“Dinner time! All hands on deck! Chop chop! Set the table! Put out that fire … And get off the damn computer!”
6 pm rush hour chez les Bacon.
After my eldest daughter has logged out of her favourite social networking site, the Dutch faceoff of Facebook, Hyves, a graphic appears showing the most discussed topics of the previous 24 hours (I failed to screencapture it because the damn computer ground to halt last night).
So while clearing up after dinner last night, I was surprised to see the name “Captain Beefheart” amid the usual topics of Dutch hiving: last night’s footie and the next megarave.
The only reason Don van Vliet’s most famous pseudonym would appear in the twittersphere would be his death, I figured, and sure ’nuff he had snuffed it.
I can’t say I was a faithful fan; in fact I only ever listened to his first album, Safe as Milk (listening afresh as I type). Diehards claim its follow-up, Trout Mask Replica, as his masterpiece, but I found it gibberish both in lyrics and sounds (imagine Finnegan’s Wake set to psychedelia).
While preparing to write this post, I came across an excellent BBC documentary on Youtube about Don, and gave up trying to write in order to watch it all the way through a flaky wifi connection and severely distorted images. (Tip to those interested: an uncensored version of the documentary is easily findable torrentwise.) Ry Cooder’s impressions of Beefheart are especially funny.
So back to Safe as Milk, it’s one of those albums where every single track is a masterpiece, a unique work of art, certainly borrowing from other influences (Howlin’ Wolf, psychedelic surf, 60s teeniebop) but crafted to become inimitable — Cooder’s opening slide riff on Sure ’nuff, the stomping bass in Zig Zag Wanderer, the growling fuzzbox of Dropout Boogie (a song that inspired my own dropout) or the whining theremin of Electricity …
Whatever the song, there is a feeling of authentic emotion and sincerity. Unlike his peer and erstwhile collaborator, Frank Zappa, whose own first album, Freak Out attempted to ridicule and sneer at the bubblegum pop music of the time, Beefheart adapted and subverted it to create his own essential mix of growling blues, psychedelia, teen-romance and avant garde.
Safe as Milk: buy it, blag it, steal it. You won’t regret it.
F#@k! FF frozen, almoist lost this post again. ’nuff sed — Publish and be damned