Monday, September 11, 2006

Captain Beefheart

Not strictly a boot sale find but a very old and scratchy record I played to death back in 1970 when this first appeared on Frank Zappa's STRAIGHT label. Not quite up to the quirkiness and inspired daftness of Trout Mask Replica which was released two years previously and the Captain's finest hour ( and a bit ).

Biography by Jason Ankeny
"Born Don Vliet, Captain Beefheart was one of modern music's true innovators. The owner of a remarkable four-and-one-half octave vocal range, he employed idiosyncratic rhythms, absurdist lyrics and an unholy alliance of free jazz, Delta blues, latter-day classical music and rock & roll to create a singular body of work virtually unrivalled in its daring and fluid creativity. While he never came even remotely close to mainstream success, Beefheart's impact was incalculable, and his fingerprints were all over punk, new wave and post-rock.

Don Vliet was born January 15, 1941 in Glendale, California (he changed his name to Van Vliet in the early '60s). At the age of four, his artwork brought him to the attention of Portuguese sculptor Augustinio Rodriguez, and Vliet was declared a child prodigy. In 1954, he was offered a scholarship to study in Europe; his parents declined the proposal, however, and the family instead moved to the Mojave Desert, where the teen was befriended by a young Frank Zappa. In time Vliet taught himself saxophone and harmonica, and joined a pair of local R&B groups, the Omens and the Blackouts.

After a semester at college, he and Zappa moved to Cucamonga, California, where they planned to shoot a film, Captain Beefheart Meets the Grunt People. As the project remained in limbo, Zappa finally moved to Los Angeles, where he founded the Mothers of Invention; Van Vliet later returned to the Mojave area, adopted the Beefheart name and formed the first lineup of his backing group the Magic Band with guitarists Alex St. Clair and Doug Moon, bassist Jerry Handley and drummer Paul Blakely in 1964.

In their original incarnation, the Magic Band were a blues-rock outfit who became staples of the teen-dance circuit; they quickly signed to A&M Records, where the success of the single "Diddy Wah Diddy" earned them the opportunity to record a full-length album. Comprised of Van Vliet compositions like "Frying Pan," "Electricity" and "Zig Zag Wanderer," label president Jerry Moss rejected the completed record as "too negative," and a crushed Beefheart went into seclusion. After replacing Moon and Blakely with guitarist Antennae Jimmy Semens (born Jeff Cotton) and drummer John "Drumbo" French, the group (fleshed out by guitarist Ry Cooder) recut the songs in 1967 as Safe as Milk.

After producer Bob Krasnow radically remixed 1968's hallucinatory Strictly Personal without Beefheart's approval, he again retired. At the same time, however, Zappa formed his own , Straight Records, and he soon approached Van Vliet with the promise of complete creative control; a deal was struck and after writing 28 songs in a nine-hour frenzy, Beefheart formed the definitive lineup of the Magic Band -- made up of Semens, Drumbo, guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo (born Bill Harkleroad), bassist Rockette Morton (Mark Boston) and bass clarinetist the Mascara Snake (Victor Fleming) -- to record the seminal 1969 double album Trout Mask Replica."

Tracks are-

1. Lick My Decals Off Baby
2. Doctor dark
3. I love You, You Big Dummy
4. Peon
5. Bellerin' Plain

Discover more about Capatin Beefheart HERE.


The Truth Hurts said...

Wow, lucky find indeed! I'm jealous!!

michael said...

Like I say, not found but bought new back in 1970 when I was a poor student, but I just had to get this one! Quite rare on vinyl now I believe and the last CD version was back in the 80's.

emanuelebrt said...

This tunes are influenced by Hownlin' Wolf.
Isn't it?

michael said...

Howlin' Wolf certainly was a big influence among many blues singers. The early Magic Band featured lots of blues covers.

Traitor Vic said...

I rate this one MUCH HIGHER than "Trout Mask" (although I listen to "Trout Mask", probably, more often). I find it a perfectly INACCESSIBLE ALBUM for those who know nothing of The Heart of the Beef.

It's just... like... CRAZY!!!