"Maggot Brain" was in many ways Funkadelic's attempt to combine "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", "Electric Ladyland" and "Cloud Nine". George Clinton, like his idols James Brown and Sly Stone, was a genius at getting the most out of his fellow singers and musicians. The evidence was put to wax again and again. Unlike Brown and Stone, however, who honed their respective bands into perfect slabs of soul and funk, Clinton was open to experimentation. "Maggot Brain" was the original P-Funk roster's final culminating experiment. Upon its release, most fans and critics didn't know what to think. True, it charted but not for long, and was the poorest commercial showing for the original Funkadelic (though it since has outsold Funkadelic's first two albums, "Funkadelic" and "Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow"). The group had spent the end of the '60s and beginning of the '70s touring incessantly both on the proverbial Black chitlin circuit with R&B acts like the Spinners and O'Jays, as well as on the Detroit-fueled White hard rock circuit with folks such as the MC5, the Stooges and Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes.
Before they became afronauts, George Clinton and his fellow Parliaments - Grady Thomas, Calvin Simon, Ray Davis and Clarence 'Fuzzy' Haskins - were afro-nots, having literally honed their doo wop-inspired vocal harmonies in the Black Soap Palace Barbershop in Plainfield, NJ. But it was with the help of a few precocious teenagers, Billy Nelson and Eddie Hazel, and a perfect-pitched musical wunderkind, Bernie Worrell, which would truly take a Parliafunkadelicment Thang to a wider audience. Over the last several years, Matt Rogers has been interviewing many of the surviving "original" members of P-Funk, including Clarence 'Fuzzy' Haskins, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas, Billy "Bass" Nelson, Bernie Worrell and George Clinton in an attempt to better document the group's oral history. He has access to many of the people who actually had a hand in the making of the album, and whose stories haven't really been told. True, much ink has been spilled over the years about P-Funk's importance in popular music, particularly its impact on hip-hop. But the earlier segments of P-Funk's evolution are often overlooked, with "Maggot Brain" being the pinnacle of this work.
'A growing Alexandria of rock criticism' - "Los Angeles Times", 2008. 'Ideal for the rock geek who thinks liner notes just aren't enough' - "Rolling Stone". 'One of the coolest publishing imprints on the planet - "Bookslut".
Matt Rogers is a Music Producer for WBAI in New York City. His writing on music has been published in Wax Poetics and the Village Voice, among others. He lives in Harlem.