DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
rough trade from venus hits it big
from FRENDZ #26
by nick kent
is 29.03.72 interview & poem & two drawings
note: text reprinted in book about cb 'the lives and times of captain beefheart'
part 1 - part 2 - THIS is PART 3
THE KID GETS HEAVY
finally the conversation turned to dealing with his old buddy from el monte, frank zappa. it was at this point that one got a taste of what it must be like to be one of those who have crossed the captain in any way:
"zappa is the most disgusting character i have ever encountered. éver! you know, he claimed to have discovered me. this sham, this bum who is under the impression that he is an artist, claimed that he discovered me! i mean, people say i discovered zoot horn rollo - which is crap: he found me and i found him. i didn't discover him or anything like that. he was 'on' when i met him. it was just that he thought he was off. but zappa! - and the thing is: he didn't have to be what he is, he just chose to be a shit. he has got a real burden - nose-to-the-grindstone, red-faced erection."
"he should know better than that, being around musicians like ed marimba. he claimed that he produced 'trout mask replica'; he was asleep at the switches, man. he is like a switchman with parkinson's disease. look what he did with wild man fischer. he tried to exploit a man who wasn't a freak; the word freak just doesn't exist as far as i'm concerned. i haven't seen any freaks - i have seen people who they say are deformed. i don't know what deformed is, because i like art and form - that's all beautiful. do you know what wild man fischer is doing now? zappa drained him: he prostituted that man's integrity."
"herbie cohen, zappa's associate and manager, reminds me of a red marble in a can of lard, and zappa reminds me of a cataract. the only reason i performed on 'willie the pimp' was because i wanted to straighten zappa out. i thought that if he came in contact with a real artist he might see the light - but he was too far gone by then. listen man, you would be degrading yourself as a writer by even mentioning his name in your article.... ask the boys in the band who used to work with him. listen: oréjon started the mothers of invention, not zappa. did you know that? even i didn't know that...."
oréjon, alias roy estrada, the bassist who stuck with the mothers from 'freak out' to the 'uncle meat' period, nodded his head. he started a band along with ray collins and jimmy carl black called 'the soul kings' until zappa came along and took them over. estrada, a killer bass player, whose falsetto renderings of such classics as 'do you wanna dance' and 'in the midnight hour' could be heard at the back of the bus, is very bitter about the way zappa treated him. since he left the mothers he has played with 'little feat' (an excellent country-rock band which also features lowell george, another ex-mother) and worked as a session man. he has just recently joined the magic band, allowing rockette morton to play guitar when the mood takes him.
his old friend ed marimba (alias art tripp) was also a mother. artie looks kind of weird on stage nowadays with his green moustache and his hair fixed in three ringlets with a pince-nez round his neck. he spent six years studying music at university and carried on that tradition with the formal/classical chamber music zappa fooled around with in the later days of the original mothers. tripp now despises 'all that formal crap' as he calls it, and is totally committed to beefheart's music.
ian underwood (zappa's ace keyboard player) played in the magic band for a couple of weeks, but he just couldn't make it. "he said the music gave him headache," tripp says contemptuously. he explained the reason that so many ex-mothers are now playing with beefheart like this: "well, all that stuff with zappa was just hard work. this band is like total liberation - work doesn't come into it at all. we've been released."
winged eel fingerling is perhaps the most interesting of the ex-mothers. his real name is elliot ingber and he played guitar on the 'freak out' album (he is the straight-looking one on the cover with the crew cut and white roll-neck sweater). after his dalliance with zappa he formed 'the fraternity of man', whose main claim to fame lies in the inclusion of their song 'don't bogart that joint' on the 'easy rider' soundtrack, which elliot wrote.
he eventually joined beefheart after 'lick my decals off, baby' had been released, but soon split owing to his hatred of being on the road. now, he too is totally committed to beefheart: "as long as there is a magic band, that's the place i want to be." he is the only one of the band who has anything good to say about zappa - "i like and respect frank very much. he's a fine guitarist - but he seems very distant from everything going on around him." after politely answering questions, he mutters "jiggers" and goes off to sit by himself again.
BOOGLARISING THE JOINT
after a seemingly endless journey - the first coach had broken down halfway between london and brighton - we finally arrived at the dome, a sort of mini-albert hall filled to capacity, as all the beefheart gigs have been. in the dressing-room the band get changed, while zoot horn rollo gets his spider-like fingers around the fret-board of his guitar, crafting almost impossible chords from the instrument in preparation for the show.
mark boston and don van vliet
beefheart disappears into the john, eventually emerging in his stage clothes: an incredible red silk suit over a black shirt with a gold necklace in place of a tie. all this is topped off with a black cloak emblazoned with some weird embroidered design and he looks every inch a rock and roll star just like little richard. "better man. richard was too little." the stage looks fine.
it must be after the first three bars of 'when it blows its stacks' that you realise something truly astounding is going to be laid on you. the captain told me that the band never do free gigs because "we need money to buy good food in order to play good music". all i can say is that beefheart and company are no vegetarians, they're cannibals. their music comes right out and eats up the audience. the guitars slip and slide with a vengeance, slicing up the music into magnificent splinters while beefheart howls like some croned shaman going werewolf.
the band never seems quite human - more like spirits suckled from birth by one of those strange treacherous figures that appear in dr. john's more inspired ramblings or which found a place in bo diddley's creepy 'who do you love' saga. make no mistake: captain beefheart and his magic band ain't just another black magic hype for the kids to lap up; they're the real voodoo, the acorn gospel in the grand old tradition of the delta music vision of 'the twilight zone'. the demons that drove robert johnson to his grave at the tender age of twenty-one are working in harness with beefheart, transforming his music into some weird bastard offspring of the music of the spheres.
the numbers the band does, come from 'trout mask replica', 'lick my decals off, baby' and 'the spotlight kid' exclusively and the live sound that they get now, makes most of their studio effects look sick by comparison. the magic band at full strength on such numbers as 'click clack', 'i'm gonna booglarize you baby' and 'my human gets me blues' are quite unique: beefheart sums it all up - "their playing is so together that they look as if they are untogether, if you know what i mean". their music is both jagged and flowing and when, for an encore, the captain produced his alto sax and proceeded to assault the p.a. with his highly 'unconventional' style of playing it was all literally a bit too much for some of the kids in the audience - although i would imagine that the whales coasting off brighton beach appreciated the communication from a fellow spirit.
AFTER IT BLEW ITS STACKS
the scene backstage after the show is hectic. bad vibes are present in the form of some acidheads who keep annoying beefheart with their inane jive. beefheart is vehemently opposed to drugs of all kinds - hard drugs he considers poison and psychedelics as "just an extension of disneyland" - and has actually spoken out on stage against them, but the fact remains that his music appeals to a young, drug-orientated audience. while he recognises the fact that the majority of his audience are young (16 year-old kids in the states make the bulk of beefheart's afficionados) he steadfastly refuses to believe that they are heavily into drugs. "i'm appreciated by those young people who have realised how pointless the drug experience is."
one of the two pictures from the concert
it is also sad that most beefheart addicts have never heard of albert ayler or son house or even don's old friend, ornette coleman: for them his appeal is that of a charismatic crazy-man spouting inspired gibberish. there is a good deal of humour and insanity in his work - which he recognises - but he is most concerned that the ideas which he puts across and the music that the band produces should ultimately be taken seriously as great art.
he contends that within the bizarre structure of his art there lie some incredibly advanced ideas. whether or not the great rock and roll population of planet earth ever pick up on them, remains to be seen - but captain beefheart and the magic band ain't worrying.... like don says:
the stars are matter / we are matter / but it doesn't matter.
as well as with the drawings don van vliet also killed time by making a POEM:
it smells like bus poop
click clack to the power station, the news or the other INTERVIEWS
captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo