Heart Of Beef

I want to make mention that one of my central artistic influences passed away yesterday. Don Van Vliet, who recorded under the name Captain Beefheart, died from complications of multiple sclerosis in a Northern California hospital at the age of 69. There are plenty of obituaries on the net that detail the facts and fictions of his life and art. I’m not going to go into that here; instead I want to just try and explain why his work meant so much to me.

Yes I dug his records, his voice, his lyrics, his paintings and poetry; but it was really his central stance that most inspired me. All his art was a reaction to what he saw as the dehumanization of people and the destruction of the natural world by modern society. That’s the way I see it too, and all my art, even the mainstreamy stuff, has been informed by that same observation and belief. The fact that there was someone out there making that uncompromising point through his creative output as I was growing up made a huge difference to me.

Thank you, Don!

  1. Robbie December 18th, 2010 10:11 pm

    A sad day indeed. I’ll never forget the first time I heard Trout Mask Replica… I both thought it was awful and fantastic, and to this day I still love it to bits and pieces… Safe as Milk, Lick My Decals Off.. the man was a legend. Thank you for mentioning him, Rick!

  2. Rick December 19th, 2010 10:34 am

    My first Van Vliet album was STRICTLY PERSONAL, which apparently isn’t available on CD or anywhere else except old vinyl. It’s got plenty of weird on it but is much more accessible to first time Beefheart listeners. I bought it from a record store when it came out; not because I had ever heard of Captain Beefheart, but because of the graphics. There was a photograph of the Magic Band inside the sleeve that mesmerized me to the point I just had to possess it. Glad I did too!

  3. Joe Soap December 19th, 2010 6:13 pm

    Thank you Don and thank you Rick.

  4. The Legendary Danny O'Doul December 26th, 2010 10:56 pm

    By: The Legendary Danny O’Doul

    I heard the Wolf a’ howlin’ through the night
    A full and swollen moon fired up too bright
    In dessert skies the shade of human flesh
    Fresh from a bite
    Stupid stars to dumb to twinkle
    A half-drunk Martian starts to tinkle
    On isolated South Mojave Drive

    Watercolors splitter splatter
    But, wait, there’s more – doesn’t matter
    Send an SASE…X
    Serve me roast breast of T-Rex
    And play you magic band of sick outsider chumps
    Do my whimsy bidding – take your lumps!
    Swell with pride like little boys with mumps
    Then bitch and moan like silly puppet grumps

    Watch out, I’ll paint you
    I hear “I’ll saint you genius sculpture man…
    Your fish may stink, but as it ages
    Worth an alchemist’s high wages…

    Ice cream cow,
    Ice cream cow
    Safe as milk
    Sandpaper silk
    While I bilk and milk this fine demise
    Like stale pork rinds
    On which Ella and old Willie dine
    Breaks like this you JUST CAN’T BUYS!

    Copyright 2010, The Legendary Danny O’Doul

  5. Rick December 27th, 2010 10:06 am


    Spent Xmas reading Drumbo’s book! I’d heard of some craziness during the Trout Mask era but had no idea how fucked up Van Vliet was to the band throughout their career. Considering the humanist message I was always getting from their work it’s damn hard to get my head around.