captain beefheart electricity


history - interviewflits


from england 2 june 1972 TIME OUT #120
by connor mcknight
is 24 march 1972 interview

* text reproduced as blabber 'n smoke in england book THE LIVES AND TIMES OF CAPTAIN BEEFHEART
* second part of text reprinted in england 1998 book TIME OUT INTERVIEWS 1968-1998

part 1 - THIS is PART 2


beefheart feels that much of the poverty of modern life is connected to the divorce between ourselves and natural things like organic shapes and colours. he commented some time ago on the decline in kite-flying as a clear indicator of this malaise. well, as he was staying near hyde park, i mentioned the kite-flyers that played there.

i've been watching them, they're real nice. everybody ought to go fly a kite. you feel the wind and that strain. put a brush in your hand and do the canvas like the wind does the kite.

they have some beautiful kites, one is like a huge hawk.

well, if they do that, maybe they'll appreciate how beautiful the hawk is and won't shoot it out of the air. you know, if they can feel the way the feathers feel.... it's a good way to see over the hill, you know what i mean, you put your eyes in the kite and you can see over the hill.

to see: ...?

without seeing with your eyes. i think the hill is eye consciousness, you know: just seeing everything with your eyes, like interpreting who a person is on first glance without feeling them, with your eyes shut. you don't have to shut your eyes physically, but i mean you should look deeper than just the way they look.

but everyone has their own hills, don't you think?

anthills, or own hills - no, i'm only teasing. i think that a lot of those hills have been put there out of fear. i think that the long black dress and the fear of the female ankle and the worry about private parts and all these kind of things are ridiculous. now i don't say that everyone should jump out of their clothes and run around naked. i think that's really ridiculous, they would freeze to death and get sunburnt, but i think that everybody that's taking a shower shouldn't be that embarrassed. the rain when it falls hits everybody - everybody takes the same shower. water is the cheapest drink, now, but the glass is the lowest.

beefheart seems to be entranced by vacuum cleaners. he is shown holding one in the little photo on the sleeve of zappa's 'hot rats', and there is a photo of him performing in washington [no, in detroit, for the 'tube works' teevee program - t.t.] with several huge industrial cleaners draped in and out of the sound equipment. it emerged that these pleasant creatures had important lessons for us too.

i think that you can look at a vacuum cleaner and find out a lot of things, like the dust, you know, they collect a lot of dust and dirt and everything. you can find out what somebody has had for dinner, or you can find out what they do, or how they walk - which is far out.

you've never written a song about them; because they'll be in the smithsonian institute someday, for sure.

sure will, and one day i will, like it's.... to see the world, in an oldsmobile.

at this point, the captain began whistling a tune that sounded awfully familiar, but which i couldn't place until he continued:

remember that? holiday 88 (a tv show, i think). that was when everything got real pointed. like the dc3 as opposed to the f104 or the boeing, poking that on whatever they're doing. i mean, like the sabre jet, emulating the shark as opposed to now they're emulating needles and things.

an important figure in the captain's cosmology at the moment is jean-pierre hallet, a belgian animal lover who tried unsuccessfully to start a zoo in an area of california near the captain's home. he was unsuccessful because people were frightened that the animals would escape. hallet is also the author of two books which his wife is presently reading to him. i asked him if he didn't dislike zoos?

yeah, it's terrible that they have to lock them up in zoos. but man hasn't learnt how to communicate with animals yet. he isn't very intelligent.

rockette morton / mark boston - backstage 'the spotlight kid' tour england 1972
rockette morton / mark boston waiting backstage
beside a big fold and a gigantic staple, i'm sorry

that's why people are frightened of them.

i'm not. i used to go into cages with lions. you know the mgm [film company - t.t.] lion, leo, their emblem lion? i used to go into cages with him when i was five, down at griffith park zoo in los angeles, to sculpt him with a good friend of mine. and do you know what happened? he was very old, the lion, and some idiot threw a cigar on him and it burned through and killed him. it burnt through his skin while he was asleep. made me sick. it was one of the most traumatic things i remember out of my childhood. isn't that awful. that son of a bitch....

of course, the extension of his concern for animal life takes him straight to the ecological conundrum. but not for him a trendy preoccupation with plastic bottles. beefheart's solution is quite clear - just love, cherish and care for the things of nature. in the songs that he has been writing since the very beginning, this care has been displayed. a most telling insight is in 'the smithsonian institute blues', on 'lick my decals off, baby', where the parallel between the fate that befell the dinosaurs and the stage that we have reached in our interaction with the environment is simply stated: 'all you new dinosaurs / now it's up to you to choose / before your feet hit the tar / you better kick off them old shoes...'. the captain explained:

well, that's about the brea tar pits in los angeles; because if they don't change, then they're gonna sink into the tar pits. i've been saying it for years..., look at 'safe as milk'. i don't want to take credit for starting anything, i just wanted them to hear that they got deluded again. i'll tell you what, 'safe as milk' meant the mother's breast that's going to be unfit for the child because of strontium 90, the hot juices of the breast. everybody thought i meant acid [also known as lsd - t.t.], but i wouldn't talk about an aspirin at that length. i was referring that the feeling that something is 'as safe as milk' can't be a feeling anymore because milk isn't safe.

to attempt to reduce beefheart or his music to one neat little phrase is absurd. his music creates styles. it is, literally, incomparable. he himself creates a kaleidoscope of thoughts when he talks, and the only response is to lie back and enjoy it. perhaps the deepest impression is left by his reluctance to think in words but rather in images. on one occasion as he was talking, his wife jan was reading a book and the turning of the pages was distracting him. gently, he turned to her and said:

jan, jan.... i can't really hear with those pages going, you know: i want to pick up an instrument to that percussion....

a question that may be answered by 'yes' or 'no' is very often answered by a short little image culled from some past glimpse of the world. the captain carried a large book wherein these glimpses are often recorded and which may be published under the title 'the night my typewriter went daaaaaaaaa'. there was an obvious question for the conscientious interviewer:

do you use a typewriter?

there was an equally obvious reply:

what type of writer do you mean? a flesh writer, or a flesh writer with buttons?

a final quote from the book - entered on the flight over:

it's like someone that put on his brakes with an eraser in his mind.


the publication also included a tiny reproduction of a drawing don van vliet made..., but which later was exposed in full glory!


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