The Dust Blows Forward 'N The Dust Blows Back: Captain Beefheart Dies

Captain Beefheart, avant garde rocker, died today aged 69.

Real name Don Van Vliet, the singer passed away at a California hospital due to complications from multiple sclerosis, reports Entertainment Weekly.

Beefheart is best known for being an iconic experimental musician, from 1967 through to the early '80s.

He famously enjoyed challenging his fans and expectations about rock 'n' roll. In 1978 he said:

"People like music to be in tune because they've heard it in tune all the time.

"I really tried to break that down."

Beefheart not only left an impression on his fans, but other musicians too.

According to Spin magazine, his 1969 album "Trout Mask Replica" inspired everyone from Tom Waits and John Lennon, to Sonic Youth and PJ Harvey.

Beefheart retired from making music in 1982.

His overall record sales were low compared to the large influence his music had on others.

He spent most of the 80s focusing on his visual artwork.

The Captain was - along with the Velvets and Zappa - one of the original avant-garde rockers; a guy from the California desert who mixed Howlin' Wolf-style blues, free jazz, and goofy poetry into an instantly recognizable sound. Here he is with his classic Trout Mask Replica era Magic Band

OK, so it's not Paul Anka. That's the whole point. He was the guy you listened to if you didn't want to be a square or a hippie*. And, he was worth listening to at least for his inspired word play. Just look at the track listing for Lick My Decals Off, Baby. (one of the great album titles)

Side one:

  1. "Lick My Decals Off, Baby" – 2:38
  2. "Doctor Dark" – 2:46
  3. "I Love You, You Big Dummy" – 2:54
  4. "Peon" – 2:24
  5. "Bellerin' Plain" – 3:35
  6. "Woe-is-uh-Me-Bop" – 2:06
  7. "Japan in a Dishpan" – 3:00

Side two:

  1. "I Wanna Find a Woman That'll Hold My Big Toe Till I Have To Go" – 1:53
  2. "Petrified Forest" – 1:40
  3. "One Red Rose That I Mean" – 1:52
  4. "The Buggy Boogie Woogie" – 2:19
  5. "The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig)" – 2:11
  6. "Space-Age Couple" – 2:32
  7. "The Clouds Are Full of Wine (not Whiskey or Rye)" – 2:50
  8. "Flash Gordon's Ape" – 4:15

Honestly, don't you at least want to hear what a song with a title like "I Wanna Find a Woman That'll Hold My Big Toe Till I Have To Go" sounds like?

Beefheart was inevitably "embraced" by the Europeans, even as he was "rejected" in his own country. Meh. Those Euro-weenies need to be descended from a member of the House of Lords, and go through years of art school to do a fraction of what the Captain - did he even finish high school? - accomplished. As strange as he was, he was that classic American archetype: the self-invented original who seemed to arise fully formed from the great American wilderness. Good bye, Captain.

*if you want to hear him do some semi-"regular" music listen to Hot Rats, the album he made with Frank Zappa.

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