At some point back in the early Eighties, my juvenile self was idly watching the tepid ‘Pop Quiz’. To my total surprise, they suddenly announced a Captain Beefheart video. Copied below, this was the title track from his final album ‘Ice Cream For Crow.’ Having heard of him by reputation, I started watching properly... and was soon transfixed.
I had no hold on it whatsoever. I didn’t know whether I was watching musical pioneers or a gang of crazies who had been unaccountably handed a record contract. (Come to think of it, it would be no use asking me that question now.) But it was the start of what I would quite literally describe as a love affair.
Many describe the man as a maverick, a John the Baptist whose Jesus never showed up, to be respected more than listened to. But for me he was always central. His work did so much to define the way I saw music – trampling genre distinctions, simultaneously rootsy and experimental, recklessly innovative and above all infectiously fun! “I play music”, he commented. “Too many work it.”
Sadly, the man died yesterday aged 69. The obituary cliché “there will never be another like him” can finally be put to a genuine use. To lose both Beefheart and Ari Up within three months is no less than tragic...
This isn’t a bad primer guide to his music.