Tag Archives: guitar solos

Blue (Maggot Brain) Monday

No discussion of great guitar solos is complete without “Maggot Brain,” the title track off Funkadelic’s third album, released in 1971. George Clinton is remembered as the mastermind of P-Funk, but those first three Funkadelic records are heavily influenced by guitarist Eddie Hazel, and “Maggot Brain” was the capper to that early burst of creativity. Clinton says the solo — recorded in a single take over a pre-recorded guitar track — was inspired by his instruction to “play like your momma just died.” The lengthy solo became Hazel’s signature piece. When Hazel was jailed in 1974 on drug- and assault-related charges, Clinton replaced him with Michael Hampton, who aced his audition by playing a perfect note-for-note rendition of “Maggot Brain.” When Hazel returned to the fold, he found himself sharing the spotlight with Hampton and guitarist DeWayne “Blackbird” McKnight on the number that had once been his turn in the spotlight.

I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility to suggest that “Watermelon in Easter Hay,” the piercingly lovely guitar showcase that closes Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage, owes something to “Maggot Brain.” Whatever else could be said of Zappa, he knew guitar players, and it’s hard to imagine he wasn’t familiar with Eddie Hazel’s work.

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Blue Monday (The Zappa Phile)

Dennis Cozzalio’s post about the long-overdue stage debut of Joe’s Garage started me on a weeklong Frank Zappa tear, which inevitably led to long stretches of my morning commute in which I am juggling CDs in order to revisit some of Zappa’s greatest guitar solos. I remain convinced that “Watermelon in Easter Hay” (above), the penultimate track in Joe’s Garage, is Zappa’s finest solo showcase, if only because it marks one of the few times Zappa stepped out from behind his wall of sarcasm and satire to express something poignant and lyrical.

While “Watermelon in Easter Hay” is at the top of my list, it’s closely followed by the extended wah-wah workout that closes “Willie the Pimp” on Hot Rats. Zappaphiles can debate this question for hours: just type the search phrase “zappa’s best guitar solos” on YouTube and see what you get. And while you’re at it, you can wonder what might have happened if Bob Dylan had followed through on his initial impulse and hired Zappa to produce Infidels. The collision between Zappa’s infinitely picky production methods and Dylan’s off-the-cuff recording style probably would have resulted in a train wreck, but still . . . you do have to wonder what it would have been like.

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