Saturday, September 5, 2009

P-Funk do Maggot Brain

Anyone who doesn't appreciate P-Funk can never be my friend!

This is rare and from way back in the 80's, Parliament -Funkadelic doing their classic instrumental 'Maggot Brain', one of the most insanely simple, yet brilliant pieces of music ever made.

The 'P-Funk' name was only ever really used for complicated legal reasons. Essentiallty, this is Funkadelic, the more musical side of George Clinton's operations; Parliament was a doo-wop vocal group from way back in the 60s.

I don't know to this day how George gets away with it - he doesn't sing much as his voice is shot by D & A abuse, but he still leads the band, and they leave him regularly ( as he is known to be quite parsimonious when it comes to paying wages on time).

The tune's main composer, the very late Eddie Hazel and Michael Hampton do the honours on the guitars (Eddie starts it on the Les Paul and Hampton rips it up later on in a more eighties Eddie van Halen style).

Legend has it that, at the time this tune was originally being finished in the studio in the early 70s, Eddie Hazel was advised kindly by George Clinton to 'play it like you just heard your mother died' and then towards the end 'like you just heard your mother is actually alive'. So he did, and plays it like that here.

On this night, it's surprising that they can play at all as the smoke/dry ice machine seems to be broken, or more likely turned up to eleven and left unattended (this would make sense given the habits of the P-Funk entourage and family).

A third scenario is that the rest of the huge band is smoking stuff backstage.
It was rumoured that P-Funk members more or less kept the agrarian economies of both Columbia and Afghanistan going for 20 years, in terms of supporting the native crops of those countries!

Who knows? It's all in the past...

Anyhoo, George Clinton wanders onstage later in the song, to conduct and finish things, looking very fetching in a Blondie-type wig and a lovely white fur outfit.

When I saw them live a couple of months back, I recall that it took 4 guitarists playing together to even get close to replicating this tune. It reminds me a little of Neil Young's 'Cortez the Killer' (if only for the chord progressions) and especially 'Little Wing' by Jimi Hendrix, but I think it was Hendrix who was the obvious big influence on Hazel.

There have also been comparisons with Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb' or, more bizzarrely, Frankie Goes to Hollowood's 'Power of Love', but both of these were produced years after the original version of 'Maggot Brain'.

I'm guessing also that this tune, and Hazel's other early work, must have been a major influence on a young Prince, leading to his guitar style on stuff like Purple Rain.

Eddie Hazel got this outfit, including the hat and briefs,  from a 1973 Xmas sale in 'Unique in the ILAC Centre'. It cost 3.99 in punts, which was a lot of money in those days. However, it helped Eddie place third in the 1974 World's 'Pimp of the Year' competition.

In 1997, a few years after his death, Eddie Hazel was posthumously inducted into the 'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame' along with George Clinton and the other core P-funk members who had come and went and returned over the years: Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worell, Billy "Bass" Nelson, Tiki Fulwood, Gary Shider, Michael Hampton and another 10 or so dead and alive P-Funk folks from past and present.

P-Funk was always so uniquely diverse though that they could probably have had at least 50 inductees.

Maggot Brain

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