Styles & Forms | Funk Metal | Rock

Funk stars of the 1970s like The Ohio Players, Sly & The Family Stone and Funkadelic didn’t realize for a decade that hard rock ears had been paying attention. That same decade, Aerosmith’s combination of white-boy electric blues and propulsive arena hard rock had been deemed as unique, with just Grand Funk Railroad working along the similar lines.

It would be more than ten years before a revamped version of Aerosmith’s ‘Walk This Way’, recorded with Run-DMC, took the mixture of styles to its logical conclusion, and when the collaboration charted all over the globe it opened the floodgates for an avalanche of other like-minded acts. In 1986, The Beastie Boys, whose rock-fuelled Licensed To Ill was the first hip hop album to top the American chart.

Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler himself had described The Red Hot Chili Peppers as ‘fuckin’ great’, and The Chilis’ breakthrough arrived with their 1991 album, the Rick Rubin-produced Blood Sugar Sex Magik. By this time broader-based material like ‘Under The Bridge’, ‘Give It Away’ and ‘Breaking The Girl’ had rewarded them with a popularity that only drug addiction had seemed likely to destroy.

Faith No More paired a simmering internal tension with a pooled record collection that included punk, heavy metal and Tibetan Buddhism. In 1989, it all came to the boil for an album called The Real Thing, but the stardom that such hits as ‘Epic’ and ‘Midlife Crisis’ brought the San Francisco five-piece affected them in so many different ways that they simply could not last.

In 1988, the Prince-meets-Van Halen groove of The Dan Reed Network’s self-titled debut had thrilled and puzzled in equal measures. However, frontman Reed’s humanitarian streak meant he was not cut out for the music business, and the DRN went their separate ways in 1993. Formed the following year, New York’s Mick Jagger-approved Living Colour burned brightly at first but fragmented after four albums. However, the group has since reformed.

Ska Meets Funk Metal

Sugar Ray and the ska-flavoured No Doubt have brought the funk metal sound into the new millennium, though when Californication (1999) and By The Way (2002) came around, The Chilis’ had long since moved onto more mellow, stadium-friendly strains of rock. Newcomers like The Bloodhound Gang have since taken Anthony Kiedis and company’s harmless innuendo to its vulgar limits. ‘You and me baby ain’t nuthin’ but mammals/So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel’, sing the vacant Philadelphia crew on 2000’s Hooray For Boobies, setting both funk-rock and the male species back several generations in one fell swoop. Fortunately, old-timers Fishbone remain determined to uphold traditional values, even if it means proceeding down the independent label route.

‘Living in Portland was a great mixture of the East and West Coasts. At the same time as we got AC/DC, we also got Sly & The Family Stone. We got Cameo, we got Parliament, Humble Pie, Free and...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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