“And that pantalooned duck / white goose neck / quacked, ‘Webcor, Webcor.’” Those are the last lines on Clear Spot, from a song called “Golden Birdies.” Not exactly “I Can See Clearly Now,” I know, but if you find it hard to make sense out of lyrics like that, or feel that you must, rest easy. Captain Beefheart has come out of the haze. Even though his music has always been solidly rooted in the blues, Beefheart has remained a sort of cult figure: to his followers, a supreme genius; to many others, inaccessible both musically and verbally. Starting from Delta blues, which was never
“Said the Mama to the baby in the corn/’You are my first-born/That shall hereon in be known/As the Spotlight Kid.’” That’s how the title song of this album begins, and one glance at the picture on the cover — Cap natty in Las Vegas jacket, with a knowing almost-smile on his face — reveals a man with the self-understanding and self-confidence to bill himself as a new-generational hero with no false pride. And make no mistake, it is definitely to the new audience, the ones that teethed on feedback and boogie, that Captain Beefheart belongs. He has been called everything in the past from a
Gazing across pop music’s stale horizons, past all the cynical ineptitude, pseudo-intellectual solemnity, neurotic regression and dismal deadends for great bands, there is one figure who stands above the murk forging an art at once adventurous and human: Don Van Vliet, known to a culture he’s making anachronistic as Captain Beefheart. Though there are still lots of people around who just don’t read the Cap at all, who think his music is some kind of private joke or failed experiment (or as a local teen band told me, “Most of that’s the kind of stuff musicians do when they’re just fucking around”) or merely a
Trout Mask Replica, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band (Straight Sm 1053) Captain Beefheart, the only true dadaist in rock, has been victimized repeatedly by public incomprehension and critical authoritarianism. The tendency has been to chide C.B. and his Band as a potentially acceptable blues band who were misled onto the paths of greedy trendy commercialism. What the critics failed to see was that this was a band with a vision, that their music, difficult raucous and rough as it is, proceeded from a unique and original consciousness. This became dramatically apparent with their last album. Since their music derived as much from the new
Captain Beefheart still plays to a relatively minor following, but most of them believe, as I do, that he’s one of the four or five unqualified geniuses to rise from the hothouses of American music in the Sixties, an innovator whose instinctive idiomatic syntheses and wildly original approach to composition and improvisation preview an era of profound changes to popular music. Statements like that would be extreme anywhere else, but only Cap has managed to fuse the loose ends of rock, jazz and blues so effortlessly. Because of all that, most people who will buy one of his albums at all would come close to
He’s alive, but so is paint. Are you? Don Van Vliet is a 39-year-old man who lives with his wife Jan in a trailer in the Mojave Desert. They have very little money, so it must be pretty hard on them sometimes, but I’ve never heard them complain. Don Van Vliet is better known as Captain Beefheart, a legend worldwide whom the better part of a generation of New Wave rock ‘n’ roll bands’ have cited as one of their most important spiritual and musical forefathers: John Lydon/Rotten, Joe Strummer of the Clash, Devo, Pere Ubu, and many others have attested to growing up on
In 1980, as a 15-year old I had been reading Lester Bangs’ articles about Captain Beefheart in “Musician” magazine (which turned out to be amazingly accurate and descriptive), and was quite interested to learn more about what this supposedly amazing music sounded like. However, I didn’t have the money to actually buy the records – and believe me, noone else in Sparta, Illinois had them to loan to me. One night I was interested to notice in our T.V. Guide that Beefheart was playing on that night’s “Saturday Night Live”, a show which my parents wouldn’t let me watch (although they did watch it themselves).
It took a while for the main music mags to react to Don’s death because of their advanced editorial deadlines. Here are some of them that have produced tributes of significance: Record Collector #385 February 2011 In their ‘Not forgotten’ obituary section Kris Needs (former Zigzag editor) has written a very good piece. It is only one page but it packs a lot in The Word #96 February 2011 An eight page spread, ‘A fish out of water’, that has some good points with Mark Ellen looking at his art as well as his music but also disappoints (the David Hepworth piece) by perpetuating a