1. He claimed that he could remember being born. That’s pretty much all you need to know.
2. During a warm-up performance for the Monterey Festival in 1967, Beefheart thought he saw a girl in the crowd turn into a fish and blow bubbles from her mouth, so he straightened his tie and promptly walked off the ten-foot stage, landing on their manager Bob Krasnow. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t play the festival and a 20 year-old Ry Cooder exited the band. Acid is bad for you, kids.
3. Beefheart had a five-octave vocal range and his voice was so powerful that he actually shattered a microphone whilst recording ‘Electricity’ for his first album. Allegedly he would purposefully try to catch colds so he could retain his scratchy and growling Delta blues vocals.
4. Beefheart rented a two-bedroom house in the Woodland Hills in LA where the Magic Band lived communally, writing and rehearsing the Trout Mask Replica album for 8 months (which Zappa produced). The whole process became a cult-like experience with one band member permitted to leave the house once a week to collect food and drinks. Various band members actually escaped the house, but then felt compelled to return (suckers)! Despite the fact that a band member was thrown down the stairs at one point, the songs were so well rehearsed that 21 of the instrumental tracks were recorded in a single four and a half hour session. Best tyrant ever.
5. Aside from all of the crazy, tyrannical stories that you hear (which I happen to love), the fact of the matter is that Don Van Vliet was an innovator. He really did influence and pave the way for a slew of artists to follow and was unashamedly experimental. He also wore his own influences proudly on his sleeve, lifting his vocal style from heroes like Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson.
And here’s another 3 reasons why you should love Captain Beefheart too: