|Issue 5 - May 1972|
|It is nearly
six years since Captain Beefheart played in Newcastle. In those days,
underground music was really from the underground. Very little air-play
was given to this kind of music. John Peel was about the only one to
give it any space on his show.
Nowadays, of course, progressive music has a much wider audience. Radio One has 16 hours of underground music as against two hours six years ago. But still only Peel plays Beefheart music.
Nevertheless, the City Hall, Newcastle was packed for the return of the Captain, and surprisingly enough, back stage was Radio One DJ - John Peel.
All we have heard of the Captain since those early days has been in connection with his association with Frank Zappa.
So the obvious question to ask him was how this association had affected his music. The reply, to say the least, was a surprise: "All this crap put out by Zappa is nonsense. I have only met the guy about 20 times in my life. He's ripped off so many of my ideas, for instance 'Hot Rats' was my idea," said Beefheart.
I then asked him how much drugs had affected him. He said that he doesn't take drugs any more because all his ideas are in his head and he can get them out without resorting to drugs. So all those stories about him and Zappa disappearing into the desert with gallons of LSD would seem to be more Zappa publicity.
The Captain had some pretty pungent things to say about education: "Education puts cataracts in front of your eyes. You have to tear these cataracts down to see. The teachers didn't break my crayons. I have my own colours to play with."
It has been rumoured that the Captain is considering working with Ornette Coleman, the clarinet-saxophonist, so I asked him if this was a possibility in the future. He said that he would not do this in America because the public there would turn it into a 'gunfight at OK corral' situation. (Captain Beefheart v Ornette Coleman) This, said Beefheart, would be unfair on Coleman. But he wants to play with him sometime, nevertheless.
The Captain was in a jovial mood after the performance. He said that the audience was a very intelligent one and that it was a pleasure to play to them.
I asked him why he had a belly dancer and a ballet dancer on stage preceding his act. He replied that the kids had probably never seen either a ballet or belly dancer before, and he thought it would be nice to show them.
Back to Zappa; I asked what the Captain thought of '200 Motels'. He said: "I don't know why Ringo Starr got involved with that load of crap." I suggested that it may have been a bandwagon thing. The Captain agreed.
He gets misunderstood. "When I recorded 'Safe as Milk', I intended it to be a comment on the strontium 90 level in mother's milk but everybody thought I meant acid." Again, I detected a reference to Zappa type publicity.
The Captain stayed long after the concert signing autographs and was obviously eager to put down many of the myths surrounding his last few years.
His final words in Newcastle: "The beer here isn't as good as it was five years ago".