captain beefheart electricity

autopsy of the words



in the book captain beefheart by mike barnes, the ultimate beefheart almanac for decades (if not for ever), the writer says about the sleeve of the album STRICTLY PERSONAL that

the sender's address, WRITTEN IN VAN VLIET'S HANDWRITING, is

(although according to mike 'gun' should be read as 'sun')

okay, that suggestion of the envelope texts being don's work is an almost generally accepted thought. but is it true? some people have their doubts - like john french (aka drumbo) when he was working on his book, 'through the eyes of magic'. which is rather strange knowing that he's an experrt because "I used to go pick up checks and endorse them myself for him (with his permission) to save a drive back to the house. He taught me how to forge his signature for this reason [...]".

and some others think it's complete nonsense - like me! so, in order to de-mystify this tale, here's the answer i gave him when he asked

hi john,

i came across a question you dropped somewhere else:
As I am still writing track notes, I have come across the question of whose handwriting is on the [Strictly Personal] cover.  It looks like Don's writing to me, but I had never considered it before.  Due to the fact that Krasnow put the thing out illegally, I'm not sure if he would have had access to Don's handwriting, unless it was done at the photo shoot.  I seem to vaguely recall Don writing this during a break in the photo shoot, but I would like to clarify that it is in fact Don's writing.
and i like quizzes like that!

so i took the elpee cover and all the material i could find to use for comparison:
- mainly the 1969 manta rey poem,
- a dedication on a 1972 drawing of mark boston,
- the (clickable) blood is the movie christmas '72 card,
- a wildly written dedication from 1973 on a'clear spot' cover,
- an excerpt from 1978 of the lyrics to 'tropical hot dog night',
- the three hand-written texts in the 1993 'stand up to be discontinued' art book, so done much later, and merely written in capitals: one nest rolls after another / it's not  worth / a little paranoia.
(includes later additions - teejo)

it soon was clear that the handwriting you're investigating was NOT DONE BY DON (oops, wanted to keep it a surprise and tell you at the end)!

* first of all: most of the letters actually are 'out of competition' because they just are written the way we all (so, also don) have learned it at school. try that old schoolish 'fluent writing' again yourself, and you'll see that a, b, c, d, e, i, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, u, v, and w are 'common use'.

* then, some other letters used have too many differences to be coincidental:
f, h, k = don writes the upper parts with a clear curl - the sleeve writing does not.

* another difference in the lay-out:
i = don's points are placed 'where they landed', while the cover has them all precisely at the right spot.

* also:
t = most of the times (that is, when the letter isn't at the beginning of a word) don's variation has a pen scratch on the left, while in the other cases the stick [is this the right word?] is very close to or on the main lettering and 'randomly' placed - the sleeve uses it without the bonus scratch and the stick always is perfectly 'free floating' and horizontal.

* and:
y = the sleeve uses a 'lower curl' don doesn't make use of.

* there also are some significant differences in the capitals:
C = don uses a very round one without fantasy hook at the bottom,
E = the sleeve adds a strange curl to don's simple '3' in mirror writing,
H = sleeve version doesn't fit don's three straight lines,
M = don writes it rounded - sleeve uses straight lines,
O = don never used curls in it,
R = no curls in don's version.

but most important to me seems that the sleeve texts in general bear marks that totally are in contradiction with don's way of writing:

* each and every word ends in an ornamental scratch or curl totally unknown to don.

* the sleeve text simply is too compact: don's hand-writing is considerably wider and leaves much more space between the words and sentences.

* don wrote a strange mix of capitals and lower case!!! (it would have taken him hours if not days to work out the sleeve text the way it is now - and you know, he was much too impatient for things like that.)

* besides that, don would have written 'captain' in stead of 'capt.'

* i probably have gone nuts by this research, but i even get the impression that the addresses are victims of some cut and paste work:
= unlike the rest, the word 'drive' is written in italic.
= the cbmb address looks like two blocks of texts about the same size.

however, not to disappoint you totally, there is óne very strange letter in the text! it's the g of 'one ray gun drive'. that twist absolutely is don's most unique mark. but also his most confusing one - as a poem from his 'stand up' book usually gets quoted (even in print) as "a little paranoia is a mood propeller". unfortunately... this trick (done with tracing paper?) is immediately refuted by the use of two totally different g's in the lowest line.


all together i suppose don surely could have sketched down some of his ideas and texts for the intended cover design, but as there's just óne little genuine van vliet spot and all of the rest is too much dressed up / invented, i think the final work was done by some-one else.

hmm..., well..., yeah: quod erat demonstrandum!!!

keep the right electricity,

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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo