Everything you need to know about Revenant’s box set of rare Beef.

The Grow Fins sleeve. Beautiful, isn’t it?

The official Revenant blurb

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band set rock on its ear from 1965 until 1982, when leader Don Van Vliet retired from music. Engineering a mutant strain of musical DNA (tuff-ass garage punk R-n-B, extraterrestrial field hollers, austere “classical” miniatures, loping sea shanties, scorched-earth delta blues, free-blowing skronk, fat-bottom groove and post-everything clangor all found their way into the soup), CB&HMB are now regarded as one of the most original and consistently compelling bands ever waxed.

The closest to a Best Of collection as we are likely to see, this career-spanning set corrals rare tracks from a variety of sources (band members’ personal archives, live tracks, demos, worktapes, radio spots) along with over 30 minutes of enhanced CD footage of live performances, 112 pages of text and never-before-published photos, the complete Trout Mask Replica house sessions, and John ‘Drumbo’ French’s “colorful” history of the band. Hear a captain and his truly magic band. If you got ears, you gotta listen.

“Captain Beefheart is the most important musician to rise in the Sixties, far more significant and far-reaching than the Beatles; as important for all music as Ornette Coleman was for jazz, as Leadbelly was for the blues.”
-Lester Bangs, Rolling Stone

“Beefheart & His Magic Band were the first rock group to truly blow me away.”
-David Fricke, from the liner notes

“What Beefheart inspired was not a reproduction of his Delta atonality or famous multi-octave range, but a willingness to rethink rock from the bottom up.”
-Spin Alternative Record Guide

The package

The 5 CD box set contains a 112 page hardcover book featuring David Fricke, John French and John Corbett’s notes, rare photographs and a wealth of other information.

A special vinyl edition was also released on Table Of The Elements containing 6 LPs, a a poster and a 24 page libretto.

Album overview from Graham Johnston

This set received a bit of a mixed response from fans and reviewers. On the one hand there’s the beautiful packaging, incredible photographs, insightful notes from John French and interviews with many ex-Magic Band members. On the other hand there are all the hundreds of mind-blowing unreleased tunes not included (licensing problems) and the variable sound quality which some have complained is worse on occasions than their bootleg versions of some of the tunes.

Personally I loved it when I first heard it and still do – the early stuff is perhaps my favourite on here – if you’re a fan of Safe As Milk, the first two discs will be a delight.

The Trout Mask Sessions discs are fascinating, but perhaps suited more to rare special occasions than regular listening.  I probably end up only listening to these instrumental tracks, rehearsals, field recordings and Trout House / studio chit-chats once every couple of years but it’s always an experience.

The final disc is the most variable, with one especially shining moment which would make the whole set worthwhile alone: Orange Claw Hammer from 1975 sung completely straight with Frank Zappa playing acoustic guitar. I love Orange Claw Hammer on Trout Mask Replica, but this… so stripped down, so honest and so lovely makes my eyes.. a Beefheart fan’s eyes flow out water… salt water.

Despite what the official blurb above says – it’s not a best-of collection and certainly not an introduction to the world of Beefheart, but it is an amazing extension.

A selection of goodies

Designed specially to get you drooling all the way to the nearest record shop, the Radar Station is pleased to present a selection of promotional items for the Grow Fins set:

Reviews

Reviews elsewhere:

If any of these links become broken, or if you spot other reviews elsewhere, please let me know.

Track listing

CD 1 Just Got Back From the City (1965-67)

  1. Obeah Man (1966 demo) (2:46)
  2. Just Got Back From the City (1966demo) (1:55)
  3. I’m Glad (1966 demo) (3:43)
  4. Triple Combination (1966 demo) (2:50)
  5. Here I Am I Always Am (early 1966 demo) (3:17)
  6. Here I Am I Always Am (later 1966 demo) (2:33)
  7. Somebody In My Home (live Avalon ’66) (3:03)
  8. Tupelo (live Avalon Ballroom ’66) (4:15)
  9. Evil (live Avalon Ballroom ’66) (2:33)
  10. Old Folks Boogie (live Avalon Ballroom ’67) (3:15)
  11. Call On Me (1965 demo) (3:04)
  12. Sure ‘Nuff ‘n Yes I Do (1967 demo) (2:11)
  13. Yellow Brick Road (1967 demo) (1:45)
  14. Plastic Factory (1967 demo) (2:57)

CD 2 Electricity, 1968

  1. Electricity (live at Cannes 1968)
  2. Sure Nuff (live at Cannes 1968)
  3. Rollin n Tumblin (Kidderminster 1968)
  4. Electricity (Kidderminster 1968)
  5. You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond (Kidderminster 1968)
  6. Kandy Korn (Kidderminster 1968)
  7. Korn Ring Finger (1967 demo)

CD 3 Trout Mask House Sessions, 1969

  1. hobo chang ba and dachau blues tuning up
  2. “bush recording”
  3. HAIR PIE (BAKE 1)
  4. HAIR PIE (BAKE 2)
  5. noodling
  6. HOBO CHANG BA
  7. hobo practice
  8. Hobo Chang Ba take 2
  9. DACHAU BLUES
  10. OLD FART AT PLAY
  11. noodling
  12. PACHUCO CADAVER
  13. SUGAR N SPIKES
  14. noodling
  15. SWEET SWEET BULBS
  16. Frownland take 1
  17. FROWNLAND
  18. noodling
  19. ELLA GURU
  20. silence
  21. SHE’S TOO MUCH FOR MY MIRROR
  22. noodling
  23. STEAL SOFTLY THROUGH SNOW
  24. noodling
  25. MY HUMAN GETS ME BLUES
  26. noodling
  27. WHEN BIG JOAN SETS UP
  28. silence
  29. Candy Man
  30. CHINA PIG

If you want to hear just the album tracks, then program just the tracks in capitals. If you want to hear them in the order they appeared on the album, program as follows: 17, 9, 19, 3, 12, 15, 30, 25, 4, 27, 13, 21, 6, 23, 10.

CD 4 Trout Mask House Sessions Pt. 2, plus Enhanced CD

  1. Blimp playback
  2. “Herb Alpert”
  3. “Septic tank”
  4. “We’ll overdub it 3 times”

Plus the following cd-rom-accessible video/audio footage:

  1. Cannes Beach live ’68 (“Electricity” and “Sure Nuff”)
  2. Paris Bataclan live ’73 (“Click Clack”)
  3. ‘Detroit Tubeworks’ program, winter of late 1970/early 1971. (“Big Joan,” “Woe Is Me,” “Bellerin Plain”)
  4. Amougies live ’69 (“Too Much For My Mirror,” “Human Gets Me Blues”)

CD 5: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Grow Fins (1969-81)

  1. My Human Gets Me Blues (live Amougies ’69) (4:02)
  2. When Big Joan Sets Up (live ‘Detroit Tubeworks’ 1971) (6:30)
  3. Woe Is Uh Me Bop (live ‘Detroit Tubeworks’ 1971) (2:26)
  4. Bellerin Plain (live ‘Detroit Tubeworks’ 1971) (3:24)
  5. Black Snake Moan I (KHSU ’72) (approx 1:00)
  6. Grow Fins (live Bickershaw ’72) (5:11)
  7. Black Snake Moan II (WBCN ’72) (approx 1:24)
  8. Spitball Scalped Uh Baby (live, Bickershaw ’72) (9:30)
  9. Harp Boogie I (WBCN ’72) (approx 1:20)
  10. One Red Rose That I Mean (Town Hall ’72) (2:12)
  11. Harp Boogie II (WBCN ’72) (approx :40)
  12. Natchez Burning (WBCN ’72 (approx :42)
  13. Harp Boogie III (1972 radio phone in) (approx :52)
  14. Click Clack (Paris, ’73) (2:50)
  15. Orange Claw Hammer (’75 from radio with Zappa on accoustic guitar) (4:25)
  16. Odd Jobs (Don piano demo, ’76) (5:05)
  17. Odd Jobs (full band demo ’76) (5:10 )
  18. Vampire Suite (1980 worktapes / live) (3:48)
  19. Mellotron Improv (live ’78) (approx 1:25)
  20. Evening Bell (Don piano demo ’81) (1:00)
  21. Evening Bell (Lucas worktape ’81) (2:15)
  22. Mellotron Improv (live ’80) (approx 4:00)
  23. Flavor Bud Living (live ’81) (1:10)

For the track listing and other information about the vinyl sets, please head towards the Grow Fins on vinyl information page.

Errata

Apologies to Gary Lucas from John French

In the Grow Fins booklet, I made a small but misleading error regarding Gary Lucas, on page 42 I wrote: “Meanwhile, Gary Lucas, a young college student in Syracuse NY,” which should have actually read “young high school student.” Gary actually wasn’t in college for several years and actually went to Yale University. Because he was walking on a college campus during the moment to which I was referring, I somehow mistakenly twisted the words, making it appear that Gary was a few years older and also that he was going to Syracuse University.

Also: Revenant Records wishes to apologise to Gary regarding the live version of Making Love to a Vampire with a Monkey on my Knee.” Mr. Lucas actually should be credited with Bass on that live performance and somehow it was overlooked. Thanks to Gary Lucas for all your help!

-John French and Dean Blackwood.

Purchase Grow Fins

See the Grow Fins on vinyl page for vinyl purchase links.

History

Interested in how this box-set came together? Find it all in the Revenant Beefheart Boxset Update Archive

Related links

Help us out

If anyone is able to complete or update any of the information above, then please do get in touch.

1 Comment »

  1. Abel Ashes says:

    I like listening to The Legendary A&M Sessions followed by the 1966 demos on disc 1 of Grow Fins as one playlist/”album”. It is a good collection of the pre-Safe As Milk style of The Magic Band. The Trout Mask instrumentals and the Odd Jobs and Evening Bell demos are big highlights of this collection for me and Korn Ring Finger (my favorite “out-take” from the Mirror Man/It Comes To You In A Plain Brown Wrapper sessions) was only available on CD on this collection before Buddha put it out as a bonus track on the 1999 CD re-issue of Safe As Milk. The Vampire Suite is also a real gem.

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