DON'T ARGUE WITH THE CAPTAIN
history - interview
THE RIDDLE OF BEEFHEART
from usa 13 november 1970 san francisco GOOD TIMES vol.3 #45
where captain beefheart (aka don van vliet) is at, in keeping it under his top hat - meanwhile letting it surreptitiously ooze from his glittering fingertips: the image of mendicant-magician disguised as musician.
'iím not really a musician, you know what i mean?', with eyeball-to-eyeball impunity, if only because his magic band isnít here now.
captain beefheart has shown up at the matrix for a four-hour press session attendant a new record release and a local gig: him and his magic band and the (infamous) cockettes perform at 8:30 p.m. friday, november 13, at the berkeley community theater, and the 'lick my decals off, baby' album, brought out by reprise (warner bros.) and produced and with all songs by the very magic captain.
which is precisely where the captain's energy is, as i came to know: who remembers what he was talking about, except that he ended by saying: 'split the stick and find jesus'.
two days before, i had been giving thought to that gnostic saying in the context of the sacred mushroom - amanita muscaria. '...and there is jesus', i corrected the saying.
'yes, thatís right', he says.
'i just recalled that a couple of days ago', i say.
'thatís where i picked it up', captain beefheart explains.
which was followed a few minutes later by this exchange:
'why are you being mean to me?', the good captain asks.
'it's just my role.' the words, the idea spills out almost automatically.
'for my friends.'
'why do you say that?'
'because i read those words as your own in the rolling stone, and flashed upon their utmost relevance', i say. (captain beefheart had said: 'i just stick around for my friendsí; the image of karma-bound groups reincarnating together.)
'why, though?', the captain continues. 'because it brings out the flowers in what i write?'.
zap! there i am at the table, aware that for several years there has been this way about me when interviewing, this metallic quality, hard, not so yielding; analytically aware of it now for the first time.
and simultaneously aware that by whatever magic, this quality tends to convert itself to flowers - organic, colorful, fragrant (or is this too much of an ego-trip?) - in the writing.
viewing the alchemical process for the first time. understanding that in four minutes, captain beefheart had turned me onto something that i unconsciously had the potential to turn myself onto maybe four years ago - but didnít.
four minutes. the magic of the mendicant: the image of cutting through to the heart of the matter.
and beefheart just staring back, alternately asking if one knows what he means: 'you know what i mean...?', and assuring that: 'iím just kidding, you know what i mean?'.
additional picture by ed thrasher
from the 'lick my decals off, baby' photo session
now all of this is relevant, too, because inter wound with these litter heart openers is beefheartís on-going scrutiny of the acting trip.
beefheartís concern is that in the acting trip - including playing on stage with his magic band - there is created the tendency to project non-personal roles: the musician, the star, etc.
the difference between acting and living: 'somebodyís got to stamp on the floor and say: Ďstop the acting!í. i want to breathe through all my holes. live, not act. itís which image, your very own or all the others' ones. itís where the image is being projected from: if itís your heart, youíre alive.'
beefheartís actualization of the concern leads him down a way filled with riddles in his communications with others: the image of being in hiding, intentionally indefinite. 'you know what i mean.'
the image of knowing he is communicating right through the riddles - even though an analysis of the words themselves may defy the meaning sent by beefheart and received by the zapped listener.
the image of beefheartís faith in no-word/thought communion. coming eyeball-to-eyeball, unmasking the head image, retreating with a flowing laugh and the 'iím not kidding' attention distracter.
listen, and you just know he is talking about getting the heart open and other such of the mystical genre - even as he disclaims that he means what he says, or even that he knows what heís talking about.
which at least makes him normal and in tune with the personality-image of these very times: captain beefheart as cryptoman.
eventually, the elpee was released, but the concert cancelled....