Posts Tagged ‘Eddie Hazel’

Guitar Greatness

July 25, 2013

Tuesday July 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I was taking my exercise walk today, and that’s often when the most off the wall thoughts tend to force their way into my head from unknown places. Maybe it’s due to the shaking up of all the stagnant blood in my brain, but I’ve noticed that some of my freakiest thoughts come to me then.

   Today I was listening to some Parliament/Funkadelic on my iPod in honor of George Clinton’s birthday yesterday, and I got to thinking if I had to choose only ONE song as my very favorite of all time from any artist or musical genre what would it be? I doubt if anyone has a quick answer.

   I thought about it a rather long while, and then on the iPod came the Funkadelic song ‘Maggot Brain’ from the ‘One Nation Under  A Groove’ album. The song was originally released in 1971 as a studio version on a Funkadelic album of the same name, but this version is live and released in 1978. Of all the songs I have ever heard in my life, I can’t think of another that comes close.

   Despite the unconventional title, the song is jam packed with sensitive feelings and raw human emotion. I never get sick of hearing it, and if I was stuck on an island with the ability to hear just one version of one song this would definitely be it. I hope I’m never in that situation, but it’s fun to think about – kind of like what one’s last meal would be before execution in the electric chair.

   That’s a whole other topic entirely, but if I had a ‘last song’ before checking out this one would definitely be it. It’s a slow and at times intense guitar solo that doesn’t have any actual lyrics per se, but the guitar work speaks volumes. I challenge anyone to listen to it and not feel something.  

   The original guitarist was Eddie Hazel, a highly skilled virtuoso who passed away at the age of 42. As the story goes, George Clinton got him alone in the studio and told him to play his guitar like his mother had just died. One take later, the song was recorded and became a band signature.  

   It’s an amazing piece of guitar work, and I’ve heard others cover it from Carlos Santana to The Red Hot Chili Peppers to some guy named Bucket Head. Everyone puts individual flavor into the song and some versions are better than others, but it’s a definite standout as far as a unique solo.

   By all accounts, I really shouldn’t like this song but I can’t get enough of it. There are probably a dozen recorded versions by Funkadelic alone, and they always play it in their live shows for the hardcore fans like me who have come to expect it. Michael Hampton is now the guitarist instead of Eddie Hazel, and he does a magnificent job of recreating it time after time. It’s a masterpiece.

   Many people have said that to truly ‘hear’ Parliament/Funkadelic there needs to be drugs taken by the listener. The band has long admitted their substance dabblings, and George Clinton speaks freely about experimenting with acid for years and how he felt it opened up his mind creatively.    

   I’ve never even smoked a cigarette much less a joint, and the only thing close to acid I’ve taken is an occasional Rolaids to relieve excess stomach acid. I would be afraid to drop acid and put on Maggot Brain only to find out it sounds like a polka. Maybe I’m missing out, but I’ll continue to enjoy it like I have for most of my life. The song still kicks ass – even to a drug free white boy.  

   I’ve tried to listen to The Grateful Dead on occasion, but I don’t hear anything there. It would make sense that one would have to be high to get what they’re doing, but for some reason I get it loud and clear with P-Funk. Keep your Beatles, Stones and Zeppelin too. P-Funk is my favorite.     

Maggot Brain - pure guitar virtuosity

Maggot Brain – pure guitar virtuosity



Maggot Brain

October 22, 2010

Thursday October 21st, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

The more things I have going, the more it makes me get behind on everything else. I’ve been out on the road and the ships, then teaching classes both at Zanies Comedy Club and Harper College, then up in Milwaukee doing the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show at a couple of venues. That’s all been fun, but now I have laundry to do, calls to return and mail to send.

The old ‘for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction’ adage is true. For every week I’m gone on the road or boats, more dirty laundry piles up. For every class I teach, it takes time away from me making booking calls or just plain hanging out with my friends.

And who the hell has time for daily exercise and diet planning? And don’t even think of having a relationship. How can anyone squeeze everything into one single life? Now I can see why celebrities have such a hard time with keeping their marriage together. It’s rough.

I’m not even close to being a celebrity, though my schedule sure feels like it. I have all kinds of commitments and  places to be, and  I admit I’m the reason for it. I like all kinds of different things so I have all kinds of activities to coincide with them. The result is that my free time is limited, so when I do get some I tend to just let everything else sit and rot.

That’s pretty much what I did today. I had a mountain of  paperwork to sort, and I really didn’t do much of anything other than sit around and listen to music and relax. To me, it’s a day in heaven. I had no place to be other than a dinner date later with a total sweetheart.

I haven’t had a day to really listen to music in a long time, and I loved every single song I played. I have some headphones that sound great and just laid back and let it rip. I enjoy a pretty wide variety of music but today I picked out my very favorite songs of all time.

If I had to pick just one song I could listen to for the rest of eternity, it would have to be the Funkadelic classic “Maggot Brain”. It’s an amazing piece of music, and if you haven’t heard it I can’t really describe it in words. It’s a heavy rock guitar solo that sends chills up my spine every time I hear it. I can’t think of another song I’ve ever heard that’s similar.

Supposedly, George Clinton told master guitarist Eddie Hazel to play a guitar solo as if his mother had just died, and it’s just oozing with emotion and passion and an energy that cut through to the soul of a white boy from Milwaukee. That song just talks to me, even if I’m not sure what it’s saying exactly. I feel the emotion, and I never get sick of hearing it.

There are about a dozen different recordings of it that I know of, a few tried by imitators that fall extremely short. The one I love most is a live version that’s smoking hot and just melts into my psyche whenever I hear it. It’s my #1 favorite song ever, without a doubt.

Supposedly it’s made to be listened to on drugs, but I’ve enjoyed it just fine sober all of these years. I sure enjoyed it again today, and the dinner date was wonderful. I do have to get to some of my piled up work, but for one day I relaxed and enjoyed a little bit of life.