Some previously overlooked performances by Don Van Vliet have recently been documented by Bill Lantz, one of the world’s foremost Zappa-ologists. In September 1975 The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra was put together to present a series of orchestral pieces written by Frank Zappa. Michael Zearott was the conductor and Frank produced and recorded most of these shows. Forty musicians were assembled by Zappa with help from Earle Dumler and Mike Altschul. One of the orchestra members was Don Van Vliet who played soprano saxophone. If anyone has access to recordings from this project we’d be very interested to hear them. View the full story. ThanksRead More →

Kelly Shane and Woody Compton’s website Is This Tomorrow contains what they say is “The Finest in Contemporary Picto-Literature!” Their two part Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band strip condenses the entire history of the band into just twelve frames: Part one: Part two:Read More →

On Friday 6 January from 22:15 to 23:30 BBC Radio 3’s show Mixing It features alternative music in Los Angeles. The presenters Mark Russell and Robert Sandall meet film composer Jon Brion, hip hop producer Madlib, guitarist Nels Cline, sound artist Akira Rabelais, and drummer John French. You can listen to the programme at the Mixing It homepage for one week after the broadcast.Read More →

I recently received a message from John Drumbo French to update me on progress with his new recordings: So here Rockette and I are at Proper Record’s wonderful new studio recording my new CD “City of Refuge” which is basically a Magic Band influenced compilation of music I’ve put together over the last year and a half. I’m listening to Rockette put a bass line on a song called “Maybe That’ll Teach Ya” which is based loosely on a jam that was done by Don, Doug Moon, and myself. I used the Moon riff and Don’s line “Maybe That’ll Teach Ya” and wrote a wholeRead More →

Zoot Horn Rollo passes comment on the 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder by an idiot in Oregon’s Register Guard paper: Local guitar teacher Bill Harkleroad, named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 greatest guitarists” ever in 2003, admired Lennon more for his social and political views, for taking “risks to say what he thought,” than for his musical legacy. Harkleroad, better known as Zoot Horn Rollo when he played guitar for Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band more than three decades ago, said Lennon and U2’s Bono are among the few rock legends who had the ability to use their fame that way. “ImagineRead More →

An article by Gerry Fialka in Venice Paper caught my attention. It described a party held in the Canals at Venice, California to raise funds for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. In the band was, “Leon Rubenhold, who had played with Captain Beefheart and was ripping up guitar on stage.” Leon Rubenhold has had a long and distinguished career in the music business, including work with Lowell George, Wilson Pickett and The Four Tops, but this was the first I had read about him playing with Captain Beefheart. I wrote and asked him to tell me all about it. Leon’s reply follows: Beefheart Stint MyRead More →

One year after the sale of a ‘Beep Seal’ sculpture on eBay, another work by Don Van Vliet’s childhood television co-star Agostinho Rodrigues has been sold there. The auction this time was for Rodrigues’ 1953 depiction of a horse, the winning bid being $375.00.Read More →

Hats were an important part of the appearance of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. There were probably dozens of hats worn on stage and in photo-shoots over the years. Don Van Vliet even named the guitarist Richard Snyder after a hat. The most famous hat, the one Don wore on the cover of Trout Mask Replica, was allegedly last seen in the possession of a Jethro Tull band member. Even today, Magic Band guitarist, Beefheart manager, and reader of Beefheart poetry, Gary Lucas, is rarely seen on stage without a hat. In a rare moment of bare-headedness Gary has agreed to donate his hatRead More →

Foma Skilliton kindly alerted me to a website selling a small range of Beefheart t-shirts. I have no idea about the quality nor the legitimacy of the images (photographer’s royalties?) but since this is one of the most frequent questions I get asked I thought I’d pass along the info. The pictures on the site are quite poor quality, so please be warned. There are sharp images of the shirts themselves but they are very pixelated around the actual print on the shirt, looking like the image has just been superimposed over an image of a shirt. If you are tempted you can check themRead More →

I’m looking forward to the DVD release next year of a new documentary about Captain Beefheart. A good number of Magic Band musicians were interviewed for it in London and America over the past couple of months, so it should be interesting to hear what they had to say. Captain Beefheart biographer Mike Barnes was among those taking part and he has kindly allowed me to reproduce a short account of his experience. This was originally posted at The Fire Party Discussion List. [wp_quote] I went to be interviewed by Prism Films for the upcoming Beefheart DVD documentary yesterday. We were in a freezing cold, desertedRead More →

The singer Freddie Wadling lay hyperventilating and nearly unconscious in the emergency room of Stockholm’s Sabbath Hill Hospital. His blood pressure was down and his stomach was as hard as a board. To Johan von Schreeb, a dark-haired surgeon with an eye of glass, Freddie’s symptoms were classic and life-threatening. Freddie had a burst stomach ulcer which had to be operated upon immediately or he would die. But Freddie’s wife Bella, who was present in the hospital, saw von Schreeb as a stranger in a white robe who wanted to stick a knife into Freddie. She refused permission to operate. Von Schreeb had seen FreddieRead More →

I was recently sent a photograph of a Beefheart-related Cal Schenkel art work by Peter Warner who was sent the photo by Schenkel himself in 1981. A much larger version is also available. Entitled “Apes Ma”, it was produced in January 1979 and, although labelled “10 in a series” the rest of the series is not Beefheart related (according to Peter a couple of the others are Zappa related and the rest… who knows?). The picture features (l-r) Don, unknown bearded person – possibly John Thomas, Jeff Moris Tepper, Denny Walley, John French and Apes Ma him/herself. Many thanks to Peter for sending this alongRead More →

There are a good few items on the BBC website to help mark the first anniversary of John Peel’s death this week. Most notable are: A chance to hear John Peel’s first ever broadcast for BBC Radio 1 on Monday’s edition of 6 Music Plays It Again, further tributes follow on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday editions featuring extended conversations with John Walters recorded in 1987 which are simply essential listening – many Beefheart references are included. Peel’s autobiography, Margrave of the Marshes, is Radio 4’s book of the week – you can listen to an abridged version online. Regrettably I couldn’t cope with whatRead More →

A fascinating concert programme which includes an unusual new arrangement of Bat Chain Puller has been announced by Zeitgeist, the eclectic new music ensemble from St Paul, Minnesota. Zeitgeist’s Bat Chain Puller is scored for MalletKat (a mallet keyboard synthesizer), another keyboard synthesizer, bass clarinet, and drums. Perhaps most interestingly the vocal part is taken by a soprano, Janet Gotschall Fried. Heather Barringer, Zeitgeist’s artistic director told me, “She doesn’t sound anything like Captain Beefheart. In fact, that’s why we decided to use a female as our vocalist. I wouldn’t have wanted someone to come onstage and do an imitation of Captain Beefheart, because ourRead More →

Doug Moon, an early Magic Band stalwart, returns to one of Don Van Vliet’s old stamping-grounds on November 5th when he performs at the Desert Song Music Festival at Antelope Valley College in Lancaster CA. Look forward to Doug’s fine blues guitar and his bluegrass banjo playing. As it is a song festival I presume he’ll be singing as well. The evening begins at 6.00pm and the suggested donation is $10.Read More →

At long last! I’m pleased to announce the re-opening of the bootleg section of the discography. A lot of re-coding, re-arranging, and rewriting has gone into making this a bigger and better feature than it was before. However, it’s not completely finished … I’ve still got a few pages I’m working on but I thought as I’d done the bulk of it I’d make it available. As with any other pages on the Radar Station if you have any info you can add, or found something that needs correcting please get in touch.Read More →

I recently received a tip off from Colin B Morton about an item on PJ Harvey’s message board which features an unusual interpretation of a tune from Trout Mask Replica which is, apparently, racist. Any idea which song on TMR features prejudiced beliefs that one race is superior to others? Have a look at the posts from “pollyfan” on the PJ Harvey message board to find out. I think someone is a little confused… [sadly, “pollyfan” has since removed the text of all his / her posts but you can still get a gist of sorts from the responses]Read More →

This issue of Mojo (November) has a buyers’ guide for Captain Beefheart featuring a readers’ top ten of all his albums: Trout Mask Replica Clear Spot/Spotlight Kid Lick My Decals Off Baby Doc at the Radar Station Dust Blows Forward (compilation) Strictly Personal Safe As Milk Grow Fins (compilation of unreleased gems) Shiny Beast Mirror Man Safe As Milk would appear higher than that in my top 10 of any albums, not just Beefheart, and I’m surprised at the poor showing of Shiny Beast, another firm favourite of mine. This is something which Warner Brothers/Rhino should take note of: people would like to be ableRead More →

One of my favourite labels, Revenant Records who released the “Grow Fins” treasure trove of unreleased Beefheart, released the second volume in their “American Primitive” series this week. Vol 1 was a stunning collection of gnarly pre-war gospel. Volume 2 features pre-war blues, hillbilly and jazz. Reuters have a nice feature on it. Should the fancy take you, you can also read my piece about Revenant Records from our John Fahey tribute.Read More →

‘Mixing It’, with its impeccably selected range of new music, is one of the BBC’s most interesting radio shows. Informed and witty commentary is provided by the hosts Mark Russell and Robert Sandall, who in their broadcast last Friday played a new Deerhoof track. Deerhoof, they said, “…transmute the basic vocabulary of guitar based rock into an inexhaustably diverse sequence of fractional shapes.” Their new CD, The Runners Four, “has a keen sense of fun.” “We’re not quite calling this next album the Trout Mask Replica of the new millenium, but one of us is strongly tempted so to do.” You can hear that tasteRead More →