Wednesday 22 December 2010

Hot Rats

The death of Captain Beefheart has been widely reported even though he hadn't produced any music for years and didn't sell much when he did. I contributed to his modest sales by buying Frank Zappa's weird 1969 LP "Hot Rats" on which the Captain sings (grunts?) on the "Willie the Pimp" track which you can listen to here (I hadn't listened since I jettisoned my vinyl in 1990 - it isn't very good but I used to take it seriously).

Beefheart belongs to that interesting group of artists in all fields where you can't quite decide whether their work is just an elaborate joke at the expense of the punters or if he really took himself seriously. My friend Frank (no, not Zappa, who died in 1993) found this interesting piece on him here - we are intrigued by the idea that Beefheart might have died from trying to read his drummer's 880 page critique of his work.

Having relistened to several Beefheart classics today I reckon his music is truly great (Zappa by contrast a bit boring) but the theory and production methodology was surely so much hocus. My favourites are Sure 'nuff 'n Yes I do (listen here - not the best recording but irresistible footage of the Magic Band on the beach in Cannes in 1968) and I'm Gonna Boogiarize You Baby (watch the amazing antics of the band here - you kind of know they couldn't have played it properly if they'd kept still).

Beefheart (real name Don Van Vliet) tells the story of how as a vacuum-cleaner salesman in early life he came upon the house of Aldous Huxley, then living in California. His sales pitch to the author of Brave New World was "Well I assure you, sir, this thing sucks". R.I.P.