Deep Dive: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Captain Beefheart, THE SPOTLIGHT KID Cover

Today we celebrate the birthday of Don Glen Vliet, who later changed his name to Don Van Vlient, but he’s better known to most music fans as Captain Beefheart. To commemorate the occasion, we thought we’d spotlight the good Captain in our recurring “Deep Dive” feature, but, well, here’s the thing about doing a Deep Dive into the Captain’s catalog: pretty much everything the man every released is effectively a deep dive by definition, since it’s not as though he ever really experienced anything that would truly qualify as a major mainstream success. As such, we thought we’d just a shine a small spotlight on all of the Captain Beefheart studio albums that are housed within our catalog.

  • LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY (1970): There are those who say that Captain Beefheart’s masterwork was his 1969 album TROUT MASK REPLICA, but there are others – including the Captain himself – who say that this was the best LP he ever laid down. Your mileage may vary, but of the albums on this list, it’s certainly the one to pick if you can only pick one.
  • THE SPOTLIGHT KID (1972): Despite the title of this piece, this is actually the only album that credited solely to the Captain. That said, it might be sans The Magic Band in credit, but it still finds him working with them, and while the material contained within its grooves is – like all of the Captain’s work – not necessarily the easiest thing for mainstream audiences to latch onto, it’s probably the one that’s most likely to serve as a gateway drug.
  • CLEAR SPOT (1972): Yes, this was the Captain’s second album to be released in ’72, and it was another effort which found him trying to tweak his sound to enough of a degree that mainstream audiences might latch onto his work. Nice try, Captain, but no dice. (It’s still a solid effort, however.)
  • SHINY BEAST (BAT CHAIN PULLER) (1978): The story behind this album is the stuff of rock legend, owing to the fact that the Captain’s master tapes of the original recording of the album – which was simply entitled BAT CHAIN PULLER – ended up being confiscated by Frank Zappa because of a battle with Virgin Records. It’s hard to say for absolute certain that this version ended up being the better album, but it still ended up getting considerable acclaim, so…close enough!