A look at the new book from Herb Bermann, Don’s co-writer on Safe As Milk. It’s not that long ago that many people thought that Herb Bermann was just another myth created by Don Van Vliet. Although he shared writing credits on eight songs on the Safe As Milk album, and, much later, one on Shiny Beast, he seemed to have disappeared off the radar. But the Radar Station kept looking for him … You can read about my and Derek Laskie’s search here. We were certain he was out there and Derek eventually managed to secure an exclusive interview with him for the Radar
aka Herb Masters The search for the mystery co-songwriter from ‘Safe As Milk’ Of the 12 songs on the ‘Safe As Milk’ album 8 are co-credited to someone called Herb Bermann. Who was he? No-one at the time seemed to know, he wasn’t a member of the band, he didn’t co-write any songs on the following albums and he was never mentioned in interviews. Very strange. Some fans thought he may have been an anonymous staff-writer foisted on Beefheart to keep the lid on his eccentricity … or, maybe, he was a friend of the producer or an agent getting a cut of the royalties.
He wrote Plastic Factory, now he sells credit cards – the careers of a Zig Zag Wanderer Second telephone interview between Herb Bermann and Derek Laskie, Tuesday 10th February 2004 (see part one) In The Malibu Times piece you mention that you’ve done other collaborations with music. I was wondering what these might be. Oh gosh, I meet once or twice a year with several songwriters and musicians and we write new material. Marty Grebb, an original Buckingham from Lindsey Buckingham’s group in the sixties, Marty’s a one-man band. Marty toured with Bonnie Raitt for twenty-five years. Marty and I collaborate at least once or
First telephone interview between Herb Bermann and Derek Laskie Tuesday 13th November 2003 I’d just like to start talking about your poetry, your recent reading for example. How did that go? It went very well. It was very well received. It was some fresh poetry that came to me. Beyond Baroque is the premiere venue for West Coast poets and poetry. It was a packed house and everyone showed up courteously in the thank-you line. So the kid’s still got it, his legs aren’t gone yet. The kid? Me, meaning me. I’m sixty-seven now. I think I’m eight or nine years senior to Don Van
Herb Bermann, the legendary poet who wrote most of Captain Beefheart’s Safe As Milk lyrics (and some more) appears on a new DVD recently recorded at a poetry reading at Beyond Baroque. Good-Bye to the Rodeo Grounds is a sort of momento of one of the last artist communities in Los Angeles, evicted to make way for a state park. In his interview for this website Herb talked about this, and of course about his involvement with Captain Beefheart. The DVD is available from Custom Flix or Amazon. There are several excerpts from it at YouTube, including an 8 minute sequence of Herb Bermann reading
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 time
Don Van Vliet and Herb Bermann wrote the songs ‘Can Fever’ and ‘Bone Crazy’. The BMI website says so, and BMI should know. BMI keeps comprehensive records of the people who write, compose and publish songs. You’ll look in vain through the Beefheart catalogue to find ‘Can Fever’ and ‘Bone Crazy’. Even the most hardcore of Beefheart scholars have never heard these songs. So when these titles were found at BMI, years of general wonderment and speculation ensued. What might these songs be? With Herb Bermann as a co-writer, could ‘Can Fever’ and ‘Bone Crazy’ be missing songs from ‘Safe As Milk’? No demos or