Album no. 81/1001
Captain Beefheart was known for his weird time signatures and surreal lyrics and both those elements are present on his debut. It’s bluesy, it’s psychedelic, it’s got some slide guitar.
According to wikipedia, the good Captain “…formed ‘a mutually useful but volatile’ friendship with musician Frank Zappa..” which makes total sense to us. It sounds like exactly the sort of thing both of them would do.
And it’s another album that gets a shout out in High Fidelity.
Have you listened to this album before?
NK: I’ve got a weird sort of introduction to Captain Beefheart album called Hot Head, but I don’t think any of the songs from that are on this, so I’m going in blind.
CL: I haven’t heard anything by this so-called “captain”. I’d like to see his sea-faring credentials.
NK: Tough call! ‘Yellow Brick Road’ is pretty sensational, I’ll pick that. ‘Electricity’ is also really good, and ‘Sure ’nuff ’n Yes, I Do’ is a great opener with some great slide guitar going on. Also ‘Grown So Ugly’ is an incredibly fun blues jam. All highly recommended.
CL: Damn. There’s some seriously decent tracks on this album. ‘Electricity’ melts my brain a bit. ‘Abba Zaba’ is GREAT. I love those drums. And ‘Dropout Boogie’ is SAH GUD. I really dig his voice! It’s really deep and gravelly and a bit abrasive – it’s pretty brilliant compared to most of the other clean-cut vocals we’ve heard.
When would be the best time to listen to this?
NK: This is quite strange in places. Not quite as weird as Frank Zappa was, but still pretty odd. His singing is pretty varied. On the opener he’s all growling blues, and then on ‘Yellow Brick Road’ he’s much more relaxed, almost a pop style. It sounds sort of country-ish, I think because of the slide guitar, but I still really liked it. Don’t listen to it at work, it’s distracting.
CL: ANYTIME. This is GREAT. I’ve listened to this a lot of times since.
Why has this album been included on the list?
NK: It’s pretty different, I’ll say that for it. In terms of influences not only was it the first Beefheart record, it also brought a young Ry Cooder some wider exposure. That’s the same Ry Cooder who allegedly knocked back an invitation to join the Rolling Stones. He plays all the slide guitar, don’t you worry about him.
CL: There’s definitely a bit of an experimental vibe – in ‘Dropout Boogie’ it starts as this real stomper, then it breaks into a little piano lull for a bit. THERE’S A BLOODY THEREMIN IN TWO SONGS. I mean, how many songs have a theremin that sounds so good?! None.
Will you be listening again?
NK: Yes indeed. There’s another Captain Beefheart coming up in 1968, and I’m looking forward to that as well.
CL: I’m certainly looking forward to Trout Mask Replica – even though that’s a terrible name for an album. This is such a solid album. You can tell this was ground-breaking.