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 Freddie
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 along
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 what
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 our
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.
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.
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]
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 able
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.
‘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 taste
The first anniversary of John Peel’s death will be marked by several hundred concerts which are to be staged under the banner of John Peel Day. One of these concerts features The Fall and New Order, among others, and will be pre-recorded in London for broadcast as part of a six hour radio special on October 13th. John Peel’s admiration for Captain Beefheart was legendary so it is not surprising that a Beefheart track is included in the double CD ‘John Peel – A Tribute’ to be released on October 17th. Many of the bands about which Peel waxed lyrical are represented on the CD,
Gary Lucas continues to be one of the most hard-working and prolific members of the various Magic Bands. Gary’s calendar shows him to be currently performing in Europe. Tonight, 21st September, he’s performing in Amsterdam and the show will be broadcast and webcast live at VPRO. Audiences in Bristol and Lancaster this weekend get a rare chance to see Gary perform his score to a 1920 film. The Golem is based on the legend of an historical 16th century rabbi who created a man out of clay to save the Jewish community of Prague from annihilation. Apparently this is a superb example of the early
Anton Corbijn persuaded Don Van Vliet to remove his hat during the Ice Cream For Crow cover shoot. Corbijn later recalled that Don put it straight back on his head again. “My wife’s not gonna like this,” Don said. I don’t suppose that Jan minded too much. The resulting photograph became iconic and Don later made the short film Some Yo Yo Stuff together with Anton. Part of that film, plus an impressive selection of Corbijn’s music videos and other film work are to be released as a DVD on Tuesday 13th September. A 56 page book accompanies this Directors Label DVD from Palm Pictures.
Big Eyed Beans From Venus, that bunch of Beefheart botherers from Athens GA, have announced another two dates for their ongoing assault on the auditory senses of that city. They play the 40 Watt in Athens this Wednesday, the 14th, and play there again on October 8th when they open for the Circulatory System (friend of theirs from Olivia Tremor Control). There are still audio links to their Beefheart covers at MySpace. But when will they get out of Athens and start touring?
For every one who appreciates the Hammond Organ playing of Jimmy Smith, Ian McLagan or John Medeski there are plenty more for whom the Hammond Organ represents middle of the road wallpaper music and serially issued LP compilations of teutonic pop drone. Imagine if a Klaus Wunderlich or a James Last had ever got round to covering Captain Beefheart and smoothing out his edges. I suppose that collectors would now be paying very silly money for cheesy LPs with titles like Hammond Party of Special Things To Do, Hammond Blows Its Stacks Vol 3, or possibly Orange Claw Hammond. Even Acid Jazz, latter-day home to
I’ve just stumbled across an excellent, in depth and lengthy article about what many would consider a holy trinity – John Peel, John Walters and Captain Beefheart by Kris Needs. Needs shows how their three stories are intertwined with each other, while also paying tribute to each. There are stories in here which I don’t remember ever reading before such as Don accidentally “branding” his mother and Joe Strummer commenting on his first encounter with Trout Mask Replica which he stated was “the moment I became a weirdo”. There are a lot of factual inaccuracies but who cares, it’s all from the heart.
BBC Radio 7 has just broadcast an excellent 3 hour John Peel memoir and tribute in which Peel talks extensively about his life, influences, passions and family. We also hear an episode of Home Truths and his son’s eulogy at Peel’s funeral last year. It is a wonderful 3 hours for those of us who continue to miss his voice, humour and character on a daily basis and I’d heartily recommend you give it a listen on the BBC site while you can. Peel’s voice has also been cropping up regularly in the BBC Radio 3 show of his friend and colleague, Andy Kershaw. Listeners
The New Haven Advocate reviews the appearance at the Zappanale festival in Germany of Doctor Dark. Doctor Dark are notable not only for being a Captain Beefheart tribute band, but also, apparently, for featuring “the only person in [New Haven’s] history to run for mayor in drag” in their line-up. The same paper also interviewed Doctor Dark in late 2003 about their previous appearance at Zappanale.
A Mongolian “throat-singing heavy rock band”, Yat-kha, have released an album of cover versions featuring Captain Beefheart’s “Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles”, along with tunes by Joy Division, Bob Marley, Kraftwerk and Hank Williams. A recent article in The Independent newspaper said: Kuvezin’s growling vocal harmonics emerge from his deepest regions, resonating around the changing shape of his mouth-cavity. In the case of Captain Beefheart’s number, this is not too far removed from its original practitioner’s approach, but these techniques sound quite startling when imposed on the likes of “Man Machine” and “When The Levee Breaks”. You can hear a couple of mp3s
I’m sure many visitors will already have heard of the sad passing of Dr Robert Moog, inventor of the MiniMoog synth. As with so many great innovators, there’s a Beefheart connection to be made. In a 1980 interview with John Piccarella Don Van Vliet was asked about the process of teaching his music to his band and he replied: You can do it on the piano… you can do it on guitar some times.. Sometimes on the Mellotron.. Sometimes on the Moog. I like MiniMoog, I think that’s a real sensitive instrument. Also in 1980, this time to Lester Bangs, Don said he recorded his