Beef Art by David Belcher

This small piece appeared in the 22nd March 1986 edition of NME.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART invading Cork Street, discreet and dangerously expensive centre of London’s gallery world? But yes. The Captain’s news is that Don Van Vliet’s paintings will be on show at dealers Leslie Waddington from April 3 to 26, with the artist himself coming in to town for the show.

He’s without a current recording contract, but a variety of his best work is still available, repackaged for renewed consumption. Over in the reissued corner are the LPs Safe As MilkUnconditionally GuaranteedBlue Jeans And MoonbeamsShiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)Doc At The Radar Station and Ice Cream For Crow. And undeleted, undefeated, are Trout Mask ReplicaClear SpotLick My Decals Off Baby and The Spotlight Kid. Its an ongoing cross-cultural fertilisation scenario, baby, name-checking everyone from the Pastels to REM and beyond.

And Don Van Vliet is… a querulous “Hello” on the telephone, an odd start on a crackling line to the tiny community of Trinidad on California’s northernmost coast: “Do you know how strange it’s gotten, the connections? Do you hear that ssshhhhh. . . it’s like that cheap perfume in a damn telephone booth, that smell, constantly. That noise discombobulates me.”

Beefheart’s art has long adorned album covers, first appearing on Lick My Decals Off Baby in 1970, but its origins actively extend from his childhood. For eight years, from the age of four, his sculptured clay animals appeared on a weekly California Arts programme.

Beefheart’s paintings, and particularly their vigorous splashes of colour, reveal similarities with art’s fashionable aggregation of like minds: the neo-expressionists. Although one of their foremost exponents, New Yorker, Julian Schnabel was unavailable for comment, the Captain simply said “I’m painting the stuff I played.

“I paint all the time… 18 hours a day which is beginning to get up to more than l8 hours a day. I miss going on tour… I’m painting so damn much. I don’t drive any more because painting makes you very far out.”

Did he know about the Virgin reissues in Britain and that, off the record, WEA say that ‘Safe As Milk’ is selling better than some of their current advertised LPs?

“I’ll be damned. Not many things out there, huh? Ha ha ha… £2.99-four dollars? That’s a bargain – I’ll come and buy some. It’s funny… they don’t even have anything out on me over here. All you can get is Trout Mask Replica.”

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