Captain Beefheart
American musician
Captain Beefheart
Don Van Vliet was an American musician, singer-songwriter, artist and poet widely known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. His musical work was conducted with a rotating ensemble of musicians called The Magic Band, active between 1965 and 1982, with whom he recorded 13 studio albums. Noted for his powerful singing voice with its wide range, Van Vliet also played the harmonica, saxophone and numerous other wind instruments.
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No Hits, No Problem: Captain Beefheart's Major Label Run
NPR - almost 2 years
In 1970, Warner Bros. Records had an unusual philosophy: they'd sign artists and, instead of wanting a hit single immediately, they'd develop them over several albums. Hence, Captain Beefheart. » E-Mail This
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NPR article
T Bone Burnett on How He Chooses Music For "True Detective"
Mother Jones - about 3 years
True Detective, a dark new anthology series that premiered on HBO earlier this month, has been greeted with wide critical praise. "True Detective could be the next Breaking Bad," gushed The New Republic. The philosophical drama (written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga) stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Louisiana homicide detectives Rustin Cohle and Martin Hart, respectively. The show follows their hunt for a serial killer, as well as their struggles with inner demons and family. The series' brooding atmosphere is framed by an expertly crafted soundtrack—some of the songs are haunting, some are bluesy, some are both. The music is selected by none other than T Bone Burnett, the Oscar-winning producer and musician. "I have a long history with detective movies—almost as long as I have with rock 'n' roll," Burnett says. "I've always been interested in crime and true crime. If you listen to my records, like Criminal Under My Own Hat, you can feel it. I ...
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Mother Jones article
The True Story Of How Lou Reed Helped Overthrow Communism In Eastern Europe
Business Insider - over 3 years
How influential was Lou Reed? Former Czech president and one-time dissident playwright Vaclav Havel was once said to have asked him, "Did you know I am president because of you?" Here's the back story (hat-tip to the FT's Ed Crooks for reminding us of this story): Sometime between 1967 and 1968, Havel visited the U.S., and scored a copy of a record by the Velvet Underground, the band founded by Reed and championed by Andy Warhol. (It's not clear which album Havel got — some accounts say it was their debut, others "White Light/White Heat.") The band's liberating, experimental sound proved a sensation in the Czech artist community, as music writer Rob Jovanovic once explained: Havel took it home, along with Frank Zappa's debut, and managed to smuggle it through Customs. Soon it was being copied and passed around the Prague underground, influencing the avant-garde set to play secretive gigs around the capital…" One of the people who picked up the album was Milan "Mejla" Hlavs ...
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Business Insider article
Paul McCartney's "Queenie Eye," Plus Chatting with The Rubens' Sam Margin, Sam Phillips and The Swimming Pool Q's' Jeff Calder
Huffington Post - over 3 years
Paul McCartney's "Queenie Eye" Can you spot the famous folks? A Conversation with The Rubens' Sam Margin Mike Ragogna: Sam, what's up and how the heck are you? Sam Margin: Not much and I'm good! MR: So this isn't your first American tour, but it might be your most important one, huh? SM: Yeah, I think it is because of the record that's out now. We've done a bit of American touring, not proper cross-the-country touring like we are now, but we did Bonnaroo and a couple of festivals, South-By, and stuff like that, which was good, a good lead-up to the record being released but I guess this is the most important so far. MR: Your band is pretty new to this country. SM: Yeah, definitely. We are new to the US. We spent a bit of time here, we recorded our album in New York for a few months, but yeah, in regards to the public and anyone really knowing who we are, we're really new. MR: Who's going to be the opening act when you tour with Bruce Springsteen back in Australia? You gu ...
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Huffington Post article
Unknown Mortal Orchestra's accidental success
San Francisco Chronicle - over 3 years
Unknown Mortal Orchestra's accidental success Started as a lark by singer-songwriter Ruban Nielson - who was fed up with the music industry after his first band, the Mint Chicks, failed to set fire to the world - the psychedelic-pop act Unknown Mortal Orchestra has somehow turned into a serious concern for the 33-year-old New Zealand native. The songs on the group's latest album, "II," revolve around his struggles with an itinerant life, set to a soundtrack that recalls early Paul McCartney and Captain Beefheart. Unknown Mortal Orchestra headlines Thursday at the Fillmore. [...] I'm the most active musical member of the family. Does your lifestyle make it hard to maintain relationships? Unknown Mortal Orchestra: 7 p.m. Thursday. $20. Aidin Vaziri is The San Francisco Chronicle's pop music critic.
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San Francisco Chronicle article
USF media professor dies in Berkeley fire
San Francisco Chronicle - over 3 years
A University of San Francisco media studies professor died Tuesday after a fire broke out in his Berkeley apartment building, leaving colleagues and students mourning a man whose interests ranged from Led Zeppelin to Lady Gaga as he explored the aesthetics of popular music and culture. Andrew Goodwin, 56, who blogged as the "Professor of Pop," was found in his third-floor apartment after the two-alarm fire at 2431 Oregon St. was reported about 1:40 a.m., authorities said. The fire was mostly confined to the third floor, but the bottom floors suffered water and other damage, authorities said. "Andrew was a brilliant colleague, a committed teacher and a founding member not just of our department but of the field of media and cultural studies generally," said Bernadette Barker-Plummer, chair of the media studies department at USF. In class, he spoke about topics as varied as MTV, Captain Beefheart - the stage name of musician Don Van Vliet - and the Oranj Symphonette, an experimental ...
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San Francisco Chronicle article
Katherine Brooks: David Bryne And Questlove Get Together To Talk Music
Huffington Post - almost 4 years
The Public Theater has a knack for bringing together opposing forces from the world of fine and performing arts, placing giants like Tony Kushner and Rachel Maddow on the same stage to debate the state of culture, in its series Public Forum Duets. This past Public event featured a forum duet to rival the rest, staring the hip hop virtuoso Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and new wave god David Byrne. Brought together to discuss the impact of music in popular consciousness, the Roots drummer and former Talking Heads frontman gave audience members a night to remember, swapping stories from the heydays of their respective careers. Questlove asked Byrne about his early days in New York in the 1970s while the Scottish songwriter probed Mr. Thompson on the genesis of the Philadelphia music scene. The event, hosted by the Public Forum's Jeremy McCarter, was a sold out event at NYU's Skirball Center, so you might have missed Questlove's animated gestures (hairpick and all) and Byrne ...
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Huffington Post article
Dusty Wright: Thankful For Tasty New Rock Music!
Huffington Post - about 4 years
Happy Thanksgiving. It's been a terrific month for mining new music. I caught an advance screening of Led Zeppelin's new concert movie at MoMA (and their press conference), discovered what may be my favorite album of the year, and found inspiring young musicians sharing their chops and muses with the world. With the holidays around the corner, here are some early suggestions for music very much worth sharing with friends, lovers, bosses, and family.  "You're So Great / It's All Right, Ma" Wendy James You're So Great E.P. (Cobraside) If Brit-born/NYC-based Ms. James's claim-to-fame-band Transvision Vamp was a tad too sugar-pop coated for your New Yawk punk rawk palette, not to worry. Thanks to guitarist James Williamson (Iggy Pop Stooge) and drummer James Sclavunos (Nick Cave alumnus), she's found some downtown 'tude. The A-side is a fun retro Ramones-style punk ditty, but it's the flip-side Grinderman-grind Dylan cover where it all comes together. For Zimmerman puris ...
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Huffington Post article
Eliot Van Buskirk: 33 1/3 Books Are Exactly What Music Needs
Huffington Post - over 4 years
Hey, look, some band released an album. Why should you care? Maybe you shouldn't, but sometimes you do. If this happens to you, this whole caring-about-an-album-a-lot thing, the 33 1/3 series of books from Bloomsbury (see also: the blog) can be an invaluable resource. These small books detail the stories behind many of history's most legendary albums. The series is still going strong, 86 books in. In this lucky age, when music fans can hear just about anything ever recorded in seconds, these books provide deep context that is too often missing. They should probably be apps. Eliot Van Buskirk, Evolver.fm: How did the idea for the 33 1/3 series come about? David Barker, Bloomsbury Publishing: I published a series called Continuum Contemporaries back in the late '90s/early '00s -- they were short critical guides to contemporary works of fiction. The works covered had a good range, including White Teeth, The Secret History, Underworld, Paradise, Infinite Jest and even ...
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Huffington Post article
Music DVD Review: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - The Lost Broadcasts
Seattle Pi - over 4 years
Music DVD Review: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - The Lost Broadcasts Seattle Post-Intelligencer Copyright 2012 Seattle Post-Intelligencer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Published 10:52 p.m., Monday, September 24, 2012 Don Van Vliet (1941-2010) is now remembered as one of the more eclectic figures in rock and roll history. During 1972, he and his Magic Band were touring England and Europe when they made a stop at The Beat Club Studios in Bremen, Germany to record some tracks for later broadcast on German television. "Steal Softly Thru Snow" dated back to Trout Mask Replica, while "Golden Birdies" looked ahead to Clear Spot. Watching Captain Beefheart is a different experience than listening to him, as there is less room for the mind to wander. A must for any fan of The Captain or for anyone who wants to travel a musical journey rarely taken.
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Seattle Pi article
Coming of age with New Wave City, KALX
San Francisco Chronicle - over 4 years
Coming of age with New Wave City, KALX San Francisco Chronicle Copyright 2012 San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Published 4:34 p.m., Wednesday, September 5, 2012 Get in Minor Threat, Fugazi and Dischord Records honcho Ian MacKaye's face when he sits down Thursday at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, then drag out those jazz hands as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (above) play Friday at the Greek Theatre. Venerable yet still spunky Berkeley college radio station KALX toasts its big 5-0 with a series of 50th anniversary head-turners beginning with a show of flyers, posters, T-shirts and artifacts at Oakland's Rock Paper Scissors Collective, opening Friday. (Also look for a BAM/PFA L@TE music series including the Dodos and Weekend and retrospective programming in September.) Publicity director Lorraine Petel sa ...
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San Francisco Chronicle article
D'Angelo returning to Los Angeles with House of Blues concert
LATimes - over 4 years
R&B recluse D'Angelo is in hiding no more. After appearing with the Roots at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee in June, the sonic manipulator of funk and soul has booked a surprise July 4 date at West Hollywood's House of Blues, according to promoter Live Nation. The Bonnaroo appearance marked the artist's first U.S. gig in 12 years, and catching D'Angelo at the House of Blues won't be cheap. Tickets are going for $129, once all the requisite fees have been added in. Tickets are on sale now (yes, now) via the Live Nation mobile app. The general on-sale date is Friday at 10 a.m. D'Angelo has more than 30 songs ready to be released, according to friend, collaborator and Roots drummer Questlove. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Questlove said D'Angelo had recently "discovered Bowie and Zeppelin, the Beatles, 'Pet Sounds,' Captain Beefheart and Zappa," adding that the new works see D'Angelo experimenting more with guitars. It may or may not be coming out in la ...
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LATimes article
Chill City
The Portland Mercury - over 4 years
Spiritualized looks on the bright side. by Mark Lore I'VE BEEN LISTENING to Spiritualized's Sweet Heart Sweet Light pretty much nonstop over the past week. It's an album that actually plays like an album—listening to a song by itself or deviating from the sequence completely upends its framework. That's how good it is. That attention to detail also explains why Jason Pierce (or J. Spaceman to fellow space cadets) would probably still be working on the album if he could. Pierce's obsessive-compulsive tendencies are the reason he's admitted to disliking making records. The process wasn't made any easier by the fact that he discovered he had long-term liver disease, which—coupled with an experimental drug treatment—made life, let alone work, difficult. I originally considered calling this "J. Spaceman Has a Cold," after the famous Esquire piece on Frank Sinatra written by Gay Talese, who was unable to nail down an interview with Old ...
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The Portland Mercury article
Lost and Found Sounds by Captain Beefheart, Can and a Mother of Invention
Rolling Stone - almost 5 years
Don Van Vliet – the late singer-composer-provocateur known as Captain Beefheart – was recovering from the deepest nadir of his musical life two mid-Seventies albums of straight-line rock and sugar-rhyme ballads when he hit another the 36-year exile of his comeback shot Bat Chain Puller (Vaulternative) Recorded in the spring
Article Link:
Rolling Stone article
Summer Jam Kicks Off Tonight With Magic Band
Hyattsville Patch - almost 5 years
It's not too often that the words "fun time" and "city hall" can be written in the same sentence, but today might just be one of those days.  That's because the 2012 Outback Steakhouse Summer Jam Series kicks off tonight in front of Hyattsville's Municipal Building on Gallatin Street. The concerts are free and take place on the second Friday of every month starting at 6:30 p.m. and running through 8:30 p.m. There will also be food provided by Outback Steakhouse of Hyattsville. There will also be a bouncy castle for the kids, beer and wine garden for the adults, and Mandy The Clown for everybody to enjoy.  Tonight sees The Magic Band come to town. If you're prone to lysergic acid flashbacks, you may remember the Magic Band as the ensemble which backed legendary psychadelic rock and blues musician Captain Beefheart from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s.  That last link takes you to a classic Beefheart composition. Here's how The Magic Band tours these days since reforming in ...
Article Link:
Hyattsville Patch article
The roots of Romney's obsession with gays
Colorado Springs - almost 5 years
As someone who mostly writes about music, I've pretty much kept quiet about the current presidential race, other than to chronicle former contender Jon Huntsman outing himself as a fan of avant-bluesman Captain Beefheart. (See "Huntsman Drops Out on Beefheart's Birthday.") But this morning's Washington Post story on candidate Mitt Romney's "youthful indiscretions," to borrow a term from famous GOP philanderer Henry Hyde, is well worth noting — especially in a country where popular (and now presidential) opinion condemns discrimination against gays.… [ Read more ] [ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]
Article Link:
Colorado Springs article
Michael Bialas: Amy LaVere Among the Wander(ing) Women Here to Stay
The Silver Tongue - almost 5 years
Even though she's lived and worked in Memphis since 1999, singer-songwriter-actress Amy LaVere isn't tied down to one place or, for that matter, one career. No wonder she came up with the name for the fascinating fivesome called the Wandering. The ambitious side project invented by another overachiever, Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, includes LaVere and three other accomplished female artists who bring something different to the table besides their willingness to have a good time. Near the end of April, while wrapping up her part in the feature-length film Only Child with esteemed costar Grace Zabriskie (Big Love, Twin Peaks), LaVere was obviously ready for a change of pace. Even if the experience of "an intimate film with a decent budget and a brilliant script" was her proudest moment as an actor. "At this point, after being on the same film set for a month, I'm ready to get in a van and go somewhere," she said over the phone as the Wanderi ...
Article Link:
The Silver Tongue article
SLIDESHOW: Vinyl fans turn out for Record Store Day
chl Chestnuthilllocal.com - almost 5 years
by Sue Ann Rybak Brian Reisman, who is the owner of Hideaway Records in Chestnut Hill, rings up Esther Rosen on Saturday afternoon. This year's Record Store Day was held on April 21. Music lovers flocked to Hideaway Music, 8612 Germantown Ave., to – in the words of Bob Seger – “take those old records (and new records) off the shelf” to celebrate Record Store Day on Saturday, April 21. Chris Brown, of Bull Moose, a chain of record stores in Maine and New Hampshire, dreamed up the idea for Record Store Day in 2007 as a “celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the U.S.A. and hundreds more around the world.” Metallica officially kicked off Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Francisco on April 19, 2008, and Record Store Day is now celebrated on the third Saturday of April. Hideaway Music owner Brian Reisman said more than 250 artists were releasing a limited amount of songs on vinyl to promote Record Store Day. Some of ...
Article Link:
chl Chestnuthilllocal.com article
Support Gold Million Records on Record Store Day
Bryn Mawr- Gladwyne Patch - almost 5 years
It's Christmas for vinylphiles. Record Store Day is set nationwide for Saturday, and Gold Million Records in Bryn Mawr will offer a chance to meet Frank Zappa cover artist Cal Schenkel. Gold Million Records is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. "Meet the legendary record cover designer [Schenkel] for Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, The Fugs, Tim Buckley and more," reads a press release about the event. "Cal will sign and personalize his limited edition prints, original artworks and rare ZAPPA records & memorabilia for this special one-day gallery exhibition show and sale." Admission is free and open to the public. Check back with Bryn Mawr-Gladwyne Patch on Sunday for coverage of Saturday's event. Manayunk's Main Street Music is also participating in Record Store Day, with exclusive releases and live performances. Patch Editor Sam Fran Scavuzzo contributed to this report.
Article Link:
Bryn Mawr- Gladwyne Patch article
Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Captain Beefheart
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 2010
    Age 69
    In his 2010 memoir Beefheart: Through The Eyes of Magic French recounted being " screamed at, beaten up, drugged, ridiculed, humiliated, arrested, starved, stolen from, and thrown down a half-flight of stairs by his employer".
    More Details Hide Details The musicians also resented Van Vliet for taking complete credit for composition and arranging when the musicians themselves pieced together most of the songs from taped fragments or impressionistic directions such as "Play it like a bat being dragged out of oil and it's trying to survive, but it's dying from asphyxiation." John French summarized the disagreement over composing and arranging credits metaphorically:
    The Michael Werner Gallery announced on Friday, December 17, 2010, that Van Vliet had died at a hospital in Arcata, California, weeks short of his 70th birthday.
    More Details Hide Details The gallery described him as " a complex and influential figure in the visual and performing arts" and "one of the most original recording artists of his time". The cause was named as complications from multiple sclerosis. Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan commented on his death, praising him: "Wondrous, secret... and profound, he was a diviner of the highest order." Dweezil Zappa dedicated the song "Willie the Pimp" to Beefheart at the "Zappa Plays Zappa" show at the Beacon Theater in New York City on the day of his death, while Jeff Bridges exclaimed "Rest in peace, Captain Beefheart!" at the conclusion of the December 18 episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live. Van Vliet met Frank Zappa when they were both teenagers and shared an interest in rhythm and blues and Chicago blues. They collaborated from this early stage, with Zappa's scripts for "teenage operettas" such as "Captain Beefheart & the Grunt People" helping to elevate the Van Vliet persona of Captain Beefheart. In 1963, the pair recorded a demo at the Pal Recording Studio in Cucamonga as the Soots, seeking support from a major label. Their efforts were unsuccessful, as "Beefheart's Howlin' Wolf vocal style and Zappa's distorted guitar" were "not on the agenda" at the time.
    He is credited for naming Tepper's 2010 album A Singer Named Shotgun Throat.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 2009
    Age 68
    Ty Segall covered "Drop Out Boogie" on his 2009 album Lemons.
    More Details Hide Details
    Exhibits of his paintings from the late 1990s at both the Anton Kern and Michael Werner Galleries of New York City received favorable reviews, the most recent of which were held between 2009 and 2010.
    More Details Hide Details Falconer stated that the most recent exhibitions showed "evidence of a serious, committed artist". It was claimed that he stopped painting in the late 1990s. A 2007 interview with Van Vliet through email by Anthony Haden-Guest, however, showed him to still be active artistically. He exhibited only few of his paintings because he immediately destroyed any that did not satisfy him.
  • 2005
    Age 64
    Nicholas E. Tawa, in his 2005 book Supremely American: Popular Song in the 20th Century: Styles and Singers and What They Said About America, included Beefheart among the prominent progressive rock musicians of the 1960s and 1970s, while the Encyclopædia Britannica describes Beefheart's songs as conveying "deep distrust of modern civilization, a yearning for ecological balance, and that belief that all animals in the wild are far superior to human beings".
    More Details Hide Details Many of his works have been classified as "art rock". Many artists have cited Van Vliet as an influence, beginning with the Edgar Broughton Band, who covered "Dropout Boogie" as Apache Drop Out (mixed with the Shadows' "Apache") as early as 1970, as did the Kills 32 years later. The Minutemen were fans of Beefheart, and were arguably among the few to effectively synthesize his music with their own, especially in their early output, which featured disjointed guitar and irregular, galloping rhythms. Michael Azerrad describes the Minutemen's early output as " highly caffeinated Captain Beefheart running down James Brown tunes", and notes that Beefheart was the group's "idol". Others who arguably conveyed the same influence around the same time or before include John Cale of the Velvet Underground, Little Feat, Laurie Anderson, the Residents and Henry Cow. Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, and poet mystic Z'EV, both pioneers of industrial music, cited Van Vliet along with Zappa among their influences. More notable were those emerging during the early days of punk rock, such as the Clash and John Lydon of the Sex Pistols (reportedly to manager Malcolm McLaren's disapproval), later of the post-punk band Public Image Ltd.
  • 2004
    Age 63
    In 2004 the band did a live session for him at his home "Peel Acres".
    More Details Hide Details They played over 30 shows throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, and one in the United States. They also released two albums: Back to the Front (on the London-based ATP Recordings, 2003) and 21st Century Mirror Men (2005). The group disbanded in 2006 but reformed in 2011, with Lucas and Traylor replaced by Eric Klerks and Craig Bunch respectively, to play at ATP once again (which was due to take place in November, curated by Jeff Mangum). The festival was postponed until the following March but they honoured the other UK and Ireland dates which had been booked around it, the new line-up being dubbed "The Best Batch Yet" by Beefheart song-title-referencing commentators. They returned to play the rescheduled ATP and more UK gigs in March 2012, followed by a European tour in September and October. They toured Europe again in 2013 and 2014.
  • 2003
    Age 62
    John Peel was initially skeptical about the re-formed Magic Band. However, after he aired a live recording of the band playing at the 2003 All Tomorrow's Parties festival on his radio show, he was lost for words and had to put on another record to regain his composure.
    More Details Hide Details
    Receiving only a "grumpy" reception from Van Vliet, the Magic Band reformed in 2003 with John French on drums, lead vocals and harmonica, Gary Lucas and Denny Walley on guitars, Rockette Morton on bass, and Robert Williams on drums for the vocal numbers.
    More Details Hide Details The initial impetus came from Matt Groening who wanted them to play at the All Tomorrows Parties festival he was curating. For their subsequent European tour, Williams left and was replaced by Michael Traylor.
    In 2003 he was heard on the compilation album Where We Live: Stand for What You Stand On: A Benefit CD for EarthJustice singing a version of "Happy Birthday to You" retitled "Happy Earthday".
    More Details Hide Details The track lasts 34 seconds and was recorded over the telephone.
  • FIFTIES
  • 2000
    Age 59
    In 2000, he appeared on Gary Lucas' album Improve the Shining Hour and Moris Tepper's Moth to Mouth, and spoke on Tepper's 2004 song "Ricochet Man" from the album Head Off.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1997
    Age 56
    According to Dr. John Lane, director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in 1997, although Van Vliet's work has associations with mainstream abstract expressionist painting, more importantly he was a self-taught artist and his painting "has that same kind of edge the music has".
    More Details Hide Details Curator David Breuer asserts that in contrast to the busied, bohemian urban lives of the New York abstract expressionists, the rural desert environment Van Vliet was influenced by is a distinctly naturalistic one, making him a distinguished figure in contemporary art, whose work will survive in canon. Van Vliet stated of his own work, "I'm trying to turn myself inside out on the canvas. I'm trying to completely bare what I think at that moment" and that, "I paint for the simple reason that I have to. I feel a sense of relief after I do." When asked about his artistic influences he stated that there were none. "I just paint like I paint and that's enough influence." He did however state his admiration of Georg Baselitz, the De Stijl artist Piet Mondrian, and Vincent van Gogh; after seeing van Gogh's paintings in person, Van Vliet quoted himself as saying that, "The sun disappoints me so."
  • 1995
    Age 54
    Gordon Veneklasen, one of the gallery's directors in 1995 described Van Vliet as an "incredible painter" whose work "doesn't really look like anybody else's work but his own".
    More Details Hide Details Van Vliet has been described as a modernist, a primitivist, an abstract expressionist, and, "in a sense" an outsider artist. Morgan Falconer of Artforum concurs, mentioning both a "neo-primitivist aesthetic" and further stating that his work is influenced by the CoBrA painters. The resemblance to the CoBrA painters is also recognized by art critic Roberto Ohrt, while others have compared his paintings to the work of Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Antonin Artaud, Francis Bacon, Vincent van Gogh and Mark Rothko.
  • 1994
    Age 53
    A deluxe edition was published in 1994; only 60 were printed, with etchings of Van Vliet's signature, costing £180.
    More Details Hide Details In the early 1980s Van Vliet established an association with the Michael Werner Gallery. Eric Feldman stated later in an interview that at that time Michael Werner told Van Vliet he needed to stop playing music if he wanted to be respected as a painter, warning him that otherwise he would only be considered a " musician who paints". In doing so, it was said that he had effectively "succeeded in leaving his past behind".
  • 1993
    Age 52
    Two books have been published specifically devoted to critique and analysis of his artwork: Riding Some Kind of Unusual Skull Sleigh: On The Arts Of Don Van Vliet (1999) by W.C. Bamberger and Stand Up To Be Discontinued, first published in 1993, a now rare collection of essays on Van Vliet's work.
    More Details Hide Details The limited edition version of the book contains a CD of Van Vliet reading six of his poems: Fallin' Ditch, The Tired Plain, Skeleton Makes Good, Safe Sex Drill, Tulip and Gill.
  • FORTIES
  • 1991
    Age 50
    Guitarist John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers cited Van Vliet as a prominent influence on the band's 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik as well as his debut solo album Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt (1994) and stated that during his drug-induced absence, after leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers, he "would paint and listen to Trout Mask Replica".
    More Details Hide Details Black Francis of the Pixies cited Beefheart's The Spotlight Kid as one of the albums he listened to regularly when first writing songs for the band, and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana acknowledged Van Vliet's influence, mentioning him among his notoriously eclectic range. The White Stripes in 2000 released a 7" tribute single, "Party of Special Things to Do", containing covers of that Beefheart song plus "China Pig" and "Ashtray Heart". The Kills included a cover of "Dropout Boogie" on their debut Black Rooster EP (2002). The Black Keys in 2008 released a free cover of Beefheart's "I'm Glad" from Safe as Milk. The 2002 LCD Soundsystem song "Losing My Edge" has a verse which James Murphy says, "I was there when Captain Beefheart started up his first band". In 2005 Genus Records produced Mama Kangaroos – Philly Women Sing Captain Beefheart, a 20-track tribute to Captain Beefheart. Beck included Safe as Milk and Ella Guru in a playlist of songs as part of his website's Planned Obsolescence series of mashups of songs by the musicians that influenced him. Franz Ferdinand cited Beefheart's Doc at the Radar Station as a strong influence on their second LP, You Could Have It So Much Better. Placebo briefly named themselves Ashtray Heart, after the track on Doc at the Radar Station; the band's album Battle for the Sun contains a track, "Ashtray Heart". Joan Osborne covered Beefheart's "(His) Eyes are a Blue Million Miles", which appears on Early Recordings.
  • 1985
    Age 44
    His debut exhibition as a serious painter was at the Mary Boone Gallery in New York in 1985 and was initially regarded as that of " another rock musician dabbling in art for ego's sake", though his primitive, non-conformist work has received more sympathetic and serious attention since then, with some sales approaching $25,000.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1982
    Age 41
    Known for his enigmatic personality and relationship with the public, Van Vliet made few public appearances after his retirement from music in 1982.
    More Details Hide Details He pursued a career in art, an interest that originated in his childhood talent for sculpture, and a venture which proved to be his most financially secure. His expressionist paintings and drawings command high prices, and have been exhibited in art galleries and museums across the world.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1978
    Age 37
    In 1978 he appeared on Jack Nitzsche's soundtrack to the film Blue Collar.
    More Details Hide Details Having extricated himself from a mire of contractual difficulties Beefheart emerged with this new album, in 1978, on the Warner Bros label. Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) contained re-workings of the shelved Bat Chain Puller album and still retained its original guitarist, Jeff Moris Tepper. However, he and Vliet were now joined by a whole new line-up of Richard Redus (guitar, bass and accordion), Eric Drew Feldman (bass, piano and synthesizer), Bruce Lambourne Fowler (trombone and air bass), Art Tripp (percussion and marimba) and Robert Arthur Williams (drums). The album was co-produced by Vliet with Pete Johnson. Members of this Magic Band and the "Bat Chain" elements would later feature on Beefheart's last two albums. Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) was described by Ned Raggett of Allmusic to be " manna from heaven for those feeling Beefheart had lost his way on his two Mercury albums". Following Vliet's death, John French claimed the 40-second spoken word track "Apes-Ma" to be an analogy of Van Vliet's deteriorating physical condition. The album's sleeve features Van Vliet's 1976 painting Green Tom, one of the many works that would mark out his longed-for career as a painter of note.
  • 1977
    Age 36
    Prior to his next album Beefheart appeared in 1977 on the Tubes' album Now, playing saxophone on the song "Cathy's Clone", and the album also featured a cover of the Clear Spot song "My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains".
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  • 1976
    Age 35
    In May 1976 the long association between Zappa and his manager/business partner Herb Cohen ceased.
    More Details Hide Details This resulted in Zappa's finances and ongoing works becoming part of protracted legal negotiations. The Bat Chain Puller project went "on ice" and did not see an official release until 2012. After this recording John Thomas joined ex-Magic Band members in Mallard.
    In early 1976 Zappa put on his producer hat and, once again, opened up his studio facilities and finance to Vliet.
    More Details Hide Details This was for the production of an album provisionally titled Bat Chain Puller. The band were John French (drums), John Thomas (keyboards) and Jeff Moris Tepper and Denny Walley (guitars). Much of the work on this album had been finalized and some demos had been circulated when fate once again struck the Beefheart camp.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1970
    Age 29
    Van Vliet used the ensuing publicity, particularly with a 1970 Rolling Stone interview with Langdon Winner, to promulgate a number of myths that were subsequently quoted as fact.
    More Details Hide Details Winner's article stated, for instance, that neither Van Vliet nor the members of the Magic Band ever took drugs, but Harkleroad later contradicted this. Van Vliet claimed to have taught both Harkleroad and Boston to play their instruments from scratch; in fact the pair were already accomplished young musicians before joining the band. Last, Van Vliet claimed to have gone a year and half without sleeping. When asked how this was possible, he claimed to have only eaten fruit. Critic Steve Huey of AllMusic writes that the album's influence "was felt more in spirit than in direct copycatting, as a catalyst rather than a literal musical starting point. However, its inspiring reimagining of what was possible in a rock context laid the groundwork for countless experiments in rock surrealism to follow, especially during the punk and new wave era." In 2003, the album was ranked sixtieth by Rolling Stone in their list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: "On first listen, Trout Mask Replica sounds like raw Delta blues," with Beefheart " singing and ranting and reciting poetry over fractured guitar licks. But the seeming sonic chaos is an illusion—to construct the songs, the Magic Band rehearsed twelve hours a day for months on end in a house with the windows blacked out. (Producer Frank Zappa was then able to record most of the album in less than five hours.) Tracks such as "Ella Guru" and "My Human Gets Me Blues" are the direct predecessors of modern musical primitives such as Tom Waits and PJ Harvey."
  • 1969
    Age 28
    Critically acclaimed as Van Vliet's magnum opus, Trout Mask Replica was released as a 28 track double album in June 1969 on Frank Zappa's newly formed Straight Records label.
    More Details Hide Details First issues, in the USA, were auto-coupled and housed in the black "Straight" liners along with a 6-page lyric sheet illustrated by the Mascara Snake. A school-age portrait of Van Vliet appears on the front of this sheet, while the cover of the gatefold enigmatically shows Beefheart in a 'Quaker' hat, obscuring his face with the head of a fish. The fish is a carp – arguably a "replica" for a trout, photographed by Cal Schenkel. The inner spread "infra-red" photography is by Ed Caraeff, whose Beefheart vacuum cleaner images from this session also appear on Zappa's Hot Rats release (a month earlier) to accompany "Willie The Pimp" lyrics sung by Vliet. Alex St. Clair had now left the band and, after Junior Madeo from the Blackouts was considered, the role was filled by Bill Harkleroad. Bassist Jerry Handley had also departed, with Gary Marker stepping in. Thus the long rehearsals for the album began in the house on Ensenada Drive in Woodland Hills, L.A., that would become the Magic Band House.
  • 1968
    Age 27
    On January 27, 1968, Beefheart achieved one of his most memorable live performances, when the band performed in the MIDEM Music Festival on the beach at Cannes, France.
    More Details Hide Details Alex St. Claire left the band in June 1968 after their return from a second European tour and was replaced by teenager Bill Harkleroad; bassist Jerry Handley left a few weeks later. After their Euro tour and the Cannes beach performance the band returned to the USA. Moves were already in the air for them to leave Buddah and sign to MGM and, prior to their May tour – mainly in the UK – they re-recorded some Buddah material of the partial Mirror Man sessions at Sunset Sound with Bruce Botnick. Beefheart had also been conceptualizing new band names, including 25th Century Quaker and Blue Thumb, while making suggestions to other musicians that they might get involved. The thought-process of 25th Century Quaker was that it would be a "blues band" alias for the more avant-garde work of the Magic Band. Photographer Guy Webster actually photographed the band in Quaker-style outfits, and the picture appears in The Mirror Man Sessions CD insert. It would later transpire that much of this situation was transient and that Buddah's Bob Krasnow was to set up his own label. The label that was unsurprisingly named Blue Thumb launched with its first release Strictly Personal, a truncated version of the original Beefheart vision of a double album. Thus "25th Century Quaker" became a track and a potential band-name became a label.
    During his first trip to England in January 1968, Captain Beefheart was briefly represented in the UK by mod icon Peter Meaden, an early manager of the Who.
    More Details Hide Details The Captain and his band members were initially denied entry to the United Kingdom, because Meaden had illegally booked them for gigs without applying for appropriate work permits. After returning to Germany for a few days, the group was permitted to re-enter the UK, when they recorded material for John Peel's radio show and appeared at the Middle Earth venue, introduced by Peel on Saturday January 20. By this time, they had terminated their association with Meaden.
    Van Vliet did meet McCartney in Cannes during the Magic Band's 1968 tour of Europe, though McCartney later claimed to have no recollection of this meeting.
    More Details Hide Details Doug Moon left the band because of his dislike of the band's increasing experimentation outside his preferred blues genre. Ry Cooder told of Moon's becoming so angered by Van Vliet's unrelenting criticism that he walked into the room pointing a loaded crossbow at him, only to have Van Vliet tell him, "Get that fucking thing out of here, get out of here and get back in your room", which he did. (Other band members dispute this account, though Moon is likely to have "passed through" the studio with a weapon.) Moon was present during the early demo sessions at Original Sound studio, above the Kama Sutra/Buddah offices. The works Moon laid down did not see the light of day, as he was replaced by Cooder when they continued on material at Sunset Sound with Marker. Marker then fell by the wayside when recording was moved by Krasnow and Perry to RCA Studio. This would have a profound effect on the quality of the Safe as Milk work, as the former studio was 8-track and the subsequent studio a 4-track.
  • 1967
    Age 26
    According to Van Vliet, the 28 songs on the album were written in a single 8½ hour session at the piano, an instrument he had no skill in playing, an approach Mike Barnes compared to John Cage's " maverick irreverence toward classical tradition," though band members have stated that the songs were written over the course of about a year, beginning around December 1967. (The band did watch Federico Fellini's 1963 film 8½ during the creation of the album).
    More Details Hide Details It took the band about eight months to mold the songs into shape, with French bearing primary responsibility for transposing and shaping Vliet's piano fragments into guitar and bass lines, which were mostly notated on paper. Harkleroad in 1998 said in retrospect: "We're dealing with a strange person, coming from a place of being a sculptor/painter, using music as his idiom. He was getting more into that part of who he was instead of this blues singer." The band had rehearsed the songs so thoroughly that the instrumental tracks for 21 of the songs were recorded in a single four and a half hour recording session. Van Vliet spent the next few days overdubbing the vocals. The album's cover artwork was photographed and designed by Cal Schenkel and shows Van Vliet wearing the raw head of a carp, bought from a local fish market and fashioned into a mask by Schenkel.
    The band began recording in spring 1967, with Richard Perry cutting his teeth in his first job as producer.
    More Details Hide Details The album was released in September 1967. Richie Unterberger of Allmusic called the album "blues–rock gone slightly askew, with jagged, fractured rhythms, soulful, twisting vocals from Van Vliet, and more doo wop, soul, straight blues, and folk–rock influences than he would employ on his more avant garde outings." Among those who took notice were the Beatles. Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were known as great admirers of Beefheart. Lennon displayed two of the album's promotional "baby bumper stickers" in the sunroom at his home. Later, the Beatles planned to sign Beefheart to their experimental Zapple label (plans that were scrapped after Allen Klein took over the group's management). Van Vliet was often critical of the Beatles, however. He considered the lyric "I'd love to turn you on" from their song A Day in the Life, to be ridiculous and conceited. Tiring of their "lullabies", he lampooned them with the Strictly Personal song Beatle Bones 'n' Smokin' Stones, that featured the sardonic refrain of " strawberry fields, strawberry fields forever". Vliet spoke badly of Lennon after getting no response when he sent a telegram of support to him and wife Yoko Ono during their 1969 "Bed–In for peace".
    It was followed by their acclaimed debut album Safe as Milk, released in 1967 on Buddah Records.
    More Details Hide Details After being dropped by two consecutive record labels, they signed to Zappa's Straight Records. As producer, Zappa granted Beefheart unrestrained artistic freedom in making 1969's Trout Mask Replica, which was ranked 58th in Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Beefheart followed this up with the album Lick My Decals Off, Baby, released in 1970. In 1974, frustrated by lack of commercial success, he released two albums of more conventional rock music that were critically panned; this move, combined with not having been paid for a European tour, and years of enduring Beefheart's abusive behavior, led the entire band to quit. Beefheart eventually formed a new Magic Band with a group of younger musicians and regained contemporary approval through three final albums: Shiny Beast (1978), Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream for Crow (1982).
  • 1966
    Age 25
    Many of the lyrics on the Safe as Milk album were written by Van Vliet in collaboration with the writer Herb Bermann, who befriended Van Vliet after seeing him perform at a bar-gig in Lancaster in 1966.
    More Details Hide Details The song "Electricity" was a poem written by Bermann, who gave Van Vliet permission to adapt it to music. Much of the Safe as Milk material was honed and arranged by the arrival of 20-year–old guitar prodigy Ry Cooder, who had been brought into the group after much pressure from Vliet.
    Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band signed to A&M and released two singles in 1966.
    More Details Hide Details The first was a version of Bo Diddley's "Diddy Wah Diddy" that became a regional hit in Los Angeles. The followup, "Moonchild" (written by David Gates, later of the band Bread) was less well received. The band played music venues that catered to underground artists, such as the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. After fulfilling their deal for two singles the band presented demos to A&M during 1966 for what would become the Safe as Milk album. A&M's Jerry Moss reportedly described this new direction as "too negative" and dropped the band from the label, although still under contract. Much of the demo recording was accomplished at Art Laboe's Original Sound Studio, then with Gary Marker on the controls at Sunset Sound on 8-track. By the end of 1966 they were signed to Buddah Records and much of the demo work was transferred to 4-track, at the behest of Krasnow and Perry, in the RCA Studio in Hollywood, where the recording was finalized. Tracks that were originally laid down in the demo by Doug Moon are therefore taken up by Ry Cooder's work in the release, as Moon had departed over "musical differences" at this juncture.
  • 1965
    Age 24
    In early 1965 Alex Snouffer, a Lancaster rhythm and blues guitarist, invited Vliet to sing with a group that he was assembling.
    More Details Hide Details Vliet joined the first Magic Band and changed his name to Don Van Vliet, while Snouffer became Alex St. Clair (sometimes spelled Claire).
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1941
    Age 0
    Van Vliet was born Don Glen Vliet in Glendale, California, on January 15, 1941, to Glen Alonzo Vliet, a service station owner of Dutch ancestry from Kansas, and Willie Sue Vliet (née Warfield), who was from Arkansas.
    More Details Hide Details He claimed to have as an ancestor Peter van Vliet, a Dutch painter who knew Rembrandt. Van Vliet also claimed that he was related to adventurer and author Richard Halliburton and the cowboy actor Slim Pickens, and said that he remembered being born. Van Vliet began painting and sculpting at age three. His subjects reflected his "obsession" with animals, particularly dinosaurs, fish, African mammals and lemurs. At the age of nine he won a children's sculpting competition organised for the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park by a local tutor, Agostinho Rodrigues. Local newspaper cuttings of his junior sculpting achievements can be found reproduced in the Splinters book, included in the Riding Some Kind of Unusual Skull Sleigh boxed CD work, released in 2004. The sprawling park, with its zoo and observatory, had a strong influence on young Vliet, as it was a short distance from his home on Waverly Drive. The track "Observatory Crest" on Bluejeans & Moonbeams reflects this continued interest. A portrait photo of the school-age Vliet can be seen on the front of the lyric sheet within the first issue of the US release of Trout Mask Replica.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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