Start your review of Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic Write a review Shelves: music-biographies Don Vliet - he added the van for a bit of swagger - was an extraordinary man, brilliant and outrageous - troutrageous, if you will. I saw Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band twice and both gigs are in my all time top ten. So a little bit of disrespect is called for. This reverence is killing me. This book is very obviously his gargantuan, un-proof-read, unedited first draft of small-print pages which reads as if it was spewed forth into a dictaphone or speed-typed into a laptop and never on a point of principal re-read by the author. The people who will slog through the whole of the pages deserve medals and an intense course of counselling.
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The first thing you notice is that this is a BIG book. Every page has a fish blowing bubbles on it … There are two sections to the book. John writes well as we already know and it comes as a relief after some of the longer interview sections to read his prose. For the sake of this review I started at page one and worked my way through to the end. In fact, I think it might even work if you dipped into the book at random points.
The chapters tend to be quite short and focussed which helps, although you need your wits about you in the early chapters because the timeframe is not always linear and there are a lot more interview sections. It could prove difficult for some fans not to mention non-fans who do not know the early Magic Band members and the other people on the periphery.
The details in this book are mind-boggling. Inevitably there are gaps or the exact chronology is unclear … but can you remember what you were doing 40 years ago? The depth of detail is both fascinating and frustrating. So, there will, inevitably, be gaps. The most noticeable gap is during much of to when John was not part of the band. This could lead to a bit of confusion for some when Alex Snouffer makes an appearance talking about the break- up of the band in Perhaps some notes to fill in these gaps would have helped … especially for non-fans.
Well, yes, I am being picky … But what do I think of the book overall? There is plenty in here to fuel debates for years to come. I have no intention of revealing any of that in this review. Inevitably many of the old Beefheart myths are demolished but there are some revelations in here that will surprise you and make you wonder once again about the personality and strange powers of Don van Vliet. The book is worth buying for this section alone … John gives us some interesting details about the recording of each track, the history of the lyrics, who plays what and how the musical parts were devised.
Obviously wearing his musical arranger hat, John is very critical in places not least about his own playing. There were many occasions when John would get quite depressed about his writing and wondered whether it was really worth all of the effort and time it was taking when he could be better off looking for a proper job to support his family.
I wrote several times encouraging him to continue and that there was no one else better placed to tell this extraordinary story. I was privileged to be asked by John to help edit some of his original manuscript.
He felt that it was much too long but seemed unsure as to what needed to be done to it. I did proof-read the text and corrected some errors in the first six or seven chapters, and was able to suggest areas that could be reduced by removing some duplication and extraneous detail. But I found it difficult to cut it as dramatically as I think John wanted it to be. I know he asked others to help edit it too. It looks like some of my suggestions may have been taken on board.
There are still some repetitions though and a couple of minor factual errors which could have been edited out. I hope it has exorcised his demon s and he can now move on to pursue his own career as the talented musician he is. Steve Froy December ———————————————— The Radar Station would like to thank Proper Records for all their help with this review and allowing us to use these rare photographs. Related posts:.
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