I have had the pleasure of seeing Beefheart at least a dozen times between 1972 and 1980, starting with “Clear Spot” line-up. The first time I saw him he was headlining at a theater-in-the-round in Phoenix, Arizona in 1973, and Little Feat was the opening act. It was a rather bizarre venue – the moving stage did a full revolution every five minutes, so although all the seats were close the perspective kept changing.
After Little Feat put on a superb show, there was a lull between sets, and then suddenly, some… GUYS jumped out of their seats in the audience, and… RAN onto the stage. I was alarmed – WHO ARE THESE TERRORISTS? It wasn’t until after they picked up their instruments and were fully into the first song – an instrumental – that I realized, oh my gosh this is the Magic Band.
Rockette Morton – who had a toaster on his head – announced, “I would like to make a TOAST to Phoenix” and played the intro to the next song, strumming full chords on his double-necked bass/guitar, and then – THEN – the Captain came up the catwalk and received a wild ovation.
One time (late ’70’s?) I got a chance to meet him backstage at at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, California, and Don and I spent about two hours in a wonderful one-on-one conversation, where we talked about everything BUT music. Being a professional musician myself, I’m not usually an awe-struck fan, but, punk kid that I was, I asked don if he might autograph an LP for me. He said sure, so I went back to my car, came back with an armful and said, “Which one?” his eyes lit up, and Don signed every one, inscribed, “To Whitney – love over gold. Love, Don” and the date.
The things I remember most about seeing him and his band were the consistently tight ensemble playing, the roaringly powerful performances by Don himself, his gentle and playful interaction with his audiences and his beautiful soprano sax improvisation. That such creative energy can be physically contained in one body is astonishing.
-D. Whitney Quinn