Captain Beefheart: The Biography

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Here is the real story of the cult figure known as one of modern music’s true innovators.  Following Don Van Vliet's death, Mike Barnes reassesses his legacy through new interview material and with reference to reports and eulogies that appeared in the media.  The author also puts Van Vliet's reclusiveness over the last two decades in context, now that it has been officially revealed that he was suffering from MS (his friends and representatives had always denied that he had a long term illness).  ...

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Captain Beefheart: The Biography

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Overview

Here is the real story of the cult figure known as one of modern music’s true innovators.  Following Don Van Vliet's death, Mike Barnes reassesses his legacy through new interview material and with reference to reports and eulogies that appeared in the media.  The author also puts Van Vliet's reclusiveness over the last two decades in context, now that it has been officially revealed that he was suffering from MS (his friends and representatives had always denied that he had a long term illness).  A unique in-depth look at a unique artist.

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Editorial Reviews

Mojo
Perceptive, informed, and passionate…. This book goes beyond questions of authorship to provide a rich and amusing insight into the band.
Entertainment Weekly
A finely wrought portrait of a bizarro rock star... . It’s a real delight to at last read a thoroughly researched bio on the quintessential maverick.
Rain Taxi
In showing how the former Zappa-associate and renowed recluse lives with his wife in the California hills pursuing a successful painting career despite reported health problems, Barnes makes clear that Van Vliet was always a serious artist, even if the constraints of the music business sometimes obscured that fact. All the more reason to congratulate this English rock journalist for his portrait of the artist as a young Beefheart—-and to excuse the sexagenarian Van Vliet for apparently still having beef with the music business.
Publishers Weekly
Captain Beefheart was the musical persona of Don Van Vliet, the avant-garde 1960s and '70s musician (best known for the 1969 hit record Trout Mask Replica) whose inimitable psychedelic rock influenced such diverse groups as the Clash, Pulp and Sonic Youth before he abruptly ended his music career in 1982 to become a painter and notorious recluse. Barnes, a drummer and music journalist, concentrates on Van Vliet's creative life, tracing his unusual career trajectory from his childhood as a local art prodigy to his role in the '60s avant-garde California rock scene and his collaborations with Frank Zappa, Ornette Coleman and a young Ry Cooder. Barnes also includes a cursory discussion of Van Vliet's painting career. The book was written without Van Vliet's cooperation, so Barnes had to rely on previously published statements and secondary sources. He's careful not to take liberties with his subject's inner life, but while this conscientiousness is admirable, it also makes the story rather leaden. Lacking a thesis, Barnes recounts detailed episodes and long lists of events in Van Vliet's life. These give glimpses of an obsessive, paranoid, humorous artist, but never quite bring Van Vliet to life. The book reads like the work of a passionate, well-informed fan, but not necessarily that of an astute biographer. Photos. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
"You combine Truman Capote and Thelonious Monk and put them into rock'n'roll and you get Captain Beefheart." That is fellow musician Gary Marker's fitting description of Don Van Vliet (a.k.a. Captain Beefheart), one of the few truly original figures in pop music history. Under the tutelage of boyhood friend Frank Zappa, Beefheart and the Magic Band created a wholly unique way of composing and playing music. Here, British music writer Barnes reconstructs and explains the Captain's creative process, especially during the making of his masterwork, Trout Mask Replica, deftly balancing insightful critical analysis with biography. Part of the last chapter covers Van Vliet's more lucrative career as a painter (he retired from music in 1982). The book is strengthened by a list of Van Vliet's art exhibitions and an in-depth discography. However, none of the photos shows album covers, which Barnes spends a fair amount of time discussing. A more critical analysis of Van Vliet's art is William Bamberger's Riding Some Kind of Unusual Skull Sleigh (Alap Editions, 1999), and fans will find an insider's account in Lunar Notes (S.A.F., 1998) by former Magic Band member Bill Harkleroad. Recommended for larger pop music collections. Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815411901
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/1/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 402
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 8.78 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mike Barnes was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Mojo and Wire. He plays the drums.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2013

    A great fun read about one of musics most idiosyncratic personal

    A great fun read about one of musics most idiosyncratic personalities. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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