Bob Krasnow RIP

bob-krasnow-samThe former Beefheart producer and label boss has died.

The Radar Station was sorry to hear of the death on 11 December 2016 of Bob Krasnow at the age of 82. His name is well known by Beefheart fans for his involvement with the albums Safe As Milk, Strictly Personal and Mirror Man.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s Krasnow ran the San Francisco based labels King Records and Loma Records. In 1966 he became vice-president for Kama Sutra Records and was instrumental in setting up their subsidiary Buddah Records label. It was at this point that he signed Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band as he wanted them for the debut release on his new label as he was convinced they could be bigger than the Beatles and the Stones.

According to Ry Cooder it was Krasnow who contacted him and asked him to help out with the rehearsing and recording of the first Beefheart album Safe As Milk. Cooder agreed but at that time only had an acoustic guitar so Krasnow arranged for him to have his pick of one at the Fender factory.

Krasnow gets a joint producer’s credit on Safe As Milk but he brought in Richard Perry to produce the sessions.

As we know, things didn’t quite turn out how Krasnow had hoped. When Ry Cooder quit the band in 1967 it was Krasnow who persuaded Jerry McGee to fill the gap for a time. However, McGee had left by the time the band were in the studio again recording tracks for what would eventually be released as Mirror Man on the MGM label. This time it was just Krasnow in the producer’s seat, as it was for the next round of recording that would become the Strictly Personal album. To get Strictly Personal released Krasnow actually set up his own label, Blue Thumb, and, again a Beefheart album was the debut release. There is generally some confusion over the machinations Krasnow went through to sell the Mirror Man tracks to MGM (after Buddah weren’t interested in them) and how similar tracks came to recorded for Blue Thumb. However, there has probably been more controversy over what Krasnow did to the Strictly Personal tracks. Adding phasing and other psychedelic “bromo seltzer” seems to have annoyed the band and has caused discussion amongst fans ever since.

bob-krasnow-2Despite the differing opinions about Strictly Personal Beefheart and Krasnow continued to be friends and to respect each other although they now went their own ways. Krasnow’s name appeared in the ‘Thanks’ list on the sleeve of Lick My Decals Off Baby and according to Gary Lucas Krasnow said that one of the things he was most proud of was his work with Don van Vliet.

After working with the Beefheart band Krasnow went on to develop his Blue Thumb label before becoming head of talent acquisition at Warner Bros in the 1970s. He also did great work developing other labels including Elektra and Nonesuch. He seems to have been quite a character and he was certainly an accomplished spotter of talent.

Without Bob Krasnow there may well have never been Safe As Milk, Strictly Personal and Mirror Man, so we have a lot to thank him for.

 

Steve Froy
December 2016

 

4 Comments

  1. Have to say, even with the phasing etc, Strictly Personal is still one of my favourites, not just a favourite Beefheart album but one of my top 5 albums full stop. Thanks, Bob.

  2. R.I.P Bob Krasnow.
    I thought all your three albums with Captain Beefheart were great = way ahead of their time and different – to say the least. I am sure Don’s waiting for you in “celestial falls”

  3. Although I don’t count the Strictly Personal album as among my favourite Captain Beefheart releases, you cannot ignore that without Bob Krasnows vision, persistence and faith Beefhearts music might never have seen the light of day

  4. “Do you want to talk to Captain Beefheart right now?”
    This was in the days before we had “Caller ID”.
    I picked it up and said “Hey, Don”.
    I knew it was him.
    It had his familiar ring.
    I told him that a friend of mine who’s visiting from London was sitting right here next to me and was wanting to talk to The Alleged Captain Beefheart”
    “How about Don?
    Don asked.
    “Will he talk to Don instead?”
    I reassured him that he wasn’t gonna get fone fan jumped then he asked:
    “Does he speak English?”
    “Yeah Don, he’s from London, ENGLAND”
    I gave Jason the phone and they talked among ourselves for about an hour or so-ish.
    Anyway back to these two years of late night fone convos, We really enjoyed each others sense of humor. Don was one fukin sarcastic son of a bitch. Caustic. LOVED THAT!!!
    Fast Forward two years and I’m in the 17th floor corner office of Elektra Records CEO, Bob Krasnow. I’m being interviewed for the first A&R hiring they’d done in nearly a decade. At it’s conclusion Bob asked me if I had any questions. I asked “You worked with Captain Beefheart when nobody else would. What was it like?” He kicked back in his big Chairman’s chair, took a long drag on his cigar and said:
    “You know what, Terry, I took so much acid then that I really don’t remember. When can you start?”
    I started to mend the awkward, tattered maze of Don and Bob Krasnow’s relationship on my first day of work. When asked directly, neither one of them could remember just what it was that had them spend the last 20+years not talking to each other no good reason.
    They owed so much to each other. I felt that it was a note of Musical Divine Intervention which had put me in the place to do the obvious. To let that circle become unbroken.
    Krasnow bet his entire career on Captain Beefheart.
    Bob was always malingering around at Herb Albert’s nascent A&M Records, the label who had released the Magic Band’s first two 45’s. When it became apparent to them that Don Van Vliet and his crew weren’t about to be shaped into the next Strawberry Alarm Clock, the band found themselves suddenly and unceremoniously “Released” from their contract with extreme prejudice.
    Whipped Cream And No Delights.
    Bob left A&M along with the bathwater. He got some cash, took shitloads of LSD, backed Beefheart and started an independent record label, Buddha Records just so he could produce, promote and release Captain Beefheart’s 1966 classic, “Safe As Milk”. An album that Kras was CONVINCED would sell millions and millions of copies. He really, truly believed that. Nest type of A&R Guy w/o you could have, right?!?!
    Don agreed with me about that at first but the next night said it wasn’t true, it was all ME(HIM) ME(HIM), ME(HIM)…. Then he came back around on our third day and admitted that Bob had allot to with it.
    Bob called his buddy, Ry Cooder, to come down down to the studio and give Alex St. Claire guitar lessons. He wound up playing the lead guitar on the entire album. Weren’t we lucky! Bob had even bought Ry a brand new Fender guitar for the sessions.

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