DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART'S MAIDENFORM ROCK
from COAST vol.12
#4 010471 usa
by bob chorush
is early 03.71 interview
part 1 - THIS is PART 2
the captain seems to sense the awkwardness of his vague answers; he seizes the initiative like a cowboy trying on a pair of dress boots. now he begins to interview mé:
whatever happened to the buck deer, as opposed to the sears-roebuck?
you mean the 'réal animals'?
i thought so! like there's only 300 tigers left in the world.
i heard that zsa-zsa gabor (film actress - t.t.) has a tiger skin coat.
isn't that ridiculous? she must have a pussy problem. she's intimidated by the fact that the cat is so natural. it doesn't train itself. i feel that people who wear cat skins have never really gotten away from mama. how many cats do you see wearing cat skins?
all of them?
that's all you should see.
now i decide to play 'influence', an interviewer's divertive means of stalling until a good question comes to mind. typical questions cover the entire spectrum of contrived trivia available at any particular moment. 'influence' is played on an imaginary chess board, using more-or-less the usual chess notation. as interviewer, i am entitled to the first move.
(p-q3:) what music do you listen to?
(p-k4:) i'm listening to the sky right now. i'm listening to you. i'm listening to the birds outside. i like a bird because a bird really blows. a bird doesn't stop so abrupt as a human. birds seem to have natural pickup. a bird is a natural pickup. a ranchero isn't.
(qn-qr3:) how about 'experimental' groups like pink floyd...?
(q-kb3:) yeah, i don't see that. it's the same old cake with a different icing. at least they crack the ice.
(p-kb3:) john cage...?
(kb-qb4:) i don't think we have to worry about anything with him. he seems like a nice guy. i don't think he's trying to impair anybody's vision, or make them wear the same prescription glasses he does.
(n-qn5:) charles lloyd...?
(k-kb1:) he's out of sight. i heard him in san francisco. someone threw a boot at him. imagine that: charlie lloyd, a beautiful player!
(kn-kb7:) frank zappa...?
(q-kr5:) ... is a bump on my career....
(kp-kn3:) andy warhol...?
(q-q5:) ... souped things up.
(kn-kr8:) the beatles!?
(q-kb7:) ... are bullshit!
but captain beefheart stops at checkmate only as long as we might stop at a red-lighted intersection. actually, the captain doesn't stop at all; he glides through the red light to make a right-hand turn, running perpendicular to comprehension.
girls were taking off their brassieres and throwing them at me at the concert that i just did in philadelphia (on 290171 - t.t.), he confides. is he asking me a question, stating a fact, or theorizing? daydreaming, fantasizing, or simply conversing? rehearsing, reversing, diverting or converting?
i think they wanted to give me something? i gave them music and they wanted to give me something back.
i'm beginning to see that i've been completely replaced: the captain is both asking and answering all the questions. i settle back to peruse a book which the captain usually takes on stage with him, a book from which he reads during performances with the magic band. it's called 'five little pussycats' and includes 'the northwind and the robin'. also, it has the captain's cryptic lyrics scribbled on alternate pages. it is an old, worn, bland of color sort of volume. i turn on the tape recorder again and let beefheart and the machine complete the interview together.
yes, go on, captain... (i almost hear it say.)
maybe the name for my music is 'maidenform rock'. we try to play as much as we possible can - as opposed to getting someone into a structure and then lullabying him to sleep. most music is a reverse tranquilizer. 'héavy, héavy, héavy, héavy' rock is trying to keep up with general motors. some of those people actually pass oldsmobiles and chevrolets. you can imagine how it would hurt somebody's ego meeting an oldsmobile and getting passed out. i pass out when i see an oldsmobile. they're too sharp. the latest hit is probably just another oldsmobile. something you can ride that fast on. nice upholstery and everything....
my tape recorder, it seems to me, upon playing back the interview later, appreciates this metaphor of the captain's: music as a motorcar. the machine apparently turns up its own self-adjusting volume, and i can almost hear it ask: please continue...
picture by bruce wilson
they've already proved einstein. i mean, all you have to do is look at the way the sun shines on a leaf, and it's round. they proved that light goes in a circle. so, i imagine as long as i'm light, i'm in a circle. everything is in a circle. when people try to roll a square they get a lot of bumps.
spontaneous things are true things. society is so anti-spontaneity because they can't get past the idea of 'the switch'. some people think they can throw switches on other people. they switch them on when they want to hear them and switch them off when they don't. you know as well as i do that if you turn off a switch you couldn't turn a light back on if the electricity wasn't moving. see..., electricity never stops moving. that's the 'spark of life'. how can you turn life on or off?
abandoning 'five little pussycats' now, i make a last desperate lunge ('why can't i...?') in an attempt to re-establish a modicum of order: i ask beefheart what he thinks of the national tour warner brothers has scheduled for him and ry cooder, the bottleneck guitarist. both artists have received minimal publicity..., so minimal, in fact, that the record company has taken it upon itself to do the booking for the trip.
beefheart is excited about the opportunity to perform before so many people all around the country. it's been four years [corrected - teejo] since he and the magic band recorded 'safe as milk', the first elpee, on the buddah label. ('we used a theremin on that record... it was the first time anyone used it. it sounds like honey on zee's toilet paper.') according to the captain, he's never made a decent living from record royalties. as he talks about his performances, you can almost see in his eyes the reflections of brassieres hurtling toward him from the screaming fans in his audiences.
i hope that the people who come to see me come in without any attitude..., or lattitude..., or longitude..., or altitude.... i'll be playing with zoot horn rollo (bill harkleroad), rockette morton (mark boston), winged eel fingerling (elliot ingber), drumbo (john french), and ed marimba (art tripp) who joined us about nine months ago and used to be with john cage [this must be questioned - t.t.] and with the mothers of invention.
i'll be playing my saxophone. i never took lessons or anything. i never rehearse. the rest of the band rehearses a lot. i would appreciate it if they would refrain, because i don't think having to rehearse is a fair recommendation. it's sort of saying you didn't have it to begin with, and i feel everybody has it. drumbo has kept track of how many times i've played the saxophone. the last count was about 113 or 114.
the future for captain beefheart and the magic band looks brighter now than ever before. he may be working on an album of blues songs (or 'aquamarines and cadmiums') soon ['the spotlight kid'], and his new warners' elpee 'lick my decals off, baby' met some critical success. buddah has even re-released the 'safe as milk' album. not only recordings, but literary endeavors are promised: beefheart is preparing two books for publication: 'old fart at play' and 'singing ink'.
when we finished the interview, captain beefheart accompanied me out to my car. one of my first unanswered questions came to me suddenly, and i asked don van vliet where he got the name captain beefheart.
well, i was thinking about the fact that i had a beef going with the world. i had a beef in my heart, see?... and, the captain, you know... i hadn't come to terms with myself.
you seem to have come to terms now, don. do you think you'll change your name?
oh, the name doesn't matter much. a name is like a social security card. i doubt if i'll ever retire on it.
he's right, i suppose. a name is like a social security card. and an apricot is like an egg. and, ultimately, it all means absolutely nothing.
... just like the sun....
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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo