Up Me ‘N Up The Canyon by Richard Rainey

Richard Rainey on his first encounters with the Magic Band.

I went to school in England in ‘67-‘68, and discovered the John Peel show on the BBC on Sunday afternoons. I figured I had pretty good taste at the time, with my favorite groups being the Who, Beatles, Kinks, Cream, Doors, Love, Jimi, et al. And oh yes, don’t let me forget the greatest, baddest of all, the true Mother of all Bands, the STONES!

So, one Sunday after finishing my studies and knocking off a few righteous hits of some really potent, pungent black Afghani, I turned on the radio..

JESUS CHRIST! What the f*** is this??? I screamed out loud. What it was, of course, was The Captain. Safe as Milk, to be exact. I think the first tracks I heard were Abba Zabba and Yellow Brick Road. I’d never heard anything like it, and it changed my life forever. I couldn’t believe the complexity of the arrangements, and the tightness and controlled fury of it all. If rock bands could be used in war, I’d send this one out first to scare, scatter and completely disorganize the enemy. I liked psychedelic music well enough, but what I REALLY liked was hard, savage, fast and loud rock, and The Captain and his Magic Band combined all of these elements perfectly.

In the spring of ‘68, I went down to Mother Earth in London to see the group. I was even more astonished by their music when I saw them live. That they could play that stuff so well on stage was incredible. I remember them kind of standing in a line on the tiny stage, with the drummer behind. The Captain, Rockette Morton, Zoot Horn Rollo… I think they were all there, but I didn’t know their names at the time. Antennae Jimmy Semens was wearing an ordinary dress over his Levis, looking kind of sheepish. Just watching them play was hilarious. They were the weirdest band yet, without seeming to try to be that way. The shows at Middle Earth started around midnight and went until dawn, and it seemed like the Captain played for hours. It was one of the most astounding events I’d ever witnessed. My girlfriend was completely freaked out by it all, and halfway thru the set burst into tears and had to leave. She knew that I had to stay to see the whole show, and to this day I still thank her for letting me.

Needless to say, I have just about all the stuff The Captain ever did. I saw him twice more over the years, in Long Beach in ‘72 and in Chicago in ‘80 or ‘81. They were all great shows, but the first was definitely the best.

– Richard Rainey, July 1999, Austin, TX

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