Captain Beefheart R.I.P.

December 18, 2010 at 3:22 pm (Uncategorized)

I was looking at the Soundscapes web site this morning, when I came across some sad news: Don Van Vliet, AKA Captain Beefheart, passed away yesterday at age 69 from complications from MS.

When I first started listening to music, I mean seriously listening to music, I was into punk: Loud, fast and snotty. But there were names that kept popping up in interviews, bands I’d never heard of.  Like the Stooges, the New York Dolls, and , yes Captain Beefheart.

The Stooges and the Dolls, I quickly found a got into. Beefheart however, seemed to pass me by. But still, I kept hearing the name. Musicians I respected, musicians I enjoyed, kept praising him.

I think the first Beefheart record I heard in its entirety was Safe as Milk, which my sister’s boyfriend gave me a tape on. It’s deceptive. Much like Beefheart’s earlier cover of “Diddy Wah Diddy” it seems straightforward enough, but when you really listen, you see there’s a mad genius there. Straight out blues rockers, ballads and theremin based weirdness.

The only other Beefheart record I own is Trout Mask Repica. It’s praised by many as one of the greatest albums ever released, and by others as unlistenable (I’ve read that it’s impossible to listen to the whole thing in one sitting, but I’ve done it). It’s not easy, but it’s compelling.

A partial list of those sighting Beefheart as an influence include the Stranglers, the Kills, PJ Harvey, Jon Spencer, the Pixies, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Talking Heads, Beck, the Black Keys, Franz Ferdinand, XTC, Sonic Youth, John Cale, Laurie Anderson, and John Lydon. The list goes on and on.

The Guardian has a nice obit of the Captain. And Mojo ran a good article on him last year. 

A great talent. Sadly missed.

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