Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
Transcription of programme text.
As usual,,in anything connected with Beefheart, nothing is straightforward.So,please note, some of the information here - about Beefheart being deceived and deserted and most particularly about the Magic Band members having to be taught how to play the Trout Mask music -has since been hotly disputed by the ex magic band members and others .
The band came to Europe in 1966 when they played some legendary shows at Middle Earth, tearfully introduced by John Peel.
Just before the band were to appear at the Monterey Festival the lead guitar Ryland Cooder of subsequent fame, dropped out and so began the sorry tale of desertion and deception that characterized Beefheartís career for the next four years. Strictly Personal, his next album was put out by Krasnow while the Captain was away in Europe with the addition of crappy electronic effects. But still , as he says, " the music shines through like diamond in the mud "
Totally pissed off by this and
with a growing disintegration of the other musician's enthusiasm , Beefheart
took the course that only a naïf or a genius could, he formed
a new magic band and proceeded to record probably the most original work
of rock music yet. This was Trout Mask
Zappa , an old school friend
, offered him complete freedom to record.
" As far as freedom goes " the Captain said "If another man offers me complete freedom , all that I can think is , he's in a cage , but since he was in a cage I figured I could run around the outside and play a bit "
The band consisted of artist friends who had to be taught to "play" the Captain's songs. Both where to put their fingers and to give it that childish , playful impulse that Beefheart believes is the source of all worthwhile art.
Its a hopeless job to pick out one or two songs for it is an entire
creation . It was written in eight and a half hours. When jokingly asked
why it had taken so long Beefheart replied
"well, I'd never played the piano before and it took a while to figure out the fingering " .
The album was recorded in an equally intense period and stories surrounding the sessions are legion. The recording was done in and around his own house , which incidentally explains the dogs barking , planes overhead and kids wandering up. Beefheart thought the noise might bother the trees so he had a tree surgeon give then a check up. Alas ,the freedom that Zappa had given him did not prevent Bizarre/Straight from promoting the album in a fashion that Beefheart found distasteful, by grouping him with other weirdo groups as the king of the freaks.
The next album ? Lick My Decals Off, demonstrated a new aspect of Beefheart ? his ability to treat vast areas of subjects in incredibly dense images. The ideas though are treated with characteristic simplicity. .Not the simplicity of the dolt , but the simplicity of the wise man that yields such profound insights.
Now there is a new album , The Spotlight Kid, which is on an eminence of Its own and a newish band whose mood is one of total commitment to each other and to the music the Captain is assembling with them . There are two guitarists, Zoot Horn Rollo, from the Trout Mask period, Winged Eel Fingerling , an early Mother, two bass players, the incredible Rockette Morton - another magic Band veteran - and Orejon ? another ex Mother along with the drummer Ed Marimba who played keyboards on earlier albums.
"Its taken me five years to get the group together . They're honest men and they don't look down on people , they look straight across at them which is very important to me ."The newest member of the band Orejon, was discussing the troubles with the PA at their Albert Hall concert, but added,
"this band aint never gonna fall man, no matter how bad the equipment is , They're the magic band ."An awful ot of people agreed after the recent tour , and with confidence like Orejon's and a guiding imagination as potent as Beefheart's, there are surely going to be a great deal more lovers of the bands music after their performance here.
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Updated May 2023
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