Monday, September 06, 2010

Carlton B Morgan on Beefheart's Welsh Gigs

Carlton B Morgan gives us his thoughts on Captain Beefheart’s three concerts in Wales, as mentioned in a previous blog entry:

With reference to your item on what is known in certain circles as "John French’s Bumper Book of Bitterness and Bullshit":-

SWANSEA, BRANGWYN HALL, 1974: It was the so-called "Tragic Band", hastily assembled country rock session-players backing a Captain who appeared to have fallen into a creative black hole. I have had my heart broken three times, twice by women and once when I saw this lot. I got over the women.

CARDIFF UNIVERSITY, 1975: Though on the previous tour he seemed to have totally lost it, Beefheart returned to form, like no one except maybe Muhammad Ali. Gone was the flirting with AOR, back were proper Magic Band members Winged Eel Fingerling and Drumbo (the pickup band had ludicrous names like "Dean Smith") amended by Zappa sidemen, firing on all cylinders.

"Does Richard Burton come here?" he asked from the stage. "Does he bring his wife with him? You know what his wife says? Success is the best deodorant!"

Before the gig, I stood and watched him draw in thick black felt pen all over Cardiff University toilet doors. It got washed off next day by cleaning ladies. They weren’t to know. A friend stood behind him and thought "I could take his hat off". The Captain turned and said "don’t even think about it" then carried on drawing.

CARDIFF UNIVERSITY, 1980: The first UK date of the last UK tour, and not a little historic. By now all of the original Magic Band members had been replaced by new young whippersnappers who had been fans of Trout Mask Replica. CB seemed sorta grouchy onstage; despite having a band who had grown up with his finest work and would obey his whims: he no longer came amongst us doing us drawings and psychic tricks. At the time of this gig I was working for those robbing bastards Welsh Water and they gave me advance notice of some work function that was taking place on the evening of this gig. I told them I couldn’t attend, and why. Do you know what they said? They said "do you have to go?"

That is not quite the stupidest thing that has ever been said to me but it is a close 2nd.

*Very special thanks to Carlton B Morgan for these eye-witness accounts. Carlton is the co-author of the satirical cartoon collection, Great Pop Things, as well as being a musician and performer in his own right. The above photo is an advert for Captain Beefheart’s 1980 gig at Cardiff University.