Gawp at This: Captain Beefheart documentary

Ah, good old auntie beeb… Remember those heady days before all the celebrity dancing and people falling into water, when the BBC used to make documentaries? Proper ones with facts and archive footage and rostrum camera shots slowly zooming in on still pictures? Good times, weren’t they? Well why not relive them and take a look at this splendid BBC documentary from 1997 about the life and career of the late* Don Van Vliet? Well worth losing 60 minutes of your day to.



*It’s been nearly a month now and I’m still not over it. My dear snork-maiden, who likes a bit of Beefheart every now and again, has consigned him to the “headphones only” pile until I promise to stop cranking “Lick My Decals Off, Baby” out at full volume whilst sobbing into a sponge.

2 Responses to “Gawp at This: Captain Beefheart documentary”
  1. Snardbafulator says:

    Wow, that was great (‘course I sat through the whole thing). I’m kind of shocked, though, that they spent less than a minute on Lick My Decals Off, Baby, focusing more on the admittedly dead-bizarre local TV promo than the music or that incarnation of the band. Ed Marimba, aka Art Tripp, is a classically-trained percussionist and added a tightness, both in his kit playing and marimba work, that makes Decals perhaps his overall masterpiece. I know there was nothing “new” there in terms of the sociology of Beefheart and the Magic Band at that juncture, that it can be seen as Trout Mask II, but I’m always more interested in the music than “Beefheart the pop culture phenomenon.” Heh, I wonder how the Beeb wound up treating the history of progrock. That’s one I’m keen to see, too, if only to have another lovely shouting match at my computer screen.



    • thehemulen says:

      I feel your pain. The way they gloss over Decals is disappointing, but inevitable given the reputation of TMR as an epoch-shattering record. The comparative rarity of Decals was probably also a contributing factor. Ultimately, any documentaries on mainstream TV channels tend to focus on the “cultural phenomenon” aspect because detailed musical analysis is bound to appeal to a much smaller audience.

      I’ll be posting the BBC’s Prog Britannia series later this month, though that’s something you’ll have to enjoy warts n’ all. For a documentary about the history of British prog there are some staggering oversights (barely a mention of Gentle Giant or Van Der Graaf Generator) but it covers the Canterbury scene surprisingly well and there’s plenty of good talking heads. Stay tuned!

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