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Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: Parliament Funkadelic

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Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: Parliament Funkadelic

Paging Dr. Funkenstein, we’ve got something serious you need to take care of: M.I.S.S. is feeling extra funky this week. Strap on those platforms, put those hot pants on and get ready to groove with Parliament Funkadelic.

You might not believe it, but the group has its roots in 50s doo-wop, getting together in Plainfield, New Jersey. George Clinton, arguably the band’s signature member, formed the group in a barber shop with Ray Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon and Grady Thomas. They were styled after Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, but developed a soul and funk-infused sound as they entered the 60s and 70s. Finding success in only one of the singles they released, in 1967 they hired five more backing musicians to go on tour.

While on the road, their record company had fallen bankrupt and, in order to continue recording, bassist Billy Bass Nelson came up with the name Funkadelic for the backup band. To make a long story short, the singing component of the collective as a whole is known as Parliament and the band traveling with them is known as Funkadelic.

Can You Imagine George Clinton & Parliament Clean Cut?

Taking cues from Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix, PF began to experiment with sounds that would eventually lead them in creating a whole new genre of music: P-Funk. Some speculate the name simply comes from the shortening of the group’s name, others have argued that it stood for Plainfield Funk (from the town Clinton grew up in). Nonetheless, from 1975 through 1979, the group began to find major success with the albums and singles they released. Many albums Parliament or Funkadelic released can be confused as efforts released together. While members of the collective would obviously work with one another, it is important to point out albums that are  strictly released by Funkadelic or Parliament

One of the most influential albums to come out of either group is 1978’s One Nation Under a Groove by Funkadelic. As is any album related to PF, the album was a concept album, stemming from the “mythology of P-Funk” (which could very well be a separate write up). Essentially, the album stresses the power of P-Funk as a tool to release your mind and be free.  The title track off the album was a major hit for the group, and is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. In the song, Funkadelic likens dancing as a way to escape, stressing to listeners to use it as a way to reach freedom. Whether you believe that or not, there is no doubting it will make you get out of your seat and bust some moves or, at the very least, bob your head.

Parliament-Funkadelic have given us many treats over the years, from the stylings of Clinton’s dreads, to the official Funk University for bassists everywhere, to (some may argue most importantly) the basis for some of the greatest songs in hip hop. The group’s single Atomic Dog is one of the genre’s most sampled songs, with everyone from Redman, Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube (who’s sampled it on seven separate occasions) all using it to produce hits.

So let’s tip our hats and trip on… some good music to the one and only Parliament Funkadelic, for taking us on their Mothership to places we never knew music, or our minds, could ever go.

Groove To These Hits From Parliament Funkadelic:

One Nation Under a Groove

Atomic Dog

Bring the Funk

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Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: Frankie Goes to Hollywood

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Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: Frankie Goes to Hollywood

When M.I.S.S. girls have the sudden urge to just do it, we always stop and remember to… RELAX.  Oh yes, this week we’ll be taking a journey to the city where silver screen dreams are either made or broken with Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Coming out of the 70s punk scene in Liverpool, the group was formed with Holly Johnson on vocals, Paul Rutherford with the keyboard, Peter Gill on drums, Mark O’Toole hitting the bass and Brian Nash on guitar. On inquiry about the origin of the group’s name, Johnson has said that it came from a Frank Sinatra picture in The New Yorker. It was actually a Guy Peellart pop art poster that was the inspiration for the name.

Touring around Liverpool, the group began to garner a cult following. They even joined up with another group – The Leatherpets. Through their local popularity, FGTH was able to make their own promotional videos and record demos, despite having been turned down by majors like Arista and Phonogram. It was a lucky chance in October of 1982 that the group was able to record a session for the famous BBC Radio 1 with the John Peel Session. This session included FGTH classic Two Tribes, as well as Disneyland, Krisco Kisses, and The World is My Oyster.

The magic that Radio 1 is famous for creating did not spare FGTH. Soon after, the group was asked to record the video for Relax, their most famous single to date. Channel 4 asked the boys to make the video for their show The Tube, and the broadcast led to the previously-recorded session with John Peel to be played on the radio. The growing popularity of the group convinced Grammy Award-winning producer Trevor Horn to sign them to his newly formed ZZT Records.

Their debut single, Relax, did not have a massive entry onto the charts. Released in 1983, it steadily rose on the UK Top 40. It was a feature on the BBC’s Top of the Pops in the beginning of 1984 which rocketed it from number 35 to number 1 for six weeks straight.

It was a cold January day that began a controversy that has followed the group for their entire career. Radio 1 DJ Mike Read noticed the cover design of the single and became furious at what he said was obscene sexual content. He note  the Yvonne Gilbert-designed cover, as well as the lyrics. Live on air, he took the single off the air. This was just the tip of the iceberg.

BBC decided to ban the single from all broadcasts, radio and television included. The only show it was allowed to remain on was its Top 40 show.  Speculation on the reason for the ban was the sexual matter and the uncomfortable feeling execs felt for the band’s gay message.

Even the original video had to be redone. In the first version, a gay S&M den was the setting and leather-clad gentlemen and women were featured. The second video was directed by Brian de Palma to partner with the release of the Body Double film.

Finally, after almost a year of being banned, Relax was allowed to be performed in the Christmas special of Top of the Pops.

The groups next two singles, The Power of Love and Two Tribes, were both number ones in the UK, gaining the group the honor of being the only other group in UK history to have their first 3 singles be reach #1.

Then and Now

The group went through the typical rise to fame and eventual breakup, but what we wanted to focus on was the social impact they have left both on the music world, and more specifically, the gay community. Which each of their albums and tracks, they made a conscious effort to address an issue they felt important. In the Two Tribes, the images featured in the video are a mash up of famous clips of political figures around the world. Flip through any 80s nostalgia show or go to an 80s themed party and there is sure to be someone rocking a “Frankie Says…” shirt. The cultural impact the group has left has engrained them into pop history, probably as long as it will take to get Relax out of your head.

Check out more videos from the group:

Two Tribes

Escape From Pleasuredome

The Power of Love

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: Bananarama

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Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: Bananarama

Reminisce With M.I.S.S. - Banarama

If you thought girl power began with five spicy London town lasses, think again. Bananarama, the UK’s original dynamo girl group that rose to fame in the 80s, proved anything boys could do, girls could do, better. With consistent chart topping singles internationally and an insane work ethic, Bananarama has carved a special place in the hearts of many 80s music fans, as well as received the Guinness World Record for the all female group with most chart entries, a title they’ve held since 1988.

Over the years, the trio has switched around members, but it all started with Siobhan Fahey, Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin (the latter two now the current group).  During a night out, Woodward and Dallin, who had been friends since childhood, met Paul Cook, a member of the Sex Pistols. According to their official website, the duo was about to get kicked out of the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) for consistently staying out too late, but upon hearing their situation, Cook invited them to stay in the office that sat conveniently above the Sex Pistols’ rehearsal room.  Shortly after, Fahey joined the friends, after meeting Dallin at London University of Arts. Both were studying journalism and began a friendship on the basis that they both were into London’s early punk scene and dressed alike.

With the help of the Sex Pistols, Bananarama recorded their first demo, a cover of Black Blood’s Aie a Mwana. Sung entirely in Swahili, the tape made it into the hands of Demon Records, then eventually Decca where they were signed. If you were wondering where the group came up with their name, it came supposedly from the inspiration of the tropical mood of Aie a Mwana and Roxy Music’s song Pyjamarama.

Bananarama’s Demo

Throughout their career, Bananarama have always stood for their own sound and image, turning down infamous Bow Wow Wow and Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren’s management offer due to sexually charged material he suggested that did not fit their esthetic and message. In an interview in 1984 with Sue Simmons of New York Live at 5, Woodward stated, “we managed ourselves, we don’t get anyone dressing us up, there’s no big Svengali behind the scenes”.  From the beginning, the group found great success, releasing UK hits like Shy Boy, Na Na Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, and He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’ . Gaining some attention in the states with their earlier records, Bananarama released their self titled 1984 album. Still having the synths and pop sounds of the previous records, the album aimed to be more socially conscious. Singles like Hot Line to Heaven and Rough Justice each addresses social pressures and drug culture, which had been gaining a lot of press (Nancy Reagan campaign, anyone?).

It was a little training with Ralph Maccio and Mr. Miyagi that helped propel the group into stardom in the states, when their most famous single Cruel Summer was released and featured on The Karate Kid soundtrack.

Do You Remember How It Was Oh So Cool to Be Cruel?

The girls continued to release hit after hit, scoring another international sensation with Venus. Continuing their trend for covering older songs, Venus was a remake of a 1970 hit by Shocking Blue. The single received major airplay both in the UK and the US, the video being a staple for quite some time on MTV.


Though the group had major success for most of the decade, in 1988 Fahey left the group after seeing the group’s direction inconsistent with the path she wanted to take. Unlike most stories similar to her departure, Fahey saw huge success with Shakespeare’s Sister. Their hit “Stay” was one of 1991’s biggest songs, and reentered the UK’s charts again in 2010.

Then and Now

Now, Bananarama’s story isn’t over. Former Shillelagh Sisters member Jacquie O’Sullivan replaced Fahey, and with her addition to the group Bananarama was able to gain the Guinness honor. Her stay would be short lived, after only 3 years with the group, O’Sullivan left to pursue her own endeavors. Deciding that maybe three was a crowd, Dallin and Woodward would stay a duo up until now. The ladies continue to develop new material and tour around the world. By 2002, they had sold over 40 million records.  Though they might be forever be associated with 80s nostalgia and Cruel Summer, Bananarama continues to show us girls we can push the boundaries, beyond what’s ever expected of us.

Jam out to these hits from Bananarama:

“I Cant Help It”

“Shy Boy”

“Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye”

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: The Commodores

Reminisce with M.I.S.S. - The Commodores

Toggle the radio dial back and forth on any easy Sunday and in the midst of the static, you are sure to hear at least one of these lyrics: “….brick houuuuse” and  “…on the nightshift” . Now what do all these songs have in common? They have all been penned by The Commodores. And if you’re still not familiar with this classic group from the 60s and 70s, let us help you: Read the full story

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Reminisce with M.I.S.S: Grav

Reminisce with M.I.S.S: Grav

What do the words “down to earth” and Kanye West have to do in common? Well, if that one has you stuck scratching your head, we don’t blame you. As one of the most notoriously arrogant artists out there, it may not be the description that comes to mind when one thinks of Mr. West. But here’s a little something for all you hip-hop heads and history buffs. This week with RWM, we’ll be bringing you back or even introducing you to Chicago rapper Grav. His only release was his debut album, Down To Earth in 1996. Many of the tracks off the album were produced by a very young Kanye West, who was only 19 at the time. It would be his first professional work.

Grav- Down to Earth

Born in New York, Grav’s start  in music was not far from the womb. His mother was a songwriter and singer, with a DJ husband by her side. Grav has said that he began his first experimentations with sampling on a Digitech delay machine and Casio SK!, and finding his was writing rhymes over his newly constructed beats. Though originally a New York boy, in ’92 he found his way to Chicago, where he has resided ever since. Throughout his career, Grav has also worked with other hip hop vets like No I.D., SC, Doug Infinite, among others.

Another Kanye Produced Track: One Puff

For some reason Grav never released another album. Some speculate it was due to the folding of the label that released his debut and no interest from other companies. The instrumentals and beats in the album have sort of a Dilla feel to it, incorporating smooth melodies with some jazz influence. Though his rap career may not have been what he always dreamed of, Grav has continued to stay in the entertainment industry. Lending his voice for commercials such as Jeep, McDonalds, Kellogg’s and Bacardi, he has remained quiet as far a media attention. The only website we can dig up on him are 2 out of date MySpace pages. As far as Twitter goes, some other wannabe rapper by the same name is out there, and trust me, that might not be classic material. Along with the aforementioned companies, Grav also lent his voice for EA Sport’s Def Jam ICON, which unfortunately he was unaccredited on according to IMDB.

For rare records collectors, his release is for a sure one for a collection, some of the LPs and singles on have sold for $60 apiece. What we appreciate about Grav was that though he can be categorized as a classic artist, he has still remained in industry that he loves most. If you’re searching for current news on him, unfortunately the internet is no friend on this one. With the revival of more 90s sounding hip hop currently, hopefully more rappers can get off the autotune train and get back to feel good music.

Check out some more tracks off Down to Earth:

Sick Thoughts:

Sex (Kanye Produced)

City to City

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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