Tag Archive: Captain Beefheart

THE RHYTHM & THE TIDE by Mike Badger & Tim Peacock  (Liverpool University Press, 2015)

As founder member of The La’s, Mike Badger is no stranger to interview requests. However, more often than not it’s not his version of events journalists actually want to hear. All too frequently, his insights are edited out from the story of a band who could have been to Liverpool what Oasis are to Manchester but instead ended up being regarded as  little more than one-hit wonders.

Subtitled ‘Liverpool, The La’s and Ever After’, The Rhythm & The Tide finally gives Badger the opportunity to explain how he overcame early disillusionment to forge a modest yet varied and fulfilled career as a musician. artist and record label founder. Above all, this is the tale of a man with no axes to grind but a compelling story to tell. Continue reading


big-blood-1373221784-19325Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsella from South Portland, Maine were once part of Cerberus Shoal, as much a musical community as a band with a revolving and frankly bewildering cast list of members.

When the two made a baby together they decided to perform as a duo, record at home and call themselves Big Blood. Caleb says : “We play when the baby is sleeping… we just play music with and for each other”.

To confuse matters they are sometimes billed as a foursome although closer scrutiny reveals that Asian Mae and Rose Philistine are in fact invented names to express the alter egos of Colleen and Caleb respectively.

They have released an album on Maine’s Time-Lag records but the majority of their albums are DIY affairs, put out on CDRs with lovingly crafted sleeve designs complete with original artwork and handmade album inserts.

Brad Rose of Digitalis is among their devoted fans and appreciates what he calls their “Hypnotic screeching folk jams”.

Colleen’s singular banshee-like wail is what makes their sound so appealing to me and Caleb’s quavering vocals give her a run for her money. There are obvious roots in the old weird America but this is blended with an array of contemporary ‘new weird’ influences.

You can always get a good clue to an artist’s musical kudos by the songs they choose to cover. In the case of Big Blood you will find highly individual unplugged versions of The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary (on Already Gone I), Blondie’s Heart of Glass, Captain Beefheart’s Beatle Bones ‘n’ Smoking Stones (both on Already Gone II), Syd Barrett’s Terrapin (Big Blood & the Bleedin’ Hearts), Can’s Vitamin C (Sew Your Wild Days) and , perhaps strangest of all, “Indang Pariman” (1.20.07) , a cover from Folk & Pop Sounds of Sumatra Volume I put out on Sun City Girls’ Sublime Frequencies label

You can really dive in anywhere in their back catalogue and be sure to discover strange delights.

When Don Van Vliet , aka Captain Beefheart, passed away last December, The Wire magazine ran a feature of personal tributes.

The one that most mirrored my own experiences was  by Mike Barnes who described his first encounter with the album Lick My Decals Off Baby. He recalled that his first reactions to this record were of confusion and even repulsion. At the same time there was something strangely fascinating about this music that drew him back and eventually this resulted in a kind of the epiphany : “the clouds suddenly parted and the sun streamed in, illuminating fantastic musical shapes I never thought could exist”.  Barnes ended the piece by saying that because of this revelatory experience “no music since has ever proved such an insurmountable obstacle”.

The first record I remember being repulsed/fascinated by was The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus, a song that now sounds relatively conventional.  However, this experience was nothing compared with the shock of first hearing what most (including me) regard as Beefheart’s masterpiece ‘Trout Mask Replica’. Like Barnes, the initial disorientation gradually gave way to a sense of  awe. Over four decades on it still sounds as radical as when it was released in 1969.

Barnes’ piece led me to his biography of Beefheart, a book I was vaguely aware of but had never seriously considered reading. I doubted that anyone could ‘explain’ what type of brain lay behind the music and I was right.

While Barnes book is a thoroughgoing, and occasionally illuminating, piece of journalism, the author himself is forced to admit that a work like Trout Mask  “resists demystification”. Continue reading


Deeply saddened to learn that DonVan Vliet – Captain Beefheart – has died at the age of 69.

He was one of the true geniuses of rock.

All his albums are essential but Trout Mask Replica was his masterpiece and 41 years after it was released it remains as bewilderingly original and subversive as ever.

He was an artist  who never compromised. He gave few interviews and preferred to let his work speak for itself.

He retired from music in 1982 when he felt he had no more to offer and devoted himself to his painting.  After he made this decision there was never any hint that he might make a comeback, although he must have had many offers to do so.

His legacy will live on as a true inspiration for artists who strive to make music that means something more than massaging the ego or pandering to mainstream taste.

Photo of Beefheart by Anton Corbijn.


Back in 1973, ‘alternative’ and ‘independent’ records which seemed so bold and subversive have, with the benefit of hindsight, proved to be anything but. This after all was the year in which Tubular Bells was released, a record which, when John Peel played it on the radio in its entirety, seemed like a radical statement to launch a new direction in serious Rock music.

It explains why I – a shy, impressionable 15 year old -together with other gullible innocents, were led down the garden path into the cursed kingdom inhabited by the dinosaurs of progressive(sic) rock (check out ELP’s ‘Brain Salad Surgery, Camel’s ‘The Snow Goose’ and anything by Barclay James Harvest if you dare).

Mercifully, Messrs Rotten, Strummer & crew arrived on the scene to save the day.

‘Marjory Razorblade’ , now widely recognised as the finest album by Kevin Coyne (1944 – 2004), was released in the same year as Oldfield’s opus.

I remember hearing Coyne (also on John Peel show) but I’m ashamed to say that I dismissed him then as an eccentric novelty act. With his raspy voice, lack of dress sense and an appalling haircut he didn’t look like much of a role model. “What a tongue – what an abrasive manner” he sang, the description of Ms Razorblade could have been describing himself. His style was a bit like bluesman Joe Cocker but there was also a bizarre music hall flavour to his music.

Only now I can see the error of my ways and can recognise that his rebellious eccentricity and open non conformity made him a true punk prototype. Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: