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 Post subject: Re: Captain Beefheart
PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2017 11:05 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2005 7:51 pm
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A brush with greatness

The night Captain Beefheart drove me into the hills in a red Corvette

It’s 1974, and a young Caroline Boucher is in Los Angeles to meet scary legend Don Van Vliet…

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New electric ride: Captain Beefheart. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Caroline Boucher
Sunday 20 August 2017 06.00 BST


In 1974 I was working for a music paper. They were reckless days: a record company would send you off to interview acts and stump up hotel and fares, and I’d been dispatched to Los Angeles to interview the Beach Boys. I was living with a music business lawyer, Robert Lee (he of the Virginia Plain lyric); he was acting for Richard Branson who was desperate to sign Captain Beefheart to Virgin records. So off we went to the Hyatt House – known as the Riot House – on Sunset Strip which was, as usual, chock full of bands.

We’d managed to track down the Captain’s current manager, Andy DiMartino and were prepared to approach with care. Captain Beefheart had a mercurial reputation; his music could be impenetrable, he could be imperious. Frank Zappa and Ry Cooder had both been supporters but he’d fallen out with them, and he could be a tyrant to the musicians in his Magic Band. However, the Captain was regularly championed in the UK by John Peel and had a fanatical underground following, including Richard Branson, who also wanted to sign Frank Zappa.

Andy DiMartino seemed an unlikely manager – neat, suited and rather nervous. Quite a contrast to the Captain, who appeared in the orderly downtown LA office in top hat and cape, trailed by his wife Jan, who carried a large notebook. “Write that down, Jan,” would become a regular mantra over the next mad days. Beefheart was striking, he dominated a room and had huge presence; I was struck by his piercing eyes and dreadful skin. Jan was small and mousey.

With a record contract on the table, the Captain was charm personified. We became his new best friends. He went straight out and blew most of the advance on a red Corvette Stingray in which we roared into the hills to listen to a sax player he wanted to sign. “This car is a petrol bomb,” he observed proudly, pointing out the fuel tanks that ran under the doors. In a donut diner that night under cruel blue fluorescent lighting he asked Robert if he’d visited Mars lately, and doodled two drawings which we still have.

At the Riot House the Captain drank a revolting concoction of milk and brandy and then we returned to the Corvette in the underground car park, talking about knights of the Garter.

“That’s a song,” announced the Captain, humming and stamping and thus we wrote a song called exactly that round the back of the car. To cap it all, there were a few earth tremors.

Sadly the song never saw the light of day. The Captain subsequently fell out with DiMartino and Virgin but we kept in touch for a while.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyl ... d-corvette

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