“Fifty years from now you’ll wish you’d gone ‘wow’.”
– Captain Beefheart, conscious of his visionary powers, in a 1980 NME interview.
As I read through and participated in Townsman Sammy‘s candid Bullshit On: Captain Beefheart thread, I sensed some members of Rock Town Hall willing to give this admittedly difficult artist a fair shake. It’s a new day at Rock Town Hall – Your Rock Town Hall – so I’ve put together mix of decreasingly accessible Beefheart songs that may allow those of you who are getting anxious with only 22 years left on that 50-year “wow” clock that’s quoted above to find a way into this guy’s music. Do you get what I’m saying? Have a listen, and say “wow,” somebody!
First, a recording that makes me wonder why anyone wastes their time on ZZ Top, even at their best. I like my boogie refried.
Next, an uncharacteristically tender Beefheart song that you probably know from The Big Lebowski. Close your eyes and think of Julianne Moore‘s translucent skin if you start finding yourself troubled by this naked sound file.
I know you like hearing a guitarist cut loose now and then. On this next track, Beefheart steps aside, shuts up, and lets his guitarist do the talking.
Now steel yourself for a plodding, grumpy tale of devolution. This is the point where we oh-so-slowly head way back toward Mirror Man, where it’s just a few turns across the border to Trout Mask Replica.
The following Clear Spot song is a good example of the benefits of Beefheart picking up on his fractured blues approach from Trout Mask Replica with more accomplished musicians and a fairly conventional studio sound. Plus it’s funny. I’m surprised, when I read of a Townsperson’s inability to dig Beefheart, how often folks fail to appreciate the man’s humor. I know, I’m sounding like The Great 48🙂
Here’s your reward for working so hard…
Now, let’s shift ahead to 1980’s Doc at the Radar Station, where I think Beefheart and/or his label once and for all gave up on the idea that he’d ever be a regular rock artist and sell more than 2000 albums and, instead, made an entire album as focused on his vision as was anything since the primitve Trout Mask Replica. (Maybe Lick My Decals Off Baby was the last one made with as much integrity and focus, as Geo suggested, I don’t know. I get a cold feeling from that album whenever I spin it. I’ll have to listen to it again.) This album opener always gets me dancing in my head. As a lover of dry recordings, this album can’t be beat. Place me between a sandwich of Doc and Gang of Four‘s Entertainment and I won’t ever grimace over some insecure use of reverb.
Here’s another one that recommits to Beefheart’s old Trout Mask Replica approach while still rocking. The imagery in the lyrics is pretty cool, too, for those of you who can closely follow that stuff.
Here’s a little ditty I’ve always loved. General Slocum and I had some really deep discussion over this track about a hundred years ago, if memory serves, although I can’t recall what wisdom we’d culled from the tune. If you happen to have similar deep thoughts, feel free to claim our forgotten insights as your own.
And now, what I believe is the song that the “landmark” recording of Trout Mask Replica first pointed toward.
Previously posted on Rock Town Hall:
Archives: All the Beefheart content that’s been fit to post.