Hit that long lunar note, and let it float.

Captain Beefheart

As Tom waits said told the Guardian UK last month, “Once you’ve heard Beefheart, it’s hard to wash him out of your clothes. It stains, like coffee or blood.”

With the recent passing of Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart I thought I should post something of value to both long-time listeners and to music lovers who have yet to discover his genius.

A number of books have been published about Beefheart, two by members of the Magic Band – Zoot Horn Rollo and John “Drumbo” French.  Beefheart: Though the Eyes of Magic (Drumbo’s book) is the best place to begin.

There are several documentary films on the Captain as well.  The best by far is BBC John Peel Night (1999) The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart.  To my knowledge it is not available on DVD but you can watch it on Youtube.

My favorite quote from the documentary is from Simpsons creator, Matt Groening.

“The first time I heard Trout Mask Replica, when I was 15 years old, I thought it was the worst drek I’d ever heard. I said to myself, they’re not even trying! They’re just playing randomly!  But then I thought, Frank Zappa produced it, maybe I should give it another play. So I played it again, and I thought, it sounds horrible, but they mean it to sound this way. And about the third or fourth time it started to grow on me. And the fifth or sixth time, I loved it. And the seventh or eighth time I thought it was the greatest album ever made. And I still do.”

The film begins with the band’s performance of “Sure Nuff ‘n’ Yes I Do” live at Cannes in 1968.  Blues music fans will recognize the guitar riff from the classic “Rollin & Tumblin” and Willie Dixon’s “Down In The Bottom.”  The song also shares it’s opening lyric with the Grateful Dead’s “New, New Minglewood Blues.”  I’ve included videos of each of these songs below.  I believe the origin of the riff is the “New Minglewood Blues,” a re-write of “Minglewood Blues” recorded by Noah Lewis and Canon’s Jug Stompers in 1928.

Sure Nuff ‘n’ Yes I Do:

Howlin’ Wolf performs Down in the Bottom (at 01:25):

Jeff Beck & Imogen Heap’s incredible version of Rollin and Tumblin (click to watch on Youtube):

New New Minglewood Blues live:

UPDATE: After posting this blog, I realized that a recording of Beefheart performing “Rollin and Tumblin” live in 1968 was released on the Grow Fins rarities set.  Enjoy!

You can watch the Peel Night Beefheart documentary in four parts below.  R.I.P. Captain.

Published in: on January 1, 2011 at 10:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. A still-in-shrink original pressing of Beefheart’s debut album Safe As Milk (1967 US MONO BUDDAH BDM-1001) has just surfaced on eBay with bidding starting at $100. The album includes the original sleeve and the incredibly rare bumper sticker!


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