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Don Van Vliet died December 17th, 2010. This digital single - released also as a video - is a tribute to him. I was probably ten or eleven the first time I heard Trout Mask Replica - and it forever changed me. There are a few instances in my young life that I look at now as being profoundly affecting. Being exposed to Beefheart was easily one of them. I remember being in middle school - in 8th grade French class - and sending letters to penpals in France. My first letter had a mixtape in it and I think it started with "Dirty Blue Gene" but I know "Frownland" was on there too, maybe "Dachau Blues" and "A Carrot Is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond". I sang the first verse of "Dachau Blues" to the class to give them an idea of the song. School was always awful for me, and since elementary school I wanted to follow Van Vliet's advice: "If you want to be a different fish, you've got to jump out of the school."
I wish I could compose something musically comparable to the Magic Band's output, but this song was written with my limited skills and in the wake of serious grieving over the loss of Don. Other members of the Magic Band live on, including the legendary John French (Drumbo), but there is a gap in the world. I still feel it. I think I will always feel it.
Like King Buzzo of the Melvins, I too often ask myself: What would Beefheart do?
A huge thanks to Robert Kramer and Evan Morgenson, longtime friends and bandmates on pump organ and upright bass respectively.
released December 20, 2010
I woke early this morning
and the sun was shining down,
beating a song so clear,
a beautiful and dirty sound.
I followed a trail of paint
through the sands, patterns, shadows.
The ravens, close behind me
fixed our mistakes upon the road.
At the source of all this color
a sight, truly, to behold:
a doctor eating trout, licking moonbeams, milking crows,
and a beast shining in a spotlight, mirrored furiously with bongos.
In a moment, it all stopped
and we stood listening to the birds,
eyes open, ears astonished,
in awe of what we heard.
For me, it was something
I'd only felt - but from the start.
You woke me up from such a coma,
struck the beef inside my heart.
You were a madman; you were a genius;
a poet, painter, shaman, king.
Oh, case of the music – they owe you so much
and I owe you everything.
You helped make me into Me.
I hope you were so happy.
Oh, Captain, my Captain –
the Magic of your seas..
If I could make it to your desert
where your funeral be,
I'd lay upon your body
one rose that I mean.
Oh Captain, my Captain:
shake the bushes, shake the trees!
I'll lay upon your body
one rose that I mean.
Nora and the Janitors