In Rolling Stone magazine’s uber-list of the Top 100 Greatest Guitar Songs Of All Time, sandwiched at number 60 between Jeff Beck’s Freeway Jam and Steve Cropper’s chops on Sam & Dave’s Soul Man you’ll find Eddie Hazel’s frazzled contribution to the title track of Funkadelic‘s Maggot Brain.
The (Maggot) brainchild of George Clinton, Funkadelic drew on music from every sphere, more often than not with electrifying results. Nothing was off-limits – when Clinton was in the studio cooking up his own particular blend of soup, into the pot would go 500ml of straight ahead doo-wop, followed by 2 dessert spoonfuls of wild, freaked-out screaming guitar, a token pinch of acoustic balladeering and a generous dollop of gospel-tinged soul…often within the same song.
During the sessions for 1971’s Maggot Brain, George Clinton famously told guitarist Eddie Hazel to play as if he’d just found out his mother had died. For the next 10 minutes, Hazel wrung every drop of emotion from his guitar as Clinton manned the mixing desk, gradually fading out the rest of the band when he heard just how good the guitar playing was. While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and all that. It goes on and on. Self-indulgent and sustained by subtle Cry Baby wah, notes bend and vibrate, the whole thing ebbing and flowing, twisting and turning until Hazel finally goes and spoils it all by giving birth to the Red Hot Chili Peppers right there and then. He couldn’t know that at the time, of course, and Clinton, as much a visionary as he is, would’ve had no idea that his group of seriously funky black dudes would be the inspiration for some seriously flunky blank duds 20 or so years later.
If you’ve never heard Funkadelic, Maggot Brain is a good starting point. Clinton’s kitchen sink mentality of flinging every possible musical genre into the mix and seeing what sticks is prevalent throughout. If you have heard Maggot Brain, you’ll know what I mean. But you might not have heard these tracks…
Whole Lot Of BS was the b-side of album single Hit It & Quit It.
I Miss My Baby was recorded at the Maggot Brain sessions.
I Call My Baby Pussycat (Is it funk? Soul? Retro-Hendrix riffing? Far-out gospel-tinged madness? Yes! Yes! Yes! And yes! From the America Eats Its Young album)
Like these? Seek out Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow. It’s even better than it sounds.
In 1994 George Clinton got together with the post-Screamadelica Primal Scream. A good match, you’d think. The Clinton influence is clearly there – Funkadelic/Screamadelic – come on! and both artists have impeccable musical taste, but the results were a bit disappointing to these ears. Whereas Funkadelic were a black band who could play rock music, Primal Scream were a peely wally rock band who thought they could play black music. And there’s the difference. Funky Jam‘s not bad, but I doubt George Clinton rates it as highly as anything else in his unique catalogue of work.
Just to jab the eye of any doubters, Funkadelic even wrote a song called Who Says A Funk Band Can’t Play Rock? It‘s magic. Bobby G has still to write the Primal Scream classic Who Says A White Band Can’t Play TotalPunkSoulFunkAcidHousePsychoGarageSpeedFreakbeatStoogesMC5StaxMotownCrampsnEddie CochranAwopbobaloobobawopbamboo. But he’d like to.