A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous. Got me?
September 27, 2008 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Captain Beefheart documentary BBC, 1997, narrated by John Peel.
posted by vronsky (38 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Captain Beefheart is my pal, figuratively speaking.
posted by lumensimus at 9:04 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Or all in one piece here.
posted by empath at 9:25 PM on September 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

Thank you, cimbrog. I haven't read Scary Go Round in years and that's what I needed, I think.
posted by lumensimus at 9:29 PM on September 27, 2008

Whenever I drive through Mojave (a place that I love), I think of the good Captain. Ice Cream for Crow anyone?
posted by dougzilla at 9:33 PM on September 27, 2008

cimbrog, thanks for the link. Zappa had little yellow sharks all over his PJ's in one panel. Great!

vronsky, I'm looking forward to watching these videos. Never really listened to Captain Beefheart, although I love him on "Hot Rats". Thanks for posting this.
posted by friendlyjuan at 10:54 PM on September 27, 2008

Weirdly, I've never been a big Zappa fan, but there are, for me, certain times every year when the only thing that will scratch that certain musical itch is Beefheart, Beefheart and more Beefheart.

this is a good article from the Guardian on coming to terms with his music -- Mission: unlistenable -- "At some point, he said, 'You've got to try Trout Mask Replica.' And I put it on and just thought, 'What the fuck is this? They're mucking about! They can't even play their instruments: they're all out of tune, the drummer can't drum in time, the singer's not even singing, he's just growling.' But Spud said, 'No, no - stick with it. You will get it.' And I eventually had a road-to-Damascus experience: this sudden revelation. It just clicked."

That sounds very simple, I tell him. The problem is, after six plays, Trout Mask Replica still sounds fucking awful.

"Oh, it sounds like a ball of rusty barbed wire," he says. "It sounds like a piece of the Somme, lifted up and put in an art gallery."

Partridge's analogies at least start to whet my appetite. A song called Ella Guru, he tells me, is akin to a "metal sock", while the experience of getting lost in Trout Mask is described as follows: "You're running around stairs and gangways and gantries - things are swinging across, and you've got to grab them to get to the next level. It's like being trapped in a mad, giant watch. Do you know what I mean?"
posted by vronsky at 11:16 PM on September 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

posted by mattoxic at 1:06 AM on September 28, 2008

Thanks for this, vronsky. Trout Mask Replica changed me indelibly when I first heard it at 14 or 15 years of age. I literally can't imagine finding the sound of it ugly. Pretty much most of the songs on it have been "My Favorite Song Ever" at one point or another. It's kind of funny - I'll put songs from it on mixtapes like they were regular old songs only to have people think I'm trying to play some manner of joke. To me it's just well-above-average rock music - none of this likening to Finnegans Wake or throwing together some kind of painful analogy. I mean, there are varying degrees...I think Moonlight on Vermont or She's Too Much For My Mirror are pretty poppy songs, whereas maybe Orange Claw Hammer or The Dust Blows Forward... might not be so radio friendly. I guess this is why nobody has given me a radio station.

I grew up a couple of miles from the Trout House, as I learned from the guy that used to do those funny comics about music in the LA Weekly, so maybe that had something to do with it. My boyfriend and I went on a quest to find The House in the summer after high school armed only with the knowledge that it was on Ensenada, and ended up getting chased back to his minivan by a scary dog. I still don't know which house it was.

My other good Beefheart story is that I once wrote a fan mail to Patrick McDonnell, who draws the comic strip "Mutts", mentioning that I had really been amused by his Beefheart strip but that it should have managed to include a squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag. He replied with a copy of a collection in which the strip appeared, with the squid inked in above the strip in question - in color! So, know that even when Mutts has a dorky joke in it, the guy who wrote that dorky joke is one of the cooler cats in the funny pages.

Clearly I just wanted an excuse to talk about how much I like Beefheart...my spouse thinks it's just noise. And I guess so do most other humans :(
posted by crinklebat at 1:27 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks vronsky, this is amazing.
posted by Omission at 1:52 AM on September 28, 2008

I remember buying Trout Mask Replica and not even making it all the way through on the first listen; thought I had just wasted my money. Then on the second time I thought that may be it was'nt as bad as I first thought. Then, possibly the next time, yeah, it just clicked. I don't listen to it too much though as I've found that heavy exposure just makes ALL other music sound WRONG.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:47 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I love this post.
posted by telstar at 3:06 AM on September 28, 2008

Excellent film, thank you.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:41 AM on September 28, 2008

Great find, thanks.

I am another listener who discovered Trout Mask young enough to have it effect my musical sensibilities. Nothing like it in the world, especially when you realized WHEN it was made.

For almost 15 years I've claimed that it's the best Beefheart album, along with almost every other fan. However, I have to admit that after watching this documentary analyzing each album, and giving it a real, sincere re-listen, that Lick My Decals Off, Baby might be an overall better album.

I know, blasphemy.
posted by gcbv at 3:44 AM on September 28, 2008

One major huge thing I appreciate about Mr. Mustachio is that he knows, he understands, exactly the right time during a road trip to deploy Clear Spot.

It's a gift.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:06 AM on September 28, 2008

Trout Mask Replica literally made me nauseated the first time I heard it. It's now on my top ten list.
posted by dfan at 6:16 AM on September 28, 2008

After I'd gotten the boot from my first NYC job, I landed a gig doing after-hours data input for a management consulting company way up high in the Pan Am Building (and yes, it will always be the Pan Am Building as far as I'm concerned). I was part of a little team of weirdos run by the craziest guy I've ever known to hold down an actual job for a while (he eventually pulled one too many shenanigans and got fired, losing all the rest of us our jobs in the process, but that's another story), and this guy was a huge Beefheart fan and would blast Trout Mask Replica when he drove us anywhere in his car. Like so many others, I started by finding it almost unlistenable and then got hooked. Thanks for the post, and cimbrog, thanks for the great comic!

heavy exposure just makes ALL other music sound WRONG.

Ain't it the truth?
posted by languagehat at 6:31 AM on September 28, 2008

Thing I don't get about Van Vliet: The artwork really sucks. Second-rate finger-painting.
posted by Faze at 8:27 AM on September 28, 2008

Thanks for the post, vronsky. By chance I happened to spend Friday evening ripping my vinyl Trout to mp3 (and FLAC lossless, for the time capsule) and had my first all the way through revisit with it for a year or so.

There's a great deal to like there--which is why I still listen to it, decades after release--but the best parts are patchy and episodic, interspersed with other patches that are sententious or sophomoric or most commonly both. (Also, I roll my eyes at Don's addiction to elephantine whimsy.) It shares that "patchily and episodically good" quality with most of the other stuff that gets tucked away on people's "avant-garde-slash-experimental" shelves.

That's no particular shame, BTW. If T. S. Eliot needed an editor--and he did, as we found out when they published the unedited Waste Land--then nobody else needs to be embarrassed if they too could use a little help keeping their stuff tight. The particular problem of avant-garde/experimental/just-plain-weird musicians, as contrasted with the writers and filmmakers from the same wing of the loony bin, is that the musos seldom get an editor. Trout was produced by FZ who, however well he pruned his own stuff, was not a good choice to do the same for others. (Z is the same guy who recorded and released a whole album of a mentally ill guy's off-his-meds rants.)

from the guardian link:

> his art amounts "to the roots of music deconstructed and flung back at you like an action painting".

fuller suggests that this chunky quality right here accounts for a good portion of the Beefheart influence in the work of so many other musicians with artsy ambitions. Once one steps into the cacophany and starts selectively tuning in to inner voices and individual events, and hears something striking and memorable, it's very often pre-chunked into just the right size for pocketing and steaadapting elsewhere.
posted by jfuller at 8:39 AM on September 28, 2008

I think Safe as Milk is one of the top 10 greatest rock records of all time (I would include on that list Muswell Hillbillies by the Kinks, Happy Nightmare Baby by Opal, and Double Nickels on the Dime by the Minutemen, so maybe I'm just willfully eccentric).

I love all of Beefheart's records, even the ones no one likes. I understand why people think Trout Mask Replica is his opus, the same way Sgt. Pepper's is the Beatles' opus or Love Supreme is Coltrane's opus. But just as I prefer Revolver to Sgt. Pepper and Crescent to Love Supreme, so too I love the sound of Beefheart & his Magic Band just before they went more out: Safe as Milk is a much more conventional album, but its relative accessibility should not be held against it. One hears in it, just as one hears in mid-period Coltrane or early Ornette, the traces of a wildness as yet to fully flower, but that contained wildness is something to behold. Trout Mask is like Cecil Taylor for me: music I genuinely love, but only want to listen to once in a very blue moon.
posted by ornate insect at 9:14 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Awesome, thanks. Like vronksky, I get that itch myself from time to time, and the fact that Mr. Van Vliet's recordings are being re-released on vinyl makes the scratching of that itch that much sweeter.

TMR is actually my least favorite Beefheart album. Guess I'm all contrarian that way. Or just incredibly stupid and wrong, if you want to get all MeFite about it.
posted by Rykey at 12:20 PM on September 28, 2008

What a true original. And, ya, Trout Mask Replica was an acquired taste for me.
Here are his two interviews on Letterman.

Great post, vronsky, and a great thread.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:59 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Great documentary especially the interviews with Ry Cooder and Jimmy Carl Black of the Mothers of Invention. (The "Indian in the group".)
posted by CCBC at 2:25 PM on September 28, 2008

In terms of value to humanity as a body of knowledge, I rank the Beefheart canon above the Judeo-Christian one.
posted by anazgnos at 3:50 PM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

thanks, vronsky. i remember hearing beefheart for the first time and probably saying out loud, wtf is this crap? young & foolish, i guess. now it just saddens me that he's thrown music to the side in favor of painting. i mean, i like paintings, but it ain't the dust blows forward n' the dust blows back.

i love zappa's story about finishing trout mask:
I finished at approximately 6:00 A.M. on Easter Sunday, 1969. I called them up and said, "Come on over; your album is done." They dressed up like they were going to Easter church and came over. They listened to the record and said they loved it.

i'm still dying to know what the good captain would don to go to easter church.
posted by msconduct at 3:55 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

oh ... the post title reminded me: might i suggest fast & bulbous? yeah, it's a tribute band, but a damn fine one.
posted by msconduct at 4:09 PM on September 28, 2008

I guess I'm one of the few people who liked Trout Mask Replica right from the start. I had already discovered the pleasures of weird and abrasive music, but most of the stuff I found early on was fairly bad - recent artists that were just rehashing Krautrock and such. When I found Beefheart's music, it was like I'd always known it. He was just what I was looking for, along with Can and Frank Zappa and the Boredoms. I can't listen to this stuff every day, but something would just be missing if I didn't hear 'Moonlight on Vermont' now and again.
posted by obvious at 8:14 PM on September 28, 2008

I'm a really big fan of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, and Don Van Vliet, and he drives me insane most of the time (it's the dada thing--too much to explain in this post, really, but I've narrowed it down to that). Thanks for posting this, vronsky. I have it on a bootleg DVD but, you know, anytime someone can introduce another person to Captain Beefheart, I'm all for it. As for how I got into it, it's a really long story involving weird ear problems as a kid, drugs as a young adult, friends who were also into the blues and noise and free jazz and the sound of windshield wipers through a badly wired AM radio, and at some point realizing the mama's heartbeat of most music just wasn't going to cut it for me after awhile. That said, I don't know if I've ever listened to the whole of Trout Mask in one sitting more than a handful of times (and I've been listening to it for 20 years or so after someone put "Ella Guru" on a mixtape). There's no need to take it all in at once. It's not that kind of album. Also, like vronsky, I've never been a fan of Zappa. I know I should be, but I'm not. Oh well.

Anyway, here's my answer to the deleted AskMe question, Why is Captain Beefheart so good? The thread is definitely worth a read.

Also, thanks for the link, empath. I watched the HipHop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes doc last night and thought it was worth the time.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:41 PM on September 28, 2008

One of the most surreal memories from my kidhood was watching Capt. Beefheart on "The Dinah Shore Show". Beyond the sheer incongruity -- it was possibly the worst lip-synching in history; not just "a little off" but more like "Benny Hill off". Singing a full 2 seconds behind the lyrics, missing virtually every cue, lunging at the keyboard that had starting playing several moments earlier. I gotta think there was some serious psychedelic impairment going on. And through all of that, he still had this unflappable "Leon Redbone" coolness about him. An absurd nobility that compelled me to go out and grab his album.
posted by RavinDave at 9:39 PM on September 28, 2008

thank you thank you!
posted by ethel at 10:33 PM on September 28, 2008

Thanks for this, vronsky. Trout Mask Replica changed me indelibly when I first heard it at 14 or 15 years of age. I literally can't imagine finding the sound of it ugly.

Yeah, my album collection went something like this:

Age 10: Revolver
Age 12: White Album
Age 13: Plastic Ono Band, Live Peace in Toronto
Age 14: Mothers of Invention, We're Only in it For The Money
Age 15: Trout Mask Replica

It wasn't as accessible as Only in it For The Money, but it only took a couple of plays and I *hate* free jazz. I just saw it as surrealist Delta Blues. Which I guess is what it is.

I believe I've told my 'meeting Beefheart' story here several times, so I won't tell it again.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:55 AM on September 29, 2008

Come to me little one, with your little dimpled fingers, gimme one, and I will buy you a cherry phosphate. Take you down to the foaming brine and water, and show you the wooden tits on the goddess with the pole out full sail that tempted away...

your peg leg father.
posted by languagehat at 6:32 AM on September 29, 2008

This is fish.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:37 AM on September 29, 2008

I just find out I can't help visualising a mustache on the letters FZ.

I like Beefheart.
posted by ersatz at 8:26 AM on September 29, 2008

It's not inappropriate that Beefheart is always lumped with Zappa, but the dichotomy between those two, stylistically, spiritually, etc., is really striking. Beefheart is all heart and instinct; Zappa is all head and calculation. I like Zappa, and I respect him, and in fact seem to be warming to his music more and more as time goes by. But I'll never feel emotional about his music the way I do Don's. Just thinking about the coda to "Moonlight on Vermont" makes my eyes water. It's everything I ever wanted from rock music.
posted by anazgnos at 4:20 PM on September 29, 2008

The Blimp
posted by vronsky at 3:28 PM on October 8, 2008

posted by vronsky at 11:29 PM on October 13, 2008

I really can't wait to watch this and click on all the links in the comments... I love Beefheart, that goofy loon.
posted by not_on_display at 11:33 PM on October 21, 2008

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