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BOOTSY'S BACK : Rediscover the Funk

December 20, 1990|MIKE BOEHM | Mike Boehm covers pop music for The Times Orange County Edition.

We want the funk, give up the funk.

We need the funk, we gotta have the funk.

For those who agree that the funk is imperative, William (Bootsy) Collins is out to oblige once more.

As a member of Parliament-Funkadelic during the 1970s, Collins not only helped write the above funk-lover's rallying cry (from the hit, "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)"), he also helped embody it in a notably flamboyant fashion.

Collins would wear star-shaped glasses and wield a star-shaped bass as he joined in P-Funk's carnival of comic-book play-acting and serious grooves. Then, still under the guidance of Parliament-Funkadelic leader George Clinton, Collins became the mainstay of Bootsy's Rubber Band, one of P-Funk's many offshoots.

After several years as arena-levelacts, P-Funk and Bootsy lost some of their commercial cachet. At the same time, though, Collins said in a recent interview from his home near Cincinnati, he lost some of his enthusiasm for becoming a walking cartoon.

"All my fun turned to work," Collins recalled. So he took some time

off during the early '80s, keeping mainly to the 23-acre spread he'd bought during P-Funk's peak era. When Collins regained his interest in music-making, he decided it should be as a player, not a stage performer.

But now Collins, who started his traveling career as a teen-age bassist backing James Brown, is back on the road again for his first extensive touring since the P-Funk days. With him are many old cronies from that band including guitarists Mike Hampton and Gary Schider, singer Gary (Mudbone) Cooper, and fellow James Brown alumni Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley on horns.

"There's new fans out there that definitely have to discover me, or rediscover me," said Collins, who released a 1988 comeback album, "What's Bootsy Doin'?" and followed it this year with "Jungle Bass." Neither of those recordings had the impact of another song that features some of Collins' comic role-playing--the recent Deee-Lite hit, "Groove Is in the Heart." Collins said he and his band (plus another P-Funk alumnus, keyboard player Bernie Worrell) will tour with Deee-Lite starting next month.

Parliament-Funkadelic's funky sound has been perpetuated by rappers who have lifted the band's grooves and riffs for their own recordings--a development that Collins endorses. "The list goes on and on" of fragments of his work that turn up on rap recordings. And now, the blend of funk and psychedelic guitar rock that P-Funk helped pioneer is also figuring prominently on the charts again with the success of such bands as Living Colour, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More.

"That in itself is inspiring. It lets us know that we were doing something right," the amiable Collins said. If Collins and his band can turn the sit-down Coach House into a funky cauldron of sweat and shakin' booty, he'll know he really has done something right.

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