[quote="unica"]Former Magic Band members Robert Williams, Gary Lucas & Rick Snyder strike a "Lick My Decals" pose, a pose that Rick said Don named "the hand and toe investment."
Don's cousin, Terry Van Vliet
Captain Beefheart Symposium at the Echoplex in Los Angeles, CA - January 13, 2011 - January 14, 2011 Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart was lovingly remembered in word and song form last night at the Echoplex nightclub in Los Angeles. There was a nice turn-out of adoring (mostly male) fans of all ages. As I settled into my front row seat, a man turned to me, did a double-take and queried, “YOU’RE a Beefheart fan?” I responded emphatically, “yes!” He giggled and said, “you don’t LOOK like a Beefheart fan!” I nodded and responded “I know. I get that a lot.” We chatted about our Beefheart love, then I got up to mill around. I found our host for the evening, the kind and gentle Gary Lucas, in the crowd and said my hello. I’d met him in 2003, when the Magic Band performed in Long Beach at All Tomorrow’s Parties and we’ve been in touch through the internet since. Gary greeted me warmly and introduced me to the man beside him as Don’s cousin Terry Van Vliet. We were joined by a woman, a pixie-ish redhead known to the world as that most famous of groupies, Pamela Des Barres. I wondered around and spotted my nattily attired friend, Richard “Midnight Hatsize” Snyder, one-time Magic Band guitarist/bassist. We said our hello’s and chatted a bit before I returned to my seat.
Gary took the stage and said a few words about the evening’s program, then stepped aside for the presentation of a few video clips of the Captain and his band in action: Don singing his first single “Diddy Wah Diddy” on Dick Clark’s show; “Electricity” live from Cannes; an extended “Trout Mask” era performance (“When Big Joan Sets Up,” “Woe is a Me Bop,” “Bellerin Plain”). Lastly, the video for “Ice Cream for Crow,” which Gary explained was rejected by MTV for being “too weird!” Next came a parade of speakers, figures from Don’s life or those with whom the Captain had made a big impact on. Some memorable moments: Pamela Des Barres reading an excerpt from her book “I’m with the Band,” of some of her Don encounters. Matt Groening (creator of “The Simpsons”) was hilarious with vivid, colorful remembrances of his association with Don (“I ran into him on the street and he took me to Arby’s for lunch. That was the one and only time I’ve eaten at Arby’s.”) Matt explained the process of the Beefheart “catechism,” which is the process by which most of fans agree we fell for his music. You buy “Trout Mask Replica,” listen to it bewildered and declare it a load of shite. In Matt’s case, this being the 70s, he was poor and young and it was one of ten albums he owned so he had no choice but to listen to it over and over. And with each listen, it grew on him, until one day he declared it the greatest album ever. This is exactly how it worked for me, after I bought “Trout Mask” back in ’94. Don’s music insinuates itself into your being.
Up next was Don’s cousin Terry, who stated through a voice packed with emotion that he was touched by the big turn-out this evening. He reminisced about his legendary cousin (“Don once said “that we’re lucky we can tie our fucking shoe laces, what with how dysfunctional our family is!” ) and read a poem he’d composed in tribute to him. A special highlight was a pre-recorded message from director David Lynch doing a reading of Don’s piece, “Pena.”
The Symposium concluded with a performance by Lucas of a couple pieces, including one of my absolute favorite Beefheart songs, “Sure Nuff N Yes I Do” (a video clip of that is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLomJb_9Soo
) and the masterful “Evening Bell,” which Gary explained that Don had submitted to him to figure out from a cassette demo, on which Don had hammered out the notes on piano. Gary was assigned the task of dissecting it, breaking it down note-by-note to work out for electric guitar. He explained the piece uses all ten fingers and that he’d had to spend a couple hours a day just to get about five seconds down each day. Finally Gary went to Don once he’d worked it out but Don nixed it, saying Gary needed to apply his “Exploding Note Theory” (“play the notes like they have no relation to one another, like bombs bursting in the air.”). So Gary’d go back to working on it and would report back to Don. This time Don said, “fine, but you’re not done yet. Here’s more,” and gave Gary a cassette tape with another minute of music that he’d have to somehow tack onto the previous part and make it work. The result is an astounding piece, intricate and dissonant, a piece that, like “Trout Mask Replica,” when heard once only, makes no sense, but the more you hear it, the more the melody becomes apparent (research has shown that our brains strain to find patterns everywhere, even where none may be!).
After the show, the crowd thinned out and I found myself standing around chatting with the former Magic Band members, drummer Robert Williams (who played on another of my all-time favorite Beefheart recordings, “Bat Chain Puller”), Rick, Gary and a man Rick introduced to me as being Don’s one-time road manager, Paul Young. I enjoyed listening to the guys reminisce about the Captain. Rick’s lifelong buddy Ace Farren Ford told me the amusing story of his pretty much outright stalking the captain when he was a teenager. I really enjoyed being a fly on the wall, listening to their stories.
And now a few personal thoughts about the Captain: I’ve always had a soft spot for enigmatic outsiders and the Captain was about as enigmatic and outsidery as they come. For me, he was more than just a wildly creative songwriter and performer. While it’s true he created astonishing music, with cacophonous twists and turns and ebbs and flows, to say nothing of his incomparable lyrics, he was, to me, a mentor of sorts, someone who lived his life like an art project. He exuded art, creativity seemed to emit from every pore of his being. He was also someone I couldn’t help but identify with: an only child born in Glendale, Ca (check), living a big chunk of his formative years in the California desert (check), you get the idea. How I badly wish I could’ve met him, given him a hug, looked him in his eyes and said “thank you” for profoundly shaping the direction of my life. Though he'd dropped out of music 30 years ago, it had always given me great comfort to know he was up there in his northern California home in Trinidad, turning out great art or just enjoying some peace amongst the redwoods.
Don was a beautiful, irascible, gentle, complex, passionate, weird n wonderful genius who had a “take no prisoners” approach to life. He lived life on his terms, fought to have his artistic visions realized. He was by no means a saint and had a dark side that’s legendary. But that only makes him more real. He didn’t worry about being a “people pleaser,” it was all about the vision. Yes, he swore and drank and fought but he also created music that’s otherworldly, paintings raw and frenzied. And as a wonderful side benefit to being a staunch Beefheart fan going on 17 years now, I’ve gotten to know some brilliant people from his orbit, Beefheart satellites: be they former Magic Band members, relatives, people who just happened to know Don or are also huge fans. It’s like being a Deadhead, being a part of a tight-knit subculture that’s full of thoughtful, esoteric, genuine and interesting people. Yes, my life has been immeasurably enriched because of Don Van Vliet. Rest in peace, Don. You are loved.
“Across the light, across the night, you can hear the Captain’s cry...upon the my oh my.” - DVVhttp://www.asktunes.com/news.html
[/quote Thank you for that, Excellent!