I have just received the following statement for the site from John French:
Well, all good things must come to an end as they say…
After a lot of painful deliberation, we decided to no longer pursue the Magic Band reunion project. There are a lot of reasons, but rather than going on about booking agents not collecting deposits, promoters who didn’t pay, fraudulent contracts etc., I thought it would be a good idea just to say “thanks” to some of the people who made things possible.
Pre – 2003
- Graham Johnston (beefheart.com founder, great friendship and support)
- Derek Laskie (webmaster, beefheart.com)
- Steve Froy (very supportive of all efforts, and help in editing my book)
- Dean Blackwood (Revenant Records co-founder who released “Grow Fins” compilation and initial encouragement to write a book, still in the works)
- Elaine Shepherd (initial inspiration for reunion, producer of BBC documentary “The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart,” and “Crows Milk” DVD, general all-around support, t-shirt design, good advice)
- Paul Smith (funded airline tickets for a trial rehearsal in October 2001)
- Bill Harkleroad (for even considering…)
- Barry Hogan / Helen Cottage (ATP promoters of first 3 shows… and good friends – you two made it happen and treated us like kings)
- Bob Weston (sound engineer of Back to the Front and live sound man through Jan 2004)
- Juan Luis Carrera (tour / stage management through Jan 2004)
- Robert Williams (drummer extraordinaire)
- Mike Barnes (author, Captain Beefheart, notes for DVD )
- DVD crew:
Colin Minchin (editor)
Adrian Udal (DVD authoring)
Eleanor Thomas (art design)
John O’ Donnell (concert sound mixing)
- Tim Sutton (camera, group photos for Back to the Front)
- Patrick Acum (camera)
- Ralf Nygard (videotaped Camber Sands show and synched with live feed)
- Michael Maksemenko (support / encouragement)
- Janet Walley (in the great quest for a China Pig and much more)
- Michael Traylor (great drumming and a huge help in every way imaginable)
- Kim Traylor (taking care of important details)
- macmobilehats (videotaped Glasgow / Edinburgh concerts)
- Ian MacArthur (lots of support and advice)
- Matt Groening (curator of LA ATP concert at Queen Mary Ship)
- Gozzi (driver 2004 tour)
- Wendy Carolan (tour guide and British historian)
- Mark Simms (sound, 2004 tour)
- The Late Great John Peel (for having us on his radio program and generally having been an historic influence in the entire history of the band. More below)
- Malcolm Mills (Managing Director, Proper Records, supplied backline for 2005 tour, released 21st Century Mirror Men)
- Paul Riley (Commercial Director, Proper Records, assisted Malcolm in all of above)
- Roddie Muffin (driver 2005 tour)
- Chris Constable (sound man 2005 tour)
- Primary Talent International / Steve Backman (agent 2005 tour)
- Ralf Nygard (arranged TV appearance)
- Eric Palm – (Head Of Department MADE Festival)
- Robert Arnlund – Producer, backline coordinator, friend.
- Daniel Nygaard – (sound engineer)
- Jimmy Agren – (chaparone)
The reunited Magic Band, for over three years, had the opportunity to perform the music of Don Van Vliet for true fans, many of which told us things like “I never dreamed I’d get to hear this music performed live again” or something similar. We played a total of 32 concerts if my math is correct, released a rehearsal CD ( Back to the Front ), a live CD ( 21st Century Mirror Men), and a DVD ( Crows Milk / Live at Shepherd’s Bush Empire).
It was quite an experience. One of the highlights of which was Camber Sands, our first performance with all the anticipation that comes before a maiden voyage. When I shouted “AND” – kicking off My Human Gets me Blues, I had tears in my eyes because we had actually accomplished the goal and the reality of the moment was so intense that I will remember it for the rest of my life.
Shepherd’s Bush Empire, our second, was a momentous occasion in which we felt the warmth and the love of fans who were anxious to once again experience the music. We were on stage for well over two hours, and I wish we had been able to perform more material because the air was electric.
Edinburgh ( Auld Wreaky), the Liquid Room venue stands out because of the wonderful people and the amazing environment. The hotel restaurant was on the top floor and overlooked Edinburgh Castle, which is lit up at night. A beautiful piece of history on display topping off a picturesque village and warm and friendly people is something we Americans seldom experience.
Amsterdam, June 2004 ( Paradiso ), was a real thrill. We were able to spend several days in the city and I can truly say that I was very sad to leave when it was over.
Glastonbury 2004 was absolutely overwhelming and showed that the music was still drawing interest, even from younger crowds. While playing drums, I completely shattered a drum mic, which I understand made a huge explosive sound over the sound system. Also, the monitor sound man had his talk back mic on and was swearing and cussing because of technical problems, not realizing it was being fed directly to my in-ear monitors. He was quite embarrassed to realize that his entire tantrum had been transmitted to my in-ear monitors at full volume and we all had a good laugh about this later.
One of the most beautiful and impressive venues of 2004 was Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall with its three tiers of balconies and wonderful acoustics. Top that off with a sound crew of volunteers who are just plain wonderful people and you have a winning combination.
The Acorn in Penzance (2005, a small venue made over from a church) was surprisingly one of the best venues we played. It was well-run, had a great group of people running it, good acoustics, and a very clean comfortable dressing room.
A moment of sadness:
July 2004 was the John Peel show and it was such a happy reunion for me as I had not seen him since 1968. The following October, he died of a heart attack, which I can truly say crushed my spirit for a few days. We sent out a song to him in 2005 on each night – Electricity – which had been performed on his original show back in 1968 and was again performed in 2004. He told me it brought tears to his eyes. His death brought tears to mine.
Also and especially:
I’d like to give special thanks to my wife, Donna Blair French, for her patience and understanding while I was so busy with this project. It’s not an easy task to be married to a musician – especially one playing such obscure music. Also, my daughter Jesse Blair-French for putting up with my artistic moods.
I would especially like to thank Denny Walley for contributing so much of his personal time and energy to making the tours possible. Somehow, he was able to include tour management, musician-ship, and accounting into his busy schedule, which includes his own sculpting and props business in Atlanta.
The biggest thanks of all goes to the fans who showed us so much sincere and deeply-appreciated respect, accepting us in spite of the critics ( “Where’s the Beef?) and intuitively understanding the true motive of our efforts. You provided the greatest rewards of all at each performance.
-John French, September 2006
It’s very sad that it’s all over but, then again, it’s not that sad at all because it was wonderful; so many of us are just so pleased/amazed that it ever happened. The shows may only be good memories but the live albums, DVDs and amazing Peel session prove that it was real and every bit as good as we thought at the time.
Has there ever been a “reunion” show so well received?
If anyone would like to express their thanks to John and all of the Magic Band for having the nerve to even attempt to booglarize us again in the 21st Century, let alone to do so with such brilliance and integrity, then please post your comments here.