SUGAR AND SPIKES
odds and ends
SPUTNIK AND THE BLIMP
an odd journey through one man’s mind
as told to and related by c. linstrom
part 1 - THIS is PART 2
Apparently, gentle reader, Don isn't a prompt man, as well.
THE THREE FAT LADIES
The first time I was supposed to meet him, was at the Seal Rock Inn - he was staying there and it was right by my house so I said, ”Oh, great”. I was s’posed to meet him for lunch so I said “O.K. I’ll be over there like, 11:30 and we’ll have lunch”. And me and Cindy went over there and we called his room when we got there, it was about 11:30 - the phone was busy. Damn! So we waited and we called a little bit later - phone was busy, we waited about twenty minutes...
Finally about 12:30 we said “Hell with it!” and they won’t tell you what room he’s in - but I’m supposed to meet him! I’d never actually met him so I didn’t want to go up to his room, y’know? So we decided we were gonna sit down and order lunch and if he shows up, he does, so at least it was 12:30, we’d waited an hour. We ordered lunch... We ate lunch...
So this is about 2:30, right?, and we’d been there three hours and the place had pretty much emptied out. It was just me and my ex-wife Cindy and this one other table with this really fat kid, a girl, and her mom was even fatter and a huge fat lady that was her grandmother - three fat ladies. We were the only ones in there but we just kind of ignored them, right?
And then Don walks in about 3:30 with his note pad and Harry Duncan and he looks around the place and looks at me and says “Look at these Mág-ní-fí-cént Fat Ladies! You did this for me?” He thought I had arranged for them to be there for him. Then he says “I can’t talk - I gotta draw these ladies”... I thought they’d be pissed off but they were kinda flattered that he wanted to draw them.
[As to the location of the drawing of The Three Fat Ladies, Bill is uncertain,
but he believes that that drawing and the others that Don gave him are still
with Cindy (that's what Anna - Bill's wife says).]
The Sputnik spoke and time telescoped back - way back. Slowly I became aware of being inside of a recording studio, I could see all of them but I was transparent. Flying on the Wall. Follow me to the harmonica overdub for 'Golden Boy'...
Don, who stands up at around 5’8”, was in front of the microphone - blowin’ all over the track, he wanted the entire track re-done to fit his playing, actually, when suddenly like a mime cracking up against the wall he felt blocked. Through these odd noises in my head I could hear Bill speaking. This is what I heard:
THE TALE OF THE THOUGHT HARMONICA
Don’s manager, Harry Duncan - he was sittin' there (in the control booth), honkin’ a few things every now and then, and Don would go... “Goddamit I can’t play now, there’s someone in there playin’ harmonica in there. God damn.” And we’d been tryin’ for hours just to get him to play a simple little part, y’know but there just wasn’t any room for any more parts in the track. But I wanted that sound, so I had to go out and say, “Harry - could you please put away the harmonica so Don can play his part?”
So we tried it about ten more times and he would just not play what you wanted, and then Don said “Goddamit, someone’s Thínking Harmonica in there!” So we said “O.K., Harry could you wait in the hall?”. And then I just said, this is it, so I let him do it a few more times - he still wouldn’t do it. But there just wasn’t room in the track - the track was done - I mean, if we were building the track around Don that would’ve been great, but this track was done and there was not room for this big solo that he wanted to put over everything.
Pretty basically, his idea was, “Rewrite the song!” and we couldn’t afford that, so I just said that was fine and then as soon as he was gone I said “Harry could you stick around a little bit, I want to talk to you”, so as soon as Don had left I said (to Harry), “We have another track. Could you just play the part we need?” and he said “Don’t ever tell Don I did it!”
bill 'sputnik' spooner then
picture from inner sleeve
taken during don's session?
As far as if Don knows or not, Bill is of the opinion that Don never listens to music - as he has it in his own head all the time, but thát he must know by now. Could it be a breaking story - who knows? But let’s travel onward... Fear nothing and grasp the faint hand of Hope my fellow fans, and rejoice because it ís Captain Beefheart on The Tubes’ song “Cathy’s Clone”. Silence, Bill speaks...
THE CAPTAIN AND THE CLONE
Included herein being the account of THE HORRIBLE LIGHT
Don had a real old soprano saxophone when he was trying to do the 'Cathy’s Clone' thing - but the lights weren’t right in the room. We were in this studio at the Record Plant in Hollywood, I don’t know what room but it had colored lights all the way around the room, somebody’d screwed in these little bulbs - about seventy of ’em - all the way around the room. Don said “God dammit, one of these lights is drivin’ me crazy! I can’t play! One of em’s drivin’ me crazy!”
O.K., so the assistant engineer goes to the storage room and gets a ladder - comes back, goes up the ladder, starts right in front of him, unscrews the light, unscrews the light, moves the ladder, unscrews the light. Half an hour later he comes all the way around and does the last light and Don goes: “That’s it! That was the one!”
Getting the part out of him for 'Cathy’s Clone' was easy, I just had a couple of tracks and first I played him the song and I asked him: “What do you want to hear, bass and drums, or...” “No I don’t want to hear anything, just start the tape.” So I just started where I knew it was going and I just pointed at him and he wasn’t listening but he just went crazy on the track which he does, but he didn’t want to hear the track, he didn’t even want to know the key. He’s not so good at playing along with things, y’know?
[Interestingly, there is also in existence, a two-track 'spy tape' that Bill
recorded during the Golden Boy/Cathy's Clone sessions that Cindy may also
have. Will these things ever surface or, like a ghost submarine will they
forever wander the undercurrents of our existence?]
And now, I feel our journey together through Bill’s brain is coming to a close. The stars are shining past me now, I’m coming closer to the present.
All at once a blinding thought came through Anna to the table... and she pressed Bill to tell the story of...:
OLD ANECDOTES AT PLAY - MORE BONGO FURY
There was a time, awhile back, when Bono - from U2 - had heard that Captain Beefheart was living in a trailer in the desert. My guess is that the guy assumed that Don - like so many eclectic players before him - was near destitute, and therefore - felt sorry for him. Sorry enough as it seems, to have extended an invitation...
So he sent him a letter and said “Captain Beefheart, if you’d like to come perform on our tour or open up or play a few dates with us - we’d be very proud - I want to write with you”... and Don writes back: “Dear Bongo, I don’t know who you are or what you want from me but don’t call me again.”
© 1999 C. Linstrom*
with tremendous thanks to bill spooner for telling the stories of course - teejo
go to the discography of the album
click clack back to the history or the power station
captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo