Heard on its own, this melancholy ten-minute guitar apocalypse by Funkadlic would be impossible to categorise.
When I first heard it, nearly 50 years after its release, I thought it must be Prince, so much does it resemble his playing on Purple Rain.
I’m sure Eddie Hazel, who plays the solo, must have been a massive influence on him, and that he must have known this tune, the opening number and title track of Funkadelic’s third album Maggot Brain.
It was recorded in a single ten-minute take in the studio in Detroit after George Clinton, apparently under the influence of LSD, issued instructions to Eddie Hazel.
“I told him to play like his mother had died, to picture that day, what he would feel, how he would make sense of his life, how he would take a measure of everything that was inside him and let it out thought his guitar.
“I knew immediately that he understood what I meant. I could see the guitar notes stretching out like a silver web. When he played the solo back, I knew that it was good beyond good, not only a virtuoso display of musicianship but also an almost unprecedented moment of emotion in pop music.”
The title’s derivation is the subject of some dispute; one theory is that Maggot Brain was a nickname for Hazel, while another says it’s a reference to Clinton finding his brother’s “decomposed dead body, skull cracked, in a Chicago apartment”.
Although several other musicians performed on the track, Clinton largely faded them out of the final mix so that the focus would be on Hazel’s guitar, using effects (fuzz, wah) to mimic the sound achieved by his idol Jimi Hendrix.
Clinton later added delay to give iy “an eerie feel, both in the playing and in the sound effects.”