Captain Beefheart Tin Teardrop by Ken Brooks

Published by Agenda
Published in 2000
ISBN: 1 899882 11 1

Overview by Graham Johnston

I am about to write about a book that I haven’t read. I doubt that the author would mind too much, however, as I suspect that he hasn’t given his book much thought either.

After having read Steve’s review for it below, I doubt whether I’d cross the street to get a copy even if Mr Brooks himself was giving them away with a free bag of magic beans stuck to every cover.

This untrustworthy tome is published by the same company that brought us the laughably lame Fast & Bulbous by Ben Cruikshank and it would appear that this book is riddled with the same puny insight, factual catsatrophe and alarmingly brain-dead approach to rock criticism as its lobotomised predecessor.

Avoid anything from Agenda unless you get a kick out of the infuriatingly banal. Mind you, it might be good for a giggle, so I’ll probably get back to you once I’ve planted my beans.

Review from Steve Froy

A new book about Beefheart is something to be welcomed, but nowadays my expectations are higher than they used to be. It wasn’t until Colin Webb’s book in 1987 that anyone had attempted to draw together the life and music of CB&HMB into one narrative. As it was the first attempt some of the book’s faults could be forgiven. However, since then we have had Bill Harkleroad’s “Lunar Notes” book, the ‘Grow Fins’ notes plus all manner of information via the web which has helped clear away some of the myths and legends that have grown up around the band. Bill Bamberger’s recent book took writing about Don & the Magic Band to a new level with his excellent analysis and critique of Don’s music and painting.

So with all this new material to draw on I was expecting something much better than this. “Tin Teardrop” is a step backwards, adding very little to what we know already and what’s worse is guilty of repeating a lot of the myths as well as being full of an alarming number of factual errors. Apart from getting facts wrong – there are so many it would take a book of similar size to rectify them all – for example: Ry Cooder can be seen playing guitar on the Cannes Beach video, he confuses “The Legendary A&M Sessions” with “Mirror Man” ! – he repeats and contradicts himself.

There is next to no analysis of the music or paintings, it’s just a restating of the basic facts of each album track by track. Things are not helped by the writing style. It is written in short sentences. One fact presented after another. It begins to get tedious. You want to read a longer sentence. It is very irritating. A written version of Chinese water torture. It could send you mad ….

If you’re a sad completist like me you’ll want one for your collection or you may want one to play spot the incorrect fact (a very easy game!). Otherwise borrow one, read it and weep. Better still treat yourself to Bill Bamberger’s book or just hang on for Mike Barnes’ magnum opus.

Agenda Books were the publisher that also brought us the similarly factually-challenged “Fast n Bulbous” book by Ben Cruickshank. So why did they feel it necessary to inflict another upon us?

You have been warned.

-Steve Froy, 12 February 2000

Additional info: The author ‘Ben Cruickshank’ is the self same person as ‘Ken Brooks’. He, and his Agenda Books imprint, were the source of a number of other similarly inadequate books about ‘cult’ msuicians. I’m sure he liked the music … but he sure couldn’t write about it.

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