captain beefheart electricity


history - interviewflits

rough trade from venus hits it big

from england 28 april 1972 FRENDZ #26
by nick kent
is 29 march 1972 interview & poem & two drawings

* text reprinted as rough trade from venus in england book THE LIVES AND TIMES OF CAPTAIN BEEFHEART
* all pictures by pennie smith

part 1 - THIS is PART 2 - part 3


the conversation carries on with everyone present totally subservient to the eloquence of the captain. someone attempts to take him on in a word game but fails miserably.

"let's not play marbles," says beefheart good-naturedly, carrying straight on into a wild rap about the bisexual capabilities of the hyena. "the hyena - man, that creature is one of the most highly evolved on this planet. it can change its sex at will. did you know that? a male hyena can have babies. isn't that amazing?"

beefheart is very involved in the idea of breaking down basic sexual barriers (though he stresses that he and the magic band are all men with good healthy sexual appetites playing music for women). however, when the name of alice cooper is mentioned in this context, he retorts:

"sure, what cooper and his band are doing sounds good, but they're exploiting the concept. throwing little chickens into the audience - i think that's despicable. if i saw cooper again, i would spank his arse. that band - they go into the woods with their guns and kill animals. they're all sick."

one of the projects beefheart has tentatively planned once he gets hold of some money - 'the spotlight kid' is doing good business in the states, having broken through the top 100 - is to help curb the killing of rare animals in africa. he, and his ideas - like his view on politics (he has none) and pollution (a sincere "i think it should be stopped right now" was all he could manage on that topic) - become vague.

another project he hopes to finance is the construction of 'a female building' in london, which goes underground.

"you won't have to have an air-raid to go into it, and it won't be scary. maybe all the other buildings will fall into a hole, where they belong. then they can see all the mountains and oceans without all the male-blood in their head and the red-faced erection. tut! tut! people won't be afraid of the opposite sex."

mark boston /
                            rockette morton - 29 march 1972 england bus
                            ride - picture by pennie smith
mark boston, as seen by the photographer

his current relationship with record company warner/reprise is an amicable one. he has total artistic control.

"if they don't let me do what i want, then i'll be on another label - you can be assured of that. nobody tells me what to do."

his next album - brown star - though yet to be recorded, is completely worked out in beefheart's head. it was written during an eight-hour car journey between boston and yale (five weeks ago - t.t.). amongst the numbers to be featured are 'big eyed beans from venus' - "which says you don't have to go back into the past. all the past in the world doesn't go to make up a man of the present" - and 'happy blue pumpkin', written by jan van vliet, don's wife and constant companion. [but eventually the album changed to 'clear spot' - t.t.]

now that the link between artist and record company has strengthened and become comparatively stable, beefheart intends to release far more material. he writes an average forty to eighty pages of words a day and spends up to ten hours at a stretch working out tunes on the piano:

 "i could release twenty albums a month, easily."

beefheart believes that basic communication is one of the greatest if not thé greatest art form.

"talking is more of an art form than music, in fact it's probably the best one. music is just like a worm crawling over a razorblade - no, a word crawling over a razorblade. that's it!... what do you do as a writer? i guess you do what you can within the restrictions: the human mind, ear and eye. the next time an artist tells you that a writer doesn't make it, just tell him that he should be doing soup cans like warhol."

"i'm a writer myself, i've got two books coming out: one of them is called 'old fart at play' - that's a novel - and the other one is a book of poetry called 'singing ink'. listen, i want to get the tape of what we are saying here now: i want to sit back and listen to the music we have been making...."

beefheart is planning on using some of the tapes of interviews he has made in this country for inclusion on 'brown star'.


i do apologize for roughly interrupting the exciting story here,
but i like to put in a poem don wrote during the journey - teejo


seated in the shuttle bus
the sun looked gold through the mustard windows
a voice came over the speaker that sounded like the man
was talking through a loaf of bread with a tuna fin in it
the restaurant where i dined was teamed up with the airlines
the waiter was quick to steal the accessories
but left the garbage in my eye for hours
the entire meal lasted for five minutes
beside there was a button in my fortune cookie

an original composition by don van vliet, commissioned by frendz magazine

roy estrda /
                            oréjon, art tripp / ed marimba - 29 march
                            1972 england bus ride - picture by pennie
roy estrada and art tripp

the talk turned to rock music and the market he was now establishing himself in. chuck berry - "one of the greatest poets ever: a true original" - and jimi hendrix were rated as geniuses; the rolling stones didn't fare so well, mick jagger was dismissed contemptuously, but beefheart had some kind words to say for brian jones whom he had once met.

"he was a fine man - he seemed very interested in what i was doing. you know, i've got the feeling that he wrote 'the last time' and 'satisfaction'. i know these songs are credited to other people, but...."

the beatles are attacked vehemently except for mccartney who also met beefheart ("he was always the creative one in the band"). lennon is not one of van vliet's favourites:

"i'll tell you one thing, to this day i can't understand what happened. i personally sent a telegram to john lennon when he was doing his campaign for peace and told him that captain beefheart and his magic band had some definite ideas for gaining peace without violence or blood-letting. and i didn't get an answer. now i don't know what happened, but telegrams usually get through, right? but how could he ignore someone like me on a topic as important as that? and believe me, i have a few things to say about peace."

lennon also thinks of himself as a genius (if there is such a thing). "so lennon is an artist now?", says beefheart, laughing to himself.

"i'll tell you one thing i didn't like: the beatles saying that they were going to turn you on. i have never heard anything so ridiculous in all my life. no man or woman can turn another person on: the minute you hit air, you're 'on'. like i said in 'flash gordon's ape': 'jump in the air and hit your eyes / try to go back and there wasn't none...'. the idea of trying to turn someone on - that's the biggest concession stand i have ever heard."

maybe they meant well, someone suggests.

"you mean: mint well? mint as in money... in which case it's true. people who mean anything, have bad breath."

"there has to be a change," he continues, flying off on a tangent. "how can things just stop? like a cowboy stabbing his spurs into the prairie to stop the ball rolling; or putting a bird on a leash. why not fly a kite so you won't have to fly a bird?"

the captain didn't have much time for bob dylan either:

"bob dylan? oh, you mean robert zimmerman. he's no genius. quote me any of his songs and i would pick out the origins of all his imagery. he steals his stuff from real geniuses like robert johnson."

beefheart wouldn't accept the proposition that maybe dylan used the essence of the work of the old masters in order to create original statements himself....



click clack back to the history, return to the power station or search on

flits captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo