DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
LOVE OVER GOLD
captain beefheart talks to rm readers
from RECORD MIRROR
by norman jopling
is late 03 / early 04.72 interview
five years ago, the magic name of captain beefheart was no more than an imported elpee in the window-display of clique-ee one-stop records. there it caught the eye of peter meaden, entrepeneur extraordinaire and ex-protege of andrew oldham. so fascinated was peter with the lp (simply titled 'safe as milk') that he purchased it and upon listening, realised that the captain was, to quote a recent warner brothers press handout 'a cosmic genius'. the rest is history, of sorts. peter hustled himself almost out of business to bring 'the buddah package show' from cannes' midem festival to london in 1968 - it included captain beefheart and his magic band, penny nichols and the sadly under-rated anders & poncia.
beefheart was already known to john peel (for john had met beef in the u.s.a.) and 'safe as milk' received regular airings on john's radio shows. but beefheart's course of reality didn't run smooth. pye records (who leased buddah) declined to issue 'safe as milk', until pressure became so strong that they put it out - in mono! it made the charts..., and its producer, newly-famous richard perry (of 'nilsson schmilsson' fame) is quoted as declaring 'safe as milk' his best job of work. other records followed, charting the captain's progress through the stormy seas of more and more reality. [......] and now, 'beefheart's most accessible recording to date': 'the spotlight kid'.
beefheart, alias don van vliet, is currently engaged on a sell-out tour of the uk - at the albert hall there were queues of fans being turned away from a full house, a far cry from the days of '68. but is all this as far as beef can go? can he ever be another t. rex? is his popularity strictly limited to the long-haired freaky underground set? the captain thinks not. he is, as he insists, a real artist. but can he be accepted as such with his...: 'full figure'?
'i'm working on this,' he told me, pointing at his ample frame. 'people find it difficult to accept me as an artist like this.' but he proved his point at the albert hall, when he strode around the stage, looking powerful and sounding penetrating. it's only one of the many jams that the captain is always engaged in kicking out - on behalf of himself and spaceship earth. we talked about women.
'i had known my wife for years before i...-' 'before you met her,' he explained. 'right,' i said. 'everywhere you go, it's all cock,' said beef, 'penis buildings for women sticking up everywhere. i want to build some cunt buildings. for women.'
somehow we talked about frank zappa. 'ringo (starr, drummer from the disbanded 'beatles'- t.t.)..., getting mixed up with zappa in that movie... ('200 motels - t.t.)!' his vibe was disapproving. 'but you were involved with zappa,' i said. 'don't talk to me about that. how can i answer you?', said don. 'zappa was putting around that i was a freak. that i conceived all my music, wrote it, sung it all on acid. lsd-25 (popular hard soft-drug - teejo). twenty-five.... i would téll everyone if that was true. i did it all without acid. i did it all on reality. but zappa put me in a box.'
he gesticulated to show me how he felt. 'but...: you had knówn zappa already!', i whined. 'yes, yes! but don't you see: i thought that the consciousness of myself and my band could get to him. i thought we could. but i couldn't. he's so uptight, always trying to prove to everyone that he's a mán.'
if all this gives the impression that beefheart bears grudges or is a negative person, then i have given the wrong impression. beefheart is incapable of negativity - but unlike most artists, he is capable of telling the truth, as anyone familiar with his records will know. he has the supreme artistic gift of tóuching a reality inside anyone who cares to listen to him. he is intense..., and truthful.
'how's record mirror?', he asked. 'oh..., they've been taken over by billboard,' i replied. 'bíllbóard!! not billboard! the mirror: taken over by billboard!' he was so astonished, got up from his chair and walked around, and sat down again. 'and there's a new policy,' i added, 'appealing to the young..., the thirteen year olds.' 'do you know thirteen year olds? they're béautiful,' said don, 'and we're another generation.'
'maybe you could give me a message for the young readers?', i asked. 'tell them: 'i'll love them if they love themselves'.... and tell them: 'love over gold'.'
the captain then rapped at some length about the beatles and lots more things, including don's ecology warnings on his early albums. but, sadly, record mirror has no more space for any more of don's reality. just remember that he is a man who loves us all. if you don't believe it - go and buy 'the spotlight kid' and by the time you have played it a few times you'll have a new friend.
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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo