Posts Tagged ‘Grateful Dead’

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

                                                                                                                                                    

Opening Night Fever

January 18, 2010

Saturday January 16th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Tonight was the big debut performance of our play “You’re On The Air” at the Beverly Arts Center and we all agreed it was a smashing success. We’ve been working for months for this night and it’s here and gone. Nobody can take this away from us now – we did it!

What an absolute blast it was to pull this off in front of a live audience. Was it sold out? Were people camping out for tickets like Grateful Dead fans? Were tour buses coming in from the hinterlands packed with rabid followers? Frankly, we’re not ready for that yet.

This was a first time run through in front of a live audience and that was enough to keep us more than occupied the entire evening. We’re all new at this and we’re working out the bugs. I’ve read that the smart restaurants never have their grand opening on the first night they’re open. They make sure they have the details worked out first, THEN they let it rip.

That’s exactly what we’re doing, and it worked out perfectly. We had a very respectable crowd and it wasn’t just our friends and family. We had fans that came especially to show support, and we couldn’t be more grateful. We felt like stars, and who wouldn’t love that for a first time doing something? The audience was right there from start to the very end.

We’ve got three especially enthusiastic fans that have supported us from back when we were on WLS and continue to show up no matter what we do. We love all three but we’d never be able to rank them in order because they’re all fantastic people in their own way.

One is named John Vass. He has been a huge supporter of Jerry’s on the air to the point of building a fan page on Facebook. Another is Fard Muhammad, (pronounced Fa-ROD) who always shows up to see us and tells all his friends how funny we are. How flattering.

The one who stole the show this time was Shoshana Weissmann. She’s a teenager who lives in New York and heard Jerry when he was on WABC and became a huge fan. She’s been a supporter of the Kidders too, and not only is she a sweetheart she’s brilliant to the point of genius. For her birthday she asked her father to bring her to Chicago to see us.

How amazing is that? Shoshana and her father came by train and were there to see our debut performance. Before the show she came back stage and met us all and got pictures. She was shaking like she was meeting the Beatles, and we all made her feel special, and she is. We love John and Fard and all our fans, but how many come from New York?

This was just a wonderful night all around. The people who were there were there to see US, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted as an entertainer. We gave them our best, and it really was a solid show. We’ve got a few things to work out, but nothing big. We’re on target.

How many people in life get a chance as adults to do something this much fun? Not too many, and we all knew it. Problems can wait, this was our big night to go out and pretend to be thespians. We all savored the laughs and applause and it was a magnificent evening.