Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don Van Vliet (1941-2010)

He came out of the Los Angeles desert like a Merc chopped and grueled on airplane fuel. Like Big Daddy Roth in a refrigerator graveyard. Put an apple on the head of an insect lawn trophy. Wore and intricate Troutmask replica, and blowed the tropical hotdog night blues til dawn.

Heard the news this afternoon that Don Van Vliet was dead. Where do we find words for Capt. Beefheart's passing? I don't know more than to say what a great surrealist brilliant and unique! Saw him at Town Hall in N.Y. in early 1970s. I cannot think of a greater concert of rock music I ever saw. At that point it was rock for Beefheart - but counterpuntal and baroque unlike any other, at least up to that point. How big was he then? Well, Bob Seeger opened.

Because of schoolmate Harry Duncan got to meet him - that was in the 70s. Very much an artist, constantly creating. Worrisome though too because he was always jumping around. Talking til dawn. Putting you on. Through Harry in a way the DeMarks Paul, Jeff and Mike hooked up with Don [see above].

It went on, vivid song work, on until he retired...from music...but before that...

Electricity, Too Much for My Mirror, God's Own Golf Balls, Woa is a Me-bop, Nowadays a Women Got to Haul off and Hit a Man, Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles, Too Much Time, Ella Guru, Veteran's Day Poppy, Moonlight on Vermont, Harry Irene, Low Yo Yo stuff, Long Neck Bottle, Abba Xabba, Click Clack, Poop Hatch, The Thousandth and tenth Day Of The Human Totem, .... and more.

Was sick once and read a Zappa Biography - nothing better to do. Some of the stuff I liked the best I up wrote up in a synopsis. wrote it up on blog. here's a peek...

(Of course Beefheart had made a star for himself on Buddah

-----Eeeh-lec-tri-ce-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ------

but it was Troutmask Replica produced by high school bud Frank Zappa that got the classic Beefheart ball rolling. )

It was the youthful days of Zappa and Beefhart in the Barry Miles' book that resonated for me...

Zappa the boy grows up out in the Los Angeles dessert. His buddy is Don Van Vliet . They dream while they are driving the in Don’s father’s bread truck - the one welcomed by the housewives on the dusty bakery road. This is a truck which Don will drive for a while. Zappa is a lonely boy. They are buds and they dream on. Incessantly play R&B. Dwell on things. Imagine a homemade movie, Capt. Beefheart and the Clay People.

So, there ya go. Whadya know? So many lines of poetry and music (he worked with great players over many years, many of them; he molded the sound, you have to imagine) and so much creativity holding time in a bird cage.

In composition and performance: A good great blues poet. Scrabbling panther sounds, Wolf sounds that could accelerate on a dime into a portal of yodel. He often included a lyric sheet, but you had to hear the Capt's line aloud. He declaimed dabgummit! {Memory and Regret: Sunnyland and me waiting for him with a bottle of Johnnie Walker and a tape recorder for a conversation on blues...that Beefheart missed.}

How about something off beat among the off beat as a end note? Words from Too much time...

Sometimes late at night when I am hungry
I open up a can of sardines
eat crackers and dream
about somebody that used to cook for me.
Blow, Don, Blow!
Above pic: Captain Beefheart, with Jeff and Mike DeMark, in Milwaukee, 1980. Photo by Hank Grebe.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


At Moogfest, a North Carolina musical event honoring the work of analog electronic musical instrument pioneer Robert "Bob" Moog, there were many Korgs, Yamahas, and laptops loaded with Moog samples, writes able NY Times' critic Jon Pareles. One purpose of the event is to raise money for a Moogseum archiving the work of Moog, who died a few years ago. Neon Indian, Omar Souleyman, Van Dyke Parks and Devo were on hand. Pareles sets the scene. It is a glance at the reign of the once and future King d' Synthesizer Analogue:

From their sometimes-unstable oscillators, filters and amplifiers, Moogs and other analog synthesizers produced sounds that more reliable digital synthesizers would not: buzzes, swoops, whooshes, scrapes, gurgles, screeches, burps, crackles and countless other onomatopoeia-worthy noises … Analog sounds are a funky corrective to sterile digital tones; colliding waveforms make a beautiful noise.

New York born electrical engineer and physics PHd Bob Moog was smitten by a Theremin kit he built at 14 in the 1940s. At 19, he started his own company to manufacture Theremin kits. He went on to patent many of the significant parts involved in the analog music synthesizer. "Here Comes the Sun", and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" – no less than the Beatles made the Moog music.

Moogfest review - NYT

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