Funkadelic, Maggot Brain

Greg Tate

By Greg Tate

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

From George Clinton's own mouth, I was told Eddie Hazel dropped that traumatic solo on "Maggot Brain" in one take after George told mama's boy Eddie to imagine he'd been told his mother was dead and then found out it wasn't true. Now that's what we call record producing! Bob Rock, take note — instead of spending one year in therapy with your uninspired band, just say some shit that will send them into therapy and run the tape.

A classic featuring maybe the greatest guitar solo ever.

The title track is your brain on LSD buried alive in a coffin and resurrected on the third day. There's a handful of guitar players who stand up to comparison to long-form Coltrane and Dolphy, not to mention Stravinsky and James Brown. There may in fact only be three fingers on that hand, and their names are Hendrix, Hazel and Pete Cosey (see Miles Davis 'Agharta if you haven't already been-there-done-that).

Maggot Brain


Most great rock guitar solos last only a few bars longer than the average male orgasm. As Hendrix had tapped into the big O's infinite feminine side on "Machine Gun," so Hazel did likewise on "Maggot," and left us with a symphony's worth of memorable acid-torched ideas and transcendental catharsis. Like jazz when it's really happening, you want to drown in and dissect the notes at the same time. You also come to know every note, because every one blows a wide-ass hole in your solar plexus.

The rest of the album has its psychedelic-soul charms — Eddie sings on the snorted-heroin ode "Super Stupid" (think of it as an outtake from the Black Zeppelin-type album he coulda-shoulda-didn't make, likely because of one toot too many), and "Wars of Armageddon" is electric Miles without Miles and before Miles even got so wildly electric. But my favorite of the batch is the acoustic guitar-sweetened mid-tempo ballad "Can You Get to That," which has always brought to mind the Eagles singing about karmic redemption with guns at their heads in a south side Chicago Pentecostal church.