[alert_box type=”info”]This review for Bill Harkleroad and Billy James’ book was written by Andy Gill and appeared in the December 1998 edition of Mojo Magazine.[/alert_box] AS ZOOT Horn Rollo, Don Van Vliet’s most faithful lieutenant in The Magic Band, Bill Harkleroad was one of the most influential guitarists in rock music, though as this memoir makes clear it was always a labour of love, first and foremost. Not only did he have to suffer the bizarre whims of Beefheart’s absurd regime but, as he reveals here, he ultimately received “no money whatsoever” from any of the albums he played on. Harkleroad admits this was probablyRead More →

Anton Corbijn taking Don's photo

[alert_box type=”info”]Some of the greatest Beefheart photos were taken by Anton Corbijn, who writes here. He took the famous Ice Cream For Crow desert snaps, and numerous others scattered through this site. Originally appeared in Mojo Magazine, December 1993[/alert_box] I am a photographer who is a friend of Beefheart’s, rather than being an authority on him. When I met Beefheart on an NME assignment in September 1980, I didn’t know much about him at all. I met him at the County Museum of Art in LA and suggested photographing him in the desert, where he’d just come from. He said yes rather reluctantly, and weRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Interview taken from December 1993 Mojo Magazine.[/alert_box] On September 30, 1993, Dave DiMartino received a phone call from Don Van Vliet. I heard that you have a new studio up there. Is it a big one? Yeah. Is it complete? Yeah. I’m painting like a house afire. (laughs) How do you spend your time now? Mostly painting? Yeah. Do you do any drawing? Oh yeah. All the time. How is your day spent up there? Do you see many people? Just paint. No people. Just painting. Are you happy up there like that? Yeah. Happy as a clam. (laughs) Does it seem as ifRead 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 →

[alert_box type=”info”] This letter originally appeared in Mojo Magazine as a response to their article about Captain Beefheart entitled ‘Yeah I’m Happy‘ from December 1993. John French (Drumbo) wanted to set the record straight, though the allegations in this letter are strongly denied by the author of the original article, Dave DiMartino. See also Henry Kaiser’s statement on the matter and Dave DiMartino’s response. [/alert_box] I just read the Beefheart story a week or so ago. DiMartino, the author, was supposed to send me a copy (all writers promise, most never carry out their promises.) Eventually, I stumbled on it by myself through a friend,Read More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article first appeared in Mojo Magazine, December 1993 as an introduction to an interview with the man himself.¬†Please also see John French’s response to this article.[/alert_box] He is alive. A recluse. Painting in seclusion up near the Oregon border. There have been weird signals through the ether since he stopped making music 11 years ago, but they were faint, confused, unintelligible. But now Dave DiMartino has finally made contact with the man who used to be Captain Beefheart. It is entirely fitting that Don Van Vliet, painter of international repute, and one of a handful of truly legendary figures in rock ‘n’ roll,Read More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Taken from 29th July 1990 Los Angeles Times. Later appeared in an edited form in December 1993 Mojo Magazine under the title ‘Run Paint Run Run'[/alert_box] Once known as avant-garde musician Captain Beefheart, Don Van Vliet has quickly won the art world’s attention as a painter The art world tends to regard popular entertainers with a peculiar mix of infatuation and disdain. Though artists, musicians and movie people amiably rub elbows on the cocktail-party circuit, artists bare their teeth when actors or any of that ilk seek legitimacy as practicing visual artists. Maybe it’s jealousy or territorialism, or maybe they figure the commitment requiredRead 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 →

This issue of Mojo (November) has a buyers’ guide for Captain Beefheart featuring a readers’ top ten of all his albums: Trout Mask Replica Clear Spot/Spotlight Kid Lick My Decals Off Baby Doc at the Radar Station Dust Blows Forward (compilation) Strictly Personal Safe As Milk Grow Fins (compilation of unreleased gems) Shiny Beast Mirror Man Safe As Milk would appear higher than that in my top 10 of any albums, not just Beefheart, and I’m surprised at the poor showing of Shiny Beast, another firm favourite of mine. This is something which Warner Brothers/Rhino should take note of: people would like to be ableRead More →