Posts Tagged ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’

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

                                                                                                                                                    

Better Than Sex!

March 3, 2013

Friday March 1st, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   Tonight was one of those special nights that remind me why I still do standup comedy. I was at Zanies in Chicago for two shows this evening, and the early show was one of the best I’ve had in a long LONG time. I’ve been having extra solid shows of late, but this one took it to a new level.

This was one of those rare matches of performer and audience that was picture perfect on every level. I knew almost before I said my first word this would be my crowd, and I don’t know how I knew that but I did. I guess it was instinct garnered from all my years, but my ticket was punched for this one. This particular group was with me from buzzer to bell and we all enjoyed the ride.

I wish I could bottle the feeling of sheer exhilaration that happens on nights like this. It’s better than any feeling I’ve ever felt, and I can’t imagine any sensation on this planet topping it. People often say something is ‘better than sex’, but this feeling truly is. How many people have sex with 100 or more at once, and make it last for almost a solid hour? I’m telling you, it’s an intoxicant.

I heard an interview with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers not long ago, and he spoke of what a rush it was to be on stage playing music. He said it’s the only time in his life he ever feels truly free, and I’m right there with him. When I’m on stage on a night like this, I feel like Superman.

It’s like being out with a woman I am totally attracted to, and knowing the deal with be closed at the end of the evening. It makes the whole experience that much better from the actual dinner itself to the movie or show to the car ride home. It doesn’t always work that smoothly, but when it does it’s pure heaven. It’s also what keeps one coming back when things don’t fall into place.

I’ve done literally thousands of standup comedy shows in my life, and most of them on average have gone pretty well. At the end of the evening, if the entire audience was quizzed as to whether or not they thought I was a professional, I’d bet I’d get an overwhelming amount of yes answers.

There have been some horrific experiences, but that goes with the territory for anyone who has performed live in any genre of entertainment. Sometimes it’s just not there even for the big ones, but it’s very rare. Most professionals are able to pull off a show to the satisfaction of the crowd.

I’m about as picky as anyone I’ve ever met when it comes to my standards. I’m often bummed out by a performance the audience considered exceptional. They line up to tell me how they were entertained and I thank them sincerely – and mean it – but I know in my heart I could do it better.

Tonight was not that kind of night. I don’t think I could have done anything a whole lot better, and it was satisfying to be able to shake people’s hands afterward and hear how much they were enjoying it too. I really wish I would have recorded this one, but I know how special it truly was.

Then there was the late show. It was fine, but nowhere near the mutual orgasm of the first one. I was still on a high from the early show though, and it didn’t bother me in the least. No matter if I ever get famous or not, I’ve reached a skill level few ever do. It’s taken years, but it’s worth it.