Lick My Vespa Off Baby! by Paul Stevenson

I was a sixteen year old Gong freak – an affliction I still bear now – days would go by as I would entertain my friends with the floating ambient prog that was the Radio Gnome Trilogy. They preferred the less subtle strains of Ozzy era Black Sabbath (can’t knock that) and the post Nirvana grunge explosion. Strangely enough they were not overly taken with the sound. They were even more resistant to my Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman records (although my old R’n’B and soul ones were all right). I couldn’t stand Pearl Jam and the such like and I started to find myself increasingly alienated from their musical landscape. It wasn’t until I met up with a few other Proggers at sixth-form college that I found people who I could identify with.

Of course being a geek is not one that I would readily admit to, but unfortunately it was true. Short with long hair, spotty and with no chance of getting a girl friend I didn’t really improve my chances by banging on and on about the Canterbury scene constantly – nor did the fact that my “crew” were exactly the same as me help much either. It was about this time that the Captain first entered my life. The thing with our crew was to try and constantly out do each other with rare and obscure vinyl albums, at this time I was leading with my collection of early Krautrock and Soft Machine albums, but the others weren’t too far behind… It was infact a crises point brought on due to the fact that when I purchased the Hawkwind debut somebody else had actually managed to buy a Zappa album. This was crisis point. Zappa was hailed as the holy grail, his albums were expensive and famously difficult. There was only one place left to go Beefheart, even more expensive and more difficult (although none of us had actually heard anything he had done). So I saved up my pennies and bought the cheapest Beefheart album I could afford… Unconditionally Guaranteed!

Difficult listening? This is a doddle I thought. Not only had I managed to solidify my position as lead anal retentive I had also managed to enjoy Beefheart. Well time passed and it was off to University for me. Once there I decided to spend my grant on a CD player and CD’s. For the first time Trout Mask Replica was in my price range. I got it home, put it on my CD player… My jaw dropped! This is not what I had been expecting! It was fantastic, the culmination of all my early listening faves, I could here Free Jazz, and Blues and Surreal Poetry. All the things that had really captured my attention when I was at college. Fantastic. Then six weeks after that I became a Mod. My record collection of old prog went (I kept hold of all the Free Jazz and Blues) as I sold it to buy suits and fuel my Mod habit. I didn’t buy anymore Beefheart for about two years, instead I just bought old Northern Soul records and (to my great shame) Mod Revival albums.

Infact it wasn’t until I went into the local Virgin Megastore and found a copy of Lick My decals Off, Baby on CD that I started listening to Beefheart again. It completely re-lit my fire, I went out and snapped up all of the other Beefheart albums I could find. And that is where I am at now a card carrying Beefheart infected Mod… It’s a strange world isn’t it!

-Paul Stevenson (written very quickly whilst at work!)

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