Meeting Captain Beefheart at Cardiff University in Wales
Meeting Captain Beefheart wasn't what I expected
I had been a big fan of the weird songs and image of Captain Beefheart since I first heard him on the late great John Peel's Top Gear show on BBC R1. I was really looking forward to seeing him live on stage ar Cardiff Students' Union way back in the mid-70s but it turned out to be a great disappointment although I actually got to meet him.
I had bought my ticket early to make sure I got to see him and was in the Great Hall of the union building waiting for the Captain to take the stage.
Captain Beefheart the artist and musician
Captain Beefheart or Don Van Vliet, to give him his real name, is known for his surreal lyrics and poetry, his flamboyant and theatrical image and his music which combines rock, blues, jazz and avante-garde experimental sounds. He is backed for his recordings and live performances by the Magic Band, a group of musicians that often changed because Beefheart was known for being dictatorial in his approach to running the band.
Captain Beefheart is an act who worked a lot with Frank Zappa at one point of his career and was released on Zappa's label. The Captain is credited as an inspiration to countless bands and songwriters and his creative talents have been called "genius."
One of my favourite rock bands, the Edgar Broughton Band, are very clearly influenced by Captain Beefheart both in Edgar Broughton's vocal style and a lot of their lyrics and presentation. There is a strong blues influence but this is combined with touches of psychedelia and a lyrical whimsy.
Trout Mask Replica
His double album Trout Mask Replica , which has songs with weirdly evocative titles such as Ant Man Bee and Neon Meate Dream of A Octafish was ranked fifty-eighth in Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Captain Beefheart always dressed flamboyantly in top hat and colourful coats. He looked eccentric and theatrical and definitely very hip.
But Captain Beefheart was always very much a painter as well as a songwriter, poet and composer and after his last album in 1982, which was entitled Ice Cream For Crow he decided to retire from the music side of things and concentrate on being an artist.
Captain Beefheart's artistic side was showing at the concert I had paid to see but that was the problem: I wasn't getting to see him sing because he was too busy with a felt marker pen!
I was amongst fans who were getting tired of waiting as the night rolled on and I became annoyed when I discovered the real reason Captain Beefheart was not yet on stage. He was sat in the toilets with a long queue of idiotic students who were encouraging his behaviour by taking their place in line so that Beefheart could make his mark on anything they offered.
So there he sat smugly, just randomly scrawling with a felt pen on books, bits of paper, tickets and t-shirts and anything else he was presented with. I took my place in the queue too and when I got my chance to meet him I said: "Captain Beefheart, I'm a fan of your music and came here tonight to see you on stage not to find you sat in the toilets like this scrawling with a felt pen. But seeing as this is what you are doing, then sign this and I'm gonna smoke it!"
I pulled out a cigarette and was going to hand it to him when a girl student exclaimed: "You can't do that, it's the Captain!"
"Just watch me," I responded and handed Beefheart the cigarette.
Captain Beefheart drew an inky line across it and handed it back. I lit it and smoked it and stubbed it out on the floor. Beefheart was looking daggers at me and he called me: "You c***!"
I had made my point and went off to sell my ticket outside the building. I had decided to go to the New Moon rock club instead which was open late and had local bands on who would be on stage unlike Captain Beefheart who wasn't!
It was a day in which Captain Beefheart met his match (literally) and proof of our meeting went up in smoke!
Captain Beefheart links
- The Captain Beefheart Radar Station
The Radar Station is a Captain Beefheart / Don Van Vliet treasure trove, boasting a wealth of Beefheart material including paintings, articles, interviews, photos, discography, lively community and more.
- Captain Beefheart - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
© 2010 Steve Andrews