Posts Tagged ‘Led Zeppelin’

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



A Moment For Moe

June 19, 2013

Tuesday June 18th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Tomorrow is going to be a jam packed day, so I wanted to make mention a day early that it will the anniversary of the birth of Moe Howard of The Three Stooges. I always get confused on how to refer to dates like that. If someone is dead it can’t be their birthday, but it’s still a date of birth.

   Whatever the case, Moses Harry Horwitz was born on June 19th, 1897. By all accounts, he was a wonderful man. I have seen several interviews of people who knew him, but not once did I ever see anyone say even one unkind word. I sensed a great love and respect for him from everybody.

   Like most males, I instantly fell in love with the Stooges as a boy. My whole generation was an unexpected fan base due to their mass exposure on UHF television. Like millions of other young boys my age, I saw them every afternoon when I came home from school. They were superstars.

   None of us knew or cared about their back story then, we just loved it when Larry got a clump of hair pulled out by the roots or Curly would take a monkey wrench blow to the skull or a metal bear trap to the derriere. Shemp would do in a pinch, but he wasn’t our favorite. Curly was king.

   As I got older and got into the entertainment game myself, I developed a whole new respect for how truly great they were and what a fantastic career they had. It was basically a family business with Moe being in charge for decades – nothing like his cruel, heartless on screen bully persona.

   He held the act together, and they lasted for decades despite a few personnel changes along the way much like most bands have to endure. Sometimes losing a key member ends the band’s run as it did with Led Zeppelin when John Bonham died. They decided they didn’t want to continue.

   Moe kept it going after the deaths of both Curly and Shemp – who were both his real life blood brothers. That can’t be easy, but Moe managed to pull it off without a hitch. They took advantage of their TV popularity and made full length movies for the generation of kids just before mine.

   I was a little late for those, but I did see them on TV. What boy didn’t love the Stooges? None that I ever knew. Girls couldn’t stand them, but too bad. Before puberty hits, the Stooges capture a boy’s heart way more than girls do. Then one day we wake up and our hormones are in charge.

   Still, those moments of laughter with The Stooges are precious memories to this day. I vividly recall sitting next to my grandfather as we were both doubled over in front of the television while Moe ran a saw blade over Curly’s scalp and bent the teeth. These are moments that are forever in a boy’s mind, and what makes them even more special is that their work lives on through time.

   Curly and Shemp were dead years before I was born, but I saw their work and it made me howl with laughter. As I got older I learned to appreciate Shemp, and as an adult I appreciated what all of them accomplished. The greatest honor is to continue to make people laugh after one is dead.

   I tried my best to entertain when I was here, but it would be unbelievably special if I could amuse a generation or more that haven’t been born yet. That means I have to create products that can last that long, and live shows don’t cut it. Somehow, I need to record product and duplicate myself.

   I’d always heard The Stooges weren’t fabulously wealthy in their day, and that the studio got most of the revenue. That’s typical of the business, but nobody can ever take away their fabulous legacy to untold MILLIONS. Moe Howard was a high class act, and I will always be a loyal fan.

Moe Howard - June 19, 1897 - May 4th, 1975

The Great Moe Howard – 6/19 1897 – 5/4 1975

Much nicer off screen than on. It was all an act.

Moe was MUCH nicer off screen than on. It was all an act – one that was beloved by millions and still is to this very day.

Still Funky

April 30, 2013

Sunday April 28th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   I received last minute word that George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic were performing in Chicago tonight, so of course I had to rearrange my schedule so I could attend. It’s impossible to ever know for sure when the last time will be for me to see them live, so I always go when I can.

   George always has been and still is a master showman, and I never get sick of watching him do what he does. He’s a world class entertainer and a master of his craft. Even into his 70s he takes command of the stage from the second he walks onto it, and never lets go the rest of the evening.

   I hadn’t seen the P-Funk in a while, and even though I had a lot of other things I could’ve done instead, I made it a point to catch the show. It was too late to reach out to George’s manager who has always been nice enough to put me on the guest list, so I knew I would have to pay to get in.

   There aren’t many acts I’d pay to see, but George will always be one of them. He’s my favorite of all time, and I can’t see anyone knocking him off that perch at least in this lifetime. I have yet to see any live music act come within three planets of touching them when they’re on their game.

    I tried to count in the car the exact number of times I’ve seen them live, but there’s no way I’d ever be able to figure that out now. I do remember the first time I saw them was in 1989, and that was a magnificent show. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before or since. I loved it.

   Since then, I’ve seen them at both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes they are other worldly, and once in a while they’re painfully human. But even at their worst, I’d still prefer them to any other band of all time. Keep your Beatles and your Rolling Stones. Even Led Zeppelin. I love the funk.

   It’s got to be hard to keep it together for such a long time though. If you’ve never seen George, he’s the leader of a musical circus. There are probably 30-35 people on stage at any time, and it’s an amazing experience when everyone is on the same page. There are an army of super guitarists plus slick horn players and enough backup singers to start another band, and George leads it all.

   I have a hard enough time keeping myself on track as a comedian. I can’t imagine what George deals with on a daily basis. He has had to deal with a lot of loss of late as well. Just last week one of his longtime bass players Cordell ‘Boogie’ Mosson passed at the age of 60. Before that, Garry Shider died last year. He was a talented guitarist known for appearing on stage in only a diaper.

   It’s beyond belief they’re still touring, and that’s why I catch them whenever I can. They aren’t playing the greatest of venues these days, and that’s an absolute shame in my opinion. I wouldn’t have wanted to work in the venue they played tonight, but if he was upset George didn’t show it.

   The sound was horrific and the stage was tiny, but that didn’t stop George and the P-Funk from proceeding to scorch the paint off the walls. Wow, were they on tonight. George has dropped his wild multi colored hair look in favor of a suit and tie, but it didn’t matter. He was on red hot fire, and we all got our money’s worth and then some. That was a lesson and a half in showmanship.

   Every time I think I have my own thing figured out, I see something like this and it informs me I’ll never be finished learning no matter how long I hang in there. If George or the group was not happy about anything, none of the audience could tell. They came out like it was a Carnegie Hall debut. Who knows if or when I’ll get to see them again? If this was it, it was sure worth my time.

Dr. Funkenstein Before

Dr. Funkenstein Before

George Clinton After

George Clinton After


Thanksgiving Manly Style

November 23, 2012

Thursday November 22nd, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

   Here comes the holiday season, like it or not. I’ll be glad when it’s over, but I know millions of people love it so I hope it’s a good one for their sake. I just wish the whole thing wasn’t so damn omnipresent so those of us who don’t care to be reminded of it could carry on with our existence.

EVERY commercial on TV and radio has annoying sleigh bells in it, and I’m already tired of it and it’s only Thanksgiving. There’s more than an entire month of this torture ahead, and I’m just not up for it this year. Too bad for me. It’s not going to stop, so I better suck it up and move on.

I do like Thanksgiving though. The older I get, the more I realize that gratitude is a choice. It’s one I’m choosing to make as often as I can, and only good things come of it. It’s easy to focus on everything we don’t have – and I’m good at that too – but seeing what we do makes life livable.

One thing I do have is a fantastic group of world class friends scattered all over North America and beyond. It took a lifetime to accumulate them, and I’m grateful for every last one. I received at least a dozen invitations to spend Thanksgiving all over the country, and that was appreciated.

I have to be in Springfield, IL tomorrow to do this weekend at Johnnie B’s Comedy Club, so it was smart to keep it close to home. My friend Mark Gumbinger lives in Kenosha, WI and he had a “guys’ night out” theme this year. It was just him and his cousin Greg, and I rounded out a trio.

No offense to any of the other invites, but this was the right choice by far. None of us believed in the tradition of a turkey, so Mark cooked New York strip steaks on the grill that were about as delicious as any of us had ever eaten. Those alone made it worth showing up. Turkey shmurkey.

But there’s more. Mark has a giant screen TV in his basement, and it’s the perfect man cave for watching football or anything else. We had shrimp cocktail and all kinds of other delicious treats and appetizers piled high and football to watch, and nobody had to say a word. We were satiated.

Then it got better when Mark’s cousin Greg brought out a DVD of Led Zeppelin he bought last night and Mark popped it in his system. WOW, was that a treat. It was like we were attending the actual show. I’ve never been a big Zeppelin fan, but I also never hated them. This won me over.

I had no idea they even got back together, and I probably should have. Apparently they did this particular event five years ago in England, and they’re just releasing it in the US now. I’ll bet it’s a monster seller, as I know I’m going to buy one for sure. Jason Bonham was great on drums and those guys just tore it up. Robert Plant sounded amazing, and it was just an all out kick ass show.

After that we watched some Three Stooges and Beavis and Butt Head DVDs Mark had and felt like teenagers in a tree house for a night. I know it wasn’t a ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving, but it sure was fun and none of us complained. There was no pressure, and everybody went home full of red meat and singing a tune. Life is what it is – warts and all. I’m learning to be grateful for days like today and try to make as many of them as possible. This started the holiday season with a bang.