captain beefheart electricity

photo album


picture 2


the english glossy magazine MOJO made itself famous with issue #2 from december 1993 which contained a striking sixteen page captain beefheart article and what turned out to be his last main interview [see note at the bottom]. in issue #21 of august 1995 it ran a feature about

and how they happened

with an amazing front page. the makers of the collage, magda archer and peter quinnell, had a better idea of the place of our friend don in the music world than the editors who put the list together...


The impeccably produced Clear Spot came packaged in a memorably nifty clear-plastic sleeve; inside the sleeve was packaging of another sort entirely. The band that created Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off, Baby was this time given the royal treatment by ace soundman Ted Templeman - the former Harpers Bizarre singer whose past production stints had included the Doobie Brothers, Little Feat and Van Morrison, among others.

"We had him come in there and make it more commercial," says current day chiropractor Art Tripp, the one-time Mother Of Invention who as Ed Marimba played with Beefheart from 1970's Decals to 1974's Unconditionally Guaranteed. "We'd come up with a lot of new songs, and simpler instrumental parts and forms - and Don's lyrics, I recall, were a lot simpler and more tuned in with what other people were doing." Like Big Eyed Beans From Venus and Sun Zoom Spark? "There were a couple that were a little different," notes the ex-Mr Marimba, "but then there were another half-dozen that were just like the normal crap you hear every time you turn on the radio. Except we had kind of a unique sound."

Indeed, Templeman brought in horns and background vocalists The Blackberries, and helped craft at least two tracks - Too Much Time and My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains - that, amazingly, stood a chance of becoming hit records. One album later, that drive for commercial success would result in the ill-received Unconditionally Guaranteed. Clear Spot, however, catches The Magic Band standing squarely at the threshold of commercial acceptance and hurling a squid at it. Dough and polyethylene bag included, naturally.



"We just went in there, played every tune once, and he recorded it," says Bill Harkleroad about Trout Mask Replica and its producer, Frank Zappa. "And then about five or six hours later, we went home. I'd guess there were a couple of days spent on vocals, a day on mixing, and in four days, the album was done." Toss in a couple of 'field recordings' - engineered on a Uher portable tape recorder by Dick Kunc at The Magic Band's Valley abode - and those few days resulted in the double album that remains Don Van Vliet's astonishing, far-reaching masterwork.

Harkleroad, the former Zoot Horn Rollo, now summarises the Trout Mask Replica experience as simply "these wild guys living in this house, rehearsing 20 (? - teejo) hours a day, falling down in their tracks, and getting up and doing it again". That's him on the album's back cover - to the right of Beefheart (who menacingly brandishes a stripped-down lamp) and Antennae Jimmy Semens (whose dress looks lovely). "We're talking 1969 when that photo was taken," says the lanky guitarist.

"I'm 19 years old, coming down from taking acid two or three times a week - like I gave a shít. Those were my clothes, actually. The cape was something some woman had given me, and I thought it looked fine. Black fingernail polish? That's cool. Lipstick? That's cool, too. I'm breaking it all away at that point. Nineteen years old - who had bráins at 19?"

Precisely who contributed what to the sound of Trout Mask Replica remains the subject of controversy among its talented participants, but the album has influenced more than one generation of musicians. Nor has it mellowed with age. Since then, adds the former Zoot Horn Rollo, "I fell in love with the major scale in music - the physics of vibrations and tones. I mean, that's cool shit. Thát band was anti-music sound sculptures. And that was cool, too."


you see, trout mask replica - which of course is by far the most important record in human history - on a shameful 28th place...! i never trusted general pop journalists, with reason as it shows. no, we'd better rely on the makers of the front page...:

captain beefheart - mojo #21 010895 - captain beefheart / don van vliet in centre of frontpage
note: BILL HARKLEROAD is in the picture TOO!


remark on issue #2

if you don't possess issue #2 (but who doesn't?) you're having a problem because it is sold out! although there is a possibility to obtain the text (only) of the great beefheart feature. for it is "just a push-button away" with their faxback service: call 0660 600 519 from a phone linked to a fax machine, follow the instructions you hear (code is 105) and the article will be transmitted at the cost of 49 pence per minute. for assistance in using that service call 01483 42 42 42. unfortunately the faxback is only available in the united kingdom, so if you're a foreigner you have to make some friends there....

if you really want to have the original glossy, you could buy a recent issue and look in the 'messages' - or place one yourself. it is free but must be clear and legible (if possible, typed) and with a maximum of 30 words, including your name, phone/fax numbers and address. then send it to: mojo messages, mojo, mappin house, 4 winsley street, london w1n 7ar, england....]



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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo