Funkadelic Maggot Brain

[Westbound; 1971]

Styles: blues funk, psych funk, hard rock funk, um, funk
Others: Parliament, Outkast, Living Colour, Black Sabbath, Kool & the Gang, Prince

There are those rare occasions, some personal, some global, when all seems lost. The world is spinning out of control, about to implode into itself. You can barely see straight let alone make any conscious decisions. Everything is stirred up...quick heavy breathing, diagonal swerving camera angles, total mayhem. Then comes the overwhelming grief. The end is near. We sit on the curb, head in hands, and mortally weep for ten minutes and twenty seconds. We wail. We throw our hands in the air and beg for the pain to stop. "Why?! Why is this happening to us?!" We linger on, our misery convulsing in waves. We think of ending ourselves first. The pain is so violent and passionate, why not flick a switch and make it go away. No. You can't do that.

Acceptance sets in.

There is only one thing to do when all has gone to hell. Just shake your ass. Shake it hard. Break out your bizarre hats...we are going to have a party to end all parties and it's going to be called Maggot Brain.

Now there are many different interpretations as to what Maggot Brain is about. The obvious literal is a reference to a drug riddled brain, most likely that of wailing guitarist Eddie Hazel. I think that, sure...it's timely and relates on a personal level to the band, but the album doesn't feel like it is about one person. It feels like the soundtrack to the end of existence. Frustration with the state of the world materializes in many forms.

We have the titular first track. Ten minutes and twenty seconds of absolute sorrow. It has been said that George Clinton told guitarist Eddie Hazel to play, ‘as if yo' momma had just died.' It certainly sounds that way. The howling guitar is so intense that Clinton fades out the band in order to let Hazel get it all out...and he does. It only took one take.

The funeral has concluded. The guests wipe their tears aside as they scuffle across the pews, down the aisle, and out the door only to be relieved by the overwhelming warmth of an early afternoon sun. The impending blues/gospel groove of "Can you get to that" is awesome. Everyone collectively joins in thought provoking Beatledom to state, "I once had a life/or rather life had me," and the party has begun.

The next four tracks lay down a funk groundwork: The juicy church breakdown, "Hit it and Quit it." The bedtime bump and grind of "You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks." The cataclysmic Hendrix shred of "Super Stupid." And the drunken wiggle of "Back in Our Minds." All with the utmost persuasive of grooves, forcing you shake it. We reach Armageddon.

Babies crying and air raid sirens accompany the devastating downbeat. But wait, there is something else...people yelling about how they have to get to work, freedom chants, airport announcements, laughter? This isn't Armageddon...this is everyday life! A cuckoo clock chimes. Funkadelic is saying something serious with the final track, "Wars of Armageddon." Everyday is the end of the world...a cluttered daily war. As they make fart sounds into the microphone it becomes clear that there is no reason to give a crap about day-to-day tragedies when you can funk above it.

But then the world blows up and all George Clinton can say is, "look at that pollution/it's a fat funky person."

Maybe we will never know what Maggot Brain is about. Maybe it's about how messed up the world is. Maybe it isn't about anything at all. But, damn, it funks me up.

1. Maggot Brain
2. Can You Get to That
3. Hit It and Quit It
4. You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks
5. Super Stupid
6. Back in Our Minds

Most Read