WASHINGTON POST: It might be the most awe-inspiring stage prop in the history of American music and it belonged to funk legends Parliament-Funkadelic. Since the Mothership vanished in Prince George’s County in 1982, rumors of its whereabouts have mutated into local lore: It burned in a fire. It was disassembled. It was stolen. Scrapped. Kidnapped. Thrown in the woods. Chained to a truck by a drug dealer and dragged to funk-knows-where. The band’s most devoted followers say it flew off into space. This is a story about trying to find it.
In concert, the Mothership was last spotted in Detroit in 1981, belching dry ice fumes and flashing kaleidoscopic light. An aluminum flying saucer, it was about 20 feet in diameter and decked out with dazzling lights. Below it stood a band of otherworldly eccentrics celebrating the hard-won freedoms of the civil rights movement in a freaky, fantastical display. Darryll Brooks remembers the last time he saw the Mothership. It wasn’t in Detroit. It was in a junkyard in Seat Pleasant. Brooks last saw it there because Brooks is the guy who threw the Mothership away.
It was the spring of 1982 and Parliament-Funkadelic frontman George Clinton and his bandmates were battling debt, drug addiction and each other. Brooks, who ran the group’s Washington-based tour production company, says the only way he could pay the band’s debts was to pawn its gear. With no place to store a spacecraft, he dumped the Mothership in a junkyard behind a Shell station on Martin Luther King Jr. Highway. But 28 years later, its final resting place remains a mystery. MORE
REVIEW: MC5: A True Testimonial DVD
Forget the Clash and the Sex Pistols. Forget even the Stooges. The MC5 was the most balls- out, super-blammo, proto- revolutionary rock ‘n’ roll band ever to leave a powder burn on the face of the earth. Their rallying cry was “rock ‘n’ roll, dope and fucking in the streets,” and they walked it like they talked it–like a street-walking cheetah with a heartful of napalm. The records don’t really do the band justice, and its mythos is filtered through so much dope haze, hype and competing egos that it’s hard to get a clear picture of what really went down in Detroit in the late ’60s. This exceptional documentary — which ranks up there with Gimme Shelter, Don’t Look Back and Cocksucker Blues in the pantheon of great rock ‘n’ roll films — lays it all out with diamond-like clarity. Basically a paisley- shirted Nuggets‘-style Detroit garage band that cut its teeth rockin’ the kids at the VFW halls in the mid-’60s, the MC5’s music soon amped into the teeth-rattling groin thunder of “Kick Out the Jams.” They eventually hooked up with local beatnik-acid-guru John Sinclair, who radicalized them into armed pseudo- revolutionaries. They formed the White Panther Party, which was basically the psychedelic honky version of the Black Panthers. Before long the FBI had them under surveillance and some of the best concert footage in the documentary comes from — of all places — U.S. government surveillance cameras in the crowd at a chaotic performance in Chicago’s Lincoln Park during the apocalyptic 1968 Democratic Convention. Like the ’60s counterculture itself, the MC5 was eventually crushed by dope, paranoia, record-company bungling and 10 soldiers and Nixon coming. Unfortunately, the official release of this documentary is tied up in legalistic red tape, but there are enough promo copies out there that it can surely be procured on the black-markets of the file-sharing networks–or perhaps a super-secret Secret Cinema screening, hmmm? — JONATHAN VALANIA