Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
First Train Smokin
musique de soliel
When I first heard Captain Beefheart it was like nothing else I’d ever experience. I was about 12 and the song was Abba Zabba off that pulverising and brilliant debut, Safe as Milk, but I heard it on some 60s-music compilation that mostly had upbeat bluesy pop numbers by the likes of The Yardbirds and Mungo Jerry. So Beefheart was even more of a gut-punch. His surreal take on the blues swims in my head most days. There was no one better at his style of music. Tom Waits gave it a go and did what he did – but it was always so performative. You get the feeling that Don Van Vliet would be making this music somewhere regardless of whether he had ever been signed to a label or been able to attract any sort of crowd.
He’s a permanently uneasy listen. And I am grateful for that experience.
This is one of those sneaky, weird releases that pops up – and EP of the band in bluesy mode in 1967 – possibly just ahead of the release of Safe as Milk. The Captain is blowing his harp (Old Folks Boogie), the Magic Band has a slow-burn energy (Tupelo) and some stinging boogie (Evil) and there’s some messy but fun jamming (Instrumental).
It’s a great wee snapshot of the band finding their collective groove – for me it’s all about the opening, slow menace of Tupelo. Beefheart does his best to be Howlin’ Wolf, basically he was either trying to sound like Wolf or sound like one of his own paintings. Those were the two singing and song settings he offered across his strange and excellent career.
So if you want a taste of the early, early years check this wee EP out. It certainly offers something. And it’s nowhere near as frightening as Abba Zabba was back in the day. Then again, 30 years of listening to Beefheart has left me harder to frighten.