It starts with the sound of a broken speaker fuzzing out and a no doubt tripping George Clinton seriously “Mother Earth has become pregnant for the third time, for y’all have knocked her up,” and shortly after that, a slow guitar vamp in one speaker, like you’d hear at the beginning of a slow torch ballad.
Then Eddie Hazel gets to work in the other speaker.
What I hear in the nearly 10 minutes of “Maggot Brain” is the sound of Mother Earth giving birth. The sound of the scream depicted on the album cover. The sound of an electric guitar discovering what it could sound while trying to escape from from the noise that it’s creating.
Of course, a million guitarists had their minds blown by what Jimi Hendrix was doing when it came to using the guitar to sculpt soundscapes, but very few were ever able to do as much with the concept as Eddie Hazel did on “Maggot Brain.”
With Hazel’s guitar breaking down, bursting into flames, spazzing out, taking over both speakers with fits of petulant reverb and then finally fading into the night leaving bodies in its wake, “Maggot Brain” remains so utterly extraordinary 45 years later that I can’t even imagine what it must have sounded like in 1971.
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