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Full Version: Captain Beefheart Documentary
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This guy escaped my attention when I was younger. Though I might have caught one of his appearances on the David Letterman show in the early 1980s.

But yesterday I did a search for "obscure albums" and found one he didn't want people to listen to. The description said someone would tell him when to move towards the microphone and then pull him away when his part was done. A description for another video said his band quit on him altogether because he was so demanding.

He couldn't arrange music or tell people what to do, so he would show someone in the band what he wanted each person to play instrumentally, and they would interpret what he intended for the bass player, the guitarist...and so on to do.

Intrigued, I searched some more and found a documentary on him.



What I learned was that he had been a sculptor as a young man. And he went to the same high school as Frank Zappa.

Rolling Stone ranked one of his later albums the 58th best of all time. Though it came out in 1969, it was credited with inspiring many people and punk music. "On first listen, Trout Mask Replica sounds like a wild, incomprehensible rampage through the blues."

According to the documentary, the band spent 8 months in a house working on that album. It was very cult-like and no one was allowed to express unhappiness or leave the house except one person who would get groceries each week. They lived and breathed the album.

When they finally recorded the album, it was a double album and they recorded 21 songs in less than 4-1/2 hours. Frank Zappa rented studio time and was stupidfied when Captain Beefheart told him it was done.

In the documentary, Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, who was a fan as a young man, described how he bought that album and played it. His first reaction was, "They're not even trying!" Then on the second play, he thought, Frank Zappa "produced it and they wanted it to be this way." By the 7th or 8th play he was convinced it was the greatest album ever. He still asserts that it is.



The lyrics don't appear to matter. Captain Beefheart seems to have approached music as sculpting -- adding various genres together and taking elements away. I don't find it immediately accessible but some people think it's genius.

Interestingly, his music later became more mainstream and less acclaimed. He ultimately retired from music after 1982 to concentrate on painting. The self-taught artist was celebrated for organically adding the techniques of various movements together to express himself. In the documentary, someone from the Museum of Modern Art talks about him in high regard.