SUGAR AND SPIKES
odds and ends
a normal guest appearance - and a dirty one
the first part of the following text originally was written as the intro to the exclusive the sputnik and the blimp, dealing with another guest appearance. the added notes forced me to lift it from that story (where it would become to far off-topic) and give this item its well deserved own page
as we all know from the stories that former magic band members tell, it was very hard to work with don van vliet. beefheart always wanted to be the captain and so it's a miracle some fools even resisted the torture for several years. but then, he could be very funny too, so that's maybe why...
in fact don just was a lonesome, selfish artist who by chance went into pop (oh no, wrong word) music. as he was a different fish in that school he had but few contacts with fellow musicians that lead to collaborations or participations. almost all the records he had a guest role on are products by FRANK ZAPPA, his youth buddy who probably could stand don's whims because he was accustomed to them. to mention the main collaborations: their joint debut as recording artists 'the soots', don's vocals to 'willie the pimp' on zappa's first solo album 'hot rats', and the 1975 'bongo fury' tour of course - in which the captain stole the show.
and further? well, don was involved in hardly any other recording. his most well known guest appearance is his singing on HARD WORKIN' MAN, the main title of the paul schrader film BLUE COLLAR. that happened in 1978 and isn't such a strange sidejump when you know that jack nitzsche, the composer and musical director, had laid hands on ry cooder for the one-off studio band. hey, ry cooder? that guy that was a member of the magic band on their debut album 'safe as milk' before he started on his own? indeed.
from the liner notes to the ceedee version of the 'blue collar' music (which includes a song by howlin' wolf too, by the way):
... It also marked the first time in years that Ry Cooder had worked with Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart. "He was living in the Mojave desert", reminisced Cooder. "Nitzsche said: "I need someone who can sing like Howlin' Wolf to do 'Hard Workin' Man'." I said: 'I know just the guy!'. I hadn't seen him in years, I called him up, and man, it took me an age to persuade him just to come down to the studio. And when he got there, he read the lyrics and said: 'I won't do it!' It came down to me locking him in the studio and telling him I wouldn't let him out until he had sung it! I can still remember his face as he was banging on the sound control room window, screaming to be let out! I thought: 'I've finally got revenge on all he put me through during 'Safe As Milk'!"
later note: ry had to recall this memory around twenty years after date, and although it's a funny story, it is just a faint shadow of the much more detailed and even funnier account he gave a few months after the happening. but that interview on the australian radio was practically unknown - till the triple j station broadcasted it again during a 'captain beefheart 60th birthday tribute' in 2001. and now it is world wide known, not only because the show was sent out in cyber space too, but mainly as it has been left behind there for everybody who wants to hear it.
the mentioned ceedee release just was the digital repeat of the vinyl version without interesting notes and which front cover, in stead of featuring the musicians, had the main actors starring, so an extra sticker tells:
more discographical facts: HARD WORKIN' MAN (music: jack nitzsche, lyrics: jack nitzsche - ry cooder - paul schrader) even was released as a single! and in 1998, also twenty years later, curiously this song beefheart lends his voice to was played over the opening credits of another usa movie, steven zaillian's 'a civil action' - but for one or other reason doesn't appear on the soundtrack ceedee. a year later, during the end-of-the century beefheart boom, it was included in the anthology the dust blows forward as one of the rarities.
DIRTY HARD WORKIN' MAN
but all these releases are not the ófficial version! because that one only can be heard while watching the original film. this fact already was noticed by the person that put together a bootleg of beefheart rarities called 'if you got ears' which emerged in 1994 and contained both versions. of course, you can hire or buy a video version of the movie, but there also is a chance it is broadcast on television. although the extended version (with some repeated riffs at the end) is mixed with factory sounds and short dialogues you can hear don van vliet cursing he's a 'hard workin' FUCKED OVER man'.
later addition: the australian interview from 1978 with ry cooder - mentioned earlier - reveals that the main song actually was titled 'hard workin' fuckin' man', so it seems that don just did his job the right way, and that the vinyl version was 'cleaned up'.
go to the DISCOGRAPHY of this guest appearance....
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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo