I must admit – Captain Beefheart’s music is an acquired thang. But once you acquire it – there’s no turning back, as the devout will tell you. When I first bought Trout Mask Replica (on the day of its release!), it was merely because at the time I thought anything Zappa was involved with – directly or indirectly, HAD to be good (little did I know). I brought it home and was appalled that there was not only one, but two records full of a hideous confused barrage of garble. This was the untrained ear’s interpretation. I couldn’t believe that I had forked out twice the dough for twice the rubbish! I literally (as existing friends of the period in time will attest) took the vinyl off the turntable and chucked it across the basement room and it landed in an incredibly improbable way – embedded between a leg of a couch and the floor at a 45 degree angle! This of course became a little shrine of sorts – a demented, peculiar ode to the enigma of Trout Mask Replica….
A month later, after the shrine had to be dismantled while cleaning the basement, I gave it to one of the friends who participated in the “coven of the shrine” for his birthday. Again, we all had a big laugh… ha ha ha here is the resurrected piece of crap for your birthday ha ha ha! When visiting this guy at his house, I would dig out the Trout Rubbish LP and play it because we DISliked it so much. It was HIS now, it wasn’t MY problem anymore. I did this so often, with a lot more “ha ha ha’s”, that over time, I started to actually HEAR what was going on in the making of this …music.
In utter disbelief one day the “ha ha ha’s” came to a screeching halt, and a new ear grew out of my head and something in the musical appreciation area of my brain popped open and I saw the light! This guy was writing the most amazing completely new and unheard musical accomplishments in modern music! This was ASTOUNDING! And the lyrics! HOLY…!! THIS WAS THE KINDEST, WISEST, MOST ENIGMATIC, HUMANITARIAN, SHAMANIC SEE’R MUSICIAN ON THE NORTH AMERICAN CONTINENT!!! And there WE had been scoffing!
I became obsessed with the Captain. I practiced learning to play the drums to the Trout Mask album every day – (with the belief that if you could learn to play that – you could play ANYTHING!) By the time Lick My Decals Off, Baby was released, I was waiting with baited breath. Would THAT be a good example of “acquired listening”? I remain in awe of the man’s musical and artistic talents, abilities and output, as well as his personality. And I acknowledge with amazement and bid fond thank-yous to ALL the members of the Magic Band(s)!
And a B I G thank YOU Mr. Van Vliet!
-Greg Gardner, April 1998