Saturday, 18 December 2010

Mirror Man

Another one gone. Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) died yesterday; he'd been incapacitated with MS for some years. I've never quite understood the cult of that pretentious and baggy monster Trout Mask Replica (impossible to imagine a mainstream label releasing it now) but Clear Spot is one of my favourite albums. "Crazy Little Thing", "Big Eyed Beans From Venus" and "Long Neck Bottles" hit a rackety groove that I find irresistible.

DVV had a strange talent for a unique kind of poetry -- his gritty psychedelia was grounded by a blend of rootsy elements with a heavy dose of voodoo hedgerow mysticism. People always talk about him coming from another planet, but that other planet is earth, revealed in its strangeness when seen from a completely different angle. Obviously, LSD helps, but that undertow of Howlin' Wolf and snake oil salesmen is essential to the brew. That he and Frank Zappa (that most far-out of puritans) went to the same school must prove something.

Distant cousins, there's a limited supply.
And we're down to the dozens, and this is why:
Big Eyed Beans from Venus! Oh my, oh my.

Boys and girls,
Earth people around the circle,
Mixtures of man alive.
Big eyed beans from Venus,
Don't let anything get in between us.

Beam in on me baby,
and we'll beam together
I know we always been together,
but there's more.

Mister Zoot Horn Rollo, hit that long lunar note,
and let it float.

Men let your wallets flop out,
and women open your purses,
Cause a man or a woman without a big eyed bean from Venus
Is suffering with the worstest of curses
Yeah, you're suffering, with the worstest of curses.

Put 'em out in the sun, and when the night come
You don't have to go out and get 'em
They'll glow with you
They'll go with you
They'll show with you
Ain't no losers
Cause they're on the right track
Cause they're on the right track
You can be on the right track, woman,
Of course, of course

Ain't no SNAFU, no fol-de-rol

Check these out, Big eyed beans from Venus
Oh, let a few out, let 'em pass in between us

Distant cousins, there's a limited supply.
And we're down to the dozens, and this is why...

Don't let anything get in between us!
Big eyed beans from Venus
Big eyed beans from Venus.

Gimme dat harp, boy ...


Dave Leeke said...

Another sad passing. I was never a huge fan but I did see him live once - in fact, probably with you on a Sunday night at the Mecca in Stevenage, almost unbelievably.

I remember you recounting a story that involved someone shouting out "Ice-a-Cream" just as a sax/clarinet solo was about to take place.

Or did I dream that?

Mike C. said...


That does sound vaguely familiar, wish I could dredge it out of my memory. Maybe Colston Hall in Bristol? I have certainly seen Beefheart a number of times.

Sometimes, I feel like the victim of a "personator" (did you ever hear about the guy who went round Europe pretending to be "Graham Greene"?) -- people keep telling me things I said and did half a lifetime ago, and I can remember nothing about it. I expect this happens to everyone, though.


Dave Leeke said...

I'm pretty sure that you witnessed the moment. I was more unsure as to whether or not you were at the Stevenage gig.

I mean - it was at the Mecca. It was just like Islam. Everyone of our age had to go on a pilgrimage to the Mecca at least once in their lives.

Mike C. said...

Once, in the days before mega-halls and city-to-city tours, the Mecca/Locarno Ballroom was a decent venue... Someone -- Martin someone? -- used to have (and wear) a hooped t-shirt which was grabbed by his sister when it was thrown into the crowd by Mick Jagger when the Stones played there.