I am writing to you from my home in Colorado around midnight. I have been a longtime Cap’n B fan (since 1972) when I first had my reality changed by way of Lick My Decals Off. I was only 15 at the time and living in Brooklyn, NY, where I was born and raised. It was my brother who first introduced me to the Magic Band.
What remains to this day as some of the coolest things I have ever witnessed are the concerts. I had heard, from my brother and his crew, fabulous stories of the live Magic Band. How Rockette Morton would do a real low zoot across the foot of the stage with the Captain zipping along attached to his shoulder. The super tall and straight Zoot Horn Rollo. The Artie Tripp drumming, etc etc.
I was just ecstatic when I held a ticket in my hand to see the Captain at NY’s Town Hall. It must have been late ’73 or early ’74, shortly after Clear Spot had been released. Sadly, and unbeknown to us in the 5th row center section, was that the Magic Band which I knew was finished, and some new guys were there instead. The record companies were messing with CB and pressured him to try to make commercial music. I sat there crushed and in a daze. My brother’s friends were livid and were very unkind to the Captain, demonstrating their anger and disappointment with raised middle fingers, etc. This was no way to treat a genius. The show was unspecial except for the fact that THERE WAS THE CAPTAIN AND LISTEN TO THOSE VOCALS!!!
I waited outside the venue for the Captain’s emergence. He looked rather ill. His eyes looked like cracked crystal and he was being “helped” into the limo as if he couldn’t stand on his own. I learned some weeks later of the Bluejeans and Moonbeams album (or was it Unconditionally Guaranteed?) and was just demolished that this could happen. This was the absolute end of any possibility that I would ever see the Magic Band. Period. May as well end it all now.
WRONG! About three years later I saw the Captain with a new band (the Shiny Beast tour!!!!!). Wowee!!! This was very much the Captain back in his form!! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. What a tight group. Bruce Fowler was there, Eric Feldman, Denny Walley played guitar and drummer Robert Williams dressed in surgeon’s clothing. And yet I knew so few other people who cared. I bought a Trout Mask Replica tee shirt in front of the venue (The Bottom Line in Greenwich Village).
The Captain returned a couple of years later for the Best Batch Yet. And then I believe a year or two later for the Ice Cream for Crow tour. I saw the Captain a total of 6 or possibly 7 times in concert. I am absolutely blessed in this regard, it was pure musical joy.
I heard that there is a bootleg recording from a club called “My Father’s Place” on Long Island. I was at 2 or 3 of those shows and you may hear substantial audience noise. If you have this recording and there is a guy shouting after each song “This is soooo great! Captain Beefheart is fucking great!” and other such stuff, that was me. I was delirious and I couldn’t help myself.
I am 40 now with two young daughters. I have never known many girls or women who responded well to the Captain. I can only hope that they will someday like what they hear.
– John McGuiness, Arvada, CO, USA