Monday, October 3, 2011

Sure Nuff 'N' Yes I Do!

For a goodly amount of time now, a friend has been urging me to check out the music of Captain Beefheart.  I don't know why it took me so long to comply.  It reminds me of friends who had been similarly urged over long periods of time to read the works of Flannery O'Connor, but who had taken years to comply.

Eventually, though, my life got quiet enough that I had time to type "Captain Beefheart" into the YouTube search field.  This is the first song I came up with, and it is still my favourite song from Beefheart.  It is the subject of this blog entry:

I just like everything about this song and its performance here!  What's not to like?  Lively delta blues, with a mean slide guitar.  It is performed on the beach (Cannes Beach in France) with most of the audience watching safely from a distant boardwalk.  I love the Captain's knowing smirks toward the camera at several points during the performance.  And I like the fact that he is so young and confident in his manner.  It would not always be like that for Don Van Vliet (for that was Captain Beefheart's actual name).  During some of his later public appearances, such as on Letterman, he seemed a rather fragile, timid, and even broken man.

Van Vliet once said:

"The way I keep in touch with the world … is very gingerly … because the world touches too hard."

But in this live blues rave, it is clearly the world that had better watch out for Captain Beefheart, lest he touch it too hard!  And I like that.  Just the way I like seeing pictures of Hollywood actors, now grown gray and grizzled, as they appeared in youth.  There is something so life-affirming about seeing someone at the zenith of his or her power, in the full bloom of youth, whether in photograph or moving image.

For strict musicianship, I prefer the studio track, because it featured Ry Cooder playing slide guitar.

But the live performance on Cannes Beach has something that surpasses what is found in the grooves of the studio track, and that is a certain distilled essence of testosterone-driven male bravado.  The singer is fully confident of who he is as a man in this world (and the expected effect of that fact on any surrounding females).  It is the same thing you get from The Who in "Call Me Lightning", or from Muddy Waters in "Mannish Boy".  Funny, I don't so much like this male attitude when I meet it in real life.  But I rather like it within the somewhat artificial confines of pop music.

I have, of course, branched out and listened to other offerings from the Beefheart catalog.  But this song and this particular performance of it will always be my favourite.