In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic…
From: Cisco Garcia
Sent: Sunday, January 09, 2000 3:59 AM
How abusive was Don? I’ve read reports that claim he was very nice, and I’ve read reports that said he was an overbearing, abusive taskmaster. Please set the record straight.
I suppose that he was both. When I worked with him, he was for the most part an abusive taskmaster. The later Magic Band members, especially Eric Drew Feldman, have a completely different vision of Don. I believe the difference is not so much in the people as it is in Don himself, who became easier to work with in later years as a result of the circumstances he was in, his own learning experiences, and the result of wisdom accumulated through experience.
This is a major theme of the book, and so is delved into deeply from several angles and perspectives. I think the interviews speak for themselves in respect to an overall portrait of the early days. However, my view of the latter days is pretty limited due to the fact that Jeff Tepper and Eric Drew Feldman declined to be interviewed. It’s a shame because it would have rounded out the book in a sense. I think it would have shown more of the kinder side of Don, and what he was like when things went his way or the way he thought they should be.
I do recall Don coming up to me during the “Doc” rehearsals and say, “Man am I glad you’re here. These young guys drive me nuts sometimes.” I am only speculating, but I think Don missed having more independent thought and wanted less of the fan-like adoration he received from the younger players. I think he also regretted the fact that he didn’t have friends he’d worked with for years, with which had gone through “dues paying” together.
– John French