Captain Beefheart’s idyllic yet unsettling recording “The Dust Blows Forward N’ The Dust Blows Back,” my favorite of the a cappella song-poems on Trout Mask Replica. Sounds like he’s making up words and music off the top of his head, stream-of-consciously, but with all those tape-pause splices between the lines, maybe he stitched this thing together one thought at a time.
There’s ole Gray with her dove-winged hat, there’s ole Green with her sewing machine. Where’s the bobbin at?
Tote an old grain in a printed sack
The dust blows forward n’ the dust blows back
And the wind blows black through the sky, and the smokestack blows up in the suns eye
What am I gonna die?
A white flake riverboat just flew by
Bubbles popped big
And a lip- and a lipstick Kleenex, hung on a pointed forked twig
Reminds me of the Bobby girls
Never was my hobby girls
Hand full-a worms and a pole fishin’
Cork bobbin’ like a hot red bulb
And a bluejay squeaks, his beak open an inch above a creek
Gone fishin’ for a week
Well I put down my bush
And I took off my pants and felt free
The breeze blowin’ up me
and up the canyon
Far as I could see
It’s night now and the moon looks like a dandelion
It’s black now and the blackbird’s feedin’ on rice and his red wings look like diamonds and lice
I could hear the mice toes scamperin’
in pile crater rock holes
One red bean stuck in the bottom of a tin bowl
Hot coffee from a krimpt up can
Me and my girl named Bimbo
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There are scores of rock n’ roll geniuses, and most of them are so obviously human. They’re bold but fragile, bursting with rage and ready to bleed all over the place. Then there’s Captain Beefheart, who was so obviously super-human. He could twist rock n’ roll into 12 dimensions with extra-terrestrial confidence. He possessed a blues voice that was light years ahead of any other white man on Earth. He was soulful, yet unflappable. Yes, it takes gargantuan balls to pull off the kind of noise Captain Beefheart made with his Magic Band. And Captain Beefheart knew he had those balls, and he knew exactly what shapes the ripples of his noise would make. You never imagined he did drugs, because he was drugs.
When I see a dolphin, I know it’s just as smart as I am. Sometimes I’d rather be thought of as a dolphin than as a human being. I live up at Eureka, among the big trees, and I tell you, those things are really saying something.
If I remember correctly, Trout Mask Replica was the first album that made me think This is really difficult to listen to, but I like that about it, and I want to hear it again and again. It’s still hard to listen to, but it gets easier, and I will always want to listen to it at least one more time. Of course, Safe As Milk will always be the best Beefheart.
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Today on 10Listens.com, I tell a tall tale inspired by one of my all-time favorite albums, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band’s Safe As Milk:
Somewhere in the second half of our 20th Century, a Delta Blues Man’s hitchhiking his way up the Mississippi toward Chicago, thinking he’s gonna be the second coming of Howlin’ Wolf. Along the way he’s picked up by a van full of kids- whatta they call ‘em, beatniks? Hippies? Only they don’t dress like no beatniks or hippies. They wear bold pinstripe suits and finely groomed facial hair, like dandy-boys. Only they ain’t no dandy boys neither. There may not be a single word to describe what these weirdos are. Their license plate says California, so the Blues Man assumes they’re from San Francisco. Then again they could very well be from Mars, or the future.
Click here to read the complete review
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