It’s good to see that some people have taken the time to acknowledge Trout Mask’s 50th anniversary. Here we have two online radio shows, both available on Mixcloud,  taking different approaches to celebrating the greatness of the band’s landmark album. Both are well worth a listen. Firstly we have the London based Resonance FM. The host discusses the album with Beefheart biographer, Mike Barnes and the show is described as: Freewheeling music series with Ivor Kallin. This week we celebrate fifty years since the release of Captain Beefheart’s Troutmask Replica, with special guest Mike Barnes, author of the seminal work on the good captain. ExpectRead More →

Liverpool’s Bluecoat Gallery continue their support of all things Beefheart with a special event to mark Trout Mask Replica’s 50th anniversary. Beefheart biographer Mike Barnes will be leading a discussion about the album and artist Derek Tyman will be creating a scale model of the Trout House! Bluecoat Artistic Director Bryan Biggs chairs the event, which continues Bluecoat’s relationship to Beefheart, from his first ever exhibition of paintings at the venue in 1972 to a special weekend in 2017 that explored him as a ‘total artist’ who embraced music, art, writing and performance. The event is on Sunday 16th June 2019. For more details andRead More →

Don will be the subject of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Great Lives’ on Tuesday 3 April at 4:30 pm (BST). The programme will then be available online at the BBC iPlayer radio. He has been chosen by comedian Jim Moir, better known as Vic Reeves one half of the surreal and barking mad comedy duo Reeves and Mortimer. He will be accompanied by Beefheart biographer Mike Barnes. Should be well worth a listen. Find it here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xjx30  Read More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This excellent introductory article was taken from the April 1998 edition of The Wire.[/alert_box] Mike Barnes follows the pioneering trail blazed by Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band. Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, was born in Glendale, a suburb of Los Angeles, in 1941. 16 years after his last record was released, he is still one of the most talked about musicians of his generation. His most famous work, the double album Trout Mask Replica, inevitably makes an appearance in any chart purporting to feature the best albums of all time (most recently it featured in Channel 4’s Music Of The Millennium) andRead More →

Art answered a few questions via the Fire Party discussion list which I thought I’d include here for more fans to read. Derek Laskie asked: Was your stage headgear a trophy of some sort, or was it personally styled for you by DVV? I thought the panties would be both suggestive and practical. One ponytail hanging out each leg hole, and one out where the crotch would be. It also kept my hair from flapping around too much. It remains one of the most favorite stage costumes I used. No trophy. The first pair were from my girlfriend. Subsequent ones were store bought. Elliot RogersRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article first appeared in the April 1999 edition of The Wire, prior to the release of the Grow Fins box-set. Many thanks to Mike for his permission to use it.[/alert_box] Captain Beefheart likened making music to going to the bathroom – it’s not something he wants to look back on. Here, Mike Barnes grills the Revenant label on the ethics of its ‘unauthorised’ CD retrospective that claims its rare unguarded moments reveal the true Beefheart. “Some of the most compelling moments in Captain Beefheart’s recorded legacy have been heard by just a handful of people.” So says Dean Blackwood, co-founder with John FaheyRead More →

Captain Beefheart by Mike Barnes, second edition

UK second edition Publisher: Omnibus / Music Sales Limited Date of publication: November 2004 ISBN: 1844494128 Dimensions: 210 x 135mm soft back Extent: 400 pages Price: £16.95 Order: Amazon.co.uk Mike Barnes has made considerable updates to this new edition but confusingly the book has been published with the same cover as the first edition (apart from the addition of a John Peel quote) and no obvious indication that changes have been made. This second edition was reprinted in 2009 with a different quote, this time from ‘Mojo’ magzine, on the front cover. A competition was run to win copies of the UK second edition – see the fiendish questions and the detailed answersRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article is an extract from Mike Barnes’ biography of Don Van Vliet, Captain Beefheart, published by Quartet Books, 2000.[/alert_box] ISBN 0 7043 8073 0 You can order this book from Amazon.co.uk or any good UK book sellers. ‘Everything they did I had ’em do. I mean I’m a director. I don’t wanna boast or anything like that, but I am an artist. And the thing is that sometimes artists are considered horrible after they direct something. Y’see those guys, they fell too far into my role, and then they didn’t like me after that. It happens in theatre and everything. But I can’tRead More →

In recent years it seems that every aspiring writer capable of pressing keys on a word processor has felt obliged to publish their attempt at telling the Captain Beefheart story. Many of these writers have skilfully bypassed the entire research stage and plunged headlong and brain-free into the telling of a story that they know little about, occasionally with hilariously half-baked results. Those of us who have gained a perverse enjoyment from these humdrum handbooks should prepare themselves for a severe disappointment – Mike Barnes can not only write, but he also knows what he’s talking about. Facetiousness aside, this is a marvellous read. CaptainRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This review for the Beefheart biography was written by Julian Cowley and was taken from the July 2000 edition of The Wire.[/alert_box] As a small child, Don Vliet (the Van came later) collected hair from his Persian cat and moulded it into the likenesses of other animals. By the age of 13, he’d completed the mammals of North America and Africa, and had developed a special fondness for ayes-ayes, dik-diks and other strange lemurs. Then he moved onto fish. Mike Barnes acknowledges early on in his book the refined capacity of Captain Beefheart, Don Van Vliet’s magical persona, to embellish accounts of his ownRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Article taken from the 17th August 1997 Daily Telegraph.[/alert_box] But why did he throw it all in and go to live in the Mojave Desert? Mike Barnes finds out. “I’M a genius, I was born with my eyes open,” said Captain Beefheart back in 1972. A lot of people still agree with him. John Peel is one of them. “If there has ever been such a thing as a genius in the history of popular music, it’s Beefheart,” he says. “I heard echoes of his music in some of the records I listened to last week and I’ll hear more echoes in records thatRead More →

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 aRead 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 →

I’m looking forward to the DVD release next year of a new documentary about Captain Beefheart. A good number of Magic Band musicians were interviewed for it in London and America over the past couple of months, so it should be interesting to hear what they had to say. Captain Beefheart biographer Mike Barnes was among those taking part and he has kindly allowed me to reproduce a short account of his experience. This was originally posted at The Fire Party Discussion List. [wp_quote] I went to be interviewed by Prism Films for the upcoming Beefheart DVD documentary yesterday. We were in a freezing cold, desertedRead More →