Saturday, 17 November 2012


Don donning his weirdness delivers a dangerous date but the wizardry works well.

For all the Captain's respectable status these days, uncovering a footage that captured Van Vliet in his madful prime proves a hard task: he was too leftfield to be caught on tape, too enigmatic for an average viewer and too threatening - to the point where Don's friend Frank Zappa looked a conformist. So it's a blessing that, in 1972, German TV show "Beat Club", a treasure trove for any music aficionado and now a source for "The Lost Broadcasts" series of DVDs, invited THE MAGIC BAND and their leader to play a short set. Here, in compliance with the series' principle, it's doubled in its length due to the inclusion of all the takes, even those which didn't make it to the screen. Not that Mascara Snake's bass solo was ever meant to make the cut but now it feels like a statement of the ensemble's level of musicianship. Then,  the clear-eyed Captain comes on - black velvet jacket, red trousers, black cape for a further tryout - looking somehow lost without a real audience to bark at. Still, having found fan outlet in harmonica, he barks.

Meanwhile, Snake picks up a guitar for "Click Clack" and wildly prowls between two other axemen, Winged Eel Fingerling and pink-coated Zoot Horn Rollo who caresses the fret with a slider on his black-nailed finger and sparsely inserts flurries of notes into the recital of "Golden Birdies". But "I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby" from Van Vliet's latest album, "The Spotlight Kid", fails to lift off, and visibly irritated Don breaks the first attempt to shoot it while his team carry on with their lazy funk. The second effort, though, is a success, with more action from each player and more grit in the song that springs to life (even without superimposed images in the eventual version, also here) and, in its turn, gives life to "Steal Softly Through The Snow", out of "Trout Mask Replica", where Beefheart tortures his soprano sax before wading into Coltrane-esque waters. As Zappa would say, the torture never stops, yet it did; thankfully, now there's a chance to replay it.

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