explores a long-gone part of the past that saw Funkadelic stretch out stylistically (if not pharmaceutically) and enlist local musicians such as Prakash John, the ace bassist (Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Mandela) who lends his memories to the story.
The situation was fluid, but the group mostly stayed here through 1973. They recorded at the newly opened Manta Sound studios. Mr. Clinton parked his mothership in Scarborough, Mississauga and across from Willowdale’s Fairview Mall. Keyboardist Bernie Worrell lived on Dawes Road in Crescent Town. Other members lived on Gerrard Street West and at Jarvis and Isabella.
History is like a bad acid trip, in that those who forget are doomed to repeat. Don’t make that mistake; listen to the show about the lost days when Dr. Funkenstein practised without a licence and when Toronto the Good was Toronto the Funky.
Funk Getting Ready To Roll airs on Inside The Music, Aug. 12 (3 p.m. on CBC Radio 2; 9 p.m., Radio One). A dance party celebrates the documentary on Aug. 9, 9 p.m. Free. The Red Light, 1185 Dundas St. W., 416-533-6667.