The late Gary Marker, a jazz and session bassist at the time, was a close associate of Don Van Vliet during the 1960s. He produced some demos for the band, as well as early versions of some of the Safe As Milk songs. He also played bass on Moonlight  on Vermont and Veteran’s Day Poppy on Trout Mask Replica. Gary often graced the online forums devoted to chat about Beefheart where he responded to questions and comments freely and extravagantly in his own inimitable way. Here are some of his posts concerning the Strictly Personal album. In 2001 Gary was asked about the lines “Cheese inRead More →

The sound quality of Safe As Milk is something that has been discussed in one way or another quite a bit over the years. Why does it sound the way it does and which release is the best version available? Some (but not all) of the issues can be traced back to the way the album was recorded in the first place. Ry Cooder and Gary Marker have both been critical about the way Bob Krasnow and Richard Perry took the recording out the superior eight track Sunset Sound Studios and moved it to the four track RCA Studios to the detriment of the overall soundRead More →

Before the recording of the Safe As Milk album there was a studio session where a number of demos were recorded produced by Gary Marker which became known as the Safe as Milk Demos, or the Buddah Takes or the Disneyland Demos. March [?] 1967 Original Sound Studios, Los Angeles, California Producer: Gary Marker Track List Sure Nuff ‘n’ Yes I Do Yellow Brick Road Plastic Factory Electricity Abba Zaba (Follow links above to hear the songs on Youtube) The story behind the demos The band finally left the desert and moved to Los Angeles, to a rented place off Armor Road in Laurel Canyon, inRead More →

It is with great sadness that I heard of Gary’s passing yesterday, 8 December. His family announced he had died following a massive stroke. Gary ‘Magic’ Marker was a good friend of Don van Vliet’s in the early 1960s around Los Angeles. He helped produce the Safe As Milk album and for a time played bass with the Magic Band but wasn’t interested in it as a permanent gig. I befriended him online about 20 years ago and he was always happy to talk about his Beefheart experiences and his time in the music world generally. He had a great fund of stories, was a greatRead More →

Rising Sons were a band that included Ry Cooder, Gary Marker, Taj Mahal, Kevin Kelley and Jesse Lee Kincaid. Their various 1964-66 recordings for CBS were never released. As a live band they drew the attention of Don Vliet who berated Doug Moon saying he should play slide like Ry Cooder. The 20 year old Cooder played slide and bass on the Safe As Milk album as well as arranging several songs most notably ‘Grown So Ugly’. Taj Mahal played percussion on ‘Yellow Brick Road’. Gary ‘Magic’ Marker was involved in the early production work on Safe As Milk, as well as playing occasional bassRead More →

Already known as ‘Magic’, Gary hung out with Don Vliet when he was in Los Angeles in the early sixties. A bass player with jazz leanings (and he’s played with most of the well known names) he helped with Don’s musical education and played with the Magic Band on a number of occasions but was unwilling to kow tow to the large Beefheart ego on a regular basis. Gary was involved in the early production work on Safe As Milk. He stood in for Jerry Handley on bass at live shows during 1964-67 and joined the Magic Band for a short spell in 1968-69 (‘MoonlightRead More →

In 2001 Gary Marker wrote to say the following: Zig-Zag Wanderer was a specific reference to the popular rolling papers of the same name. (“You can huff, you can puff…” doesn’t ring any faint, tinkling bells and conjure up any smoke-drenched images?) I probably read this a while back on the Beefheart newsgroup: someone was confused about the bass line on “Zig-Zag Wanderer” and wanted to know if anyone had transcribed it. Well, one of the difficulties in figuring out the bass part on that song is probably because – and if you listen carefully you can hear it fairly clearly – there are threeRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Originally appeared on Safe As Milk[/alert_box] Long before song before song blues Babbette baboon [repeat] abba zaba zoom Two shadows at Noon, Babbette baboon [repeat] Comin’ over pretty soon, Babbette baboon Run, run, catch her soon, draft of dawn, sunshine on Babbette baboon Mother say son, she say son, you can’t lose, with the stuff you use Abba Zaba go-zoom Babbette baboon [repeat both] Run, run, morning soon, Indian dream, tiger moon Yellow bird fly high, tabacco sky, two shadows at noon Babbette baboon gonna catch her soon Babbette baboon Song before song before song blues Babbette baboon abba zaba zoom [repeat both] TwoRead More →

My musings on the meaning of the lyrics for that particular song aren’t my personal interpretation, I’m merely relaying what Don Van Vliet told me that the lyrics are all about. So, it’s the author/composer’s own interpretation of what the words mean, not mine. Meaning The words are about human evolution, which Don somehow seemed to feel took place on the Indian subcontinent – not Eastern Africa. He apparently wasn’t familiar with L.S.B. Leakey and his various progeny and kin – or their discoveries at Olduvai Gorge. “Babbette Baboon” is an ape-like creature on the brink of “comin’ over pretty soon” to a more humanoid existence – if she canRead More →

Here’s a treat … Gary ‘Magic’ Marker features in the latest issue of TimeMazine talking about his time with the Rising Sons, the Magic Band and Fusion as well as about the Don he knew. Gary is a great raconteur and writer so this is well worth checking out. If you haven’t come across TimeMazine before it describes itself as a Psychedelic fanzine about the 60s and Beyond ’em. It comes out annually and this is issue #6 with 88 pages, a 14 track CD compilation and a vinyl 7″ (for the first 800 copies). Other contents include Barry Melton from Country Joe and theRead More →

Film of Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band performing Diddy Wah Diddy and Who Do You Think You’re Fooling was broadcast on Dick Clark’s television show Where The Action Is on 24th May 1966. Shot on location at a Californian beach Captain Beefheart’s sexy glowering beatsters played their music to an audience of gyrating valley girls and boys. This film is a joy to watch, so now that it has been pulled from YouTube for being used without permission we can only hope that Dick Clark Productions, Inc., the copyright owners, have plans to let their film be more widely seen elsewhere. Film of CaptainRead More →

The second part of Derek Laskie’s interview with Herb Bermann, legendary writing partner of Don Van Vliet in the early days of the Magic Band is now available and is just as fascinating as part one. At one point Herb expresses his annoyance with something written about him in Mike Barnes’ biography of Don Van Vliet. I’m puzzled by his suggestion that Barnes should “do his homework” – I’d like to stress on the writer’s behalf that this is clearly a very well researched biography. Herb Bermann features only very briefly in the story which, despite his momentous contribution to one of my all timeRead More →