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Tag Archives: Captain Beefheart
Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band and their wild and crazy LP “Trout Mask Replica.”
It is curious that the general public has an easier time accepting the avant-garde in art and literature before music. It is a part of the history of music in the 20th century that music diverged into a never ending ever expanding delta instead of the river it used to be. Part of this divergence was directly attributable to the fact that some musicians and composers no longer sought or even cared about public acceptance of their music. Captain Beefheart was this type of musician. What you are about to hear is not an accident. It’s not a result of bad musicianship. And equally true, this is not some kind of joke or farce being perpetrated on you the listener. This is an attempt to make art for the artist sake whither anyone else enjoys it or not.
This record was made in 1969. It was produced by Frank Zappa. Frank actually named Donald Van Vliet “Captain Beefheart”. Van Vliet once told David Letterman that his named symbolized that he had a “Beef in his Heart against this society.” This may give insight into the genesis of this record. This record is highly acclaimed by Rock historians and critics. It is on The Rolling Stone top 100 LP’s of all time list and top 500 recordings of all time. It is also included in the book “1,000 recordings to Hear Before You Die” by Tom Moon.
The album would never have happened without Frank Zappa. Frank owned two record labels so he offered to put the record out on one of his labels if he could produce the LP and then he gave Captain Beefheart full creative authority to do what ever he wanted… Let’s just say that Captain Beefheart took full advantage of his creative freedom.
This songs were all meticulously composed by Van Vliet. The band moved in together and rehearsed the compositions for 8 months in a relentless, physically and emotionally abusive, cult-like atmosphere created and driven by Donald Van Vliet. At one time or another every member of the band bordered on having a nervous breakdown. None of them had any money and they subsisted on Welfare and shoplifting for food.
Van Vliet claims that all of these songs were written in one 8 hour session, however; it has been proven that at least 2 of the songs were written in 1968. What is true is that all of the music tracks were recorded in one 6 hour session. Vliet spent another 2 or 3 days adding in the horn overdubs and vocals. I guess rehearsing 14 hours a day for 8 months paid off. Keep all of this in mind when you hear the songs. Everything you hear was rehearsed until it was perfect. Hmmm… The band consisted of the follow cast of characters:
Donald Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart): Vocals, Tenor and Soprano Sax, Bass Clarinet, Musette, Smiran Horn, Hunting Horn, and jingle bells.
Jeff Cotton (Antennae Jimmy Semens): Slide Guitar and Vocals.
Bill Harkleroad (Zoot Horn Rollo): Slide Guitar and flute.
Victor Hayden (The Mascara Snake): Bass Clarinet and Vocals.
Mark Boston: (Rockette Morton): Bass Guitar and narration.
John French (Drumbo): Drums and Percussion.
Without any other comment to influence your opinions and/or insights to this album. I present to you the complete set of songs from the infamous album “Trout Mask Replica”!
The Dust Blows Forward ‘N The Dust Blows Back
Hair Pie: Bake 1
Moonlight On Vermont
Sweet Sweet Bulbs
Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish
My Human Gets Me Blues
Hair Pie: Bake 2
When Big Joan Sets Up
Sugar ‘N Spikes
Ant Man Bee
Orange Claw Hammer
She’s Too Much For My Mirror
Hobo Chang Ba
Steal Softly Thru Snow
Old Fart At Play
Veteran’s Day Poppy
So there you have it. Trout Mask Replica in all it’s avant-garde, bluesy, free jazz glory! Did you like it? I think it gets better and better the more you listen to it. Most listeners probably won’t be able to do that. So, is music for the composer or the public? Here is a great example to debate. This album influenced people like Tom Waits, P.J. Harvey, The Sex Pistols and punk rock in general, even modern composers like John Cage. In the end I have to vote in favor of the composer. If it were not for the bold artist, writers, and composers that didn’t care about popularity, some of the greatest art, music and literature of all time would never have come into being. That’s what I think. But I’d love to hear what you think. In the end Captain Beefheart summed it up the best with the opening line of the first song…”My smile is stuck, I can’t go back to your Frownland…”
This record came to me through one of my friends who asked me to record it for him. The story of how he came to own this record is worth telling because those times are long, long, gone…
So his story is this: My friend grew up in Wichita, Kansas in the 1950’s. Not much went on in Wichita in the ’50s and ’60’s. Not much goes on there today, come to think about it. But when my friend was a junior in College, Jerry Lee Lewis was going to come through town and play a concert. My friend didn’t even really know who Jerry Lee Lewis was. One afternoon, a flat bed truck came through the campus grounds with a bull horn announcing a rock and roll show and where to get tickets. As a crowd began to gather, the promoters just started throwing copies of Jerry Lee Lewis albums out into the crowd. My friend is a tall gentleman now, and he was tall back then too. He easily caught one of the records. So here it is “The Golden Cream of Country” by Jerry Lee Lewis. This record was released in 1969.
This record is on Sun Records. The famous studio of the producer, Sam Phillips. Sun records is hallowed ground. It is one of the birthplaces of Rock and Roll. Take a look at this photo:
At sun records in the 1950’s Rock, Country, Blues, and Folk music collided all at the same time. The results changed music forever. Sam Phillips was the baby Doctor that assisted in it birth. This record is a great example of what was going on at the time. The tittle states it’s a “Country” record, but I would guess that when you listen to some of the songs you may think differently.
Invitation To Your Party
A country song but with a honky tonk Rockabilly piano sound going on too. Hmmm….
This is such a famous song and it has been recorded by “everyone and their dog!” I bet there are a lot of people that would be stunned to know that it was written by Hank Williams. Here we have a Louisiana man singing about the bayou. This is a great version and “The Killer” nails it!
When I saw this song title I thought it was going to be the “Ramblin’ Rose” of Nat King Cole. This is a different song. By the way, this song doesn’t sound anything like country and western music to me. This is very Rhythm and Blues with it’s boogie beat and the style of singing it is really a very cool song. This could have just as easily been Ray Charles.
Cold, Cold, Heart
Another song by Hank Williams. When you call an album “The Golden Cream of Country” , you have to include some Hank Williams, Right? There is a great new CD out that is a collection of unfinished songs of Hank Williams. The CD was put together by Bob Dylan and a who’s who of great singer/song writers. I haven’t heard it yet, but initial reviews have been very positive. Jerry Lee definitely gives this song the country effect. I especially like the gospel roll he uses in this arrangement. The piano solo in the break is classic Jerry Lee Lewis.
As Long As I Live
This song is much more Rock n Roll than country. The lead guitar sound is definitely more Rock sounding than country. Once again The Killer tears up the piano with a great solo.
Seasons Of My Heart
I don’t know who the woman singer is. She is not credited on the album anywhere. It’s interesting how they purposefully sing slightly out of sync with each other. It gives an edge of emotion to this song it wouldn’t otherwise have.
One Minute Past Eternity
This song is the most country song on the LP. This is in the style of old country like Patsey Cline.
I Can’t Trust You In My Arms Anymore
This sounds more like Fats Domino than Willy Nelson.
Frankie and Johnny
This is the only song on the LP that Jerry Lee Lewis wrote. This is straight ahead rock and roll. Not any country going on here. This is a great little rock and roll ditty.
A twangy guitar and a singing style like Roger Miller. A very country sounding song, with a slight blues edge to it.
How’s My Ex Treating You?
Once again the walking blues bass appears. I like the fuzzy sound of the bass in this song. It’s a great tittle for a country song. It just sounds like rock and roll more than country. The Hammond Organ is not a typical C & W instrument ether.
And with that, “The Golden Cream of Country” comes to an end. It’s Not the greatest album I ever heard. It is interesting that a record like this was released with a tittle like this in 1969. Consider what other albums were released in 1969. The Beatles released Abbey Road, the Rolling Stones released Let it Bleed, Led Zeppelin released Led Zeppelin I and II, The Who released “Tommy”. There were also classic albums released that year by bands like The Velvet Underground, King Crimson, Captain Beefheart, and Nick Drake. That is a very diverse group of musicians. Music was going in a million directions in 1969. Maybe the competition for Jerry Lee was so intense he felt he had to call it a country album to sell any copies.
So the point to me is that it is dumb to label music. Country? Rock? Jazz? Classical? Then you get really silly with labels like: Fusion, Alternative, Dubb step, Heavy Metal, Punk, Indie, etc… On and on it goes, till nobody know what it really means anymore. I don’t know. I could be wrong. What do you think?