The Captain Went Down With the Ship

31 12 2010

I know that this is a bit late in coming, but never too late to consider the beauty and genius of Don Van Vliet, who sadly left this “God’s Golf Ball” a few weeks ago.  I remember stumbling into a record store when I was about 15 years old and buying a copy of Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band’s “Strictly Personal”.  It was a “Cut-Out” on the Blue Thumb Label.  I was loving all of the Glam and Trash type music at the time, but this record got stuck in my craw from the first few seconds of  “Ah Feel Like Ahcid”.  The inside of the Gate-fold Sleeve kept me up at night.  Maybe most people found The Good Captain by way of Frank Zappa, but I think I did it in reverse.  Both of these guys hailed from the same depths of the Palmdale Desert  and became Rock & Roll Iconoclasts of the first order.  I gobbled up everything I could find from there. Trout Mask Replica, Safe As Milk, Mirror Man, etc… My favourites being, Lick My Decals Off Baby, Clear Spot, and Doc At The Radar Station. These records run deep and identify a few clear phases of the Magic Band.  Eventually, Don gave up music for fine art.  I didn’t know it until last night while talking to Mike Watt on the phone that I went to the very last show that Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band perfomed. It was at The Golden Bear in Huntington Beach in January 1981.  It wasn’t easy to find The Captain playing very often, but I did manage to see the 1975 Zappa “Bongo Fury” tour which featured Don stepping up to the microphone and reciting his poetry backed up with angular instrumentation by The Mothers Of Invention.  It was poetry that you could touch and smell.  This was a man that lived with the playfulness of a child, yet was able to see through the trappings.  This yarn goes on for miles and I would hope that by posting this, maybe one more person will find this amazing human that has brought me so much happiness with his life and commitment to art.  To me, one of the biggest ones that ever got away.  Now a word from our Sponsors…
My smile is stuck
I cannot go back t’ yer Frownland
My Spirit’s made up of the ocean
And the sky ‘n the sun ‘n the moon
‘n all my eye can see