Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band
March 30, 1972
De Montfort Hall, Leicester, England
Remembrances by Gerry Pratt, Dave Lang and a guy Stewart Osbourne talked to about this Beefheart gig.
Gerry Pratt: In spring 1972 I was a fanatical 22-year old Beefheart fan - ever since I'd bought Trout Mask in December '69 and worked backwards thru' Strictly Personal to Safe As Milk. I can remember endlessly searching shops in Leicester in 1970 for Safe As Milk and actually being told by a Woolworth's assistant that there was a budget-priced LP called The World of Captain Beefheart, that was Safe As Milk, but that it was unfortunately out of stock - I thought this sounded a truly magical LP! I saw Beefheart and the band play live twice, once in Leicester, at the infamous De Montfort Hall, in 1972 and again in autumn 1980 at York University. So two completely different Magic Band lineups.
The '72 gig was just amazing - definitely the best live show I've ever seen. In fact if I didn't have some photos I might think I'd imagined it. I was living in Norwich at the time, dossing about after finishing at UEA, and I was driven over to Leicester just for the evening in a mate's car. We were in the second row so only about 15ft from the stage. The support band Fog Hat wore on first. I cannot now remember anything about them. What I do remember is this intense, almost overwhelming, feeling of anticipation. Fog Hot went off.
Then we waited ... and we waited ... and fiddled with the cassette recorder under the chairs ... and we waited .... the house lights went down and ... out come a ballet dancer!!! for about 3 mins ... then the lights went down again and we waited and ... out came a belly dancer!!! With all this awful distorted music thru' the PA!! (Someone told me that the strange act to soften up the audience seems to have been a Beefheart trademark - apparently in Boston (USA) he had a monkey act open for him, this at Boston's Music Hall, which generally had fairly respectable shows.)The house lights went down again and ... and we waited ... and out came a big Geezer all in black (Beefheart) and muttered something about Rockette Morton. Then this little manic guy Mark Boston AKA Rockette Morton comes out with a multicolored suit and a white hat smoking a cigar and proceeds to play right in front of us very loud solo bass while jumping and spinning around.
Then this little manic guy Mark Boston AKA Rockette Morton comes out with a multicolored suit and a white hat smoking a cigar and proceeds to play right in front of us very loud solo bass while jumping and spinning around. Then he suddenly stops and the big Geezer strides rapidly back onto the stage ... up to the microphone and says 'we smoke Rio 6' and holds up a Rio 6 cigar packet - like an advert - then wanders off again. Mark Boston starts up again, even faster now, and starts spinning around even more and then suddenly all these strange looking people swarm on to the stage - Art Tripp III AKA Ed Marimba on drums wearing a monocle ... this really tall thin guy in a really strange patchwork coat, Bill Harkleroad AKA Zoot Horn Rollo, striding backwards and forwards over to our right playing the fastest most incredible slide guitar imaginable ... the music sounding like a big clockwork animal jumping around on stage ... just stunning. I'll never forget the look of total concentration on Bill Harkleroad's face ... like he had to play almost impossible music very fast live.
I spoke about this to a guy called Dave who runs Tudor House Records in Chester (I bought a Beefheart concert program off him) and he said when he saw Bill Harkleroad playing live in the early '70s it looked like he was doing everything backward ... you really just could not believe it was happening. Also when Beefheart wasn't singing he was laughing his head off and grinning ... like he thought it was the greatest thing ever to bring this band to this dreary hall in the middle of nowhere and play this incredible music.
After the concert my brother, Mick, went back to the tour bus and got some albums signed. Beefheart was very friendly and was quite taken with the 1970 French Super Group Safe As Milk album cover, showing Beefheart performing on the beach at Cannes in 1968, that my brother stuck in front of him to sign. Beefheart had never seen this French album and showed it to his wife Jan, who was sitting next to him on the tour bus telling her "this is us at Cannes in 1968" - then he asked my brother if he could have it. My brother, being a sensible sort of bloke, of course said "no!"
(Gerry Pratt. Blimp Over Europe #1)
Stewart Osbourne: I was talking a few weeks ago to one of the rep.s who comes into our office from time to time. We got onto the topic of music and when I mentioned Beefheart he told me that he once saw CB&TMB playing at some club near where he lived in Leicester.... he also said it was the worst gig he had ever seen in his life and the only one he has ever walked out of halfway through.
We are now looking for a new stationary supplier!
Dave Lang: This was the first time I saw Beefheart and he and the Magic Band were just brilliant. They played one of the most magnificent sets of music I had ever heard. A major attraction however, was the strangeness of the band and its figurehead. Of course being a long term fan of Trout Mask Replica and the earlier albums, I was expecting some eccentricity of dress and behaviour. The reality however, was something else again. Nothing could have truly prepared me for the audio visual onslaught delivered by this crew of misfit genius's. The attire varied from the majestic to the downright loony. The majesty was supplied by Don Van Vliet, resplendent in his magnificent embroidered sun and moon cape and tuxedo. The loony element was catered for fully by Ed Marimba, wearing his long hair through the leg holes of a pair of women's panties in a strange parody of a viking helmet. Zoot Horn Rollo and Winged Eel Fingerling were pretty weirdly attired as well, sporting multi coloured coats and trousers. Rockette Morton veered towards the magnificent in his natty hat and suit, but this combination of attire was pretty mind jarring.
I attended this gig with my mates Charlie, Rodger and The Skull. Rodger was pretty well heeled (compared to the rest of us that is), he actually owned his own house and had a fairly flash car, a Rover, Jag or some such like. Whatever, he was well off compared to us impoverished students, whose collective transport at the time amounted to a 1930's bicycle and a Norton 16H which had been stolen, found by the local police, but in such a bad state that it was irreparable. Let's flash back in time to follow the Intrepid Travellers as they make their way to the concert .... Commander Lang speaks ... I believe that Rodger has plans to bootleg the Beef concert, he being the sort of guy who has aspirations to make it big someday and I think he sees a way to make a quid out of the show. With this in mind he decides to bring along his Phillips cassette recorder, not exactly state of the art recording equipment, but the best we can do without lugging in my old reel to reel which is about the size of a small suitcase and not exactly a covert device.
Before we actually get to De Montford Hall we have to detour to Leicester General Hospital casualty dept, because Rodger has impaled his foot on a rusty six inch nail earlier on and is only now realizing that he might acquire tetanus if he does not get medical treatment for his stricken appendage. Of course, when we get to casualty we find there is a huge queue and as we have limited time before we have to be at the show, there is some degree of concern as to whether we can make it on time. However, Rodger is driving and has now become really worried about his foot, so we have no choice but to wait it out,as its some distance between the two venues and we will not make it on foot. Charlie, as is his wont, decides to make a nuisance of himself and by exaggerating how bad Rodger really is and pestering the nursing staff he ensures that we get seen to quickly and thus arrive at De Mont in time to get ourselves tickets.
We are not down the front, but we are only about 12 rows back, right in the middle, so we get a nice view of the proceedings. There are no problems with Rodger being frisked by security, as they are distracted by his bandaged foot which is now without a shoe, as well as my attire of bowler hat and giant size 20 woman's striped coat with six inch wide heliotrope and khaki stripes which I have worn specially for the show. They are really taken by The Skull, who has a shaven head and proto skinhead attire. He always looks as if he is up to no good, even though he is essentially harmless.
So whilst the Skull is arguing with the security guys the rest of us take our places and Rodger, being somewhat paranoid as to the degree of interest being taken in our weird attire, slides the deck under the row as Rockette Morton hits the stage and blows us out of our seats with his massive bass solo. The show is fabulous, the place is rocking with the combined output of six of the best musicians on the planet and we are screaming for more as well as giving a standing ovation by the end of the gig. The MAGIC BAND prance, stumble (but do not fall), twist, leap, shooglenifty, caper, blast, carouse, rouse, sublimate, roister, blabber and SMOKE. They are indescribably good and surpass all our wildest dreams.
So out we stumble into the night, absolutely floored by this incredible music and wanting to hear the glories of the evenings music preserved in pristine form on our state of the art Phillips tape deck. Rodger did manage to flip the tape at some time during the evening and he is pretty confident that he has captured it all. However, when we go to listen to the tape, it becomes clear that we should have been better equipped to carry out the task, as the results sound as though they were recorded in a toilet next door to the venue whilst the flush is being used. The floor was not the best place to put a device that was low fi to say the least, as the music is muffled and one can hear foot shuffling and crowd noise far better than one can the music. Unfortunately, the tape sucks, so bang goes Rodger's idea of being the Robert Stigwood of the bootleg set. We listen to it a few times, but the quality is too naff to bother with. Like an idiot I do not make a copy on my reel to reel.
During the course of the next few years I lose touch with Rodger, Charlie and the Skull, which means I also lose touch with the whereabouts of the tape. As far as I know Rodger keeps it, but no one bothers to make a copy, as most of us do not have tape decks in those days. So now, 26 years down the road and back to reality, I ask myself. Is this tape still around, mouldering in a bottom draw amongst Rodger's old socks, has it pride of place in his tape collection, been remastered, digitalized, equalized and through wonders of technology, been restored to a state of the art recording? Or (horror of horrors) has it been wiped so Rodger's kids could listen to their fave Spice Girls albums when out for a spin in the car ...? If the tape is still around, is it worth listening to? I need this tape, even it is absolute trash, but even if I did ever hear it, deep down, I know I'll never be able to fully recreate the ecstasy of that first time I heard The Magic Band. But if I could I'd close my eyes and bring back visions. Visions of Ed Marimba, his monocle reflecting back the colours from the lights, his hair, in two pigtails, stuffed through the legholes of the pair of ladies panties that adorned his head, like some warped aviator helmet. Visions of Rockette Morton, in snappy loud suit, striding onstage and laying down the most bass bomb solo you ever heard in your life. Visions of Zoot Horn Rollo, his spindly legs dwarfed by the huge coat he wore on his upper half, busy Booglarising our collective souls. Visions of Winged Eel Fingerling , wide eyed and reckless, flying all over the stage in his wild abandon to the music. Visions of the stocky Orejon, he of the Mothers and Little Feat, pinning it all together with his rock solid bottom lines, the Bill Wyman of the Magic Band, still, whilst all around him was a frenzy. But above all, I'd conjure up visions of the gifted Captain Beefheart, whose voice just broke me up SO much, that it was almost hurtful to hear him at times, so much emotion and soul was contained therein ...
It was an amazing performance, by an amazing band, playing incredible music and putting on an incredible theatrical show, which was rarely matched by anyone else. Those of us who did attend any of their concerts in the late 60s and early 70s should feel honoured to have been able to live through those wonderful musical events, which will probably never come our way again. For all that though, if anyone has a copy, well. I'd like to hear it ...
(Captain Beefheart in concert. Leicester 1972
2 different recording surfaced from that gig, the first one is probably from Gary Pratt, the second one is from Paul Brown, when I remember right.
The quality of these tapes is not the best. After working on the sound for several hours fans of Captain Beefheart may enjoy the music, every newcomer should stay away.
The second tape is missing some tracks (Paul Brown's son pushed the delete button of the recorder by accident) but most of the time it's slightly better sounding.
1-01-Hair Pie: Bake III (0:43)
1-02-Smoking Rio 6 (1:52)
1-03-Hair Pie: Bake III (0:55)
1-04-The Mascara Snake (0:36)
1-05-The Mascara Fake (0:30)
1-06-The Mascara For God's Sake (0:14)
1-07-When It Blows Its Stacks (4:42)
1-08-Click Clack (4:43)
1-09-Grow Fins (4:38)
1-10-Band Intro (0:45)
1-11-Hobo Chang Ba (2:53)
1-12-I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby (5:46)
1-13-Old Black Snake (2:27)
1-15-Abba Zaba (3:32)
1-17-Alice In Blunderland (4:32)
1-18-Spitball Scalped A Baby (10:29)
1-20-Bass Solo (1:47)
1-21-My Human Gets Me Blues (4:08)
1-22-Steal Softly Thru Snow (2:26)
1-23-Saxophone Solo (2:02)
1-24-Saxophone-Drums Duet (1:25)
1-25-Band Intro (0:35)
1-26-Golden Birdies (2:09)
Total length: 1:13:10
AUD>tape unknown gen>Wavelab 5>WAV>time correction (too slow, +2%), equalizing using Freefilter and Timeworks Mastering EQ>FLAC frontend>FLAC (level 8)
Quality: 6 of 10
2-02-Smoking Rio 6 (2:06)
2-03-Hair Pie: Bake III (1:04)
2-04-The Mascara Snake (0:40)
2-05-The Mascara Fake (0:32) cut
2-11-(cut) Hobo Chang Ba (1:54)
2-12-I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby (6:04)
2-13-Old Black Snake (2:37)
2-15-Abba Zaba (3:31)
2-17-Alice In Blunderland (4:58)
2-18-Spitball Scalped A Baby (10:06)
2-20-Bass Solo (1:52)
2-21-My Human Gets Me Blues (3:40)
2-22-Steal Softly Thru Snow (2:03)
2-23-Saxophone Solo (1:51)
2-24-Saxophone-Drums Duet (1:12)
2-25-Band Intro (0:30)
2-26-Golden Birdies (3:28)
Total length: 58:52
AUD>tape unknown gen>Wavelab 5>WAV>time correction (too fast, -8%), equalizing using Freefilter and Timeworks Mastering EQ>FLAC frontend>FLAC (level 8)
Quality: 6.5 of 10
Captain Beefheart/Don Van Vliet: vocals, saxophone, harmonica
Rockette Morton/Mark Boston: bass guitar, guitar
Orejon-Audi Hon/Roy Estrada: bass guitar
Zoot Horn Rollo/Bill Harkleroad: guitar, slide guitar
Winged Eel Fingerling/Elliot Ingber: guitar, slide guitar
Ed Marimba/Art Tripp: drums, percussion
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