Yesterday’s Interstella Zappadrive: When Frank Zappa jammed with Pink Floyd post led me to some more footage from the Actuel Rock Festival, held in late October of 1969 in Amougies, Belgium, of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band.
Zappa was supposed to be the MC of the festival, but when the language barrier made that impossible, opted to jam with a few of the groups on guitar, including, of course, The Magic Band.
Bill Harkleroad (“Zoot Horn Rollo”) told Hal’s Progressive Rock Blog:
“All I can remember is playing in front of thousands of people huddled together in sleeping bags at three in the morning in this huge circus tent. It’s 27 degrees out, and there’s frost on my strings! It was Don, Victor, Mark, me and Jeff Burchell on drums. Frank was sitting in with us, because he was supposed to be the festival MC - a difficult job when he spoke no French and most of the audience spoke no English. Having Frank play with us made me a little more nervous than normal. I think we played five tunes - the five tunes Jeff knew and that was it. Pretty weird flying us all the way over there and playing one gig!
Don Van Vliet’s recollection of the festival:
“We had a good time. I don’t know, what they were doing; they were throwing what looked like birds nests at us, and then one fellow out of the audience - between one of the compositions - said my name was Captain Bullshit, and I said: “well, that’s all right baby, you’re sitting in it.” You know what I mean? I don’t know if he was an American; I’m not sure, because he was using early Gary Cooper movie talk. Like “yep,” things like that. I think they did well in five days and moving it from France to Belgium. But it was awfully cold… the people in the audience, I don’t know how they did it. I think it was probably pretty nice for them to leave their bodies… but the amplifiers were blown out by the time we got to them, and we need clarity for that, and there wasn’t any. I don’t know. I hope they enjoyed it. I enjoyed it.”
Naturally, as with the Pink Floyd footage that has slipped out of the vault to collectors (and YouTube) there’s no Festival Actuel footage of Zappa actually jamming with Captain Beefheart! Fwustrating! Was Zappa strapping on a guitar the signal to turn the camera off? Of course not, so where is this priceless footage?!?!?
In any case, there’s 5:32 seconds of sync-sound footage of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band in 1969 on my computer screen, so what am I complaining about? They do “She’s Too Much For My Mirror” and “My Human Gets Me Blues.”
The lineup for this concert was Don Van Vliet, vocals, tenor & soprano sax, bass clarinet; Victor Hayden (“The Mascara Snake”) bass clarinet; Bill Harkleroad (“Zoot Horn Rollo”) guitars; Mark Boston (“Rockette Morton”) bass; and Jeff Burchell (“Imposter Drumbo”) drums & percussion. Frank Zappa sat in on guitar on “When Big Joan Sets Up’” at the end of their set.