P-Afrofuturism (4): Heavenly Bodies

By: Adrienne Crew
July 19, 2011

Standing on the Verge of Getting It On, inside left liner text (Funkadelic, 1974)

An alien with an earth-shaped skull is a recurring motif found on all of the Funkedelic albums drawn by Pedro Bell. Since the elongated skull appears in the Funkedelic logo, I wonder if he was trying to create an icon akin to the Grateful Dead’s “Smiling Jack” skull.

Original intended cover for Uncle Jam Wants You (Funkadelic, 1979)

Could this have been first attempts to create a brand identity for the band? Did Bell know about the crystal skulls and their alien-connection?

[This is the fourth in a series of posts about P-Funk’s Afrofuturism.]

Bell was fond of representing planets and landscapes anthropomorphically. Most Funkedelic albums featured Mother Earth or a Galactic Goddess, usually naked and in distress. These tempting damsels managed to sell sex and social consciousness.

Cosmic Slop, album art detail (Funkadelic, 1973)

Take Cosmic Slop, for example. An African-identified Mother Earth is coming apart due to human neglect and exploitation. That is sad. But we also get to ogle her perfect tits while pretending to study landmass on her left breast. Over Mother Earth’s shoulder, a planet moons her neighbor.

Standing on the Verge of Getting It On (Funkadelic, 1974)

I’m intrigued by Bell’s portraits of heads as planets. The blue dude in the bottom left corner of the cover of Standing on the Verge of Getting It On reminds me of the Farscape character, Zhan.

The beleaguered Goddess in the background also looks like a planet, while her sister planet looks on in sympathy from the bottom right corner. Bodies are conflated with landscapes. The cliffs protecting the Goddess have rock art etchings on their sides. I interpret these figures as reminders that every planet is sentient and alive with the Funk. Perhaps these symbolize a warning against using too much technology, to the detriment of our planetary hosts.

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SIMILAR HILOBROW SERIES: ANGUSONICS — the solos of Angus Young | FILE X — a gallery | KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM — 25 Jack Kirby panels | MOULDIANA — the solos of Bob Mould | POP ARCANA — spelunking weird culture

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Categories

Read-outs, Sci-Fi

What do you think?

  1. Fantastic series. Thank-you.. I’d never thought about the ambivalence of the ship until now.
    Can we pin the blame on ELO and Close Encounters for de-radicalizing the space-ship in 1978? The album cover for ELO’s ‘Out of the Blue’) is shiny and air-brushed, glossy and empty. And instead of exploring the galaxy of Cosmic-Funk, we’re encouraged to ask Mr Blue Sky why he’s sometimes there, and why he sometimes not there. Not really as ambitious as Mr Clintons’s project. And the chords are stolen from The Beatles ‘Good Day Sunshine’. But now I’m digressing. I will stop.

  2. Wonderful! I’m really enjoying this series. GC and crew gave us enough images, both sonic and visual, to digest for 100 light years! I’ve been critiquing and synthesizing Afrofuturist audio narratives as well. Please see me at arcdirect.tumblr.com

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