*May 1970. High School kids in my living room. Singing. “Hot and slimy weenie, knocking at my door/Hot and slimy weenie, crawling ‘cross the floor/Hot and slimy weenie/hot and slimy weenie/hot and slimy weenie… WHERE ARE YOU NOW?!?” The tape still exists, us mindlessly wailing away over the same bass pattern with our 1970 rock band equipment, seconds later me grabbing the microphone and reciting the words to “The Blimp” from Trout Mask Replica and then all of us playing as loudly and as randomly and as “weird” as we thought Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band would be if they were in the same
“My music is terribly personal,” Don Van Vliet says, his eyes fixed intently on me. “I think any artist is that way. I think there’s a lot of people out there that are kidding about art. I mean, literally kidding.” Van Vliet speaks in a soft, slow Southern California drawl that sounds nothing at all like the raw, rasping bellow he usually affects when he’s singing under the name Captain Beefheart. But his intensity is the same, and he is every bit as captivating, clever, charming and sometimes exasperatingly difficult to follow in conversation as he is in performance or on record. One of the
Whatever the relationship between the music of Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) and new wave, it must be more than coincidence that after fifteen years as a largely ignored but legendary eccentric, he is making music that is as strong and strange as any he has ever made, and is receiving more recognition than ever before. Captain Beefheart has always represented the final frontier of rock weirdness, but his vintage records were only taken seriously by a few at the time of their release. Few critics (Langdon Winner foremost among them) tried to negotiate the maze of the music’s roots and the essence of Beefheart’s
After 16 years and a dozen albums, the world has finally caught up with Don van Vliet. IT’S A DOGSHIT DAY ON West Forty-second Street, the neon-choked main drag of Manhattan’s cheap-thrills district. As the daily midmorning traffic jam congeals into an unmoving mass, Don Van Vliet peers out a drizzle-streaked car window at the shuffling tribe of hookers, hustlers and head cases that clogs the sidewalks, then squints up at the lewd movie marquees looming above: SLAVES OF THE CANNIBAL GOD. SUGAR BRITCHES. THAT’S PORNO! Reeling out into the street, a sputtering madwoman, dizzed-out and in full rant, does battle with her demons, flinging
Don Van Vliet has just spent the last fifteen minutes wandering around the conference room at Warner Brothers’ New York headquarters, investigating the possibilities of undoing the corporate environment. He has painstakingly adjusted and readjusted the dimmer switch until the lighting in the room matches the twilight outside, and he has also managed to pry open one of those standard office building windows, the kind that no one who works in places like this ever even gets near for fear that if they do try and get some fresh air in, some alarm will ring and a team of security guards will haul them away
“Beefheart was a major influence on Devo as far as direction goes. Trout Mask Replica… there’s so many people that were affected by that album that he probably doesn’t even know about, a silent movement of people.” — Devo, quoted in Search & Destroy #3, 1977 I have been a staunch admirer of Captain Beefheart since 1970. The singular nature of his music, and the joy, excitement and mystery that are an inextricable part of it, are so extraordinary and exhilarating that I find myself compelled to celebrate the man whenever I have the chance. My first opportunity came late in 1970 while I was
As we approached Captain Beefheart for an interview he was remarking to a small gathering of fans seeking photos “I wish I was an octopus, I really do though. I mean, could you imagine standing there octopied like that. No, I mean man, that’s beautiful, really… I love dolphins, and octopus…” We met the Captain [Don Van Vliet] in the parking lot, between concerts at the Red Creek Inn here in Rochester recently, during his North Eastern tour, and recorded the following interview: GREG: [photographing Carl and the Captain holding a ‘Trout Mask Replica’ album, leaning against a white station wagon] Hafta stand back a
Beefheart has been called a genius and that is unfortunate. Geniuses for the most part are people who die poor and unrecognised only to then receive attention (No, this is not Jim Crotchetey we’re talking about). For the most part geniuses are not rock stars and if they are they’re the type who don’t tour and only come out of seclusion every few years to record an album before scurrying back into the isolation of the California hills or ‘the country’. It’s part of a mystique creating process that Beefheart has unfortunately been associated with. If the album is so crazy that no one can
The article is introduced by the ZigZag editor, Connor McKnight. Many thanks indeed to Michael H for sending this along. In September of 1970, I moved into a new flat in Bayswater. It has about it an air of what indifferent novelists invariably call faded gentility. All our neighbours seemed very old and very quiet, but it was still a nice place. Now one evening when I was sitting on the toilet, of all things, a faint trace of musk wafted through the door, and upon closer listening it bore a great similarity to ‘Space-Age Couple’ from ‘Decals’ – in fact it was ‘Space-Age Couple’.
The introduction merely relates the Beefheart ‘legend’, however the interview itself is particularly interesting as the Captain discusses the formation of the Magic Band and the music which they produced, offering full credit to those involved and their contributions to the music. Captain Beefheart is not a military hero, the star of a kiddie show, or the symbol of a brand of dog food. After spending some time with him, though, you get the feeling that he could, if he really wanted to, be any one of those things. What he might be is the most unorthodox, most creative pop musician of this decade. If
This article / interview first appeared in Sounds 14th April 1973. Many thanks indeed to Simon Sergeant for typing it up and sending it. I must confess I didn’t expect Captain Beefheart’s reply to “Hello, how are you?” to be that he felt fine but was very angry about the Muhammad Ali fight: “Look what they have done to him man, I mean he won that, and they took it away from him.” Don Van Vliet and his wife Jan joined us for a lunch a couple of days after he flew in to London for his biggest and potentially most successful tour here. With
The Manteno Festival may be the only festival not covered by the usual media overblow – mainly, of course, because Cincinnati is hardly your basic cultural Mecca. Also, no film was made, no records were cut, no one was killed or over-stoned or rioted – only music happened, albeit quite theatrical music, and a good but not revolutionary time was had by all. Well-met at the Ludlow Garage on Nov. 20-21, local entrepreneur Jim Tarbell by beneficent accident had simply assembled a jumble of freaky bands for two evenings of hot licks: The hometown Balderdash, two Georgia gangs (The Avenue of Happiness and the Hampton
“Uh oh, the phone,” Captain Beefheart mumbled as he placed his tarnished soprano saxophone in its case. “I have to answer the telephone.” It was a very peculiar thing to say. The phone had not rung. Beefheart walked quickly from his place by the upright piano across the dimly lit living room to where the telephone lay. He waited. After ten seconds of stony silence it finally rang. None of the half dozen or so persons in the room seemed at all surprised by what had just happened. In the world of Captain Beefheart, the extraordinary is the rule. At age 29, Captain Beefheart, also
18th October 1987 interview with Don’s friend Kristine McKenna. Hear it!
If you can cope with the interviewer’s ego then this is pretty entertaining – hear it!
Welcome to my very favourite item here at the Radar Station. It’s a streaming audio interview broadcast on the John Peel show on the 24th April 1973. Fourteen minutes long, it is less of an interview than a friendly chat. John Peel states at the beginning that he is notoriously bad at interviewing people, but this is one of the best interview I have ever heard with the Captain and really captures his sense of fun. This tape was sent to me by Peter Cooney, many thanks indeed. Click to hear the show.
Recorded and broadcast live in 1972 by a DJ entirely unable to cope with Don, and who could really blame him? Hear it!
Here you will find streaming audio files which make up a full interview which took place in California, July 1969, between Don Van Vliet and Meatball Fulton. Divided into 5 parts, each part is just over 20 minutes long for your convenience. You may occasionally hear sentences abruptly clipped due to the original tape running out in the machine recording the conversation. I doubt there is a more complete audio version of this interview available anywhere. This is a fascinating interview, with Don making a startling succession of inspired observations about music, art, drugs, literature, human society, nature etc etc. I tip my hat to