1970.11.13 Captain Beefheart & The Cockettes

On Friday November 13th 1970 Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band were scheduled to play a live show at the Berkeley Community Theatre in Berkeley, California. The supporting act for the show was to be the avant garde musical theatre troupe The Cockettes, who usually performed in drag. The Cockettes had planned to premiere their brand new show Pearls Over Shanghai.

However, the show was cancelled completely after Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) had gone to see the troupe beforehand and was not impressed with what he saw, as recounted in this link:

(sadly the original info on this link has disappeared)

Pearls Over Shanghai

‘An original poster proclaiming “What This Country Needs Is A Head Job”, an announcement of a concert at the Berkeley Community Theater, November 13, 1970 featuring Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band (who “Emerge from their Cave to Test the Air and Relieve Suffering”), and The Cockettes “Live in the World Premiere of Pearls Over Shanghai”.’What would have been the premiere of The Cockettes’ most ambitious production to date was cancelled after Beefheart met with members of the troupe, who performed a mock orgy for his benefit. The precise reasons why are unclear, but Beefheart got up and walked out, possibly after Daniel Ware extended a lewd invitation to him. The premiere took place instead on the streets of Chinatown, a free and spontaneous event that chimed more readily with Hibiscus’s hippie ethos.’


Here is another reference to this meeting between Beefheart and the Cockettes:


‘However, the Cockettes were not everyone’s Freak Darlings. Some Freak Scene gossip circulates around an ill-fated encounter between Captain Beefheart and the Cockettes in which the two were supposed to co-headline a show at the Berkeley Community Theatre.  Staging a mock orgy to welcome Beefheart proved to be a misguided idea, since the Captain promptly ditched the group at the either first sign of some steamy theatrics or Cockette Daniel Ware’s invitation to join. (see Pam Tent, Midnight at the Palace,  100). If this did in fact happen, it poses a far out conundrum: what happens when you out-freak the freak?’

A post from The Cockettes Facebook page:


The Harvard Library website has a brief history of the Cockettes:



Sam Smyth

(originally posted on the Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band Facebook page –
Reproduced with permission.

1 Comment

  1. One can read too much into this. We all know DVV was becoming increasingly annoyed with FZs marketing approach. This is a step in the wrong direction, another batch of Freaks.

    Appeciate the Sam Smyth material. I’m a non-Facebooker.

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