DON'T ARGUE WITH THE CAPTAIN
from usa 19 march 1972 CRAWDADDY #7/72
by patrick carr
is 15 january 1972 interview
note: with some dates and facts set straight, and a few editorial adaptations
part 1 - THIS is PART 2 - part 3
i could have made it many times, but i had to make my creative contribution, you know?
they wanted him to play the blues and wipe the floor with all the competition - not an unrealistic hope if it weren't for beefheart's refusal to pander to popular taste in the creation of his own magic. his progress was unsteady, halted by periods of complete withdrawal from the public world, vastly complex matters of business entailing contracts, tampering with his recorded material, personal disputes with manager / friends - all culminating in a string of broken trusts and bad feelings which thoroughly alienated him from all dealings with beings who were 'too far out', too far removed from the natural functions of man.
the story of those confusing alliances (some of them doubtless not exactly helped by beefheart's acute sensitivity) has been told before - hence my inclination to avoid this sordid, painful subject even at the expense of the reader's natural curiosity. when i first talked to beefheart, he was happy with his personal manager, one grant gibbs. since then things have changed. 'that man was just tóo híp', beefheart says, and leaves it at that. now he has a new manager with whom he seems well pleased; up in the warner brothers relaxation suite, a mood of easygoing friendship prevailed between the artist and his commercial associates.
at last he has complete artistic control over the whole process, from frantic bursts of initial inspiration to vinyl in the store window. characteristically, he maintains that should that arrangement ever change, warner brothers will have to follow his dust. about the relationship between record company and artist, he is cautiously optimistic:
i think they should make their corners a little more rounded and softer on the machine. if they could just make it a little easier - pay the artists and nót make the artist feel like he's someone pushing a broom that's connected to an ibm [intercontinental ballistic missile, or simply: a rocket - t.t.] that sends him out to the people through ratholes or something like that - i think then it would be a lot nicer. i think warner brothers are beginning to do that. so far everything has been real nice.
and now captain beefheart has joined the ranks of performing musicians. the spotlight kid is loose.
at this time i'm around people that i can look straight across at, the captain smiles. before i had to walk up into tall buildings to say hello to these people, and i had to walk down into the subterranean areas to look at these people, talk to them. now it's a little different.
as to 'beefheart, the freak-from-nobody-knows-where-or-when', he says that it is all a hoax perpetrated by zappa and others for publicity purposes; such humility is touching, but despite the fact that my personal impressions of him were distinctly wordly, i would hesitate to hang a name like 'normal don' on him. he is, above all, the embodiment of a creative force which simply discards all non-essential non-líving 'functional’ impediments to the flow of creative energy locked into this world . and that's what i mean by 'wordly.'
it upsets me that they're using me as a grandaddy clock or something, that they can walk by and go: 'well, i'm all right as long as i'm weird.' i would say that they're pretty far out. i would say that they're tacking things onto themselves, using themselves as a walking bulletin board of distortion. maybe they should try not looking in a mirror for a month or so.
i'm sure it will soon fade. just like the breath on a mirror, i'm sure that the past will fade and leave a nice rainbow or something.
yes, the spotlight kid does know when another human is trying to contact him. yes, by telephone too.
yes, the spotlight kid did engage a tree doctor to examine his trees after exposure to the din of recording in his house.
yes, the spotlight kid did shatter a $1,200 recording microphone with his astounding voice, and that was just one instance of beefheart transcending the machines. the condition of the art is, er, really poor, he concludes.
yes, the spotlight kid maintains to this day that he has never read a book.
mark boston aka rockette morton
picture by eric rudolph
i get people to read things to me sometimes. i have enough trouble getting out what's in me already without having to consider what other people are saying. besides, i can't concentrate on print, i need one of those kid's books with huge letters.
yes, he does have literally thousands of unpublished poems in storage, and to date he has written five unpublished novels, if you want to call them by that name.
no, he is not a reincarnation of one of rembrandt's ace pupils, though that would hardly be surprising, given his skill with a brush, etc. he is, by his own admission one month ago in new york city, a descendant of one of rembrandt's pupils, ace or not. he was the one who was a fuck-off, like me, admits the artist with touching modesty, drawing on a balkan sobranie cigarette, the only kind he really likes these days. americans can't make good cigarettes, he declares.
so much for the legend. there remains the man and his thought and his art.
beefheart is a large man, 31 years old and round all over, topped by a hat over the brain and bottomed by a pair of big feet on the round earth. they can catch a straight line, he says, referring to microphones, deadheads, and the like, but they can't catch a circle. i don't work in straight lines.
he talks slowly, deeply resonating words that are almost music in themselves, poetry in their co-operation with each other; sometimes the rumble booms down below the limits of a plastic tape made somewhere in japan, and i lose them to the machine. i never once heard him raise his voice or talk anything like fast, and he doesn't need to because his charisma wins attention; it doesn't demand it.
he has lost weight recently, never having attained truly heroic proportions. he'd lóve to be a balloon, but that's life. he likes joe namath [a sportsman - t.t.] because he really can do what he claims; he has no particular admiration for the grateful dead [a pop group - t.t.] because what they are doing is 'so óld', and he doesn't like 'their calling card'. he considers ornette coleman to be the fountainhead of prime creativity in american music; the mention of his name and that of van gogh [a painter - t.t.] begins a revealing monologue:
i think van gogh almost improved the natural sunshine. he got into alchemy, he got into feeling his feet on the ground and feeling the colors up from the ground and the metals and the salts and everything to such a degree that he was able to exude the ground he walked on into canvas, into paint - which i think is what an artist can do and should do. that's what i'm trying to do, you know. i'm trying to do in this day and age the same thing that he did; not the same thing, though.
there's one waterhole. there's one drop of water which makes up the ocean. and i'm just one of those drops of water, i would like to color that drop of water out and just let it break into the sunset.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW
HOW THIS ENDS, CLICK CLACK TO PAGE THREE
click clack back to the power
captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo