Captain Beefheart was undoubtedly an eccentric genius, who was very much an acquired taste, and is sadly missed. ‘Trout Mask Replica’ is often quoted as an all-time classic album, at the same time as featuring in ‘most unlistenable’ album lists. I have to admit that it isn’t an album that I find able to listen to in its entirety but do still find pleasure in listening to individual tracks when the mood takes me. Hearing tracks from it always reminds me of where I first heard the Captain, and many other wonderful musicians – John Peel’s radio shows. I am so grateful that he had the courage and vision to play tracks that didn’t conform to accepted station playlists; and that I found his shows!
I am most definitely one who has a ‘taste’ for the output of Don Van Vliet, aka The Captain, and had the great pleasure of seeing him and The Magic Band playing live in Edinburgh back in the early 1970s on a couple of occasions in ‘The Empire’, now ‘The Festival Theatre’
The DVD that arrived features some rare footage of the band in a German TV studio in 1972. It is fair to say that it is unlikely to race to the top of any best-seller charts, but to a genuine fan it is pure gold and provides a wonderful glimpse into the past. The DVD offers an opportunity to appreciate the skills of Rockette Morton as he plays a bass solo (entitled ‘Mascara Snake’ in tribute to a previous band member), and the whole band during a couple of takes of the wonderful ‘Click Clack’ and ‘I’m Going To Booglarize You Baby’, all blended with some free-form jazz playing and lyrics that are recited more as poetry than mere song component parts.
In general, the music played here is much more accessible than that contained on ‘Trout Mask Replica’. I have always greatly appreciated the song ‘Click Clack’, being one of those that successfully conjures up images of riding on steam trains. Sadly, this is something that young people today may never fully appreciate as train journeys now, certainly on electrified lines in the UK, are so relatively silent and devoid of all the sounds associated with earlier train journeys.
The band’s eccentric image was enhanced by the names adopted by the musicians:
Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) – vocals, harp, (and I’m sure I recognised a soprano saxophone);
Rockette Morton (Mark Boston) – guitar, bass;
Zoot Horn Rollo (Bill Harkleroad) – guitar;
Orejon (Roy Estrada) – bass;
Ed Marimba (Art Tripp) – drums, (monocle);
Winged Eel Fingerling (Elliot Ingber) – guitar.
An interesting piece of trivia that I discovered from reading the sleeve notes – in the same year as the video was recorded, Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band played in the UK at Bickershaw Festival near Wigan on May 7th, something that was promoted by Jeremy Beadle, later to become a TV personality in the 1980s before starting the long running ‘You’ve Been Framed’ show.
1/ Mascara Snake
2/ Click Clack 1
3/ Click Clack 2
4/ Golden Birdies
5/ Band intros
6/ I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby 1
7/ I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby 2
8/ Steal Softly Thru The Snow
9/ I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby 3