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Captain Beefheart meets David Lynch in ‘Some YoYo Stuff’

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…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Gary Lucas meets Captain Beefheart
12:35 pm


Frank Zappa
Captain Beefheart
Gary Lucas

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 | Leave a comment
‘Big Eyed Beans from Venus’: Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band destroy minds on French TV, 1980
09:39 am


Captain Beefheart

“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 | Leave a comment
Captain Beefheart’s eerie premonition of John Lennon’s death
10:38 am


John Lennon
Captain Beefheart

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 | Leave a comment
Watch ‘The Brainiac,’ the awful Mexican horror movie that inspired Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart
10:48 am


Frank Zappa
Captain Beefheart
The Brainiac

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 | Leave a comment
He’s gonna booglarize you, baby: Hear an amazing unreleased Captain Beefheart song
12:27 pm


Captain Beefheart


“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 | Leave a comment
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 | Leave a comment
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…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Captain Beefheart!
03:17 pm


Captain Beefheart

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 | Leave a comment
Captain Beefheart’s gonna booglarize you, baby
01:46 pm


Captain Beefheart

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…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Zappa and Beefheart artist Cal Schenkel’s amazingly CHEAP art sale
06:17 pm


Frank Zappa
Captain Beefheart
Cal Schenkel

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 | Leave a comment
Captain Beefheart ‘Trout Mask Replica’ Halloween pumpkin

It’s probably a wee bit early to post about Halloween-themed stuff, right? But hey, it might give you plenty of time to practice and master the skills that it took Shawn Feeney to carve this awesome Trout Mask Replica pumpkin. 

Feeney carved Beefheart in 2011 and writes:

Every Halloween, I carve into a pumpkin the likeness of a musician who died since the previous Halloween. The tradition began in 2008, and each jack-o-lantern is carved in 3D-style. Like those represented, the jack-o-lanterns soon decay and disappear, but the artifacts remain.

Last year he carved an Adam “MCA” Yauch pumpkin.


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Captain Beefheart’s Ten Commandments of Guitar Playing: ‘Your guitar is not really a guitar’
11:46 am


Captain Beefheart

Captain Beefheart
Photo credit: Anthony Monaghan
Captain Beefheart hired Moris Tepper to be his full-time guitarist in 1976, a position he held until the Captain’s retirement in 1982. Along the way he imparted these handy guitar tips:

1. Listen to the birds.

That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.

2. Your guitar is not really a guitar.

Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush.

Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. Walk with the devil.

Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the “devil box.” And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you’re bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out.

If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. Never point your guitar at anyone.

Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. Always carry a church key.

That’s your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He’s one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song “I Need a Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty—making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he’s doing it.

8. Don’t wipe the sweat off your instrument.

You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. Keep your guitar in a dark place.

When you’re not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don’t play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.

10. You gotta have a hood for your engine.

Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.

Below, Captain Beefheart on Late Night with David Letterman, November 11, 1982.

(via Lists of Note)

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Captain Beefheart on the Hot Line at American Bandstand, 1966!
Cal Schenkel’s candid snapshots of Zappa, Beefheart and Jagger in 1968
‘Les Avortés’: Surreal short film with music by Captain Beefheart, from 1970
Tom Waits resurrects Captain Beefheart with the help of Keith Richards

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Has Gail Zappa trademarked the name ‘Captain Beefheart’ and if so, WHY?
05:05 pm


Frank Zappa
Captain Beefheart
Gail Zappa

Apparently the famously litigious Gail Zappa has trademarked the name “Captain Beefheart.” I read about this yesterday, after it was tweeted by WFMU but didn’t know what to make of it.

As Spin opined:

“To those who’ve followed the latter-day activities of the Zappa estate executrix, this latest move may seem a bit worrisome.”

Perhaps it does. Don Van Vliet died in December of 2010 and is survived by his wife Jan. If Gail Zappa is working on behalf of the widow Beefheart—and maybe she is—well, that’s one thing. If she’s not, that would be quite another. At this point no one seems to know exactly what’s going on.

Gail Zappa filed for the Captain Beefheart trademark in August of 2012. The Zappa Family Trust released the “original” 1976 version of his Bat Chain Puller album earlier that year. The tapes had gotten caught up in a legal dispute between Frank Zappa and his former business partner/manager Herb Cohen and Zappa refused to allow it to be released, causing Beefheart to rerecord the album as Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) for Warner Bros. Records in 1978.

This is from the Trademarkia website:

The description provided to the USPTO for CAPTAIN BEEFHEART is Audio and video recordings featuring music and concerts; musical sound recordings; musical video recordings; phonograph records featuring music; pre-recorded CDs, DVDs, audio tapes, video tapes, audio discs, video discs, audio cartridges, and video cartridges featuring music and concerts; downloadable audio recordings, downloadable video recordings, and downloadable MP3 files all featuring music and concerts; downloadable motion picture films, downloadable television shows and downloadable radio shows all featuring music and concerts; downloadable multimedia files featuring music and concerts; electronic publications, namely, books, magazines, manuals, journals, catalogs, brochures, newsletters, featuring music and concerts recorded on computer media; interactive multimedia computer game programs; music-composition software; software for creating music; software featuring musical sound recordings and musical video recordings; multimedia software recorded on CD-ROM featuring music and concerts; electronic game software; downloadable ring tones for mobile phones; downloadable graphics for mobile phones; sunglasses.

There’s bound to be more to this story… Stay tuned.

UPDATE: I found this on the GZ sez section of

Re: Trout Mask Replica -Jan Van Vliet
Added: April 29th, 2013 in Questions
On Apr 11, 2013, at 2:11 AM, Odd Magnus Grimeland wrote:

I would think Jan Van Vliet has an interest in the estate of Don, similar to your own interest in the estate of Frank. I wonder how she is involved in the new issue of Trout Mask Replica and how her interests are taken care of?


O. M. Grimeland

GZ: There really isn’t a cordial way of not minding your own business and answering for anyone other than myself is not my business.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Drumbo’: One of a kind painting of Captain Beefheart sideman for sale on eBay
04:01 pm


Captain Beefheart
John "Drumbo" French

John “Drumbo” French of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band is selling a one-of-a-kind portrait of himself on eBay to fund a new project.

This painting was painted using a post-card sized photograph.  It is very well-detailed and quite clear.  The light does not reflect as much as the photo shows. It was given to me as a birthday present and portrays me (John “Drumbo” French) playing a specially-designed kit by Gon-Bops (Mariano Bobadillo specially created the kick and floor toms for me) in 1970. The photo was taken at Ludlow’s Garage, which I believe was in Cincinnati Ohio, in 1971, in the month of January.

Opening bid is $500.

Thank you Jeff Economy!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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