DON'T ARGUE WITH THE CAPTAIN
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART - A QUICKIE CHAT
from england 1 february 1974 ZIG ZAG #38
by connor mcknight
is april 1973 interview
what to do? we've just received a phone call from one of the advertisers asking if they can put back the ad that they had booked until february as they wouldn't have pressing time until january because of the three day week. what can we fill the page up with at this late date? tobler is too busy writing for the melody maker, pete is writing the whole issue anyway, and there is nobody in town to get a quick interview with. suddenly i remember a bit of tape with beefheart, left over from last year. it's not really an interview, just checking up on a few bits and pieces concerning his recent album 'clear spot' and his immediate plans. here it is.
so, who's in the new band? there was a press release here that said mark [boston, stage name: rockette morton - t.t.] and bill [harkleroad, aka zoot horn rollo] were no longer with you....
what? who said that? it's all wrong, we have a new guitarist: alex st. clair snouffer. (better: returned after a break since summer 1968 - t.t.)
so it's still the same, except that elliot [ingber, aka winged eel fingerling] has left. that's sad.
i talked to him just before we came over. he is getting a group together of his own. you know, i'm starting a record company - 'god's golfball records' - and he may just be on that with his new group. he wanted to do something on his own and that's fine with me. i wouldn't want to hold anybody. i wouldn't let go of zoot horn rollo. if he left, i would follow him.
is mark playing guitar or bass, on stage - because he played guitar on 'clear spot'?
both. (to bill surnow, his tour manager:) could you show connor that thing in the papers? i don't want to say it. (at this, bill produces a copy of the magazine 'disc and music echo' sporting a picture of dr. john [the nighttripper] with a caption saying: 'captain beefheart' - oh well, captain, dr., what's the difference?') it's like pop art. isn't it?
additional example of similar pop art:
no, it's dr. john the night tripper (real name: mac rebennack)!
from usa 1994 book YAKETY YAK (the midnight confessions and revelations of thirty-seven rock stars and legends) by SCOTT COHEN
there seems to have been a lot of accusations going round that you've gone commercial with this latest record.
i think it's probably due to warner brothers over there. warner brothers here i like, but over there! i must admit, they never do any of my press stuff with me.
what happened to 'spitball scalped a baby' by the way? it was a good number.
i'll be doing that on my next album. it's amazing that you remember these things. have you ever met any of the writers over there? they wouldn't know that.... why don't i move over here? i've got property in north california - that's why - near the oregon border, with beautiful giant redwoods.
bigfoot country. (i should add that bigfoot is a kind of giant whose footprints have been discovered around the area that beefheart inhabits, and was responsible for, in beefheart's words: 'the only time i've seen mark's moustache droop'. - c.m.)
yeah. i haven't seen him or her yet. but i want to meet hér very much.
it was, i think, your intention to use more of the stage introductions on the album. like artie [tripp, aka ed marimba]'s: 'mascara snake, mascara for god's sake' gag. what happened to that idea?
we didn't use it - i can't remember why.
how did you come to use ted templeman (the producer of the 'clear spot' album - t.t.)?
well, he had seen me a few times on stage and he admired me, and he said he would like to do the album, so we did.
you aren't credited with horns.
no, but i wrote them. blue mitchell was on there, the jazz player.
that was a pity, because people over here were knocked out by the soprano sax stuff you played last year.
well, i just woke up and felt more like a harmonica. i'll go back to horn but i want to play some harmonica for a while. i've finally found some harmonicas that would work. since the beatles came out, the harmonicas haven't worked. i know it's not their fault, but they have been producing these beatles harmonicas and they're not like the hohner harmonicas that i used to use. they all went commercial, but i have found some now, so i'll be playing a lot of harmonica over here.
who are the people in the photo on the cover of 'clear spot'?
donn landee, who we have dubbed 'the mit'; ted templeman, who is the one with the blonde hair... - we called him the mit, because he caught everything we threw at him - and there's some other unidentified person there. do you know: the spotlight kid, our spotlight man, he's still owed $58 by warner brothers over there. when i heard that i nearly fainted. (at this point we discover that the waiter serving drinks is from an area in canada, that don visited recently to see the animals and indian works of art.) it's funny that he should talk about canada like that, because i wasn't even aware that i was in canada. maps i don't understand at all. did you see what happened to [mohammed] ali [famous boxer - t.t.]? he won that fight, but because of the fact that he was a draught dodger and just because they made an air war, and he avoided the draught from the hot air, they gave the fight to norton. he's great. the other fellow was an ex-marine, that they gave the fight to.
have you done anything to sort out the gear problems that you had last year?
sure. we checked it out last night and it sounded really good.
that and the bus were the only things that marred it last year.
oh, this year we have the england football team's coach.
i'll never forget the sight of the world's best band standing beside the brighton road, looking a bit lost.
do you think they are the best band in the world?
i do too. it sounds horrible but i screened them for years. i have looked for years for people who can paint, do you know what i mean? that's definitely what i want. it's the air.
have you been gigging much in the states?
all over, and it has been good, really good. i met roland kirk recently, and we went out for dinner. do you know he held a twelve minute note?
have you ever thought of working with those people live?
i've thought of it, but you know how people have tampered with my image. and i thought it might do thém harm. i made that decision. it's getting better now, the more i travel, people are realising that i'm not whatever they thought i was.
it was that whole straight / bizarre thing of being linked with alice cooper and the g.t.o.s.
do you know that when i signed the contract, i was assured that i would be on the straight label, and they put me on the bizarre label, and they put me right in there with them, and it was obviously done on purpose. obviously there was no friendship between zappa and i.
how long has bill been playing the mandolin?
that was the first day.
can you tell us a little about 'god's golfball'?
i am trying to find some distribution over here, because i want to put out some books as well: 'singing ink' and 'the night my typewriter went daaaaaaaaa'. so we're looking around and as soon as it's sorted out we'll put it together.
have you heard antennae jimmy semens' (former member jeff cotton - t.t.) band, 'mu'?
no, i haven't; but i heard it was horrible. zoot horn saw it.
have you got anyone else for the label?
not yet, but i have an awful lot of people i want to get.
so how did alex st.clair come to rejoin the band?
i hadn't really kept in touch with him, but i thought of him and rang him up, and we talked and i said: 'come on up and we'll play'. this was right after 'clear spot'. and he fell right in with what we were doing. he never lost his spirit.
a lot of your songs these days are - for want of a better word - love songs.
a lot of them are, man. i want to say something about the way men treat women. 'how'd you get a name like crazy little thing / probably the name that drove you crazy all along...'. i don't think that men should label women like that. it's not a matter of man does this and man does that, women does it too - that's why we're here.
i've been told that you wrote 'crazy little thing' (song, originally meant for an abandoned album, 'brown star' - t.t.) in about an hour. is that right?
yeah. it was in a car. i wasn't driving, bill was - from boston to (new haven's) yale university, where we were doing a gig (on 23 january 1972 - t.t.). that's all it took.
both at the same time really: words are music to me and vice versa.
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