Monday, November 10, 2014
when uncommercial was commercial
i go through quite long periods of time where i just forget about Captain Beefheart - that he ever existed
a variant of the Drops Away theory is that as time goes by what makes an artist seem weird and exceptional and out-there recedes somewhat as you come to hear how s/he is embedded in a broader musical landscape, a sonic episteme
in Beefheart's case the landscape back into which he Drops is blues-based rock
listen nowadays and you can hear more clearly the affinity, the proximity, with other music being made at that time - Groundhogs, ZZ Top, Family -- even Free and James Gang
(and with the earliest stuff you hear the proximity to garage punkadelia of that time -- all the Them-etc spurred stuff in America, or groups like Thirteenth Floor Elevators and The Hombres)
(you also hear the proximity-verging-on-identical-ness to Howlin' Wolf)
however, it still sounds pretty out-there, pretty sui generis
with Clear Spot, some of the dropping-back-into-background already takes place, is done for you - with the attempted commercialism / accessibility (failing of course, although I must confess it's my favourite album of his)
but hey, talking about commercial crossover, did you know that Trout Mask Replica was a Top 30 hit in the UK? It got to #21.
And Lick My Decals Off, Baby did even better -- it got to Number 20.
So Beefheart's his biggest success was when he was most untrammeled, most artistically-free
there was an audience, a market, for that then - 1969 and 1970 was the zenith of the Underground
"uncommercial" was commercial