It is always difficult to write about the music of Captain Beefheart as it is virtually impossible to describe in any cogent manner, which may have been what the Beefer was aiming at in the first place.
He used Frank Zappa’s early material as a jumping off place, which enabled him to explore the outer edges of not only rock and roll, but of music itself. His ultimate goal was bringing art to life, which many times made for a tenuous relationship with established musical forms. His music always had a tension between the desire to entertain and the ability to shock, a tension that many times veered out of control.
Don Van Vliet (1941-2010) is now remembered as one of the more eclectic figures in rock and roll history. I had a nighttime radio show for a couple of years while in college, and his albumsTrout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off Baby received a lot of time on the turn table in the wee hours of the morning when I was trying to stay awake.
During 1972, he and his Magic Band were touring England and Europe when they made a stop at The Beat Club Studios in Bremen, Germany to record some tracks for later broadcast on German television. His band at the time consisted of bassist Rockette Morton (Mark Boston), guitar Zoot Horn Rollo (Bill Harkleroad), guitarist Orejon (Roy Estrada), drummer Ed Marimba (Art Tripp), and guitarist Winged Eel Fingerling (Elliot Ingber).
They only recorded four tracks for broadcast although there were several multiple takes. Only one has been available on a regular basis, while the rest have been consigned to a dusty vault. The session has now been resurrected as a DVD titled The Lost Broadcasts.
The album begins in typical Beefheart fashion. “Mascara Snake” is a bass solo piece. Mark Boston can really play the bass as his fingers virtually fly over the strings. There are two takes of “Clich Clach,” and the longer of the two demonstrates what a tight sound The Magic Band had at the time. There is also a short track of band introductions.
There are three takes of “I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby.” The third is the most professional of the set and is the track that has been readily available. The Captain had one of the more powerful voices in rock and here he struts his stuff. One of the throwaway tracks is the most interesting as the performance was interrupted by a technician, which caused Beefheart to walk off the stage. While he is gone the band really cooks until he reappears to finish the vocals.
The DVD is augmented by two filler tracks. “Steal Softly Thru Snow” dated back to Trout Mask Replica, while “Golden Birdies” looked ahead to Clear Spot.
The sound and picture quality are excellent considering the equipment of the day and the number of years that have passed.
Watching Captain Beefheart is a different experience than listening to him, as there is less room for the mind to wander. Still, The Lost Broadcasts is a nice introduction to the stage act of one of rock’s madmen. A must for any fan of The Captain or for anyone who wants to travel a musical journey rarely taken.
Article first published as Music DVD Review: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – The Lost Broadcasts on Blogcritics.