December 17, 2010

Captain Beefheart has died!

Don Van Vliet was 69. In his post-Trout Mask Replica days, he was a successful painter.

"A primitive genius."

Here he is on Letterman:

"If you want to be a different fish, you've got to jump out of the school."

AND: You should know "Trout Mask Replica."

Late in the 1970s, as Van Vliet rehearsed with yet another lineup, Devo's Mothersbaugh met his hero. He found him intimidating, yet childlike.

"Everyone in the band complained about what a pain in the ass he was, how ridiculous he could be at times," Mothersbaugh says. "But they all took care of him, and they all loved him, and they all respected him. And, uh, they were almost all acting like babysitters that they all loved but that frustrated the heck out of them."


Crimso said...

You just gave me a severe whooooosh back to the 1980's, listening to "Sam With The Showing Scalp Flat Top" in a 3rd floor room in a Victorian house. Not good times. Great times.

Matthew said...

You used me like an Ashtray Heart!

You had to be stoned to listen to that crap.

ricpic said...

I love the way the pompous-old-young-man music critic tells us all artists are children.

Eddie said...

I remember listening to Trout Mask Replica for the first time and thinking it was the strangest thing in the world. After a while though it didn't seem so strange. Today I was listening to Howlin' Wolf and was thinking that Beefheart had borrowed a thing or too. What had once seemed strange now just seems to me like another branch of American music.

Kirby Olson said...

What were his politics like? I loved his music, and still love to think about the songs, and listen to them again and again. The only music I can stand except for Lutheran church hymns.

Old Dad said...

The Salvador Dali schtick is tedious, but as frauds go, this guy is good.hfy

Chip Ahoy said...

I do not know this person of whom you speak. Although I do recall you mentioning him a couple of years ago.

Palladian said...

Van Vliet wanted the whole band to "live" the Trout Mask Replica album. The group rehearsed Van Vliet's difficult compositions for eight months, living communally in a small rented house in the Woodland Hills suburb of Los Angeles. Van Vliet implemented his vision by asserting complete artistic and emotional domination of his musicians. At various times one or another of the group members was put "in the barrel," with Van Vliet berating him continually, sometimes for days, until the musician collapsed in tears or in total submission to Van Vliet. Drummer John French described the situation as "cultlike" and a visiting friend said "the environment in that house was positively Manson-esque." Their material circumstances also were dire. With no income other than welfare and contributions from relatives, the group survived on a bare subsistence diet, and were even arrested for shoplifting food (with Zappa bailing them out). French has recalled living on no more than a small cup of beans a day for a month. A visitor described their appearance as "cadaverous" and said that "they all looked in poor health." Band members were restricted from leaving the house and practiced for 14 or more hours a day.

Physical assaults were encouraged at times, along with verbal degradation. Beefheart spoke of studying texts on brainwashing at a public library at about this time, and appeared to be applying brainwashing techniques to his bandmembers: sleep deprivation, food deprivation, constant negative reinforcement, and rewarding bandmembers when they attacked each other or competed with each other.

... French writes of being punched by band members, thrown into walls, kicked, punched in the face by Beefheart hard enough to draw blood, being attacked with a sharp broomstick, and eventually of Beefheart threatening to throw him out of an upper-floor window. He admits complicity in similarly attacking his bandmates during "talks" aimed at them. In the end, after the album's recording, French was ejected from the band by Beefheart throwing him down a set of stairs with violence, telling him to "Take a walk, man" after not responding in a desired manner to a request to "play a strawberry" on the drums. Beefheart installed a hanger-on, Jeff Bruschelle, as the new Drumbo (playing on French's drumset) and did not include French's name anywhere on the album credits as a player or arranger.


bagoh20 said...

That boy was just not right.

Penny said...

"Captain Beefheart has died!"

Quite right!

And they called me "Mellow Yellow".

rsb said...

Sorry to hear he has passed - his music is great.

Robert Cook said...

"You had to be stoned to listen to that crap."

To the contrary, Mr. Van Vliet's music is quite enjoyable on its own merits. I have listened to him with pleasure for years and have never been stoned while doing so.