Tales From the Tour Bus (2017) s02e01 Episode Script

George Clinton

1 Well, we're back.
And this time, we're gonna jump genres to funk.
I don't know if you've been paying attention, but funk is everywhere nowadays, and it's not just in hip-hop.
Its rhythms are in just about every genre of music you hear today.
In fact, it's so omnipresent, that I think we hardly even notice it.
That's why it's always struck me as odd that are are almost no documentaries about its history or the artists who created it.
So, with that in mind, have you ever heard of this guy, George Clinton? (FUNK GUITAR PLAYING) There once was a man from Peru Who went to sleep in his canoe He was dreaming of Venus He took out his penis And woke up with a handful of goo Put your foot on the rod Now, hold on.
Before you dismiss Dr.
Funkenstein here, and start thinking you're above it all, and switch over to PBS.
Just know that this guy's music and his ingenuity, have made him a cornerstone figure in this world.
So, we're starting this season at the top, with the prime minister, a man who built a music empire on acid.
And when it all inevitably went to Hell, he kept going, and fueled a whole new genre.
Even though he may not have been fully aware of it at the time.
(THEME MUSIC PLAYING) CLINTON (ECHOING): Oh! One time, we was all trippin'.
It was in Ft.
Worth, it was either Ft.
Worth or Evansville.
I guess it was Yeah, well, I know it was after we came back from Africa.
MIKE JUDGE: Funk legend Bootsy Collins, the bass player with stars in his eyes, will forever be linked with George Clinton.
They were kindred souls from the get-go.
George likes people that take LSD, you know.
So, we get to this town, and everybody's trippin', the whole band.
We was all in the hotel, and the manager comes in and says, "We have to do the gig.
" So, the next thing I know, we were all up on stage at this club full of people.
And George is coming from the back of the audience, behind everybody, and he's wearing this white sheet.
So he gets up on stage, and then he jumps up on somebody's table.
And sure enough, he takes off his sheet, and he's got nothing on.
- (CROWD GASPS) - (BOOTSY LAUGHS) It's like, "No, George, you didn't do that!" Yeah, and he was happy about it.
And he stood up there, had all his clothes off, you know, had the chicken feet going on, and then he started walking on the tables.
So dang, we just kept playing, kept playing, kept playing.
Next thing I know - (CLICKS) - the lights came on (MUSIC STOPS) and wasn't nobody in there but us.
(CRICKETS CHIRPING) (LAUGHING) Yeah, that was no, that wasn't the first time.
- (MUSIC PLAYING) - (CROWD CHEERING) For some reason (CHUCKLES), at a certain point, the kids we was playing for, it was inevitable, but they got us high on LSD.
We got flipped into old hippies.
And I don't think I got out of it till I was 50-something.
JUDGE: George Clinton was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, - in an outhouse.
- (PANTING) GEORGE: My mother thought she had to take a shit.
(GRUNTING, FARTING) - Lo and behold - (CRYING) I was the turd (LAUGHS) that came out.
So I was funky right from the start.
JUDGE: The Clintons moved to New Jersey when George was a boy.
Billy Bass Nelson remembers that everyone in Plainfield knew George Clinton.
I actually met George in Plainfield, New Jersey, when he came in for his first job at the barbershop across the street from the projects.
George had a job processing hair.
Back then, you know, nobody's really wearing an afro.
We all had to be cool.
We had to have the wave, that was the look of the era.
So we all started learning how to fry each other's hair, what they call today perm.
Back then, it was lye and potatoes.
You'd straightened your hair and waved it.
BILLY BASS: George was sort of like a celebrity because at that point, nobody in Plainfield did processing.
JUDGE: His mastery of the hot lye and potatoes was matched only by the sweetness of his voice.
- (HARMONIZING): Doo - Doo CLINTON: We was singing a Capella in the barbershop.
All of us got into the doo-wop.
You know, the Spaniels the Cadillacs, all those different people who'd be playing at the Apollo.
I used to go in and sweep the floor - (HARMONIZING) -.
And dance and sing with them.
JUDGE: George split his time between singing and straightening.
He named his group after a popular brand of cigarettes, The Parliaments, and dreamed up a scheme to make it to Motown.
(CHUCKLES) I came into a cache of money.
It was a million, two-hundred thousand dollars of counterfeit 20s we bought from some kids.
We used to take the 20s, put 'em in coffee, get 'em dark and ball 'em up, so they looked like they was used when they dry.
That was how I was able to pay my way into the studio.
JUDGE: He offered his musicians and engineers $200 in cash, or $1,000 in counterfeit.
That's how we cut records for The Parliaments.
JUDGE: George left Plainfield for Detroit and "Hitsville USA," Motown, and he took The Parliaments with him.
We drove out there in a raggedy Pontiac, right up to the boulevard, parked in front of Motown, and watched everybody go in that morning.
You know, "That's The Miracle.
That's The Four Tops.
Oh, that's Diana.
That " Every one of 'em! We watched The Supremes come in there, The Temptations.
So, we go in for an audition.
(ALL HARMONIZING): Doo, doo-doo-doo, doo-wop! (SILENCE) They told us we was too ugly.
(SAD TROMBONE PLAYS) JUDGE: Undeterred, The Parliaments hit the chitlin' circuit, with the backing band from the barbershop.
After several years on the road, George wrote his first hit record.
"Testify" was released in 1967, the Summer of Love.
All of a sudden, they're playing with Iggy Pop and the Stooges, and Ted Nugent, and MC5, and Bob Seger, all the legends of Detroit rock.
JUDGE: Tom Vickers would hold the title Minister of Information, which, I guess, is a necessary position when you go through so many name changes and more than 120 known players.
"Testify" was on Revilot Records.
The label owned the name, The Parliaments, so when the label folded, George took the back-up band, and christened the whole thing "The Funkadelics.
" They were playing a club in, uh, Boston, Mass, called The Sugar Shack.
And some Harvard students, who were under the Timothy Leary wing of the psychology department at Harvard, they came up to the stage after the show, and said, "Hey, you guys are cool.
Have you heard about this thing LSD?" George was like, "No, what's that? Where do we get some?" JUDGE: Dr.
Leary had set up a laboratory program at Harvard, before he was fired, to study the effects of psychotropic drugs on the human mind.
So, we end up going to Harvard, the university, yeah, and they did this thing there when they gave everybody acid.
So, we all took it.
Let them watch you for four hours.
You know, got the $64 or whatever it was.
It was the best job that I'd ever had.
VICKERS: All of a sudden, boom You take the Motown sound, the white rock crowd, put some LSD in the mix and you've got Funkadelic.
One hit and that was it.
(LAUGHING): It don't seem like we ever came down.
You don't drink what I drink You don't smoke what I smoke You don't think like I think You don't joke like I joke ALL: I got a thing You got a thing Everybody's got a thing JUDGE: A generation before The Village People, George Clinton was into role-playing.
They began touring the country in costume.
We was on the road, maybe outside of Pittsburgh, high as hell, tripping or something, going to the show.
And Billy Bass, he was always looking for a shorter route.
I did used to, um, find all kinds of shortcuts.
CLINTON: And we just went around this blockade, he gonna take this shortcut, and so he come 'round this corner, - and bang! - (ZOMBIES GROWLING) Zombies, everywhere, coming straight towards us.
We didn't know what the fuck was happening, 'cause we was high on LSD.
They scared me so bad, I was peeing in my pants and screaming.
JUDGE: Turns out, Billy had driven the band through Evans City, Pennsylvania.
No one ever told George it was the set location for the film, - Night of the Living Dead.
- CLINTON: We got the hell out of there.
- (TIRES SQUEALING) But to this day, I still think that shit was weird.
JUDGE: Promoters meeting the group for the first time likely shared that sentiment, in part, because, George had more than just a band.
They even toured under multiple names.
CLINTON: We was The Parliaments, we took the beginning off of it, The Parliaments, then it became Parliament.
Then we started Funkadelic, which was our band.
And now you had the Parlia-Funkadelic-Ment-Thang, because psychedelic had come into It was no longer just a group.
It had to be, like, almost like a play.
JUDGE: It became, arguably, the longest-running, acid-fueled production in music history.
Parliament Funkadelic was a free-for-all, you know.
Everybody was really serious about being a character.
JUDGE: One of the characters, Ronald "Stozo the Clown," remains quite serious about the whole thing to this day.
When I started, I was Snowman.
I had a more complicated job to do, because I used to have to shoot snow out of my nose.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) I loved it, man.
JUDGE: By 1972, George had five bass players, 17 back-up singers, and he'd even convinced the House Guests, the guys who had backed up James Brown, to join forces.
We were in Detroit, and this chick says, "Man, y'all need to meet George Clinton.
" She said, "Y'all look like Funkadelic.
Man, y'all sound just like Funkadelic.
" And I'm like, "Damn, who is Funkadelic?" JUDGE: Drummer Frankie "Kash" Waddy would learn the hard way.
When we became Funkadelic, it was like a curse word.
You couldn't put it in print, couldn't say it on the radio.
We were, uh, underground.
You know, there would be a caravan that would follow us from city to city, and they would pass out fliers, and that's how we would sell out shows.
Mainly, white colleges.
One time, we was playing in Norman, Oklahoma.
So we playing, and you could see this girl coming down the aisle.
You know she gonna do something, 'cause she's walkin' so peculiar.
So, she walked right past everybody that's sitting down.
She walked right past 'em.
Stepped up on the stage, and she got a joint in her hand, and everybody just, "Yeah!" (CHEERING) I think she was a stripper.
And if I remember right, her name was Vicki.
But anyway, the chick got onstage, and she she came there to blow our minds, and she did.
CLINTON: She had overalls on, and one was buttoned.
She took a puff, hit the button, and like she had rocks in her pocket, her pants fell straight down to the floor.
They were around her ankles.
She ain't got no drawers on, she You can see her lil' nappy dugout.
She turned around, scooted around with her pants around her ankles, bent over Now, the people are screaming already.
And put it up her butt and puff, puff, puff.
Three smoke rings.
Looked like the Ballantine beer logo.
- Or the Olympics.
- (HEROIC FANFARE) We was laughing so bad, we had to stop the show that night.
We tried, at least, four times.
Took a break come back.
We couldn't do it.
(LAUGHTER) JUDGE: George kept on recording albums, and he kept his options open for a hit.
He released Osmium with Parliament in 1970, and Free Your Mind, and Your Ass Will Follow that same year with Funkadelic.
I'd started out writing for Rolling Stone as a journalist.
One day, I got two albums in the mail, Parliament and Funkadelic, and I realized this is the same band with two different labels, two different names, two different sounds.
So, I did the article for Rolling Stone, it came out.
George called me up about a month after it ran, and he says, uh, "Can you come and work for me?" I go, "George, I'm a white guy in San Francisco.
" He said, "You could be a purple guy from Mars.
"Uh, you know what the funk's about.
"I'm going out with this big Spaceship Tour, and I need someone to spread the word.
" And I was like, "George? A spaceship?" And George said, "Yeah! A fucking spaceship.
" And to his credit, George put all of his resources, and all the money that he was making, and all the advances he could get from various record labels into building that mothership for live shows.
The crowd would see the mothership fly in, then, all of a sudden, the stage would light up, and the mothership would descend, and smoke would go off, and George would appear.
(CROWD CHEERING) People went batshit crazy! I mean, I'm telling you.
People went fucking nuts.
They'd never seen anything like it.
JUDGE: The mothership connection landed George Clinton and his bands their greatest public exposure.
And he backed it up with his biggest song to date.
We want the funk, come on Get up off your ass now - It's that time now - We need the funk Gotta have the funk We want the funk JUDGE: With "Give Up the Funk," George Clinton, Parliament, and Funkadelic left the underground behind.
Soon as we put the record out, Star Wars came out.
And it was just like, "Wow.
" But I think what got me going into the sci-fi really was Star Trek.
I was a Trekker.
(CHUCKLES) For real.
Matter of fact, when Close Encounters came out, Julia Phillips, the producer of it, wanted me to do the soundtrack.
He was, at this point, the dark prince of weirdness of this whole enterprise.
JUDGE: Ben Greenman is a former New York Times reporter, who helped George write the book Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard On You?" It wasn't really satanic, but it was frightening in a way.
He'd wear weird clothes, collars, capes, this kind of thing.
And he would do scary faces, and part of it is his shyness.
He wanted to project a character.
BOOTSY COLLINS: Everybody was scared of George.
I mean, you know, especially the chicks.
So much so, that we would call him "The Pres," and what The Pres mean was it meant that you don't get no "mouf.
" We call it "mouf" with a "F" instead of a "T-H.
" And mouf was very important being on the road, because it was about getting that mouf, okay.
They started calling George "Pres," 'cause he was the president of the club that couldn't get laid.
George had that whole scary thing, man, that worked on stage so great, but, you know, he wasn't getting no mouf.
The Pres was pretty proud of that at the time, okay, but it began to be such a thing that he was like, "Okay.
Something is wrong with this picture.
" So, he figured, "If I start smiling like Bootsy doing, I'll get some mouf.
" And sure enough, he started smiling.
Every magazine you'd pick up, (LAUGHING) he had this big smile.
I was like, "That's my " (LAUGHING) The women in the band were all fine and foxy and sexy.
And we'd call them "in-house mouf.
" And they weren't pushovers either.
I mean, they had their own share of groupies too, you know.
I came from a background of, uh, rules.
(CHUCKLES) My uncle was a minister.
Um, I was a good girl.
I looked very conservative, you know.
And they looked like aliens.
One Nation Scarves, funny boots.
And I looked around, and I said to myself, "You know you gonna have to have sex with one of these people.
" JUDGE: Satori Shakoor was one of dozens of artists who joined George Clinton on the road as his bands began to multiply.
SHAKOOR: It was Parliament, Funkadelic, The Brides of Funkenstein, Parlet, Bootsy.
VICKERS: Bernie Worrell, Eddie Hazel, Horny Horns.
He's producing this myriad of acts which became known as P-Funk Nation, so George had this empire similar to Motown going and growing at an alarming rate.
When we went on tour in Europe, obviously it was arranged that we visit the House of Parliament while we were in London, England.
Uh, and everybody was invited.
It was just a stately place.
It looked like a big museum, like with the big paintings.
And here we are, a bunch of Funkadelics.
And so, we were instructed of how, you know, the kind of decorum we were supposed to have.
So, I'm in the bathroom, and I'm getting high.
I'm in the stall snorting, taking 'em one and one.
You know, up to no good.
Thinking ain't nobody could hear.
So when I come out, there was a guy in there.
He had this white wig under his arm.
He was washing his hands.
He looked at me in the mirror, and he said, "Oh, don't pat yourself on the shoulder.
You're not the first.
" Between the live shows, and then going in the studio, he was working non-stop.
And he'd have cassettes in this big bag that he would carry around with him.
And none of the cassettes were marked.
He wouldn't write anything on any of 'em.
And when I was with him one time, we're driving around, and he said, "Aw, man! I gotta play you something.
You're not gonna believe this" And he starts rummaging through this bag full of cassettes.
"Ah! Here it is!" He puts it on in my cassette player in my car.
That was the first time I heard "Flashlight.
" Now, I lay me down to sleep Ooh I just can't find a beat Flashlight And I said, "God, this is gonna be huge.
" Flashlight JUDGE: "Flashlight," in fact, sparked a rock-n-roll movement at concerts all over the world.
We noticed when the band would hit "Flashlight," the place would light up with different people flashing their flashlights, because the fans were bringing in flashlights, actual flashlights.
But this created an issue with a lot of venues where they didn't want people bringing heavy metallic objects into the venue.
So then, our merch guy got the bright idea, "Well, wait, we got this Star Wars thing happening "and 'Flashlight' is happening, why don't we sell these lightsabers?" (LIGHTSABERS ZAPPING) This eventually morphed into people lighting their lighters, and then holding up their cell phones.
The whole thing started with "Flashlight.
" JUDGE: As the concerts took on a life of their own, the empire itself began to go the way of all empires.
For some reason, at a certain point, LSD just stopped working for everybody.
It was no longer that beautiful trip that made you think and feel good.
That was gone.
So I started doing crack.
I went to a party at George's farm.
He had chickens in the front yard of the farm, and stuffed animals for furniture.
Just big, gigantic stuffed animals that you might win at a fair, big teddy bears.
And the night I was there, they had $50,000 worth of raw cocaine.
I didn't even know that I was addicted to cocaine.
That's the trouble with crack.
It took me 30 years to figure out that you're just spending money and chasing it.
It was a slow decline.
The quality of the music was on a decline.
The records sold less and less, like, uh, Trombipulation, it has this ancient Egypt sort of concept based on these illustrations that one of George's artists had done where he's got this big elephant trunk.
George wanted a real prosthetic nose, and they kept looking around and they couldn't figure out how to do it, so they went into the adult film industry, and they got a guy who did prosthetic dicks to make a prosthetic elephant's trunk for George.
Because it had the right hold, and it wouldn't fall off, and George could move around with it properly.
Yeah, I can dig it! GREENMAN: I think, to date, he still has some of those prosthetic, uh, nose dicks at his house.
JUDGE: Trombipulation would be the last studio album made by Parliament with the original band.
As crack cocaine became the drug of choice, George's Motown-like empire of funk fell apart.
We went from top of the world to what George called the "Anti-Tour.
" No props, no costumes, and everybody's dressed in Army fatigues.
George said, "Okay, guys, we gotta we gotta cut back.
So I'm gonna send half the band home in the middle of the tour.
" JUDGE: Sheila Brody, stage name Amuka, was one of the Brides of Funkenstein.
She remembers the whole band enabling the boss's habit.
AMUKA: We were on the road.
He would come and say, "Loan me a hundred.
" I'm like How can you tell your boss He just paid you.
He says, "Loan me some money.
" How do you tell him no? So, I was doing it.
And then the road manager came to me, and said, "Stop giving him money! "Because when you're giving him money, "you know what he's doing with that money.
And you're nailing the nail in his coffin.
" At that time, I needed a hit.
I came into the studio, tweaking.
I can't even remember when it was.
Snow was up to your ass.
JUDGE: George's crack-induced paranoia was at an all-time high.
I came in, said, "Y'all trying to record without me.
Give me the microphone.
Give me the thing.
" So, they all looking at me through that window there.
So, when the track come on, it's backwards.
JUDGE: The sound engineer was simply rewinding the tape.
CLINTON: Now, I don't know what I ain't never heard it before, but I don't know what I don't know.
I can't tell what key it's in, 'cause it (WHOOSHING) It's all So I I'm trying to play it off, like, I knew what the fuck was happening.
So, I start talking.
"This is the story of a famous dog.
"Why must I feel like that? Why must I chase the cat?" Real atonal.
I ain't committing to no key or nothing.
And then, "Do the dogcatcher.
" I said, "Wow, that make sense" "Do the dog.
" So I did a Capella just like that with the beat.
Instead of them telling me that the track was backwards, they left it like that.
That became "Atomic Dog.
" Yeah, this is the story of a famous dog For the dog that chases its tail Will be dizzy Atomic dog Bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah Bow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah Bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah Bow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah JUDGE: Suddenly, George Clinton, self-made king of the P-Funk Empire, was back on top as a solo act, even though the players who surrounded him were all the familiar faces.
George knows that if he goes back and he starts using again to any great degree, he's gonna fuck up the Atomic Dog tour.
So he's with some friends, and they're at some drug dealer, and he buys drugs and he goes and he makes one crack rock.
Let's say it's this big.
And that becomes his good luck charm.
That rock becomes his rock.
And he decides he's not gonna smoke it the whole tour.
Every time he's tempted, he's gonna look at that, and he's gonna realize, "I need you to stay intact.
That's what's gonna get me through this tour.
" So he plays marbles with it backstage, jingles it with his pocket change.
And he keeps to it.
This rock keeps him off of using for the whole tour post-Atomic Dog.
They finish up the tour.
They have an extra date or two in LA, and he decides, "Okay, now I'm gonna reward myself.
" JUDGE: He chose to take his victory lap at the Renaissance Hotel.
So he gets into full lotus position, naked on the bed, and he decides he's gonna smoke this good luck rock.
And he's lighting it up, and he would put, uh, tissues in his nose, 'cause the fumes would get to him.
So he's lighting it, and the tissue that's in his nose catches on fire.
So, in kind of a panic, he sneezes and the tissue paper shoots out across the room, and it lands at the base of the drapes, and like there's gasoline on them, they go up like crazy.
And George realizes "Oh, shit.
" So he tries to get off the bed, but he's in lotus position.
So he falls off the bed like a crab, or an open pair of scissors or something, and he's just there floundering on the ground.
Crawls over, reaches up, grabs the drapes, rips the curtains off the wall.
And then he stands up, and the hotel backs on an office, so everybody who's in the office is looking at a full frontal naked George Clinton, with charred curtains in one hand, crack pipe in the other.
Now, he doesn't even care if they see him naked, and he's fanning the smoke alarm and freaking out.
And then, he calls down to the desk, 'cause he's sure the cops are coming.
And with his calmest voice, he says, "Yes, hello, this is George Clinton in room whatever.
"I was smoking a cigarette, "and your smoke alarm accidentally went off.
"I extinguished it immediately, but I just wondered if there had been any problem with that.
" And the woman at the desk says, "No, no, Mr.
It was fine.
" Then he becomes incredibly paranoid.
He gets dressed, and he goes down to the lobby.
And he does these kind of slow movements up and back past the desk to see if they're looking at him funny.
I think by the third or fourth time, they probably are looking at him funny.
No one says anything.
He's calm.
He goes back up, and the next day, I think, he tips the maid an extra $75 to get the whole place cleaned up.
JUDGE: While Atomic Dog was the last number one hit for George Clinton on the R&B charts, it was the beginning of something new.
Yeah Hell, yeah Know what I'm sayin' Bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah JUDGE: Nearly 300 artists have released music sampling Atomic Dog.
Ice Cube alone has done it eight times and counting.
When all the rappers started sampling, most of the beats that everybody used was P-Funk beats.
All of the younger rappers find bits of old songs, and build them up into new songs, and George gets a whole new lease on life as a, kind of, happy grandfather in the history of hip-hop sampling.
You know, sampling keeps up old folks alive, and jamming forever.
They all made a million on those songs, and we never got nothing, but, hey, man - (SNAPS FINGERS) - the funk is its own reward.
(LAUGHING) Mista Busta, where the fuck you at? Can't scrap a lick, so I know you got your gat Your dick on hard, from fuckin' your road dogs The hoods you threw up with Niggas you grew up with Don't even respect your ass That's why it's time for the doctor to check your ass, nigga Yeah Nine-deuce Dr.
Dre Droppin' chronic once again It don't stop Punishing punk motherfuckers real quick like Compton style, nigga Oh Yeah, yeah (ENGINE REVS)
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