If you thought the universal musical language of funk was the one thing missing from the TARDIS, a little rhythm returned with the Doctor's introduction of himself as Dr Funkenstein!
DOCTOR: At ease. I'm the President of the World. I'm here to rescue people and generally establish happiness all over the place. The Doctor. Doctor Funkenstein.That of course came during the return of the Zygons in Peter Harness' two-parter showing us their Invasion & Inversion, quite some time after their first appearance in Terror Of The Zygons alongside a Doctor Teeth N'Scarf, making up in neckwear what he lacked in wide-ranging grooves! Terror was of course the first story of 1975/76's Season Thirteen. And what was going on in the universe of George Clinton, leader of both Parliament & Funkadelic, at the time? This...
Evolving out of doo-wop group The Parliaments, the more psychedelically informed Parliament convened to make not one but two records in 1975 in the shape of Chocolate City & Mothership Connection. 1976 saw Dr Funkenstein appear as something of an alter-ego through whom Clinton delivers his own conception of the idea of the funk, first appearing on The Clones Of Dr Funkenstein.
As Crack Magazine so succinctly puts it,
"Born in an outdoor toilet (no, really), George Clinton is responsible for all sorts of funky shit. As the main force behind Parliament/Funkadelic, Clinton blended acidic psychedelia, gritty funk and swaggering rock ‘n’ roll to create P-Funk during the 1970s and 80s."A whole mythos grew up around the world he created, casting Funkenstein as an emissary of the funk, which became an almost godlike force. See the Cosmology of P-Funk, which contended that,
"For the religiously inclined, P-Funk offered up an array of minor gods, an intangible and omnipotent metaphysical reality (the funk itself), and a whole flotilla of ministers (actually a loose-fitting assemblage of crack musicians and crackpots dedicated to the administration of an entire cosmology).Clinton himself was somewhat cryptically dismissive of the whole idea of religion in a sense.
The roots of this church lay deep in the African polyrhythmic pantheon; its disciples (“Maggotbrains” or “Funkateers”) consisted of anyone who sought a quasi- cohesive view of a universe which included a god who danced, and who knew that having a loose booty to shake was as crucial to the keeping of the faith as the rosary was for the Catholic."
"I think a lot of people really have religious overtones of having come from somewhere. I mean, even the whole concept of religion is kind of alien."Basil Disco now sounds pedestrian by comparison, surely!
But the idea of some sort of musical emissary from the gods actually vaguely ties in with another Season Thirteen story, Pyramids Of Mars, as Clinton admitted he got more than a few ideas from Ancient Egypt for his own cosmological take on music, including one Herman Blount, aka Sun Ra!
Using his hastily acquired new status to preach peace through music, in a 1937 interview Sun Ra once said,
"My whole body changed into something else. I could see through myself. And I went up... I wasn't in human form... I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn. They teleported me and I was down on [a] stage with them.And of course the Doctor is no stranger to speaking through music, in a sense. Adept in the recorder, it's the guitar that is his current instrument of choice...
They wanted to talk with me. They had one little antenna on each ear. A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me. They told me to stop [attending college] because there was going to be great trouble in schools... the world was going into complete chaos... I would speak [through music], and the world would listen. That's what they told me."
Speaking to the Radio Times, Peter Capaldi even admitted that he likes nothing better than to plug in and play. When asked what he would do if he had an hour off filming on the series he gave the rock & roll answer...
"Play the guitar. Doctor Who’s better at the guitar than I am, because some pixies come along afterwards and add some little licks and trills that are not mine. Starman was the first song I ever played."
Whether he's ever tackled the mindbending solo to Maggot Brain as yet goes unrecorded.
As the Guardian later revealed,
"Legend has it that George Clinton, under the influence of LSD (as per, George!), told Eddie Hazel during the recording session for Maggot Brain to play "like your momma had just died" – and his extraordinary 10-minute guitar solo, recorded in one take, was the result."A far cry musically from Peter's own punk past as a member of Dreamboys, a period during his time as an art school student.
Former member John Rogan later told the Guardian,
"I was at Glasgow School of Art with Peter Capaldi and we formed a band with Roddy Murray in late 1978. We asked a friend, Iain McCaig, to play drums.Peter would explain that his Dreamboys image was inspired, in part, by David Byrne of Talking Heads. Another David, Bowie, was in a sense behind his fashion choices as the Doctor.
Peter played guitar and sang, Roddy played guitar and bass, and I played bass and sang. Peter and I did swap around a bit as it was beyond both our musical abilities to sing and play at the same time.
It was early, raw rock’n’roll with strong influences of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, Buddy Holly and late 70s punk. We finished gigs off with [the Sex Pistols’] Pretty Vacant."
From funk, through disco, to rock & roll, and punk! On this day, Peter's 58th birthday, we raise a glass to surely the most musically literate/diverse leading man to step into the old police box yet?
And long may he stay as the key holder.
Happy Birthday to you, Doctor Funkenstein!