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Old Music

Five Hamburgers – Captain Beefheart

It’s Don Van Vliet week here at Riverboat Towers – another Captain: Captain Beefheart, of course. A serious listening session, no doubt, so I’m easing myself in gently with the Booglarizer’s most accessible album, and a classic to boot. Perversely (for an artist where perversity is a regular occurrence) it didn’t chart in the UK, whereas more experimental ‘difficult’ albums did. I’ll get round to those later in the week, topping it all off with ‘Trout Mask Replica’, but if there’s a Beefheart album I’d recommend, ‘Clear Spot‘ is the one. Buy it right now, you’ll get ‘The Spotlight Kid’ on the same CD.

And to get right down to it, there’s something about ‘Trout Mask Replica’ that eludes me. I understand that he taught the band how to play that way, and that, as free-form as it sounds, it’s all been mapped out, a strange and arcane map for sure, but a map just the same. But I haven’t, up to now, ever ‘got it’. There’s also the nagging feeling that advocates of the record are just so far up their own arse and using it as a tool to berate the intelligence of those baffled by TMR and assert their own evident superiority. We’ll see how I get along listening to it this time around.

But for now, here’s the Captain with the late period Magic Band (Richard Snyder and Moris Tepper on guitars) on a French TV show in 1980. Listen to it rumble. Love those glass and steel fingers. ‘Big Eyed Beans From Venus’.


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