Funkadelic: The Electric Spanking of War Babies (1981)

funkadelic_spanking

The funk stops here.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: While Parliament rode high in the charts singing about motherships and star children, Funkadelic dealt with more underground concepts like America eating its young, maggots and slop. At least they did before they moved to Warner Brothers Records, when they jettisoned their guitar-heavy Black-nationalistic raunch’n’roll for synth-happy radio-friendly tunes from George Clinton’s Assembly-Line-O’-Funk.

Their turning point came in 1981 when the band realized Warner Brothers no longer had any interest in them, so they recorded an album solely to please their die-hard fans, the ultra-wacky The Electric Spanking of War Babies.

A shiny but spiny dance treat with a surprising world music edge, War Babies brought back lovely layers of nasty fuzztones and angry coded politics. The title track refers to the media’s eager participation in promoting our governments’ pro-war propaganda machine. A weighty topic for a weighty song, it bounces from a sprightly march to a raging metal singalong.

Along the way Funkadelic performs their take on reggae (the goofy “Shockwaves”) and African polyrhythms (the all-drum tour de force “Brettino’s Bounce”), while adding a major dose of giggles to the major league curse-off “Icka Prick”:

…If you think that’s nasty
Follow me to the men’s room
Watch me write on the wall
Graffilthy!…

(This excerpt is the only clean part of “Icka Prick”. I was going to add more lyrics but the printed page misses how gleefully filthy the song is in context).

“Hmm” said the label. “That’s CLEARLY not single material.”

THE FALLOUT: Warner Brothers rejected the album cover, eventually printing it with a censored flap. Warner Brothers also rejected the length, refusing to release it as a double album. They dumped it in the marketplace, pressing only 90,000 copies even though the previous album, Uncle Jam Wants You, moved half a million units.

The only P-Funk product they did like was the soon-to-be-released debut album from Roger Troutman, who had recorded it for George Clinton’s label Uncle Jam Records. Warner Brothers did the unthinkable and secretly purchased the master tapes from Roger, releasing The Many Facets of Roger in 1981. Clinton promptly sued Warner, rightly claiming that he was the original owner of the tapes since he’d paid for the entire recording.

The courts agreed and George Clinton was awarded a chunk of cash, all the master tapes from the four albums Funkadelic recorded for Warner Brothers and the immediate termination of Funkadelic’s contract. Although this made them free agents the P-Funk army imploded under label stress and financial woes, and neither Funkadelic nor Parliament released another album again.

Well, not under those names anyway. The very next year George Clinton released his first solo album which was chock full of P-Funk alumni and featured a song Warner Brothers deemed unfit to include on War Babies: “Atomic Dog”.

Wow, what visionaries.

The Electric Spanking of War Babies is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

A kiss to their fans and a kiss-off to their label, The Electric Spanking of War Babies is the best P-Funk album you’ve never heard.

NEXT WEEK: The first birthday of Uppity Music. Who’s bringing the cake?

9 thoughts on “Funkadelic: The Electric Spanking of War Babies (1981)”

  1. This album is what was left of the splintered Funkadelic due to money issues and personal matters .
    The Warner Bros. version is sloppy and watered down version of a good album .
    At that period in music record labels wanted one hit wonders who could make videos and move their product .
    It was the end of the 70’s style supergroups like Funkadelic,Framton,Led-Zep,Styx,Kiss,Fleetwood-Mac etc………. .

  2. The most consistent Funkadelic album (One Nation Under a Groove has that stupid 10 minutes of blah blah).

    The Whole A-side is just superb. Funk does not get much if any better.

    I love that riff from the 2nd track that ends with a piano chord.

  3. The previous commentor who called this the most consistent Funkadelic album obviously never heard any of their Westbound material. This has to be the worst Funkadelic album of all. All of the original funkateers were gone (only George and Gary Shider remained). As for that '10 minutes of blah-blah' on the 'One Nation' LP (I assume he's talking about 'The Doo Doo Chasers'), well, it wouldn't be a Funkadelic album without a patented George Clinton monologue. That's what made Funkadelic the revolutionary band that they were: The hard-hitting music, and the hard-hitting commentary. This LP was loaded with newcomers and it showed. It just wasn't the classic Parliafunkadelicment Thang that we knew and loved. The end was near.

  4. I've heard all of Funkadelic's Westbound albums and I still like Electric Spanking better than any of 'em. No grand themes (except maybe "equal-opportunity nasty" and the oblique boomer/Reagan dis of the title track) and no real connective thread either. But it's darker and weirder than "One Nation" and way more on-the-one than the early Westbound stuff. While Bootsy and Bernie are missed, they were always better employed on the Parliament stuff anyway.

    I really tried to love "One Nation". But the title track on that record is the only great song even though there are several other good ones. And the back-and-forth recitation on "Doo-Doo Chasers" really is kinda irritating even though the words are great. "Maggot Brain" almost spoils four or five great songs with bad sound effects and worse pacing. In the end of course it's all a matter of personal taste. Funkadelic was never as consistent as Parliament, but there's a reason they inspire obsessives, myself included.

  5. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really love the article. It proved to be very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also engaged! I’m sure you had joy writing this article.singles

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