captain beefheart electricity

history - interviewflits


from england 8 february 1968 RECORD MIRROR #361
by david griffiths
is 22 january 1968 interview


[starts with an interview with lulu, a popular british female singer, on sunday evening....]

next day, at the record mirror, peter meaden rang up. now peter is what you might call a pop entrepreneur - former road manager, former associate of andrew oldham (amongst others, manager of the rolling stones - t.t.), now a record producer and a singer of the praises of captain beefheart. peter wanted to know if i would care to meet the captain right away. well, i had heard the magic band's record ('safe as milk') and enjoyed it but had been unable to discern the spark of genius that the band apparently possesses. even norman jopling (a colleague of his) had turned unusually enigmatic when pressed for details about the captain's finer musical points.

being curious to meet the captain in the flesh i readily nipped round to peter's office. he was in a feverish state of excitement, his usual self in fact and as we strolled to a nearby building to get a pretty american photographer, reanne, to come to beefheart's hotel, peter filled me in about the personalities about to be seen: 'they're fantastic, not an ordinary pop group, these men are on a higher level of consciousness. they hold simultaneous conversations with each other, and with you, using their own codes and key words. the vibrations in the room are uncanny - nick jones (whoever that is) was really quite scared,' peter added darkly.

just as i was considering running for it, peter offered reassurance: 'don't worry - it may sometimes seem like they're taking the mickey but they're nice guys. the captain is very helpful and straight.'

we arrived at a dimly lit hotel room but there was no captain. i sat down [and while he was waiting, came to talk with penny nichols, one of the other musicians buddah records had sent to europe on the promotional tour].

reanne (the beautiful photographer) and i wandered along the hotel corridor until we found beefheart's bedroom. the captain reclined on the bed playing what looked and sounded like an indian snake-charmer's instrument (a musette). meaden and two or three magic bandsmen sat around the room vibrating.

captain beefheart / don van vliet - london, england late january 1968 - record mirror 040268 - picture by reanne
picture by reanne
(scan from official press photo in stead of magazine)

beefheart looked tired but happy. it was his first visit to europe, he has only been in the pop business three years and was a sculptor until he had a vision telling him to concentrate on pop, advice he is glad he heeded.

there was nothing intimidating or even militaristic about the captain - who was wearing a long green robe recently bought from lord kitchener's valet. he declared it his intention to do what he could to help people: 'to help the world as much as i'm allowed to. i try to communicate to everyone.... it gives me energy when we perform to audiences. i think the same happens for the audiences. that's our hope anyway.'

i asked about volume of performance, pointing out that some modern groups not only drive out all capacity for thought with their sheer noise, they also cause damage to the hearing.

'well, i do think the senses become more aware at fever pitch.... no, i'll take that back. i'd rather not play loud but we often have to in order to cover a whole big hall, people can't hear it if we play soft. but we're working towards a more refined and gentle musical approach. our career has been a process of eliminating all negative emotions from our work. we're getting more positive, just the good things.'

he said this had led him to eat very little meat: 'i was driving along in california and passed a truckload of sheep on their way to the slaughterhouse. i keep remembering the look in their eyes....'

then he asked about the maharishi (i had a copy of 'paul in kashmir' with me, an elpee that the maharishi (a guru who had charmed the beatles) had set up) and said he figured some form of meditation would give his mind greater peace and he proposed to look into this as soon as he had the opportunity.

though i was not treated to any displays of higher consciousness, it had been a most diverting afternoon with captain beefheart and his men.

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