In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: Pierre Antaya Sent: Monday, January 17, 2000 3:32 PM I hope you and your family are doing well. My name is Pierre Antaya and I have been a CB&TMB fan for some thirty years. So much so that I am planning a Web site. The site will focus on the Beefheart alumni and entourage. If all goes well, it will go online sometime before the winter of 2001 and will be in three languages (French, German & English). Below areRead More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: The Artist Who May Become Known As John Ellis Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2000 3:21 PM We talked several years ago on the phone, which I enjoyed. Good luck with the book. I’ve noticed the song lyrics when published as poetry sometimes include different or extra lines, wondered if they were rewritten by Don or was this the form they were originally composed before they were altered to fit music? Van Vliet seldom had a set pattern for anything. IRead More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: Basil Storey Sent: Saturday, January 15, 2000 7:47 PM When the Trout Mask Replica music was played on stage, did the fans dance? Hardly ever. It seems like most folks would sit down and observe, but I’d be busting the damn bloody insanest body contortions. Were there any fans that made a particular impression on you? I rarely interacted with fans on tours. We were usually whisked in and out and seldom were able to actually talk with fans afterRead More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: Bruno Ghezzi Sent: Thursday, January 13, 2000 4:48 PM Hi Drumbo, I think that “Dachau Blues” is the only cut Don plays bass clarinet on; in fact, it is a twin bass clarinet workout in which both Don and Mascara Snake play bass clarinet. There is no other cut on Trout Mask Replica in which Don plays b.c. My question is: Is this true? Bruno, This is a tough one for me to answer as I wasn’t at the session.Read More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: Bob Jennings Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2000 1:11 PM I am especially interested in the design and manufacture of that “conga’ drum set Drumbo played at the Warehouse in New Orleans in 1971, but I am also interested in any of the equipment aspects of the Magic Band. Gear issues are always left out of biographies, but it would be cool to know what kind of guitars the Magic Band played in their Post-Szabo Archtop Period. Bob, Post-Szabo Archtop Period???Read More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: Cisco Garcia Sent: Sunday, January 09, 2000 3:59 AM How abusive was Don? I’ve read reports that claim he was very nice, and I’ve read reports that said he was an overbearing, abusive taskmaster. Please set the record straight. Cisco, I suppose that he was both. When I worked with him, he was for the most part an abusive taskmaster. The later Magic Band members, especially Eric Drew Feldman, have a completely different vision of Don. I believe the differenceRead More →

From: Duncan Lockerbie Sent: Sunday, January 09, 2000 10:59 PM Just how into drugs was Don? Was he really psychic? Duncan, Short questions with answers far too big for here, this will all be covered in the book. In the early days, Don was into “grass” a lot. He also experimented with LSD a lot and had a lot of associated mental problems when I joined the band directly related to his abuse of this chemical substance. Don had a lot to do with me getting involved and actually “indoctrinated” me to marijuana almost immediately upon my inclusion to the band at age 18. DuringRead More →

From: Robert Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2000 6:16 AM John – do you guys now or then feel any kind of sense of lost opportunity playing in rock music? what I’m kind of saying is that the jazz players that played with the old greats like Parker and especially Miles Davis all went on to bigger and better things once they left/fired. I always thought there just didn’t seem to be anywhere else to go for the magic band members, since you guys were further out than the fusion music of Weather Report / Return To Forever/ Mahavishnu Orchestra / etc. Robert, This is oneRead More →

From: Joe Ashworth Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2000 11:09 AM How did you create those incredible rhythms on TMR (Sugar n Spikes, Ant Man Bee, My Human Gets Me Blues, Frownland most notably) and what input did Don have exactly? Joe, Thanks for your questions. One song at a time: “Ant Man Bee”, this was totally a Don Van Vliet drum beat and the only one he ever actually played repeatedly on the set. I’m talking not only about the main beat throughout the song (which he named P-K-Ro-P — pronounced “peekaropee”), but also the alternate beat near the end is his. However, he “sang”Read More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: Eric Clark Sent: Sunday, January 09, 2000 8:48 PM Greetings John, I have played a long time myself and respect what you do. Please talk about how the drum parts were developed. How much “freedom” you had within the framework of what you were given. And about the tuning of your drums, choice of cymbals etc. Were these things that you controlled or were others instrumental (oops and ouch for the pun) in directing the drumming and drum production. HowRead More →

Introduction by John French As I began to write my book, Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic, the question plaguing my mind was: “What do Beefheart fans really wish to know?” One and a half years ago, Graham Johnston was kind enough to accept questions on his website to supply me with the answer to that question. I found that the questions themselves, many answered in the book, deserved acknowledgement in their own right and so I suggested to Graham that I answer the questions individually so that he could post the answers on the site. This turned out to be less simple than itRead More →

In 2000 John French, aka Drumbo, was writing his account of his time in the Magic Band, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic. The author called on Radar Station visitors to send him their questions and suggestions for the book, to ensure that he included the details that you wanted to know. Many of you responded to this appeal and John French passed on his sincere thanks. Many of the questions were of a very specific nature and couldn’t be easily covered in the format of a biographical book. Since they were also very interesting questions well worth addressing, John suggested that his answers couldRead More →

John French’s long-awaited exhaustive account of his time working with Don Van Vliet was published in 2010 by Proper Music Publishing. Purchase Buy the hardback from Buy the hardback from Related items John French answered Radar Station visitors’ questions while writing the book – highly recommended reading! Press release from Proper Music Publishing Twelve page PDF of extracts and promotional material from Proper Music Publishing Trailer for the book by Elaine Shepherd Reviews The Radar Station’s review by Steve Froy The Fringe Magazine review Brief review in The Guardian Help us out If anyone is able to complete or update any of theRead More →

The ultimate book about Captain Beefheart written by the man who spent more time with him than most. Published in hardback. 880 pages, including 16 pages of amazing photographs, many published for the first time. Includes reminiscences from key members of The Magic Band and The Mothers Of Invention. Cover price £19.95. Out 11/01/2010. Distributed by Music Sales. ISBN 9780956121219 Few names carry such formidable mystique and rabid cult status as Captain Beefheart, who led various lineups of his Magic Band to make some of the most startling, ground-breaking albums of the last century. In 1982, he retired to concentrate on painting, leaving the mythologyRead More →

Many thanks to John French, drummer and (now) singer extraordinaire for sending along his thoughts about what it was like for Drumbo to perform Beefheart’s great songs for a wildly appreciative audience during the spring 2003 UK gigs. Memories of UK Trip The flight over was uneventful (thank heavens). I brought my wife Donna and daughter Jesse with me for this trip and drummer Robert Williams was on the same flight. We landed about 2:20 in the afternoon Monday 31st March and were met by Juan our tour manager and Barry. We were then driven in a large van to our hotel in London, aRead More →

To all the fans who showed up and offered support in our June/July tour – have a wonderful Christmas. Hope to see you next year. Part One: Amsterdam to Liverpool My wife Donna had tears in her eyes standing on the impersonal LAX sidewalk the morning I left. We’d never been separated this long before and we only had moments in the hustle and bustle to say a rather formal goodbye. I walked inside and took my place in the long line behind a tennis player from Germany who was going home to visit her family. We conversed about universities, sports training, and torn kneeRead More →

Sent to me by Rick Snyder, this was a 1975, Bat Chain Puller-era promo shot for DiscReet Records, featuring the newly revitalised, post-Tragic, Magic Band.   L-R: Elliot Ingber, Don Van Vliet, Denny Walley, Bruce Fowler, John French (front)Read More →

It’s been a long time coming. There were times when it looked like this book wouldn’t see the light of day … and what a great loss that would have been for us all. So I have to say ‘thank you’ to John for persevering with it and also to Proper Records for bravely taking on the publishing. The first thing you notice is that this is a BIG book. My review copy was a half-size photocopy and it was still huge, so I hope that the binding on the finished product is strong enough to hold the 800+ pages! The book looks good thoughRead More →

Elaine Shepherd’s classic BBC documentary, introduced and narrated by John Peel. Completely wonderful, a 50 minute joy: Reviews, articles, blog posts, etc. relating to The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart. When the film was first screened by the BBC, it was followed by the Anton Corbijn / Don Van Vliet short Some YoYo Stuff.Read More →

In April 2003 I received a message from Dave DiMartino, the author of the 1993 Mojo article “Yeah I’m Happy” featuring interviews with Don, various members of the Magic Band and Henry Kaiser. This article caused John French to write a letter to Mojo expressing his unhappiness with the article and apologising for any upset to Don that may have been caused. Years later, Henry Kaiser wrote to me to say that he never conducted an interview with Dave DiMartino and that the quotes attributed to him in the article were made up. Dave DiMartino contacted me around 1999 to express his sadness at JohnRead More →