Sunday, November 22, 2009

Space Funk: A Love Story

For a long time, I have wanted to write a post about the fashion called "space funk" (well, I call it space funk) but I haven't been able to find that many great photos, and I've always thought I should do more extensive research on it than just what comes to mind. I have so many questions about, such as...

Where does the space funk look come from? What are its origins? How does it relate to the much whiter, less funkier fashion/music genre of glam rock? Could I get a grant of some kind in order to study it? Why are fashion's histories and particularities never seen from a valid anthropological standpoint?

Space funk seems to have a lot in common with Bowie's bold, spacy, strong look of glam rock- but did space funk really draw from glam rock or did it grow independently? Now glam rock, my number one lover during my later years of high school, often had a similar, funky, spacy, glittery feel, but it often looked sort of homemade- like you just threw on your mother's ratty fur and some gold pants. See the lovely Marc Bolan in the below photo below.

David Bowie's impeccable glam rock meets space funk look.

Brian Eno works the strong shoulder while doing what he does best: twist nobs.

David Bowie seems to be the link between the two-because space funk is not about throwing things on. True Space funk is usually carefully constructed, apparently by some sort of master 70's craftsmen, like in this amazing LaBelle video.

Also, in their early years, bands like (pre-Parliment) Funkadelic and Sly and the Family Stone had sort of hippyish, pirate-y, Hendrix-y version of a space funk look. Obviously this had nothing to do with Brian Eno.

Edit: Doesn't looking at these photos make you think about how you will never begin to look anywhere near as cool, and neither will anyone else for the rest of time?

All I guess i can really say about space funk is that we no longer have these sense of dazzling showmanship we once did, and that is a tragedy.

Okay, now I'm just going to post some photos. Perhaps I will enumerate more on this subject later!

PS: I want Midnight Special DVDs for Christmas.

The king of Space Funk, the underrated Rick James.

Okay, maybe he's the king of Space Funk: Bootsy Collins

80's space funk, courtesy of The Commodores.

Betty Davis combined space funk with a classic ho look.

Anyway, I can barely find any good photos! Isn't there an archive somewhere?


Anonymous said...

i don't know how valid this take on space funk fashion may be, but this is something i've always thought of when viewing far out pictures of black musicians from the 70s... i realize this might come off as half-baked... but, as with with white performers who were seeking to establish themselves as an "Other" or "Outsider"... i think that black performers who adopted that style were trying to redefine and reclaim some of their personal power. and, in a sense, the only "space" that could truly be claimed as their own, without the shackles of a history of disenfranchisement or oppression, would be "Space" itself, or another world/planet. you are able to transcend the mores, customs, expectations, and rules of the known world by "coming from" somewhere else.

i think a good example of this is the album/album cover of "they say i'm different" by betty davis. betty can sing about the topics on that album because the idea she has put forth of herself (outsider, other) relieves her from the burden of meeting society's current role for her (black, woman, black woman, woman-living-in-shadow-of-husband's-musical-career) she can sing about sexually frank topics, or demand respect for herself or other women because where she comes from, those topics are allowed. also, i mean, just look at how absolutely fierce she is allowed to be: natural hair, warrior space plate suit, and a weapon for christ's sake. imagine if the cover was her in normal day-job clothes and was holding a gun? that would have been ten times more controversial. that wouldn't have flown. so instead, an image was crafted that would "allow" her to portray the image herself that she wanted to portray.

this is just my two cents. but another great post, mary!


Gerard said...

This is live audio from 1980 PRE DIRTY MIND ERA PRINCE. There is a photo montage over the audio that has some priceless shots that could kinda fit into this post.

Call me Mary! I miss you!

Em said...

Mary, brilliant as always. Don't forget Earth Wind and Fire on the space funk count! Perhaps its part of the response is related to Gil Scott Heron's "Whitey on the Moon"?

Em said...


Don't have your e-mail. I just saw this on Soul Sides and thought you might want to try and win some free Betty Davis swag:

OKay, keep on keeping on with this majorly kickass blog!

Mary said...

hi julia,

sorry i took so long to reply to your post. i was thinking about it, though! it's interesting to me because i think, at least for glam rock, this is part of what attracted ME as a teen, because david bowie and the like didn't sing about relationships and blah blah blah, it was so otherwordly that i didn't have to think about my own angst and stuff (as opposed, to say, jonathan richman, ha.)

but i think this is a really interesting perspective- it's totally worth researching to me!

i guess betty davis was criticized by the NAACP, though, so she didn't escape totally.

thanks for the comments guys! i feel they show i have cool friends with an interest in space funk.

bRuLa said...

Hello Mary, just started to read your blog and I find it very entertaining. I think we have a pretty similar taste for some things.
There are still some "space" performers around, like The Ones:

Other artist you may like:
Fischerspooner, MGMT, Empire of the sun.