running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

Captain Beefheart RIP

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Sad news yesterday that the abstract artist Don Van Vliet, better-known as Captain Beefheart, died in California aged 69.

The Michael Werner Gallery in New York, which often hosted Van Vliet's art exhibitions, confirmed that Van Vlient had passed away from complications due to multiple sclerosis.

As Captain Beefheart, Van Vliet managed to warp blues, jazz, and rock into a unique and memorable sound, and produced a large body of important rock music during the 1960's and 1970's.

For many fans, myself included, the highlight of the Beefheart recordings was the seminal Trour Mask Replica (1969) - a unique double album of 28 experimental rock songs, produced by Frank Zappa, which has influenced just about everyone from Roxy Music and Led Zeppelin to Nick Cave, the Sex Pistols, Tom Waits, PJ Harvey and the White Stripes, even if much of it seems to be tuneless, abrasive and practically unlistenable on first hearing.

The recording sessions for this record are the stuff of rock legend - Beefheart forced the band to live communally for nearly a whole year, rehearsing his complex songs for up to 14 hours a day with no money or food (but obviously plenty of mind-altering substances).

Trout Mask Replica also featured brilliant gatefold sleeve coverart. I've dug out my copy from the vinyl shelf -

TMR Outside

TMR Insideside

Trout Mask Replica, Gatefold Sleeve, 2 X 12".
This edition (slightly battered) is the 1975 Reprise reissue.

Beefheart Obituary - The Guardian 18/12/2010
Beefheart Obituary, Rolling Stone 18/12/2010
A life in Photos - Rolling Stone