On August 31st, I noticed in The Salt Lake City Weekly that The State Governor of Utah was, “eager to discuss his love of Captain Beefheart albums and Grateful Dead concerts.” Had Captain Beefheart become part of a political demographic, a conservative icon like Jerry Garcia? I was intrigued. The only politician of note who had previously declared for Captain Beefheart was Czechoslovakia’s President Vaclev Havel, although even that story came from Don Van Vliet himself. I wrote immediately to Governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr’s office in Utah to find out just how eager he might be to discuss Captain Beefheart. I included a few
A photograph of a Trout Mask Replica CD has started to circulate on the web. This may be because of the particular woman who is holding the CD. Yesterday the picture appeared here – but it was first posted on goldenfiddle.com on August 16th [now removed]. Where will the photograph turn up next? Is this the most trivial story I’ve ever posted – or the most unlikely?
Arthur Lee died on Thursday. Guardian article Guardian obituary Independent obituary Luckier in Love than later in life BBC news item Your tributes at the BBC Arthur Lee videos on YouTube Needless to say it’s a very sad day here at beefheart.com. It’s hard to grasp that the charismatic, vital and seemingly unstoppable performer that re-emerged five years ago on a determined mission to raise the profile of his great music has gone and there are no more shows. No more “Seven And Seven Is” encores, no more spine tingles caused by a solitary tambourine tap tap tapping the intro to “Little Red Book”, no
It’s not quite a full theme, but certainly enough sound files to “annoy your colleagues, family and friends” to quote Simon Pardoe who created them. The Beefheart sound files are available at Simon’s website.
Ivor Cutler died on Friday. He will be very much missed in this household and I’m sure many people who found something invaluable in Beefheart will also have found something invaluable in Ivor Cutler. The following obituaries have appeared in the mainstream UK press so far: The Guardian The Guardian’s Culture Vulture blog entry The Telegraph The Times The BBC Andy Kershaw’s tribute – Andy’s show this Sunday night will feature a classic Peel session from February 1979. I still have some unused tickets for what would have been his last appearance here in Brighton about 4 years ago. The concert was postponed due to
Not strictly Beefheart related, but I thought I’d let you know that WFMU’s fund-rasing marathon is now on and I’d urge any of you who ever enjoy WFMU to support the station and make a donation to keep them going another year. If any of you haven’t ever enjoyed WFMU then it’s about time you started. It’s entirely listener-supported, no advertising, no government grants and so they play exactly what they want to play – the broadest range of specialist, adventurous, odd and downright fun music available anywhere in the world. Beefheart related items from the WFMU archive: The Golden Birdies comic 2002 Don Van
Announcements that three of Don Van Vliet’s former associates are being honoured have recently been made. Mo Ostin, former head of Warner, is cited by the President of The Recording Academy as, “a true pioneer of the contemporary music era whose life’s work has had a profound impact on the artists he has helped develop and the fans around the world who have benefited from their inspired creativity.” One of these artists was Captain Beefheart and many people believe that Captain Beefheart’s best work was indeed done during his Warner-Reprise tenure. On February 8th, after the 48th Annual GRAMMY Awards, Mo will be presented with
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.
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
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]
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,
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
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
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
I’ve always tried to avoid taking a train-spotter approach with this site over the years (not that you would think it from my blog entries) – it would be an easy road to travel with an artist like Captain Beefheart who seems to attract obsessive detail-noters. However, we at beefheart.com are endlessly amused by the frequency that Captain Beefheart rolls of the tongue of musicians and journalists, some using it to gain reflected credibility, others to provide an all-too-easy frame of reference, instant but ultimately meaningless. Others, of course, just love him too. In the absence of any real Beefheart-related news, here are just a
A friend started off a blog a while ago featuring a gallery of his doodles and abstract photographs, entitled Elbow Room. I used to work with Norms, the author, and witnessed the creation of his “biro on lined paper” works first-hand during many otherwise uninteresting meetings in the council offices. Like a visual equivalent of Robyn Hitchcock’s most surreal songs, they offer a pleasing and often hilarious idle browse. Norms is a Beefheart admirer and consequently a Beefheart theme has crept into a few of them. Check out Sea of Negativity, What A Moon Can Do II, No H On My Faucet, Devil’s Red Wife,
My inbox most days contains links to newspaper and magazine articles referencing Beefheart. New bands love to drop the Beefheart name, music journalists likewise. I send about 99% of this stuff to trash. What remains is some fun stuff, such as Liverpool band The Zutons who claimed to have named themselves after a Beefheart song. For the mp3 generation, who don’t read sleeve notes, that long lunar note was played by a Mr Zuton Rollo. So when a musician with no need of fame by association places ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ at the top of his list of favourite albums – as David Lowery