Gonzo Records releases a Captain Beefheart 1980s bootleg, lets us hear him right before he got “too good” and had to quit

Gonzo Records releases a Captain Beefheart 1980s bootleg, lets us hear him right before he got "too good" and had to quit

Legend has it that Don Van Vliet (a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, or the Cap if you’re into the whole brevity thing) abandoned a three-decade-long music career (to pursue painting full-time) because he had gotten “too good” at it. Not like he was into crusty skronk, but no doubt an intuitive, unpolished approach befitted his extravagant music. Anyhow, at the moment he decided to step down, his band was going through a new career peak — a momentum perhaps deflated by the lack of a landmark album like Trout Mask Replica. The infamously lost Bat Chain Puller was supposed to fill that role, but it got shelved due to contractual disputes and its songs ended up spread and reworked through the Cap’s last three albums: Shiny Beast (1978), Doc at Radar Station (1980), and Ice Cream for Crow (1982).

That’s what makes this new bootleg, Harpo’s Detroit Dec 11th 1980, interesting: it showcases Beefheart and the Magic Band right at the middle of this period, touring in support of their Doc at Radar Station LP, less than two years before retiring. Not that one could infer this from the music, with Van Vliet as fierce a vocalist as ever, and the band acing through their inimitable cubist boogie. On the contrary, the Cap and his crew seem determined to make sure everyone knows who heralded No Wave, at moments sounding like a bluesier Pere Ubu or The Contortions fronted by Howlin’ Wolf.

As the title suggests, the bootleg registers a show at Harpo’s in Detroit, played on December 11, 1980, a quasi-mythical gig that had been passing around fans’ and collectors’ hands for some time. The album is out now via Gonzo Records.

Harpo’s Detroit Dec 11th 1980 tracklisting:

01. Nowadays a Woman’s Gotta Hit a Man
02. Abba Zabba
03. Hot Head
04. Ashtray Heart
05. Dirty Blue Gene
06. Best Batch Yet
07. Safe as Milk
08. Doctor Dark
09. A Carrot Is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond
10. One Red Rose That I Mean
11. Bat Chain Puller
12. My Human Gets Me Blues
13. Sugar and Spikes
14. Sheriff of Hong Kong
15. The Dust Blows Forward, the Dust Blows Back/Kandy Korn
16. Suction Prints
17. Big Eyed Beans from Venus

• Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band: http://www.beefheart.com
• Gonzo: http://www.gonzomultimedia.co.uk

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