How Could I Miss “Maggot Brain” for 46 Years?

by James Wallace Harris, Thursday, December 14, 2017

This morning my friends Mike and Betsy came by and Mike had me play “Maggot Brain” from Funkadelic’s 1971 album of the same name. The song is mainly a beautiful guitar solo by Eddie Hazel that covers most of its 10 minutes and 20 seconds. I was blown away. How could I have missed such a fantastic song for 46 years? It was a new discovery for Mike too, and he said he played it and covers versions over and over yesterday. I’m doing the same thing today.

I’ve known about Funkadelic and Parliament since the 1970s, but I was never into them. I should have been. “Maggot Brain” is often covered, and sometimes remembered on lists of top guitar solos, so why didn’t I encounter it before now? That’s one of the fun things about getting old and being retired, I have the time to revisit the past to look for wonders I missed.

I remember going to record stores two or three times a week flipping through the bins of albums and wanting to buy way more than I can afford. Even back then I bought two to four albums a week, but that was nothing to how many came out each week. Now with Spotify, I can go back and search for all those albums I flipped by but couldn’t buy.

Here’s is one of my favorite covers by violinist Lili Haydn where her scorching performance is mirrored by her facial expressions.

Of course, this begs the question: how many other great songs have I missed? Mike has challenged me to find another great song we’ve missed during our lifetime. It’s going to be hard to find something that tops “Maggot Brain.”

If y’all have any suggestions let me know.

Maggot Brain by Funkadelic


18 thoughts on “How Could I Miss “Maggot Brain” for 46 Years?”

  1. My reaction on first hearing Maggot Brain in my late forties/early fifties (I’m 61) closely mirrors yours. The one similar experience was the first time I heard ‘Time Has Come Today’ by The Chambers Brothers. (11+ minutes)

      1. ’twas in jest. And one of my few acts of “rebellion” was to ignore his musical tastes — until I was 25 or so…. and now, half a decade later I love a lot of what I “rebelled” against.

      2. My father died when I was 18 and he was 49. I wish I had gotten to know him better. Now that I’m much older I find myself liking stuff he did when I was young that I hated then – like Frank Sinatra’s music and old TV shows like The Fugitive.

        Once in the 1960s we were watching the Today show together and were talking about J. R. R. Tolkien and father mention knowing about Bilbo Baggins. It wasn’t until years later that I figured out he must have read The Hobbit before The Lord of the Rings came out. That would have been cool. I wish now he could have told me about all the books, movies, and music he grew up with in the 1930s and 1940s.

  2. A long time ago, in a land not too far from here I used to listen to a low-wattage radio station called KNAC broadcast out of Long Beach, CA. KNAC played some of the newest and hardest R&R music available on the air, far outdistancing even Sam Riddle’s KROQ. Not to mention the two big commercial stations in town.

    And one night out at a beach near my school (a Church of Christ University in Malibu-adjacent) I heard “Maggotbrain” in very clear but low-def FM radio. Perhaps it was the sound of surf on the beach; perhaps it was my age (19), and perhaps it was some very nice herbal influence from the farms up in Ojai. There really isn’t any way to tell after all this time which was the more powerful influence.

    But I have owned at least one pristine copy of that music ever since. Eddie Hazel nearly tore my ears off, and I do believe I am a better person for hearing that back then, and still listening to it today.

    And BTW, The Chambers Brothers’ ” Time has Come Today” doesn’t lag too far behind “Maggot Brain”.

    Although I do really like “Beck’s Bolero”, and even Joe Walsh’s semi-tribute/mash-up from The James Gang Rides Again, “The Bomber” wherein he adds some Vince Guaraldi to the mix.

    And then there is Jimi…

    1. I bought The Chambers Brothers 1966 album The Time Has Come around 1971, so I was only a little late in discovering the 11:02 version of “Time Has Come Today.” Of course, I had heard the radio version. There’s probably a chance I’ve heard “Maggot Brain” before on FM radio, but I’m not sure. I started listening to FM around 1968 and quit around 1974. I just couldn’t take the commercials and disc jockeys. I got Jeff Beck Truth when it came out. I ran a little late on The James Gang Rides Again.

      I’m surprised people haven’t mentioned the long songs of The Allman Brothers. I got to see them live a couple months before Duane died. I also got to see Yes, another band with long jams. Also, Ten Years After had some very extended jams.

      When I listen to “Maggot Brain” I’m mostly reminded of Love Devotion Surrender with Santana and John McLaughlin.

    2. In addition to Guaraldi’s ‘Cast Your Fate To The Wind’, the Bomber originally included a segment of Ravel’s Bolero that was edited out of later pressings after Ravel’s estate sued. I had heard the full 7:04 unedited version on the radio but could never find an unedited original vinyl version. The label on the record and the sleeve notes often said it was there but it wasn’t. Thanks to youtube I was able to hear the missing piece. (I think later CD releases has it restored).

  3. To borrow a phrase, “Oh My!”. Yardbirds led directly to “Truth”; it took much more listening to end up with The James Gang. I didn’t mention The Allman Bros only because I didn’t want to take up too much space (sounds silly coming from me, doesn’t it?). The others you mention are all in my stack of albums (yes, sorry about that, I am in fact a revisionist) as well as on my hard drives/thumb drives.

    The live version of “Dreams” by the Allman Bros, “Live at Ludlow Garage” is very much the kind of sonic journey that Santana and McLaughlin excelled at on their album, although without the same flavor of Buddhist thought they imbued “Love, Devotion and Surrender” with.

    Many people will feel that a bunch of long-song guitar “noodling” is just extending a song’s length. Sometimes that is true. But sometimes what you get is a unique product that really can’t be duplicated again. Musical artistry combined with special circumstances can create something unique, unlike much of the corporate product that ends up in marketing.

    Done, for now.

    1. Jim, take up as much space as you want. I like replies and yours are insightful and informative so my readers might like them too.

      Yeah, a lot of jams were just noodling. But albums like At Filmore East reveal a great deal of melodic structure. Of course, classical music and jazz have very long performances and people don’t claim they are just noodling around.

      Another favorite long song is “Cowgirl in the Sand” by Neil Young. On some of the live versions, it goes much longer.

      Are you a Spotify user? Lots of live albums are showing up from the 60s and 70s that feature extended jams. I especially love Quicksilver Messenger Service and Jefferson Airplane. For some reason, I never really connected with The Grateful Dead, the most famous of the jam bands.

  4. Oh, JW; I’m such a curmudgeon regarding music that I have to hold back on many things. Regardless of the choices, there are so many songs from the late 70’s and early 80’s that seem to ring like a bell. And then continue to ring…I was thinking about QMS and their early work, the tunes that they bundled up for their seminal album, and which they chose to do the “Mona” rep, followed by the flip side where they did the full on Blues /Rock version of Bo Diddley’s “Who
    Do You Love” in the latest and nastiest guitar work that a bunch of SanFran boys could ever do.

    I’m not sure if they would have ever received their recognition without John Cippolina’s amazing guitar work on that album.
    I could go on, but let’s just let it go – after all, that music speaks for itself.

  5. As I may have mentioned earlier, I’m enough of a curmudgeon to not play with paid access music sites – Spotify being one of them. I have my own LPs and rips, and when necessary I troll UteOob for songs I cannot other wise access. I also purchase CDs of the tunes I can’t be sure I will have access to – such as Allman Bros live CDs aka Ludlow Garage, Stonybrook, etc.

    I still have my original Allman Bros Live at Fillmore East LP (second one; I wore out the first one). But to my (earlier) amazement that was a truncated album, and the vocal parts of some original tunes were hosed up by technical issues. Ludlow Garage and Stonybrook fixed that for me.

  6. Hey Jim – did you ever look up the Live at StonyBrook clip of Dreams on YOutoob? If you can put up with Duane’s bird-calls, in my humble opinion it is still one of the best long-song sets of the bands’ work. Berry Oakley’s bass rocks, and yet still carries the weight for Duane’s sweet riffs. Dickey fills and follows, while Butch and Jai Johnny drive the rhythm home. Greg isn’t at his most clear vocals, but that doesn’t really matter.

    To me, anyway. The entire concert is available on CD these days, thanks to a bunch of stage folk/locals who managed to hang onto the original tapes.

    1. Which date for Stoneybrook? I just listened to the 9/19/71 version of “Dreams” at Stoney Brook and heard the bird-calls. By the way, I saw the Allman Brothers in Memphis on 9/17/71, just two days before that concert. There’s also another recording of a July 26, 1970 concert. Which is your favorite? “Dreams” is a wonderful serene trip.

      1. Hey JW – the Stonybrook disc I have is the same one you heard, 9/19/71. I also have the 7/3/70 discs from the Atlanta Int’l Pop Festival, but my favorite is ’71 Stonybrook. Reading the comments on YouTube suggest that there are still some (if not many) bootlegs and otherwise stashed recordings somewhere out there in the ether.
        I also have the Live at Ludlow Garage 1970 discs with a 44:00 minute version of Mountain Jam.
        Most if not all of them are available on YouTube, you just have to parse the search process to find what you want.

        I envy you getting a chance to see the Allman Bros live. It took me a few years to catch up to them out here in Californica, same with the Marshall Tucker Band, whom I did get to see once before the troubles hit them. Several of us did get to attend a Grateful Dead concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl, probably in 1974. I say probably because my memory of that weekend consists mostly of snapshots with not a lot of continuity. I’m pretty sure I had a good time though. There were cute girls involved.

      2. I never got to see the Dead. I did see The Allman Brothers four times, but only once when Duane was still alive. I had a friend who was crazy about Duane’s guitar work. John died awhile back, but before he died he said he only cared for two things in life anymore, Duane Allman and Benny Goodman.

        Do you use Spotify? It has several live albums. Most are post-Duane, but there are a few besides the famous Filmore East sets.

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