Posts Tagged ‘Rolling Stones’

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

                                                                                                                                                    

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