captain beefheart electricity

DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
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ZAPPA AND THE CAPTAIN COOK

from ROLLING STONE #190 030775 usa
by steve weitzman
is 19.04.75 interview

notes:
* reproduced in england book about cb 'the lives and times of captain beefheart'
* reproduced in usa 2007 (book+4dvd)boxset ROLLING STONE * COVER TO COVER 40 years of rolling stone 1967-2007

*

passaic, new jersey - captain beefheart, rock's sometime genius, had just finished a show with frank zappa, with whom he is touring after the end of their long-time feud. slumped backstage at the capitol theatre, he scratches his shaggy head and slowly related the latest bizarre turn in his odd life.

'i said some silly things,' beefheart noted, 'because i'm a spoiled brat and i don't understand business to the degree that frank does. i probably felt neglected. i'll admit it.... and i told him so. i said: 'i'm sorry, frank, and i don't mean that for an excuse'. we shook hands and that was that.'

zappa and beefheart's relationship goes back 20 years, to when they attended junior high school together in lancaster, california. 'i was there when he picked up his first guitar,' beefheart recalled. 'it was a funny little brown thing with hardly any strings. but it sure sounded good to me.' in 1964 the two unsuccessfully tried to form a group called 'the soots', and then went their separate ways: zappa to join the 'mothers of invention', beefheart to search for his magic band.

the problems began in 1969 when beefheart did 'trout mask replica' for zappa's 'straight records'. 'i did 'lick my decals off, baby' right after 'trout mask replica'. the group wanted to be commercial and since they were so nice about doing those two, i thought i owed them a moral obligation and i stayed. but i should have gotten rid of them then.'

beefheart added that his last two albums, 'unconditionally guaranteed' and 'bluejeans and moonbeams', were 'horrible and vulgar', and that he had 'headed for the redwoods to paint and write' as soon as he had fulfilled his obligation to mercury records.

but other stories have beefheart accusing zappa of poor production on 'trout mask replica' and interfering with its creativity. in 1972 beefheart told the new musical express: 'zappa is an oaf. all he wanted to do was make me into a horrible freak. zappa made me look out of the question, and the kids out on the streets started to take dope because they thought that was the only way they could possibly get into my music. it was disgusting and totally degrading that zappa should do this to me'.

captain beefheart / don van vliet (front), frank zappa (back) - passaic, new jersey, usa 19 april 1975 - rolling stone 030775 - picture by chuck pulin
picture by chuck pulin
evidently, beefheart had second thoughts in the woods, and he called zappa to praise 'apostrophe' and 'just to say hello'. 'he apologized for all the garbagio and asked for a job,' zappa said. 'the captain repented. he had been real confused.'

'beefheart auditioned just before halloween (so end of october 1974 - t.t.),' zappa continued. 'he flunked. see, he had a problem with rhythm, and we were very rhythm oriented. things have to happen on the beat. i had him come up on the handstand at our rehearsal hall and try to sing 'willie the pimp' and he couldn't get through it. i figured: if he couldn't get through that, i didn't stand much of a chance in teaching him the other stuff.' zappa and beefheart tried again this spring. 'although he still has trouble remembering words and making things happen on the beat,' zappa said, 'he is better. just before the tour, i tried him again and he squeaked by.'

beefheart's major contribution to the present zappa show involves growling the lead vocals on 'poofter's froth, wyoming, plans ahead' (which zappa wrote for him), 'orange claw hammer' (from 'trout mask replica') and 'willie the pimp', the showstopper. remembering the lyrics had apparently been a problem for beefheart: he keeps them written down on a stand located at his feet on stage. zappa is interested in getting beefheart 'to relax to the point where he can improvise words. he can do really funny stuff when he's sitting around in a room. but he hasn't really gotten comfortable enough yet.'

at this point, zappa plans to remix and reissue 'trout mask replica', which beefheart still describes as 'my favorite'. beefheart said he has 'had an extreme amount of fun on this tour. they move awfully fast. i have never traveled this fast. with the magic band: turtles all the way down.... frank is probably the most creative person on this planet. he writes things for instruments that haven't even been invented.' beefheart paused for a moment and then resumed. 'he's another harry partch,' he said, referring to the avant-garde composer, 'only he hasn't dried up yet. get it?'

*
 

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