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David Lynch recites Captain Beefheart’s ‘Pena’
07.20.2017
09:09 am
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Don Van Vliet, ‘Crepe and Black Lamps’ (via beefheart.com)
 
Among the treasures stored on Magic Band alumnus Gary Lucas’ Soundcloud is this recording of David Lynch reading “Pena” from Trout Mask Replica.

The director, who also appears in Anton Corbijn’s short movie about Beefheart, Some YoYo Stuff, recorded “Pena” for a Beefheart tribute show Lucas put on at the NYC Knitting Factory in 2008.

“Three little burnt scotch taped windows.” Where Antennae Jimmy Semens shrieks “Pena” like it’s his last words at the gallows, Lynch’s measured recitation lets you picture every image. They could come from one of his own paintings:

Pena
Her little head clinking
Like uh barrel of red velvet balls
Full past noise
Treats filled ‘er eyes
Turning them yellow like enamel coated tacks
Soft like butter hard not t’ pour
Out enjoying the sun while sitting on
Uh turned on waffle iron
Smoke billowing up from between her legs
Made me vomit beautifully
‘n crush uh chandelier
Fall on my stomach ‘n view her
From uh thousand happened facets
Liquid red salt ran over crystals
I later band-aided the area
Sighed
Oh well it was worth it
Pena pleased but sore from sitting
Chose t’ stub ‘er toe
‘n view the white pulps horribly large
In their red pockets
“I’m tired of playing baby,” she explained

Listen after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Oliver Hall
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07.20.2017
09:09 am
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‘Metal Man Has Won His Wings’: Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa’s early ‘60s R&B band, the Soots
06.23.2017
06:04 am
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Zappa at the door to Studio Z in Cucamonga

Briefly, during 1963 and 1964, Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa were in a proto-Magic Band called the Soots, and among the numbers they recorded at Studio Z in Cucamonga was “Metal Man Has Won His Wings.” It isn’t the first recording the pair made together (that’s the my-baby-flushed-me-down-the-toilet epic “Lost in a Whirlpool,” recorded at Antelope Valley Junior College in the late ‘50s), but it’s the first instance of the Frank Zappa blues adventure style that crystallized in later classics like “Why Don’t You Do Me Right,” “Trouble Every Day” and “Willie the Pimp.”

The Magic Band’s John “Drumbo” French identifies the song as a breakthrough in his massive study Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic:

In Metal Man Has Won His Wings the music immediately bursts forth, a music surprisingly reminiscent of the early Magic Band. Zappa was obviously making headway in his production attempts. The young Vliet’s repetitive Wolf-esque ramblings are buried in the mix. The song is brought to a halt with a typical blues kick - something Zappa may have learned while playing at Tommy Sands’ club.

“Metal Man Has Won His Wings” (misheard by bootleggers for years as “Metal Man Has Hornet’s Wings”) first surfaced on Mystery Disc. Zappa’s liner notes shed light on how the track’s vocals came to be “buried in the mix”: Beefheart used an unorthodox recording technique, one that reminds me of his later refusal to wear headphones while overdubbing his parts on Trout Mask Replica.

In our spare time we made what we thought were ‘rock & roll records.’ In this example, Vliet was ‘singing’ in the hallway outside the studio (our vocal booth) while the band played in the other room.

The lyrics were derived from a comic book pinned to a bulletin board near the door.

 

On the road, 1975 (via beefheart.com)
 
Zappa scholar Biffy the Elephant Shrew has identified the comic book as issue #7 of the DC title Metal Men. Beefheart took part of the song’s title and “wheet! wheet!” from an ad in that number promoting the new book Hawkman:

HAWKMAN HAS “WON HIS WINGS”... AND FROM NOW ON HIS FAMOUS “WHEET! WHEET!” BATTLE CRY WILL APPEAR IN HIS OWN MAGAZINE!

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.23.2017
06:04 am
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Mr. Bungle’s Trevor Dunn covers Captain Beefheart with post-hardcore duo Qui
06.14.2017
09:27 am
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Not so very long ago, in those lighthearted summer days of 2016, when our biggest worries were wondering which celebrities would be next to die young and weirdos dressing up like clowns for midnight strolls, Dangerous Minds told you all about Qui, the fascinating but underrated experimental post-hardcore duo of guitarist Matt Cronk and drummer Paul Christensen. The pair have parlayed some favorable friendships into jaw-dropping musical collaborations, even ensorcelling the Jesus Lizard’s David Yow to serve as their frontman for a spell in the ‘oughts, releasing in that trio configuration the wonderful Love’s Miracle. In an email exchange for that article last year, Cronk told us about recording their How to Get Ideas E.P. with Melvins drummer Dale Crover, and in the process he let the news slip about a future project with Mr. Bungle/Melvins Lite/Trio-Convulsant bassist Trevor Dunn.

That project—a full length album inventively titled Qui w/ Trevor Dunn—is now on the horizon, and it includes a ripping little cover of “Ashtray Heart,” a standout from the last truly great Captain Beefheart album (IMO YMMV), Doc at the Radar Station. It’s a really great cover; I won’t be so ridiculous as to say it surpasses the original, but it contemporizes the source material without shedding or shitting on everything that made the original a stunner, and it features contributions not just from Dunn, but from main Melvin King Buzzo and Cows bassist Kevin Rutmanis.
 

 
In a recent phone conversation, Cronk talked about hooking up to work with Dunn:

In 2012 we were recording our last LP, Life, Water, Living, with Toshi Kasai and Dale Crover, and Trevor was in Los Angeles during that. Dale and Toshi played him the record and he really liked it. After that, it was really Toshi pushing us to do something with Trevor, saying how we should hit him up, and he just gave me Trevor’s number. So I just hit him up, said “hello,” and asked if he would be interested in doing something. He got back right away, and I believe he actually said “fuck yeah!” So we did like a year of writing the whole record with him in mind to play on it, making practice demos and sending files back and forth—he lives in New York. And then last year we got it all together. We booked a few days in the studio, he came, and we banged it out. It was really fun, Trevor is an incredibly nice guy. It was really cool, apart from emailing I didn’t really know him from Adam, but he was charming, friendly, and easygoing. We were a little nervous, to be honest, he’s a bit of a giant to us—I’ve been listening to his stuff since I was in high school, but we all hit it off right away and had a lot of fun in the studio. It was a real honor to get to play with yet another of our musical heroes.

Cronk also talked about how Qui chose to cover “Ashtray Heart”:

That’s my favorite song. My father was a big Beefheart fan who used to rock me to sleep to that stuff when I was a baby! And Doc at the Radar Station is my favorite Beefheart record. When Paul and I first started goofing off together 20-plus years ago, the drumming on that record, the sort of broken, angular, jagged drumming was something we really liked, and something we’ve toyed with a lot over the years. We really wanted to play a Beefheart song and “Ashtray Heart” seemed like the one we could do with the instrumentation we had for this album. My dad hasn’t heard it yet, and he’s really been chomping at the bit, like “WHEN’S THAT RECORD COMING OUT?”

Well, Matt’s dad, the album isn’t going to see the light for a couple of weeks, but we can hook you up reeeaaal gooood on the Beefheart tune, after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Ron Kretsch
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06.14.2017
09:27 am
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Captain Beefheart conducts the Magic Band’s feet and fingers on TV, 1971
04.13.2017
06:25 am
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Live on ‘Detroit Tubeworks,’ 1971
 
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s appearance on Detroit Tubeworks is justly famed. On January 15, 1971, Don Van Vliet’s 30th birthday, the group cooked and ate Trout Mask Replica‘s “When Big Joan Sets Up” and two cuts from side one of Lick My Decals Off, Baby, “Woe-Is-Uh-Me-Bop” and “Bellerin’ Plain.” There is a Library of Congress in my mind, and this tape reel is the only item on its windswept shelves.

The group also played an untitled, unreleased, improvised number for 120 digits. Under what sounds like the whine of an air conditioner—though it could just as easily be a swarm of bees at a Ligeti concert, a first lesson on the musical saw or a plain old case of sticky-shed syndrome—a dozen feet and a dozen hands follow Beefheart’s direction. His mouth moves, so maybe he was vocalizing in the studio. What’s the difference? You can’t hear it.

The YouTube comments point to a 2012 interview in which John “Drumbo” French says Van Vliet’s main concern was keeping the Magic Band from talking to the press:

There’s a film of The Magic Band that I think is from ’71 where you’re playing three or four songs in a TV studio, and then the band is filmed silently twirling your feet underneath a table…

(chuckles) Yeah.

Do you remember this?

Don’s idea.

He appears to be conducting you as you’re twirling your feet, and I was just curious, was that the idea that you were, like, playing the parts of one of your songs with your feet supposedly in time with each other, or…

No, actually, I really think that those kind of, sort of Dadaistic moments that Don created, were because he would do anything to keep us from being interviewed. He didn’t want the band to be interviewed. And I think mainly the reason was because he had created such an alien environment to work in that it would have become evident right away that there were a lot of problems in the band, that something wasn’t quite right. So he would invent these things to do as a diversion. I had no idea what that was supposed to mean one way or the other, but we all took off our shoes and they filmed our feet under the table. That’s all I remember about it. I think that was done in 1971 on a tour in January. If I recall, it was either outside of Detroit or outside of… let’s see… yeah, it was outside of Detroit, and we did it at night en route to the hotel.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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04.13.2017
06:25 am
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Captain Beefheart meets David Lynch in ‘Some YoYo Stuff’
04.13.2016
04:12 pm
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In the early 1990s Anton Corbijn made a peculiar short movie called “Some YoYo Stuff” featuring Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart. The movie is in black-and-white and lasts a little under 13 minutes. Most of the movie is the Captain’s face in front of a large screen on which words and images appear. The Captain addresses the topics projected onto the screen in his elliptical way. David Lynch even gets into the act.

Corbijn has been taking pictures of prominent musicians since the mid-1970s, when he worked for NME. He is noted for luminous b/w pictures of rock icons—his work appears on the cover of U2’s The Joshua Tree; as it happens, it appears that “Some YoYo Stuff” was likewise shot in Joshua Tree National Park.
 

 
Here’s Corbijn in the pages of World Art in 1998 describing the movie:
 

It was a simple affair to make the film: His mother sue opens the movie with the photograph that I took when Don and I first met, saying: “This is Don, my son,” and, apart from David Lynch asking him a few questions via projected film, it is all Don’s thoughts on various matters. Some funny, some serious, but all sharp, poetic and beautiful. You really want to hear every single word he says—whether it’s about paint, Miles Davis, an ear (“nice sculpture”) or the desert. 

 
My colleague Marc Campbell eloquently described the difficulty of capturing the essence of Beefheart on film several years ago:
 

His writing and occasional communiques were like those of a modernist monk of the left hand school. He spoke in an ancient craggy voice that sounded like hollow bones being rubbed together. Corbijn’s film communicates the desert father aspect of Beefheart’s existence. There’s an otherworldliness about the whole thing that seems as though it is being beamed in from another planet.

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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04.13.2016
04:12 pm
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Gary Lucas meets Captain Beefheart
10.05.2015
12:35 pm
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One of the nice things about editing this blog is when fun—and unexpected—things arrive in your inbox, like this delightful tale from grand guitarist Gary Lucas, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the live Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart album, Bongo Fury, which was released on October 2, 1975:

I’d originally met Don Van Vliet at Yale when I was an undergraduate there in the early 70’s. I was music director of their radio station WYBC in the fall of 1971, when he and his band came up to play a show at Yale around the release of The Spotlight Kid album, and I got the task to interview him and then do a hospitality meet-n-greet when the band arrived to play at Woolsey Hall (with performing monkeys as the opening act, I kid you not).

I had previously seen his NYC debut the previous year at a little club on the Upper West Side called Ungano’s in January 1971, and it changed my life. I vowed to myself that night:  “If I ever do anything in music, I want to play with this guy”—it was that life-affirming and radical of a show/presentation.

I always made a point after that to hang out with him backstage when he came around the NYC area to tour—I saw him at Town Hall several times with Bob Seger and Larry Coryell opening, also at the Academy of Music on 14th sandwiched between a then-fledgling Billy Joel and The J. Geils Band.

Don eventually gave me his phone number and we drew closer, with marathon phone conversations that would last an hour. We lost touch when he did his “Tragic Band” thing on Mercury. I didn’t have the heart to go see it live, having loved the old band and songs but in 1975 I was home in Syracuse NY when I saw in the newspaper that Don would be the special guest of Frank Zappa at the Syracuse War Memorial.

I had to see that—especially as his last words to me about Frank hadn’t been too favorable. He came out in the show and did the great cameos which are featured on Bongo Fury which came out later that year. He was still great!

When the show was over and they were packing up, I approached the stage and there he was, looking lost amidst the chaos, clutching a paper grocery bag filled with sketch books, harmonicas, cigarettes. I called his name and he yelled my name: “Gary!”—and came over and hugged me.

He was hungry and wanted to eat barbecue, so me and a pal drove him to a midnight barbecue pit known as “Tobe’s” that this old black guy Tobe Erwing ran after hours in his backyard in the ghetto of Syracuse,
you had to drive up a gravel road to get there. Amidst the midnight ribs chowdown, after Don, delighted by this scene, sang some a cappella blues while Tobe sat around looking bemused packing heat in his apron,
I revealed to Don that if he ever wanted to put his band back together I’d love to audition for it.

“You play the guitar?!?” he asked incredulously.

I’d never revealed this to him before as I was a) shy and b) didn’t want to offer my services until I was convinced I could handle his music, which I’d been secretly wood-shedding on.

“Come on up to Boston where I’m playing with Frank on Friday night, and bring your guitar” he instructed.

We caroused around some more in downtown Syracuse, eventually Don and myself bringing Frank back a bag of Tobe’s ribs (we found him in his bathrobe watching some cheesy Skiles and Henderson-like comedy duo in the top floor revolving restaurant of the Holiday Inn where they were staying).

I went home to crash about 6am, and got up around 10am to race back downtown to Syracuse University’s Crouse College Auditorium for the press conference of Frank and Don for invited students—the Soundcloud clip is just one excerpt from a fairly hilarious hour.

Later that week I duly took the Greyhound bus up to Boston with my ‘64 Stratocaster in tow… crashed with my Yale pal Bill Moseley (whom I ran a successful midnight horror film society with—Things That Go Bump in the Night—at Yale; Bill is now worldwide horror icon as Texas Chainsaw Massacre II‘s “Choptop” character, and has starred in a couple of Rob Zombie’s films). We went to see Frank’s Boston show with Don and then I went back to Don’s hotel room, where I proceeded to play for him.

“Great!! We’ll do it!” 

But when? He was vague… and I had a ticket to go to Taiwan in a few weeks to start work for my uncle (my parents attempt at shipping me off overseas to free me from the clutches of a 56-year-old Italian-American shaman-ess whom I’d been living with…)

We parted as friends—and I knew I was destined to play with him.

It did take a few years, but in 1980 things fell into place with Doc at the Radar Station …but that’s another story.

Guest post by Gary Lucas

Below, a brief excerpt from a Bongo Fury-related press conference at Crouse College of Music auditorium, Syracuse University, 4/23/75. My late friend Jamie Cohen (A&R maven for EMI, Columbia Records, and Private Music) was a student at Syracuse University back in 1975 when he asked Don Van Vliet this question at a press conference I also attended the morning after Frank Zappa and the Mothers—with special guest Captain Beefheart—performed at the Syracuse War Memorial:
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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10.05.2015
12:35 pm
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‘Big Eyed Beans from Venus’: Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band destroy minds on French TV, 1980
07.24.2015
09:39 am
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“God, please fuck my mind for good!”

While I very much doubt there is such a thing as a bad Captain Beefheart performance—at least, I have yet to hear a tape of Van Vliet and the Magic Band sleeping on the job or “phoning it in”—some recordings are better than others, and boy oh boy does this pro-shot, 30-minute French TV broadcast cream the fucking corn. I would have given my right eye for a VHS of this thing when I was a teen.

Taped during the 24-date European tour behind Doc at the Radar Station, this concert took place just two weeks after Beefheart was, improbably, profiled on local news in L.A. by “journalist” Paul Moyer, who became familiar to the Angeleno TV audience during his subsequent very long career as the Southland’s most blow-dried shithead.
 

 
This is an especially formidable Magic Band: guitarists Jeff Moris Tepper, Richard “Midnight Hatsize” Snyder and Gary Lucas wrestle manfully with bassist Eric Drew Feldman (later of Pere Ubu, Frank Black, PJ Harvey et al.) and drummer Robert Williams (fresh off his collaboration with the Stranglers’ Hugh Cornwell). Warning: if this version of “Big Eyed Beans from Venus” doesn’t move you, you may already be dead.

The set list:

Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man (0:17)
Best Batch Yet (3:44)
Dirty Blue Gene (8:47)
Safe As Milk (12:42)
Flavor Bud Living (16:33)
Bat Chain Puller (17:47)
Big Eyed Beans From Venus (22:58)
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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07.24.2015
09:39 am
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Captain Beefheart’s eerie premonition of John Lennon’s death
02.06.2015
10:38 am
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People who knew Don Van Vliet said he had strange gifts, and I’m not talking about his musical talents. Lester Bangs told this story:

Once in Detroit I walked into a theatre through the back door while he was onstage performing. At the precise moment I stepped to the edge of the curtains on stage right, where I could see him haranguing the audience, he said, very clearly, “Lester!” His back was to me at the time. Later he asked me if I had noticed it. I was a little shaken.

And the music historian and critic Robert Palmer reported:

Sitting in the Manhattan living room of the guitarist Gary Lucas, who is the Magic Band’s newest member, Don Van Vliet shut his eyes, squinted, and said, “It’s going to ring.” The telephone rang as if on cue. Mr. Lucas laughed nervously and said that sort of thing happens all the time.


Palmer was one of a number of journalists who met with Van Vliet at Lucas’ apartment in the autumn and winter of 1980. Van Vliet was giving interviews there on the night of December 8 when John Lennon was shot outside the Dakota. Lucas recalls:

In the middle of an interview, at eight or nine o’clock as I remember, Don said, “Wait a minute, man, did you hear that?’ He put his hand over his ear, but we didn’t hear anything. He said, “Something really heavy just went down. I can’t tell you what it is exactly, but you will read about it on the front page of the newspapers tomorrow.” We said, “Well, what?” and he said, “I dunno.” Then the guy left and another journalist came. We were in the middle of another interview and about eleven, the first guy called me and said, “Did you hear the news? Something just happened, John Lennon was shot.” And I couldn’t believe it. It really seemed like Don predicted this. So I told him and he just looked at me and went, “See? Didn’t I tell you?” That was really eerie.

 

 
Richard “Midnight Hatsize” Snyder, the Magic Band member who played bass, marimba and viola on Ice Cream for Crow, gave a similar account of that evening’s events in a 1996 interview:

While we were in New York, Don was being interviewed by some magazine on the night that John Lennon was killed. At one point during the interview, Don stopped speaking, closed his eyes and then opened them again, saying to the interviewer: “Something big is happening tonight—something horrible. You’ll read about it in your papers tomorrow.” Knowing full well that the doubting Thomases among you will say: “Ah, yes—but he wasn’t specific about the event. The way the world is, you could say something like that any day and still be right more times than not.” Nevertheless, it was the strangest coincidence—if indeed, that was all it was.

A Beefheart fan who was in the audience at the Captain’s Irving Plaza show the following night writes that Van Vliet opened the set with a soprano sax solo, which he dedicated to Sean Lennon: “That was from John, through Don, for Sean.”
 

 
For his part, Lennon was a fan of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s debut album, Safe As Milk. Note the “Safe As Milk” stickers prominently displayed on the cabinet doors in the sunroom of Kenwood, the house where Lennon lived from 1964 to 1968.

Below, video of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s set at the Mudd Club on December 10, 1980:
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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02.06.2015
10:38 am
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Watch ‘The Brainiac,’ the awful Mexican horror movie that inspired Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart
01.14.2015
10:48 am
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One of the strangest movies ever made, The Brainiac (a/k/a El baron del terror) is also the subject of “Debra Kadabra,” the first song on Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart’s Bongo Fury.

The song’s lyrics conflate a late-night broadcast of the 1962 movie on KCOP with an event from Beefheart and Zappa’s teenage years in 1950s Lancaster, when a cosmetics accident temporarily transformed Beefheart into something like a B-movie monster. One night, while the pair were in high school, Don Van Vliet (Beefheart) doused himself in some of the Avon prodcuts his mother sold; perhaps unsurprisingly, he suffered a severe allergic reaction (“His face looked like an alligator,” Zappa recalled). To convalesce, he went to a family member’s house in East L.A., where no one from high school could mock his disfigurement.

Cover my entire body with Avon co-log-nuh
And drive me to some relative’s house in East L.A.
Turn it to Channel 13
And make me watch the rubber tongue
When it comes out
From the puffed and flabulent Mexican rubber-goods mask

[...]

Make me grow Brainiac fingers
But with more hair

 

 
At the appropriate moments in the song, a trumpet quotes the score from The Brainiac. Barry Miles’ Zappa biography has a bit of the maestro discussing the movie’s relationship to “Debra Kadabra”:

Oh God, it’s one of the worst movies ever made; not only is the monster cheap, he’s got a rubber mask that you can see over the collar of the guy’s jacket and rubber gloves that don’t quite match up with the sleeves of his sport coat. When the monster appears there’s this trumpet lick that isn’t scary. It’s not even out of tune, it’s just exactly the wrong thing to put there, it doesn’t scare you… That’s what the song is about and when you hear in the background DA-DA-DA-DA-DAHH, that’s making fun of that stupid trumpet line that’s in that movie… When he’s saying “Make me grow Brainiac fingers”, that’s what he’s referring to, because Vliet and I have both seen that movie and it’s so fucking stupid.

You’ll love it! It’s a way of life…

Posted by Oliver Hall
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01.14.2015
10:48 am
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He’s gonna booglarize you, baby: Hear an amazing unreleased Captain Beefheart song
11.11.2014
12:27 pm
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“Art is rearranging and grouping mistakes.”
—Don Van Vliet, a/k/a Captain Beefheart

It’s been said many times before, but Captain Beefheart was truly one of the great musical minds. Don Van Vliet mixed rock, jazz and blues to create his own brand of music that was a kind of avant rock. The Captain’s songs might’ve sounded chaotic, but they were actually painstakingly precise. Some of them were even catchy!
 
Sun Zoom Spark
 
Rhino’s new Beefheart boxed set, Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972, comes out November 17th, and includes the three albums that followed his groundbreaking double LP, Trout Mask Replica (1969), as well as a disc of previously unreleased outtakes. The CD of outtakes is enough to excite any Captain Beefheart fan, but the album that immediately followed Trout Mask Replica, Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1970) has been out-of-print for years, and is just as essential as Trout Mask—even more so, dare I say.
 

 
Both Lick My Decals Off, Baby and the Captain himself nearly passed me by. The first Beefheart album I bought was a vinyl reissue of Trout Mask Replica—a legendary and revered release, and one of the strangest records to ever be labeled “rock.” But I just didn’t get it. I was a big fan of Frank Zappa (Don’s friend, closest musical comparison, and producer of TMR), but I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I set it aside, figuring I would give it another chance down the road.
 
Zappa and the Captain
Zappa and the Captain

A couple of years later, I though I’d give a different CB record a try, and picked up the reissue of Lick My Decals Off, Baby—and I couldn’t get enough of it. I would blast those tunes on my drive to the retail gig I had at the time, and it was comforting to listen to something so wonderfully stupefying before I had to re-join the world of normal people. For years, this was the only Beefheart album I felt I needed, and it would be a decade before I got into (and fell for) his late period records, Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (1978). I wouldn’t fully grasp Trout Mask Replica until after Don passed in 2010. I still prefer Decals. As it turns out, I’m not the only one:

You put on Lick My Decals Off, Baby, and at first it’s what the fuck…Then there are songs you would immediately dig, like ‘I Love You, You Big Dummy.’ Crazy, abstract, but still friendly, you know. Trout Mask would be hard to listen to for someone who didn’t know his music, but Decals, you find out it’s not quite as spooky…Once you get it, that connection, you feel closer to him. You feel this good-hearted, caring human being.
—David Hidalgo of Los Lobos

 

 
For his next album, The Spotlight Kid (1972), Van Vliet made a conscious effort to make his music more appealing to the masses. The record is a bluesy affair, and while it’s consistent, it doesn’t seem to find the Captain particularly inspired. Having said that, there are a few stellar tracks, including “Blabber ‘n Smoke,” a fantastic song that contains the Captain’s most humane lyric ever (“Clean up the air and treat the animals fair.”). Ultimately, the album wasn’t commercially successful. Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, and a big Beefheart fan, sums up The Spotlight Kid: “You can’t call it conventional, but it certainly was friendlier.”
 
Clear Spot shirt
 
Clear Spot followed later that same year. The album is a schizophrenic mix of material, as if Don wasn’t sure which road he wanted to head down next. Some songs are similar in feel to the ones found on The Spotlight Kid, yet have more of the Captain’s distinctive sonic stamp. Lots of significant stuff here, including the absolutely transcendent “Big Eyed Beans From Venus,” but there are a couple of songs (“Crazy Little Thing” and “Long Neck Bottles”) that are so dumbed-down you can hardly believe this is the same artist. Fans may have accused Beefheart of attempting to cash-in during this period, but if “Too Much Time” is a sell-out, then it’s the greatest sell-out song of ALL TIME. It’s an awesome soul number that shoulda been hit.

The outtakes disc covers material recorded during The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot eras. It’s a fascinating compilation, as it includes early versions of tracks that would turn up on later albums, and it also features songs that are otherwise unavailable. A few are instrumentals, so the focus is on the gargantuan talents of the Magic Band, the rotating group of incredible musicians the Captain assembled. Okay, I’m going to cut to the chase here: This collection has to be one of the best outtakes discs ever assembled. This shit just (blabbers and) smokes, and the sound quality is top-notch. You can hear what I mean for yourself, as we have an exclusive preview of one of the oh-so-sweet previously unreleased tunes, “Two Rips in a Haystack”/“Kiss Me My Love.”
 

 
“I am my own artist,” Van Vliet once stated. “I like to listen to music, but I won’t trace.” Perhaps that’s the rationale for why Captain Beefheart wasn’t commercially successful, but it’s also just happens to be the reason fans continue to love his work. There was truly no one else like him.

Below, the television commercial for Lick My Decals Off, Baby. Yes, there was a TV commercial!

Posted by Bart Bealmear
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11.11.2014
12:27 pm
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Ridonkulous ‘Beat Club’ showcase featuring Captain Beefheart, MC5, Alice Cooper, NY Dolls and more!


 
Beat Club was the German TV show dedicated to rock performance that later became Musikladen (Music Store), a show we’ve featured here at DM many times. I don’t know exactly what kind of acid they put into the performers’ (or the producers’) drinks, but this compilation, known as “The Crazy World” (and originally released on a Laserdisc) is totally out-o-sight and generally kicks ass. Enhancing all the rockin’ are a lot of groove-tastic green screen effects. The visuals on this show were almost as mind-bending as the audio.
 

The Three Faces of Vliet
 
The music is tuneful and heavy, all around. I’d scarcely heard any Flo & Eddie, but they hang right in there with the rest of them. I was prepared not to dig the Slade number much, but it rocked. Everything on this compilation rocks, even the otherwise sprightly number by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

They really don’t show music like this on TV anymore, like ever. I’m not sure people can even make music like this any more, maybe the iPhones are slowly sucking it out of us. Hmmm. I’m open to hypotheses.
 

Track listing:
Alice Cooper: “I’m Eighteen”
Alice Cooper: “Public Animal #9”
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band: “I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby”
Phlorescent Leech and Eddie: “Feel Older Now”
MC5: “Kick Out The Jams”
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: “Fire”
Slade: “Goz I Luv You”
New York Dolls: “Lookin’ For A Kiss”
Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band: “I’m The Urban Spaceman”

 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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10.23.2014
01:41 pm
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Frank Zappa as record label honcho in ‘From Straight to Bizarre’


 
By far the majority of artist-run record labels exist as mere vanity imprints, releasing an album or two by the musician/would-be entrepreneur him/herself, and that’s that. Noteworthy exceptions are certainly around—Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records and Null Corporation, Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe, and Jack White’s Third Man are a few artist-run labels that have achieved significant successes.

An early example of such an artist using his own label to bypass the strictures of major label deals is, unsurprisingly, the iconoclastically independent-minded Frank Zappa. In the late ‘60s, when Verve Records inexplicably missed their deadline to re-up Zappa’s contract, he and his manager Herb Cohen used that leverage to establish their own production company and label, to retain creative control, and to release artists they favored. The labels they established were Straight Records and Bizarre Records. Between them, in a mere five years of existence, the labels released albums by Lenny Bruce and Wild Man Fischer, and now-immortal recordings like Alice Cooper’s Love It to Death, Tim Buckley’s Starsailor, and Captain Beefheart essentials like Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off, Baby.
 

 
Tom O’Dell’s 2011 documentary From Straight to Bizarre tells the labels’ story in detail, through interviews with Pamela Des Barres, John “Drumbo” French, Sandy “Essra Mohawk” Hurvitz, Kim Fowley, Alice Cooper’s Dennis Dunaway and the Mothers of Invention’s Jeff Simmons, among many others. YouTube user Treble Clef has broken the feature-length doc into short chunks for your piecemeal viewing convenience. There’s a lot of illuminating stuff herein, so please, enjoy.
 

 
More after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Ron Kretsch
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04.07.2014
08:23 am
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Happy Birthday Captain Beefheart!
01.15.2014
03:17 pm
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Captain Beefheart aka Don Van Vliet was born on this day in 1941. The Cubist blues howler and great avant garde outsider composer and bandleader retired from his musical career in 1982, to become a widely respected abstract expressionist painter.

If you’ve never seen his paintings (aside from his album covers) why not click over to The Radar Station and have a look. Worth mentioning that most of them are quite big in person, and really impressive. His application of paint is practically as unique as his music is.
 

 

 

 

 
Below, Captain Beefheart & Magic Band performing “Sure ‘nuff ‘n Yes I Do” at the Midem Festival, Cannes, France, January 27, 1968:

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.15.2014
03:17 pm
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Captain Beefheart’s gonna booglarize you, baby
12.17.2013
01:46 pm
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oh captain my captain
 
Today marks the third December 17th since the world lost Don “Captain Beefheart” Van Vliet, and it’s an anniversary that’s becoming something of a holiday for me. This is going to sound corny as all hell, and I’ll unabashedly cop to that, but the loss of an artist that contributed so much to how so many people understand not just popular music but the process of - and possibilities inherent in - artmaking itself seems a fit occasion for reflection. More than any other identifiably “rock” artist, Beefheart completely blew the lid off of my understanding of music’s construction, and his influence is manifest in punk and post-punk spanning decades from Pere Ubu to The Monorchid, in arty outliers like The Dog Faced Hermans and Stump, and most forwardly in U.S. Maple, the Magic Band fans that transcendeth all knowing. Tom Waits made and continues to make decades of great art by corralling and taming Beefheart’s signature New-Orleans-Blues-band-falling-down-a-flight-of-stairs sound and channeling it into a timeless hybrid of lowlife beat poetry and cocktail soaked after-hours decadence. The man has much great work to take credit for, and that’s before even considering his paintings.

One key thing I’ve always adored about Beefheart’s fandom is how hidden it is. Not that his fans are closeted or anything suchlike - it’s just that his enthusiasts come from a broad swath of types. There’s no fashion lexicon that comes with Beefheart the way it does with hippie, punk or metal; there’s no quick way to identify your tribe from across a room, so when you do find them, it can be in delightfully unexpected places. I’ve met a cop who collects Beefheart bootlegs. I once even served as a hired gun guitar player in a children’s band helmed by a pair of seemingly straight-arrow family men whose Beefheart obsessions (and collections) utterly dwarfed mine. Though he is a quintessential cult artist, his reach is surely deeper into this world than we commonly reckon.

Captain Beefheart effectively died in 1982, when Van Vliet gave up music and retired the persona. Van Vliet died on December 17, 2010, aged 69, after many years of struggle with Multiple Sclerosis. This excellent documentary, hosted by none other than the BBC’s legendary John Peel, does the man’s life far more justice than I can in a blog post.
 

 
Here’s the Captain and the classic Magic Band lineup in 1972, from an amazing German TV broadcast that constitutes some of the best footage available from that period.
 

 
More Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Ron Kretsch
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12.17.2013
01:46 pm
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Zappa and Beefheart artist Cal Schenkel’s amazingly CHEAP art sale
11.04.2013
06:17 pm
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Trout Mask Replica painting by Cal Schenkel

Even if the name Cal Schenkel doesn’t quite ring a bell, there is very little doubt that you’ve seen his illustrations, photography and collage work work adorning literally dozens of iconic album covers by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, The Fugs, Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. He was basically Zappa’s visual partner for longer than a decade working on the covers for Straight/Bizarre releases and rented a wing of the Zappa family home in Laurel Canyon for his live-in art studio. Schenkel is the guy who hollowed out the carp for Don Van Vliet to wear on the Trout Mask Replica cover—that stinky photo shoot was said to have taken over two hours—and he’s the fellow who realized the Sgt. Pepper‘s goof for We’re Only In It for the Money. He’s got a primitive “ragged” illustration style (which predates punk graphics) that is distinctly his own and Schenkel a master of creating humorous and strikingly surreal images that have intrigued generations of record buyers, inspiring a certain meme in recent years and even Halloween pumpkins.

Over the weekend I ended up on Cal Schenkel’s website and it occurred to me that many DM readers would probably like to know about what’s on offer there. For starters, his prices are fantastic, more in line with what an Etsy crafts-person might sell their wares for than the price tags something for sale on the wall of an art gallery would have. The work is priced to sell. Schenkel’s a working artist living in rural Pennsylvania and this is how he pays his bills without having to deal with the rigmarole of the art world—he’s had just two solo exhibitions of his art in the past 20 years. More power to him, and to you, especially if you happen to be a Zappa fan—there are rumored to be many of you among DM’s readership—who likes art and getting a damned good bargain.

For as little as $200 you can get a portfolio of thirteen mostly Zappa-related prints. Individual Giclée prints sell for as little as $25. You can get a signed photograph of Captain Beefheart taken by Schenkel. He does hand-painted caricatures of one of your favorite mustachioed guitarists. He does hand-painted versions of some of his famous album covers, too. And like I was saying, the prices are right. Personally I feel like he’s underselling his work, but I happen to be a big admirer of Cal Schenkel’s art.
 

 

 

 

 
See more at Cal Schenkel’s website.

Below, Frank Zappa and Cal Schenkel invent Adult Swim back in 1971 with the “Dental Hygiene Dilemma” animation from 200 Motels:

Posted by Richard Metzger
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11.04.2013
06:17 pm
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