DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
BEEFHEART DISCOVERS 'WORLD'S GREATEST BAND' SENSATION
from NEW MUSICAL
EXPRESS 201176 england
is first half 11.76 telephone interview
i called captain beefheart (aka don van vliet) the other day. his huge voice came booming down the phone even though i had probably woken him up.
you sound in good shape.
i feel great! why shouldn't i? i have the greatest band in the wórld!
at last the captain has put together a magic band that he is completely happy with. or, as he so succinctly put:
it makes everything else seem like cough drops. do you know what i mean?
the new line-up consists of jeff moris tepper (guitar), eric drew feldman (bass, synthesizer and piano), jerry jaye (drums), denny walley (slide guitar) and beefheart's cousin, the mascara snake, on alto sax, bass clarinet and cello.
(on the last:) he has been learning to play the cello recently. he's back with me now and, boy, am i happy.
the only member surviving from the british tour last year is slide player denny walley. everyone else is new - three of them being added in the last few months and not even appearing on his last, as yet unreleased, album. as everyone knows, beefheart regards his previous albums 'bluejeans and moonbeams' and 'unconditionally guaranteed' as complete disasters.
my managers remixed them and took off winged eel fingerling (aka elliot ingber, predestined solo guitarist for 'bluejeans and moonbeams' - t.t.). how could they do that to me?
don attributes it in part to the fact that he signed away his power of attorney 'when i was drunk on cognac'. anyway, he renounced the music business and retired to the redwoods to paint, and it was in the forest that he met most of his new group.
they're all very young - very similar to the first group.
they have been playing material from 'trout mask replica' and such classy numbers as 'tiger roach'. they are going to play at the keystone corner in san francisco next month (december 3-5 - t.t.). and captain beefheart is very enthusiastic about it.
i think we're the first white group ever to play there...
how they'll go down is hard to predict since most of the band, like the original magic band, has no previous musical experience.
mention of management led don to reminisce darkly about the past. he does, however, seem well serviced now:
i've got three managers, and they're all real nice guys.
the managers are all working on getting his last record released. since frank zappa left herb cohen, business arrangements in the discreet (their record label - t.t.) camp have been unusually complex. don himself would like the album on warners:
for a big corporation, they're a small corporation. you know what i mean?
the album in question, bat shane poller (should be: bat chain puller - teejo), features denny walley (slide guitar), jeff moris tepper (guitar), john thomas (synthesizer), drumbo aka john french (drums, guitar) and don himself blowing a little horn. it is very much a return to the days of 'trout mask replica' according to the captain and people who have heard it here.
beefheart is puzzled as to why virgin records hasn't released it since he sent them the tapes three months ago, but the reason is simply one of business economics. virgin had to have all their christmas products out by november 15 and since they had so many major albums they decided to schedule beefheart's for spring release.
after some discussion of don's skill at playing the amplified flour sifter i asked after frank zappa.
(sounding genuinely shocked:) herbie got zappa real bad. when frank left herbie, he opened up a whole can of worms - a whole new can of worms he didn't even know was there. it seems that over the years frank had signed these pieces of paper, you know, signed in order to be able to keep on with his art....
it all sounds very bad. rumours have reached britain of zappa being locked out of his studio by ex-manager herbie cohen and of litigation flying as thick and fast as it only can in los angeles. one of the things thus stymied has been the release of the ten volumes of early zappa / beefheart recordings made at frank's three-track 'studio z' out in cucamonga, california, before they moved to los angeles.
if things work out, beefheart will tour britain in early spring. hopefully this will correspond with virgin's release of 'bat shane poller' and put him back on the map again.
notes by teejo:
the mascara snake eventually never showed up at shows or in the studio...
a version of tiger roach played by the zappa / van vliet pre-beefheart collaboration 'the soots' in 1963 surfaced on the frank zappa rarities ceedee 'the lost episodes' (1996)
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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo