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Baker's Dozen

Staying On The One: Bootsy Collins' Favourite LPs
Julian Marszalek , November 2nd, 2017 11:52

Bootsy Collins helped define the sound of funk, working with Parliament and James Brown, who taught him the mysterious concept of The One. In this Bakers Dozen, he talks to Julian Marszalek about those times & why he couldn't leave home without dropping acid and listening to Hendrix


Parliament – Chocolate City
It started to feel like we were onto something new and different. It's kinda like a baby forming and you don't know what it is yet and that's what that early music felt like. It felt like we were doing something. I didn't know exactly what it was - and still don't actually know what it was - but I had my reference points. Looking back to when I was with James Brown, I know how to go back and get that James Brown sound and it's nothing I have to think about. What I don't know is how to do something new and that's why this album, to me, is a landmark. It's one of those goals that I always be looking for; to do things that I don't know how to do. I didn't know how to do it until I went through the Chocolate City and Mothership Connection and that whole Funkadelic time really taught George and I that it was something special burning. We were doing something special but we didn't really know it at the time.

And we didn't give a funk what others thought about it; we were just doing it. It felt good. Radio weren't playing it and we were cool with that because we were on the road and the fans were having a great time; that's what we were keyed in on. I didn't know nothing about music for the radio and really didn't wanna know. I just wanted to do what I felt.

Working with George Clinton and James Brown was completely different. Things were very disciplined with James and much looser with George but I don't think I could've done George proud if I hadn't have done the James Brown training school first. All of my tidiness and all of my organisation as a player, I learned all that from James Brown. I learned about The One and The One had all of it together.

It was a natural thing for me but learned to put the emphasis on it with James. The band who played with him before us, they always kinda played pretty much what James wanted and with us, he didn't want that. He wanted the freshness of the street vibe that was going on. I didn't know we had a street vibe – I just wanted to play! I didn't know that I was playing a whole lotta stuff until he told me. He was like, “You're a bass player!” so he was the one who settled me down and told me, “Play all that stuff that you wanna play and the stuff that you're hearing but give me The One.” Once I started doing that, he said [adopts a pretty good James Brown impression]: “Yes! That's it, son! That's what I'm talking about!” Once I got that vibe down when I was recording, it started showing up and that's the vibe I took from there to George Clinton.

When George heard it, he didn't even know how to count The One – plus he was colour blind! He was pretty messed up in a good way and that's what made him George. By him not knowing where The One was at, it gave me the freedom of showing him. And when he started getting it, he really got it! Then he wanted me to do it more so then everything kinda fell right into place.

Everybody who was there brought something to the table and I just happened to bring a lot of stuff and George wanted it all! And he pretty much did get it all!

It was good for everybody, you know?

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