captain beefheart electricity


mon 27 march 1972 england LONDON ROYAL ALBERT HALL
tue 28 march 1972 england LONDON ROYAL ALBERT HALL
go to the main page

monday 27 march 1972

england 1 april 1972 MELODY MAKER

captain beefheart / don van vliet, mark boston / rockette morton - live picture london, england, royal albert hall 27 march 1972 - cover page melody maker 1 april 1972
DON VAN VLIET captain beefheart
(and MARK BOSTON rockette morton)

captain beefheart and his magic band booglarised a packed royal albert hall in london, on monday evening, and ended his show with a 10-minute encore. the captain doesn't usually hand out encores. the some occurred at bristol last week where beefheart opened his first british playing tour since 1968.
apologizing for his weak sound system, the captain said: 'i am genuinely sorry about this. i really am.' but he carried on regardless - things like that don't seem to disturb him too much. 'i don't take things like that too seriously.'

michael watts -
england 1 april 1972 MELODY MAKER

a man with a bass guitar, white suit and hat to match, suddenly lopes from the darkness and onto the stage, plucks aggressively at his instrument and prowls around the speakers like groucho marx (comical film actor - t.t.) meets the cast of 'west side story' (romantic musical - t.t.)'. finally he stops and tells us he's going to smoke a cigar - twice. this is rockette morton (mark boston).

there shambles into the spotlight a catatonic figure that looks as if it stopped by while sleepwalking. he plays something like a washboard (what about a guiro? - teejo). he scrapes this thing once. this is ed marimba (art tripp). he plays drums.

the man emerging in the lustrous pinky orange suit with the furry black and white cape looking like a tubby billy butlin (whó? see answer below - teejo), is the cap, short for the captain, captain beefheart alias don van vliet. he walks front stage, lifts the microphone, cups it in his hands with his harp, and blows and sings 'click clack'.

for the next five minutes a train choogles and clatters around the old hall, its wheels powered by the magic band, its whistle shrilling from the fingertips of zoot horn rollo's (bill harkleroad's) guitar. this is the beginning of a performance to savour - captain beefheart plays the albert hall.

beefheart live is legend made flesh. some legends are best kept under wraps for fear the mysterioso quality should look threadbare under the spotlights. this isn't one of those. van vliet is truly a monumental figure in contemporary music. for once the talent equates the image.

at the albert hall on monday night one could only marvel at his magnificent voice with its four-and-a-half octave range, that progresses from a subterranean growl, through a stentorian bellow to a falsetto hiccup - a voice of such amazing power that the albert's difficult acoustics were mastered and cowed in frightening fashion.

his music is a sort of blues exotica. the basis is rhythm 'n' blues, but he has restructured the form, imposing discordant, fragmented rhythms that are linked to wild, enigmatic imagery. the music is as truly surreal in its spellbinding fascination as looking at one of those vaguely sinister 'dada' objects, like the cup made of fur. irritating almost in the way it rubs against the nerve-ends, but as if it contains all the secrets of the universe if you only knew the key.

with the captain everything is strange. 'a psychiatrist', he said at one point. 'is someone who wants to die in your other life'. it's one of his beefheartian pieces of epigrammatic wisdom. there's a pause after each song introduction, then the magic band spills out its rhythms on cue. they've all been totally immobile whilst not playing, now they jerk around the stage like metallic puppets, motivated by some unseen power.

zoot horn, a tall, thin figure, bobs and weaves on his heels; marimba's arms, which seem to be unnaturally long for a human being, splay outwards and roy estrada, the old mothers of invention bassist (aka oréjon and audi hon), shifts rhythmically from one foot to the other. rockette grouches over his bass. winged eel fingerling (elliot ingber), the second guitarist, looks almost natural, just shuffling around. but none of it seems quite lifelike.

beefheart, although not a guitarist himself, is said to have taught his band how to play each note of his music. they mesh with such absolute precision that it's frightening. and yet after a time one hopes they would play just one straight lick to break that formulaic perfection. of course, they never do.

when they finally left the stage and the audience yelled for more, the captain came back and did just that. he whistled the theme of 'more' (an american tv program tune - t.t.). weird scenes indeed.

additional note
e-mailed by steve roberts

Subject: Billy Butlin

.... was the owner of Butlin's Holiday Camps, a sort of concentration camp by the seaside in Britain. The British would flock to these ten or twelve camps in large numbers for a cheap holiday (all the food, shows, and babysitters were included in the price for a week's holiday).

Mr. Butlin of course became very wealthy. He was in any case famous for his bright, cheerful and holiday-encouraging appearance in as many places as possible. Being filthy rich probably helped.

[by the way, he modestly confessed:] I was there, in row 5....


mark boston / rockette morton - live picture london, england, royal albert hall, late march 1972 - zig zag #29 1 may 1973 - picture by barrie wentzell
MARK BOSTON rockette morton
picture by barrie wentzell

left half of a two-in-one picture placed along next year's ZIG ZAG #29 interview jottings for the beefheart archive

to see the other half go to the next review and pictures

facts provided by theo tieman ©1995-2007

click clack back to the concerts or return to the power station
captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo