Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Big Eyed Beans From Venus

I was saddened by the recent death of Captain Beefheart, or Don Van Vliet, to give him his proper name. I've listened to his records very often over the years. People mostly mention his experimental music such as Trout Mask Replica, but to be honest, I liked Captain Beefheart best when he was less experimental. My favourite record of his was Clear Spot, and there were other really fine albums, like Safe as Milk and Strictly Personal. All containing a unique sort of blend of growling desert blues and jagged rock. Maybe with some dadaism thrown in, if I actually knew what dadaism meant. Not being that great at writing about music, I can't really describe what these records are like. But anyway, Captain Beefheart was a great singer, he wrote a lot of fine songs, and he played with a lot of good musicians.

I saw Captain Beefheart play in Glasgow in the 70s, twice. Looking back, I'm slightly surprised that this happened. It seems somehow unlikely that the Captain ever arrived in Scotland. However, at the time, Glasgow was a big destination for rock bands, and everybody came there as part of their UK tour.

I started going to see gigs at the Greens' Playhouse - which later became the Apollo - in the early 70s, while I was 14 I think. Making a list, just off the top of my head, by the time I was 17 I'd seen these bands play live -

Led Zeppelin (best thing ever)
Captain Beefheart
Mott the Hoople
Deep Purple
Black Sabbath (Iron Man!)
Hawkwind (space ritual!)
Black Oak Arkansas
Emerson Lake and Palmer
The Groundhogs
The Who (floodlights, smashed guitars)
Roxy Music (Eno in silver feathered jacket)
King Crimson
Fairport Convention
Wishbone Ash
Sensational Alex Harvey Band (Big Glasgow favourite)
Uriah Heep
Lou Reed (in his brief 'blond-haired' period)
Dr Feelgood (? maybe that was later)

And I'm sure there were others that have escaped my memory at the moment. I had a ticket to see David Bowie, just before he became Ziggy Stardust, but the gig was cancelled on the night, leaving us cold and frustrated at the door. Anyway, that's not a bad list of rock music at the time, in these distant pre-punk days.

It was good to see all these bands, at a young age. I wasn't the only person to do this, by any means. Plenty of people I was at school with would have seen all these gigs too.

My big regret is not going to see T Rex. I was put off by the thought of all the screaming girls. When I was 15 I didn't think it would be very good to be surrounded by screaming girls. Because at that age I was stupid. Arrrghhhhh. What a mistake. Marc Bolan was one of the great talents and icons of 20 century music. I can't believe I didn't go and see him when I had the chance. If a time portal was to open up now in London, offering the chance to go and see Marc Bolan and T Rex in 1973, I'd be leading the stampede to get there.

The main venue in Glasgow, the Greens' Playhouse, was an old cinema, capacity about 2,500 I think, so it was quite a small place to see some of these bands. Led Zeppelin were playing in stadiums around the world, but I saw them in that small cinema. It was great.

* and you can read more about this in my fine novel 'Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me' *

I saw Captain Beefheart play twice. For some reason, my memory of these gigs isn't as sharp as some others, but I do remember being quite disappointed at the first concert, which was at the Kelvin Hall. And then the second gig, a year or so after at the Greens' Playhouse, was brilliant. The captain and his Magic Band were on good form and it was a great night.

1 comment:

  1. I believe my favorite Captain Beefheart tune was Tropical Hotdog Night.
    Heavy envy on your band list. I was living in the middle of nowhere america in the early to mid 70s and counted myself lucky to have seen Badfinger.