Jottings for the Beefheart Archives

By Pete Frame

ZigZag, March 1973

During Beefheart's last visit to these shores, I was able to spend a few hours with him and members of his Magic Band, which afforded me the opportunity of recording a few miles of taped discussion, extracts of which appear below. Apart from that, I was able to witness all sorts of strange sights ..... for instance, when the band bus broke down on the road to Brighton, the Captain paraded around in the road, in full stage regalia, totally unperturbed by the astonished stares of commuters flashing home ..... and, earlier to relive a sore throat, he was passed a tiny bottle of Green Chartreuse, with which to gargle. Having taken a swig and swirled it around his throat, he became harassed โ€“ as if looking for a receptacle in which to empty the stuff. Finding none, he spot it onto the floor of the bus, just under the seat, explaining very apologetically that he had been unable to swallow it in case it'd made him drunk!


Roy Estrada: He grabbed all the publicity when we were in the Mothers ..... we'd do all the albums, and somehow they all became his โ€“ Zappa's ..... that's how he used to operate. His ability is, like ..... WOW ..... fantastic, but, like I say, it's the way he operates. Mind you, it's all coming back on him now, it's the nature of life ..... it all balances out. His equipment was all burnt in that fire, and then there was that terrible accident at the Rainbow ..... but why are we talking about him? Talk about the Magic Band.

Captain Beefheart: Hell, man ..... he did nothing, the boys did everything. He just crawled into the control booth and went to sleep.

Zoot Horn Rollo: Recording 'Trout Mask Replica' didn't take long at all; we went into the studio, and Mr. Zappa came in and said it had to be done in a hurry. So we did a couple of songs, and he fell asleep. When he woke up, 4 1/2 hours later, we'd just about finished the whole album.


Captain Beefheart: He'd just about gotten up enough nerve to tour now; he walked out on me just before the Monterey Festival, which I thought was a terrible thing to do ..... he should have told me how he felt, before it got too far. I frankly don't care for his albums; I don't like using the past. Why does he need that shield? I told him before he went to England with Jack Nitzsche, to play with the Rolling Stones, that I didn't think it was a good idea ..... that they would utilise him and then just throw him out like an apple stern. So he came back and said they were just horrible da da da, they took all my stuff da da da, what nasty people they were ..... and then just recently, he turned round and praised them ..... said what great people they were. Now that's weird.

ED BERMANN (co-writer of some of the songs on 'Safe As Milk' album)

Captain Beefheart: He was a fellow that I met up in the desert, a writer, and we collaborated on a few songs. At the time, the group I was with wouldn't listen to a thing I said ..... they said my songs were too far out for them. I thought that if I worked with someone they considered to be a professional writer, then they'd at least listen to it, and maybe even play it.

MIRROR MAN (the live album, recorded in the mid-Sixties, but released in 1971)

Captain Beefheart: I think it was very vulgar of them to put that out. They told me that I was going to be able to mix it, but they lied to me ..... and they told me that since I was mixing it, would I mind giving them some poetry for the sleeve. Of course, I said 'sure', and sent them the poetry ..... and then they put it out. All the details on the cover are wrong ..... they don't care ..... but I like the music.

'THE BLIMP' (a track on 'Trout Mask' which sounds as if the singer is being strangled)

Captain Beefheart: That was done through a telephone; I wrote it instantly, played the horn, and then had Jimmy Semens go outside, find a phone and call up the studio ..... as he recited the words, we recorded them. The song's based on that newsreel of the Hindenburg airship crash ..... you got it exactly.