bibliography - books about
looking for captain beefheart
isbn 0-9669409-1-1 blue cover - with title strip
reprint usa 2004 emigre isbn 0-9669409-1-1 eggshell cover - with sticker mentioning the cd
96 pages - 36 colour pictures
hardcover with embossed title - 15 x 22 cm
with ceedee various artists * cucamonga
being GARY LUCAS, JOHN FRENCH and BILL HARKLEROAD
usa 2000 emigre music ecd 018
total time 16:49 (5 tracks)
the scan above of the front of this book about captain beefheart and the magic band already indicates it: this is a peculiar one. not only because a hard-cover construction is pretty unique, but i also had to include the extra title strip which is wrapped around it to keep it recognizable from farther away. for, speaking in technical terms, it is a 'cloth cover with blind emboss' - if you have a sharp eyesight you can spot the twó words 'cuca' and 'monga' - and 'sewn and case bound'.
when there has been taken so much care of 'just the outside' you may expect that ínside everything is as precisely edited. and it is. although the typefaces may look a bit unusual and the lay-out indifferent (like the main photo captions in red), this issue is the opposite of a hastily made mass product - which is a fear at first when it appears that the book has been 'printed in hong kong'(!). the paper is of a superior glossy quality and the binding work has been done perfectly.
however, there are not so many words in this luxurious book about captain beefheart - it actually is the fastest read of all of them, despite the presence of nearly a hundred pages. no real wonder, because it almost is completely filled with two-pages photographs of...: landscapes and other 'dead stuff'. those shots are full colour, super detailed 'personal impressions' of places where don van vliet spent his first thirty years (1941-70).
for this (some quotes) 'tribute to don van vliet' is part of a series of 'impressionistic portraits' meant to 'show the suburban southern california landscape as it is today', inspired by - in this case - captain beefheart and the magic band. the project is an idea of rudy vanderlans, a long-time admirer of the different sides of the artist van vliet, who has had an artistic urge himself his whole life through: he's a driving force behind the innovative emigre concept.
last year he grabbed his camera, climbed into his car and visited such notorious places as:
LOS ANGELES big city near don's home-town(s) all the time - the natural la brea tar pits, and the human made drive-in world
LANCASTER where don (and every one else) grew up 1948 etc. - the parental garage, and roads running to and from the mojave desert
LAUREL CANYON (hollywood) where they were 'safe as milk' 1966/67 - the spot is still there, but the rest has evaporated
TARZANA where they were 'strictly personal' 1968 - the converted chicken coop searched for is lost in the past...
WOODLAND HILLS where 'trout mask replica' was born 1968/70 - the decaying, spooky house don lived and the band suffered in, and remnants of the small bridge in the garden (see bottom of this page)
GLENDALE where don was born, and started 1941/48 - so dull, he just took some random pics without even leaving the car
CUCAMONGA where don sang in frank zappa's studio ±1963 - now neatly reorganized into industrial parks and commuter camps
he looked around and just registered the atmosphere. an example of his relaxed approach is the fact that the book includes a totally off-topic picture of an old 'field guide to rocks and minerals' he found on the way back to the car when he - and his unnamed lancastrian host with a twisted shoulder muscle (who must have been john french) - had visited the location where the 'ice cream for crow' video had been shot.
the photos have been taken from an artistic point of view: dark-light fights or triumphant colour balances, deliberately out of focus or out-centered, beautiful 'coincidental' lines in the landscapes or icy architectural structures and over-civilized neighbourhoods - anything gets a chance. that is, with the exception of human beings and animals (two ravens aside). and there is no rubbish on the streets, nor a severe cloud in the air - which also lacks any trace of night (don's favourite residence).
with such a project it's no surprise that there even are two photographs you can lísten to. which means that rudy recorded the sounds going on there, and when you have wrestled the accompanying ceedee out of the awkward holder, you can hear the traffic on an intersection close to the mojave desert, and the sphere of an afternoon in woodland hills. amazingly enough, at the latter spot nothing has changed: just like in 1969, a lone dog barks while an airplane flies over....
those two field recordings on the five track ceedee - length: 1:17, and 2:04 for the logical 'trout mask replica' closer - are combined with musical contributes to captain beefheart by three former members of the magic band(s). coming first on the ceedee is GARY LUCAS with hurly burly comin' down (2:52), a solo guitar piece in the unique style which has become his personal trade mark. it's a live recording - because playing gigs still belongs to his daily work, in contrast to both of the other participants.
for to JOHN FRENCH aka DRUMBO making music necessarily has became a side activity: his wonderful own style of drumming isn't asked for much. but since 'then' he further developed his skills and on his studio composition vienna sausage waltz (4:53) he also played guitar, marimba and piano and added midi bass. it's a well thought-out, jazzy work but without clear connection to beefheart (as if that was an obligation). for instance: only sometimes the drumming sounds like the 'old time' crashing,
the last 'memory' - again an instrumental - comes from BILL HARKLEROAD, who isn't a full time musician too any more. operating under the famous alias ZOOT HORN ROLLO he added a bass program to his baritone guitar, and invited a violin player and drums to play along. recorded at his home studio, don's secret (5:43) is a varied rock and roll body with a jazzy jacket - but without clear connection to beefheart (as if that was an obligation).
it's nice to see what happened to (some of) the surroundings don van vliet and his contemporaries lived in, and hear what (some of) those 'men in the captain's immense shadow' do now, but like don's voice is missing on the ceedee, the captain himself is absent in the book, hence
my CONCLUSION: very well done project, however not exactly a béefheart item
and my ADVICE: but never mind, think about it
ALMOST INEVITABLE BONUS
WOODLAND HILLS where 'trout mask replica' was born 1968/70
from the tiny bits of text:Later that afternoon, I drove up to Woodland Hills [...] and after a few tries I found Ensenada Drive. And there it was, the 'Trout Mask Replica' house. It was set back from the street hidden behind trees and bushes. The house looked abandoned, but as I approached it I noticed a light was on upstairs in the back of the house. A new house was under construction immediately to the left. No construction people were around. It was very quiet except for the occasional chirping of birds and the barking of a faraway dog. There was hardly a sign of any of the cactus and other exotic plants he [the unnamed host] said I would find there. But as I got closer to the house, I noticed remnants of the bridge, the exact bridge that was depicted on the back of the 'Trout Mask Replica' album cover. I wondered how many people came and checked out this place. I was surprised nobody had taken the bridge home as a souvenir.
rudy vanderlans has taken more pictures of the house - at closer range - but i've chosen this one, because it has such an irresistible sphere. nevertheless, it's only an increased outcut of a much bigger photograph which thanks to its war between shadow and light in the dense vegetation is so surreal, it makes you hallucinate....
also note that this reproduction was scanned at the highest possible level, and although it gives the impression to be perfect it's quality is nothing compared to that of the superb original print
my head is my only house unless it rains...
picture by rudy vanderlans
[210800 - updated 081016]
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