captain beefheart appreciation 101 (son of sun zoom spark)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

I DON’T REMEMBER DREAMS. Even a few min­utes after I have been awak­ened by one of them, they im­me­di­ately start slip­ping away. If I want to re­member a spe­cial dream, I have to lug my scrawny be­hind out of bed—and I sleep on a futon on the floor and get­ting up from the floor when you’re 67 ain’t al­ways a given—and write it down.

At 3:00 AM last night, I had such a spe­cial dream and since there was at least one other reason to be get­ting up, I pushed my­self up off the floor, even­tu­ally made my way to my desk, and wrote what little I was hanging onto in these words:

beef­heart 101 class
some­thing about application
he sounded old

Here’s what that means: last night I had a dream in which I was a few decades younger (not un­usual in my dreams) and was in some kind of school. Per­haps adult ed­u­ca­tion classes, which are plen­tiful in the Pa­cific Northwest.

The course I was taking was Cap­tain Beef­heart Ap­pre­ci­a­tion 101. The teacher was playing a re­cently dis­cov­ered track with Beef­heart and the Magic Band that had not been re­leased. The teacher was very se­rious about his subject. 


CaptainBeefheart SunZoomSpark art frame 1000

This color painting by Don van Vliet is ti­tled “Bee Top” and was done around 1970. I used it for the fea­tured image at the top of this page, where I elim­i­nated the colors and turned it into stark black and white for dra­matic ef­fect. 1

Apply the application

The song and the lyrics had some­thing to do with “ap­pli­ca­tion,” which was in each of the song’s re­frains. I ac­tu­ally forgot the title of the song by the time I wrote those nine words above, but I think it was Apply The Ap­pli­ca­tion.

The recording it­self had the same shuf­fling but ki­net­i­cally propul­sive rhythms and feels of the CLEAR SPOT album from 1972 (“Can’t find my kind of folks having fun. Have to run, run, run, run—run to find a clear spot”).

At the time of this album, when the good Cap­tain (se­cret iden­tity: Don van Vliet) was a hearty and ro­bust 31-years-old. But the voice on Apply The Ap­pli­ca­tion was that of an older man, a much less vig­orous man.

I couldn’t put my finger on it at 3 in the morning, but I can now: it sounded like a voice coming out from the grave . . .


CaptainBeefheart SunZoomSpark art LP1 1000

The boxed set SUN ZOOM SPARK (2014 and avail­able on LP or CD) con­tains three al­bums from Beef­heart and the Magic Band’s heyday: LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY (1970), THE SPOTLIGHT KID (1972), and CLEAR SPOT (1972). There is also a disc of out­takes and a well-designed and written booklet. And the cover fea­tures a van Vliet painting, “Bee Top.”



1   The point of a large fea­tured header image on a web­site page is to at­tract at­ten­tion to the text below it.

2   I have not heard the records on the SUN ZOOM SPARK, so I will allow a re­viewer on Amazon to speak: “The records were cut from the orig­inal analog mas­ters, and they sound ab­solutely amazing. The press­ings are dead quiet with a beau­tiful clarity and depth which cre­ates a won­derful lis­tening ex­pe­ri­ence. I could not be more im­pressed with the quality, and Rhino Records should be con­grat­u­lated on the ob­vious at­ten­tion to de­tail on these records.” (Swan­song)

In my dream, I was back in school and taking a course ti­tled Cap­tain Beef­heart Ap­pre­ci­a­tion 101. Click To Tweet

On April 12, 1972, Cap­tain Beef­heart and the Magic Band were filmed per­forming four songs at Radio Bremen’s Funkhaus to broad­cast on the long-running German tele­vi­sion show Beat-Club. The band is Bill (Zoot Horn Rollo) Harkleroad and El­liot (Winged Eel Fin­ger­ling) In­gber on guitar, Mark (Rock­ette Morton) Boston and Roy Estrada on bass, and drummer Art Tripp. As someone eter­nally fa­mous once said, “Listen to them. What music they make!”





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