A Proper Send Off To Don Van Vliet
When we read that Captain Beefheart had died, we wrote our friend Byron Coley, who had introduced us to his work ’round about 1976. (Yeah, we were late.) Here’s the reply, which does tend to wipe that bad New York Times moron-obit writing taste right outta our mouths:
yeah, the news traveled fast. best to you this season, as well.
here’s what i wrote to my little newsgroup.
although he was reportedly felled by complications from his long-standing condition of MS, i offer an alternate theory — he was killed by trying to read that recent, endless, infernal john french book, through the eyes of magic. that book was enough to kick almost anyone over the edge. guh.
but it’s rotten news, what can you say? beefheart has been one of my own hallmarks of friendship and brotherhood since trout mask came out in ’69. after that rolling stone cover feature me & my friends almost all decided to dip in. but very few could stand the heat of the weird water. we who tried to figure it out, even though we were only 13, 14, 15, have proven to be my best friends ever over the years. and the fact that i was known as a beefheart expert was the reason i got my first paid writing gig — interviewing beefheart in ’78 for new york rocker. things might have gone very differently in my life without beefheart. from the girlfriends i swayed to with clear spot in ’73, to the many shows i saw and the many weirdos i met via them. so many of my best pals were quiet fanatics for the doc. it was never worth making noise about because so few understood. but, just as syd barrett fanhood was a path to lasting friendship in the early ’70s, so beefheart-ism remained, even through the relatively ‘mersh tours of the later ’70s.
anyone who doesn’t miss the guy is suffering from a profound misunderstanding of underground musical culture. or is an architect.
as don once told me, “an architect is someone who wants to crawl up yr penis, pull down the shades and type all night.”
so long, sir. you made this planet a whole hell of a lot more bearable for weirdos. and here’s to you.