Posted by
Jan 102008


I’m going to reach out to musicians of Rock Town Hall first, but I’ll leave the discussion open to non-musicians as well. Tonight I came across a personal Holy Grail video find on YouTube. It’s a 1980 live performance of “Dirty Blue Gene” by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. I’ve long searched for a live clip of this, my favorite Beefheart song, with a musical arrangement that works like a time-lapsed nature film. I share it with you following the the jump. But that’s not what I invite you to discuss.

Gary Lucas on Captain Beefheart

I also found this interview with former Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas. He relates some experiences taking direction from his leader. I love hearing stories of how musicians collaborate and create. I’m banking on the suspicion that some of you do too.

Musicians, share your personal tales of a most memorable time taking or giving direction within a musical setting. Your experiences need not mirror those of Lucas; just offer them up for whatever they mean something to you. Non-musicians, feel free to add second-hand tales you’ve read or heard from musicians that have impressed you. Certainly I will not be the only Townsperson soaking in these tales.

Now onto the Beefheart performances from a 1980 French television broadcast!

“Dirty Blue Gene”

“Bat Chain Puller”

“Safe as Milk”


  8 Responses to “Direction”

  1. BigSteve

    These clips are pretty cool. I saw this version of the Magic Band, with Eric Drew Feldman. Don is looking pretty bad already in these, but at least he’s seems generally in command. I love the upward thrusting hand motions, as if he’s orating.

    It wasn’t until I went with my friend Frank to church not long ago that I discovered that the “if you’ve got ears, you’ve got to listen” lyric in Dirty Blue Gene is a biblical reference. Perhaps unintentional, and he would certainly never admit it. In an interview he refused to admit, for example, that he had borrowed the “come out to show dem” line in Moonlight on Vermont from Steve Reich. Yeah, right.

    Unfortunately I’ve mostly played with other musicians who were generally creative but who could barely play their instruments, so they basically soloed throughout every song out of a lack of ability to detect and reproduce musical patterns, which is kind of a major deficiency. I do remember stopping a song in the middle once and saying, “How come I’m the only one actually playing the fucking song?” I think that group stopped pretending to rehearse shortly after that. I also remember my friend Nick always yelling “more cymbals” at me or whoever was playing the drums behind him, which is pretty much the opposite of what every other guitarist/singer would say. As you might guess, I’m now a solo artiste.

  2. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks for being the first to step up and share, BigSteve. Do me a favor and make sure your friend Nick and I never end up in the same band. On the other hand, my bandmates Andyr and Sethro might have an ally for when they start their New Project.

    Don’t be shy, Townspeople. I’m sure at one point or another you’ve taken or been given musical direction – and it was memorable.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    My first DUD thread of 2008? If nothing else, I hope folks get to enjoy the Beefheart clips.

  4. Appears so. The good news for me is that, not having posted on it, I don’t need to feel responsible for killing it.

    I loved the Beefheart clips and the Gary Lucas one as well. Everytime I listen to Beefheart I continue to feel that his “loss” to the music world is easily the biggest. There are other bigs ones – Jimi, Sly, Brian Wilson – but Don was the one who seems like he could have so greatly expanded the parameters of fill-in-the-blank (pop, rock & roll, funkpoparoll) music. The others brought a lot to music and certainly expanded things but Beefheart’s music exploded things without ever really seeming to be something different when you got down to it. Dylan did this as well. Both used pieces that had been around a long time but put them together in new creative ways.

    I’ll need to think about this more and then maybe I can explain it in a way that makes more sense.

  5. Mr. Moderator

    Your explanation makes a lot of sense to me, Al.

  6. alexmagic

    Maybe it can be repackaged some day as a poll/thread/Last Man Standing/Battle Royale for best Musical Command Given To Another Bandmate In A Song.

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Could be, Alexmagic. Call me deluded, but I’m sensing a Martin Scorcese/Nicolas Cage phenomenon at play here today.

  8. BigSteve

    I don’t know alex, Beefheart was already recycling songs that had been written years earlier when he made those last albums. I think maybe he’d made his breakthroughs and there was really nowhere else for him to go. Could he really have developed his approach any further?

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