captain beefheart appreciation 101 (son of sun zoom spark)

Estimated reading time is 2 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.

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.”



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