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


  1. My fav album is still The Spotlight Kid. Wonky Blues that's properly wonky but still quite accessible.

    Weirdly, Beefheart was my first gig. Turned up at The Rainbow to buy a ticket for Roxy Music and predictably it was sold out. Beefheart was on the next day so I bought a ticket for that instead!

  2. that is quite a story -- disappointed punter unable to buy Roxy Music ticket, so "settles for" Captain Beefheart

    and what an initiation into live music -- the Magic Band!

    isn't it weird to think that people at the time believed the Seventies were a steep decline after the excitements of the Sixties...