captain beefheart electricity



sat 22 january 1972 usa BOSTON ma FENWAY THEATER 19.00 h
sat 22 january 1972 usa BOSTON ma FENWAY THEATER 22.00 h

TOUR: THE SPOTLIGHT KID north-america #2 - support act: sabo's chimp(anzee)s


milton moore - usa 1 february 1972 BOSTON AFTER DARK

this review was followed by an
the writer's mistaking of elliot ingber aka winged eel fingerling for bill harkleroad aka zoot horn rollo has been corrected


the curtain rose at the fenway theater to reveal a most astonishing event. the marquee out front billed captain beefheart and his magic band, but onstage, amid the array of equipment, stood one lone magician, bassist rockette morton (mark boston), clad in bright orange with a panama hat and an amazing moustache. he dipped low, pointed his bass menacingly at the audience, and began to swing.

rockette sailed into a free flowing, melodic bass solo, not the farting, one-note syncopations that a rock bassist would perform, but full chords, falling into each other in a delicate cascade. he swayed and played and danced around the stage for a full five minutes before ending casually, as if he had scarcely noticed he had been playing at all. the audience, to a man, was mystified.

the ancient theater, with its crumbling blitz-victim ceiling and massive new p.a. system, was only half full. the audience seemed comprised of familiar young longhairs equipped with their hip credentials - a bottle of wine and a handful of joints. they were quite casual about their ritualized anesthesia ceremony, as they nonchalantly got loaded.

no one appeared to mind the half-hour delay before the show; it only meant they would be all the more gassed when the music began. it mattered little what band they were awaiting, as most were only vaguely familiar with the captain's music. one fan was actively worried about his investment: 'this better be good... i never heard of these guys before'.

after the audience had thoroughly insulted and harassed sapo's chimps, showering the warm-up act with obscenity, and after the chimps had thoroughly explored the captain's equipment (he later commented: 'i would set up with those cats anytime') and after rockette's solo, the rest of the band appeared, a truly strange apparition.

zoot horn rollo (bill harkleroad), truly eel-like in his ectomorphic jumpsuit, played bottle-neck guitar. small and hairy, winged eel fingerling (elliot ingber) unleashed a frenzy of six-string guitar notes, while ed marimba (art tripp) explored the drums. captain beefheart looked so much the chicago gangster, with his heavy-set, determined stance, his black leather coat and black wide-brimmed hat, that his sub-basement growl of a voice seemed appropriate.

as the band performed their open-ended, free flowing songs, they danced and whirled in manic stop-action, like witches around a kettle. rockette moved from one end of the stage to the other in his unique slow-motion stalk, and the captain threw back his head, savoring his band's pulsing, polyrhythms as he paused.

beefheart's music is totally engaging and always dynamic. each of the musicians is at liberty to play whatever he feels, yet they still remain open and aware of the music surrounding them; this is a group effort, not the jamming one-upmanship of many bands. the captain once commented: 'i don't teach them how to play.... i teach them how to keep from nt playing'. thus the music they create is uninhibited, to say the least. when beefheart was asked [about] his favorite pop star, he said the last musician to turn him on was bill haley, and it shows in his set.

now beefheart is the last band you would find on the rock 'n' roll revival bus with little eva and bo diddley (okay, maybe in 1972 but his debut single from 1965, 'diddy wah diddy', ws a cover of a bo diddley song! - teejo), but the way that the magic band whoops it up, flinging themselves and their instruments around while creating unfalteringly fresh music, is certainly reminiscent of the early days of rock 'n' roll.

their set was a short one, with the material culled from four of beefheart's albums (uh, mainly 'lick my decals off, baby' and the fresh release 'the spotlight kid' - t.t.), and the band was constantly shifting, members walking on and off for duets and solos. the captain played a double role, sometimes a menacing growler, sometimes the solicitous host. after one number, he asked the audience, in his unpretentiously tutorial style: 'did you hear that?' referring not to the volume but to the music itself. at one point, ed marimba pounded out a horse hooves cadence, and the captain sang through his clarinet ('spitball scalped a baby' - t.t.): 'merrill lynch is bullish on america'.

the highlight of the set was 'black snake blues' ('there's a black snake suckin' on my rider's tongue' - originally by john lee hooker - t.t.). no one sings like beefheart (he claims seven octaves), and most of the audience was mesmerized. when one bozo tried to sing along, the captain waited to see if perhaps their duet would work, then asked him: 'either keep quiet or keep in time'. then the set ended quickly, the magic band disappeared, and the audience yelled for more.


a tiny bit of the performance was selected for a bootlegged collection of live tracks, the england 2003 ceedee railroadism. to be precise, it was ne cut: beefheart's a capella version of john lee hooker's old black snake.

the interview


facts provided by theo tieman 1995-2021

click clack back to the concerts or return to the power station
captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo