Posts Tagged ‘Captain Beefheart’

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Captain Beefheart’s 1970 album Lick My Decals Off, Baby, is a classic album.  If you can imagine (for a moment) that ‘Trout Mask Replica’ never happened and the next in The Captain’s discography was ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby,’ the chasm between lovers and haters would be just as strong. For those who could palate ’Trout Mask Replica,’ the follow up album seems somewhat “commercial” but is still very much just as lyrically abstract and equally instrumentally adventurous. The production quality of the album is unquestionably superior to its predecessor. First, gone are the “field recordings” from the Beefheart house in Woodland Hills, CA. The entirety of this follow-up album was seemingly recorded in a proper studio…and was given enough of a budget to spend precious studio time to make sure it sounded much more than a hugger-mugger arrangement of demos/outtakes.

Perhaps it’s the simple and sublimely unique charm of it all, but the “fault” that I have discovered with ‘Trout Mask Replica’ is the fact that it feels more like a scrapbook of those nine months holed up in a claustrophobic house rather than a proper and cohesive autobiography of those times. Please don’t misinterpret those words to mean it is unworthy. After all, I am an ardent supporter and one of the faithful that applaud ‘Trout Mask Replica,’  that represents one of the most landmark recordings in Pop/Rock of the 20th century. As a matter of fact, I listened to it alongside The Mothers Of Invention ‘Uncle Meat’ in a single sitting and there is quite a bit of similarity regarding the structure of each album.

Obviously, the common denominator is Frank Zappa himself who informed the construction and flow of ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ He was able to more-or-less realize what HE THOUGHT The Captain was trying to achieve rather than allowing Beefheart to express what he truly wanted (perhaps that was impossible)…but that will never be known. However, the snippets of those “field recordings” and other shenanigans that were grooved into wax seem to be more of Zappa’s perverse nature than it does the overarching concept Beefheart had in mind.

That said, ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ has all of the raucous, cantankerous, obstreperous and demanding music of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ yet has a beauty, sheen and digestive quality that I don’t think Zappa ever wanted; he endeavored to make a difficult album even less surmountable by the masses…pushing the boundaries further than The Captain even wanted. ‘Lick…’ is just as free, unencumbered and freewheeling, but unlike its predecessor, possesses more structure, stability and accessibility. However, reflecting on Beefheart’s recorded output, ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby,’ is an album that (like ‘Strictly Personal’) is absolutely essential; equally as ground-breaking.

The immediate takeaway is that the songs are more succinct and the music (thanks to the production) is much more intense than the inconsistent sonics of ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ The ‘Trout Mask…’ graduates; John French (aka: Drumbo), Mark Boston (aka: Rockette Morton) and Bill Harkleroad (aka: Zoot Horn Rollo) were all on absolute FIRE for this recording. Despite all of the insanity that occurred during the recording of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ that prepared them to achieve the “cohesiveness” on ‘Lick…’ Those three (and no disrespect to Artie Tripp whose contribution is equally significant) were nothing short of telepathic at this point.

The solo guitar piece, ‘One Rose That I Mean’ is nothing short of virtuosity. ‘Peon” is an absolute sublime bass/guitar duet that illustrates a performance between players that have spent an immense amount of time playing (fantastic and unconventional material) together. The soprano sax excursion in ’Japan Is A Dishpan’ is just as “Coltrane” as John Coltrane himself during those years where he was “searching” for something he was not able to harness within the normal bookends of traditional harmony. Well, The Captain seemed to distill that searching in the matter of just shy of three minutes.

I didn’t ever think that I would have so much to say with regard to specific tracks, but the vocals, are “in your face.” This is Beefheart at his absolute most pointed, direct, intense, focused and determined. ‘The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig)’ should have been the theme song to the ill-fated civil engineering disaster labeled ‘The Big Dig’ in Boston, MA as a way of expanding roadways in and out of the city to ameliorate perennial vehicle congestion. ‘The Buggy Boogie Woogie’ is absolutely an answer to our current zeitgeist.

Much like the “now assumed” controlled chaos of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ is the Pop/Rock album that is chaos perfected. The music contained therein confirms the so-called “randomness” of the former and cements it by reproducing it to amazing detail. It ossifies that “controlled chaos;” it is thoughtful, repeatable and unable to repeat the sentiment that ultimately created the art.

‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’…’ requires and demands as much a close analysis as its predecessor (not to mention it sounds a whole lot better) and is bereft of much (if not most) of the “filler” that consumes ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ If newcomers to the Beefheart camp need to warm their toes into his most fruitful/experimental period before diving-in head first, listen to ‘Strictly Personal’ and ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ before attempting the glorious miasma that is ‘Trout Mask Replica.’

PS – I know this sentiment might rival a lot of opinions but I appreciate having the ability to compose and share my thoughts in an open forum…all reactions welcome!

words all written by Brent Rusche July 2020.

This legendary show at a festival for the “National Socialist Party” ,the Socialist Party in Paris France took place alongside other bands such as “Gong” and “Buffy Sante Marie” in front of 10,000 listeners in the rain. It was the only show in Europe in 1977 and is therefore an important document for the collector and fan. Beefheart himself was very fond of his band and the show, which he called “Greatest Hits” set. During the show, songs like “Bat Chain Puller” and “Floopy Boot Stomp” are played, although the album “Bat Chain Puller- Shiny Beast” had not yet been released, but as you know it had been waiting for its release since 1976.

The music. With compositions from several of the band’s albums, this version of the Magic Band is in great form–unfettered but holding everything together–with The Captain Beefheart’s visceral vocals over everything the band is churning out. From the start there’s an intensity that comes only from a band like this-good players with Beefheart in charge.

The show has 26 tracks is probably complete. The sound is perfectly fine, if not pretty good, for a bootleg. You can clearly separate the instruments, understand the announcements and the lyrics, and the live breathers with the audience reactions are part of a live concert for me. In the poems “One Nest Rolls After Another” and “The Dust Blows Forward N’ The Dust Blows Back” performed directly one after the other, the listeners are restless and disturb the lecture by the screams and whistles, they prefer to hear the band play again.

There are many hard-to-reach pieces of “Trout Mask Replica” and one of “Lick Me Decals off Baby” and the captain is thrilled that people dance in the rain. Songs such as “Click Clack”, “Golden Birdies”, “Grow Fins” and “Bigeyed Beans from Venus” are already more accessible and rather “Crowdpleaser”. The “pop-phase albums” such as “Bluejeans and Moonbeams” are completely omitted for the shows.

For me this is a great and important show, which you can also listen to completely .
The recording may seem a little “flat”, without the certain spark or the dymamic’s is in some respects not the best live show available from Captain Beefheart, but for collectors a “compulsory purchase”.

The band is: Beefheart-vocals/sax/gong, Robert Williams-drums/percussion, Eric Feldman-bass/keyboards/synth, Denny Walley and Jeff Morris-guitars/slide guitars, with occasional harmonica from Harry Duncan.

reDiscover Captain Beefheart’s ‘Doc At The Radar Station’

As the 80s rolled around, many iconic artists from the 60s would struggle to find their place in the decade. Captain Beefheart, however, though boasting a 60s discography that re-wrote what was possible for a mere three-minute song, came back revitalised. The punk and new wave scenes of the late 70s and early 80s had embraced his creative freedoms, while Beefheart himself, after seemingly turning his back on boundary-pushing music, unleashed a late-period Magic Band that asserted his credentials as one of rock’s true visionaries. They super-charged themselves for 1980’s “Doc At The Radar Station”, his penultimate album. Portentously, it boasted an artwork painted by Beefheart himself – the final album to feature his own work on the sleeve, as if signposting Beefheart’s eventual decision to retire from music and pursue painting in the middle of the decade.

The line-up that made “Doc at the Radar Station”, the penultimate studio album from Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, recorded in June 1980. In this photo, left to right: Robert Arthur Williams, Don Van Vliet, John French, Eric Drew Feldman, Jeff Moris Tepper and Bruce Lambourne Fowler. Photo by Michael Kent Rothman.

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In this photo, left to right: Robert Arthur Williams, Don Van Vliet, John French, Eric Drew Feldman, Jeff Moris Tepper and Bruce Lambourne Fowler. Photo by Michael Kent Rothman.

Doc At The Radar Station marked the first Magic Band credit for New York art-rock icon Gary Lucas – continued evidence of Beefheart’s influence on NYC’s downtown art scene (it’s an influence that never left: the album’s opening track, ‘Hot Head’, is a clear ancestor to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ early outings). Further youthful bite came courtesy of Eric Drew Feldman, a multi-instrumentalist who had joined the fold for 1976’s Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), and who would go on to perform with Pixies and PJ Harvey – two artists who wore their Beefheart influences openly.

A nod to Beefheart’s hallowed Trout Mask Replica-era band came with John French’s return since his defection in 1972. French picked up marimba, slide guitar, bass and drums across ‘Ashtray Heart’ and ‘Sheriff Of Hong Kong’, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that both boast the deceptively unhinged mania that marks much of Beefheart’s 60s output, but with an extra heft thanks to the new blood involved.

This melding of old and new is arguably what makes Doc At The Radar Station such a success: some of the material dates back to the Trout Mask era, while other outings (‘A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond’,’ Flavor Bud Living’, ‘Brickbats’) received initial try-outs during the shelved Bat Chain Puller sessions of 1976. With such a forceful Magic Band attacking top-tier material with gusto, there was no way Doc At The Radar Station could fail.

Indeed, in their review Rolling Stone lauded “music of such heat, strength and passion that many listeners will get trampled”, though also noted that the songs “rarely shatter into headlong chaos without first showing the comely, formal compositions they might have been”. It was an astute observation. Beefheart might have divided his fanbase with his outwardly commercial 70s outings Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans & Moonbeams, but it’s true that Doc At The Radar Station also makes clear the genuine songcraft that goes into even his most outlandish material.

It had taken almost two decades, but perhaps the world had finally caught up with him. Rolling Stone reasonably pointed out that, really, the man Don Van Vliet was “bugged by the same things that plague us all: bad relationships, bad technology, bad government”, while The New York Times was sufficiently moved to hail album closer ‘Making Love To A Vampire With A Monkey On My Knee’ as “probably the most extravagantly original and perfectly realised creation of Beefheart’s career”.

Almost three decades on, as a penultimate salvo, Doc At The Radar Station still warrants such positive diagnoses.

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Gutbucket (An Underworld Eruption) is a 1969 sampler album released to promote artists on the Liberty Records label. It was followed later in 1969 by Son of Gutbucket.

Back in 1969 Liberty Records released two compilation albums: ‘Gutbucket (An Underworld Eruption) and ‘Son of Gutbucket’, that featured artists on it’s roster. These included the likes of Captain Beefheart, Alexis Korner, Canned Heat, The Groundhogs, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Roy Harper and Aynsley Dunbar to name just a few of them. The albums were recognisable from the pigs on the cover and something of a DIY looking aesthetic (although Liberty was an imprint of a major label, Transamerica).

Side 1

  1. “Gimme Dat Harp Boy” – Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – from the LP Strictly Personal
  2. “The Wall” – Hapshash and the Coloured Coat – from the LP The Western Flier
  3. “You’re Gonna Miss Me” – Lightnin’ Hopkins – from the LP Earth Blues
  4. “I’m Tore Down” – Alexis Korner – from the LP A New Generation of Blues
  5. “Still a Fool” – The Groundhogs – from the LP Scratching the Surface
  6. “Dismal Swamp” – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – from the LP Pure Dirt
  7. “Wine, Women & Whisky” – Papa Lightfoot – from the LP Rural Blues Vol 2

Side two

  1. “Pony Blues” – Canned Heat – from the LP Living the Blues
  2. “Down in Texas” – The Hour Glass – from the LP The Hour Glass
  3. “No More Doggin’” – Tony McPhee – from the LP Me And The Devil
  4. “Can Blue Men Sing the Whites” – The Bonzo Dog Band – from the LP The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse
  5. “Mamma Don’t Like Me Runnin Around” – Big Joe Williams – from the LP Hand Me Down My Old Walking Stick
  6. “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” – Jo-Anne Kelly – from the LP Me And The Devil
  7. “Call Me Woman” – Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation – from the LP Dr. Dunbar’s Prescription

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their last album ‘Smoke Fairies’ Released last April ,So following on from their self-titled third album, Smoke Fairies are set to release “Wild Winter”, the 10 track Rough Trade-exclusive album of seasonally-themed songs over the festive season. now emerged with this cover.