I’m very sad to say that my old friend and fellow Beefheart fan Paul Brown has passed away. Paul was probably THE Beefheart fan, a fervent collector and the most knowledgeable of all things Beefheartian that I have ever known, he always knew what was shakin’ in Vlietland. He was a great mate, kind and generous and a good laugh.
Many longtime fans will have probably come across Paul at some point and others will have benefited in one way or another, even if they don’t know about it, by his involvement in collecting all things Beefheart.
I first met him back in the days of tape trading. We were both seeking out Beefheart live tapes and I was amazed at the collection he had managed to accumulate – many of which he had recorded himself back in the 1970s. He was the first person I had met who was even more obsessive about Beefheart than I was! We soon realised we were kindred spirits and become firm friends, sending each other our latest acquisitions or snippets of information. Between us at that time we had the largest collection of rare Beefheart tapes on God’s Golfball!
Paul contributed to Gerry Pratt’s legendary Beefheart fanzine, Steal Softly Thru Snow which did so much to pull the community of Beefheart fans together. And after Gerry’s untimely death he took over the editorship publishing several issues, finishing the separate Blimp Over Europe and issuing two volumes of Rollin’ Red’s Big Bad But Beautiful Book of Beefheart Bootlegs. (He sometimes hid behind the alias of Bloodshot Rollin’ Red). His distinctive enthusiastic writing style made for great reading.
He helped put together the Beefheart memorabilia collection that accompanied the Stand Up To Be Discontinued art exhibition in Brighton in 1994. He also worked as an adviser on the BBC documentary The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart, as he had tracked down many pieces of previously unknown footage of the band playing live.
Not only did he collect but he also created collectable items. He curated a number of ‘grey area’ (okay, bootleg) collections on CD back in the early 2000s – The Early Years, If You Got Ears, Live At The Radar Station, and Live At The Golden Bear 31/1/81 – which all collected together rare and/or previously unheard live and studio performances.
He was relentless and single-minded in tracking down obscure Beefheart items. pretty much every rare item you can think of passed through his hands at one time or another. He didn’t always keep them, often preferring to sell them on to finance the next one. He set himself the challenge to track down copies of every release of Beefheart’s first single Diddy Wah Diddy / Who Do You Think You’re Foolin and in the process turned up some very rare European releases.
We have lost a great well of knowledge although I did manage to capture some of it and you will find it scattered throughout this website in one way or another.
If you’re a Beefheart fan then take a minute to remember Paul and thank him … he did his bit to help keep this amazing music alive. Play 25th Century Quaker in his memory … it was one of his favourites … I’ll never forget the joy on his face when the reunion Magic Band played 25th Century Quaker at the Garage on their last tour.
When he wasn’t obsessing about Beefheart he also knew a fair bit about Frank Zappa, early Pink Floyd and The Fall. His other big passion was Liverpool FC, but most all he was a proud Dad and Grandad.
Goodbye, my old friend, brother from a different mother … keep on rollin’