Captain Beefheart: Trout Mask Replica

Inside the National Recording Registry

Friday, January 13, 2012

A few months ago, the Republican candidate Jon Huntsman tweeted: “I wonder if a tweet where I admit how much I like Captain Beefheart will make the followers skyrocket even more!”

Not so much, Jon. But the former governor of Utah isn’t alone in his enthusiasm. Last year, the Library of Congress inducted a Captain Beefheart record into its National Recording Registry. Trout Mask Replica (1969) is part free jazz, part blues, part beat poetry. Frank Zappa (who gave singer-songwriter Don van Vliet the name Captain Beefheart) produced the album. “It sounds like it's been made up on the spot,” describes Mike Barnes, van Vliet’s biographer. “But in fact it was rigorously learned so the players would play the tracks the same way every time.”

John French was the album’s musical director and the Magic Band’s drummer. “Captain Beefheart realized the possibilities that existed in music if you looked past the rules.” That made for some grueling, 70s-cult-style recording sessions. “They had a very harsh work regime,” Barnes explains. “Beefheart would deprive people of sleep, he would keep them up all night.”

But the result was a sound that redefined the boundaries of rock. “I just had never encountered anything filled with so much abandon,” musician Tom Waits remembers. “It's so unlike anything that we all consider music to be.”

Inside the National Recording Registry, our series highlighting works in the National Recording Registry, receives production support from the Library of Congress.

    Music Playlist
  1. Steal Softly Thru Snow
    Artist: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
    Album: Trout Mask Replica
    Label: Reprise/Ada
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Diddy Wah Diddy
    Artist: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
    Album: The Legendary A&M Sessions
    Label: Edsel Records UK
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Forty-Four
    Artist: Howlin' Wolf
    Album: Howlin' Wolf: His Best
    Label: Chess
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. Frownland
    Artist: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
    Album: Trout Mask Replica
    Label: Reprise/Ada
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. Ella Guru
    Artist: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
    Album: Trout Mask Replica
    Label: Reprise/Ada
    Purchase: Amazon
  6. Dali's Car
    Artist: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
    Album: Trout Mask Replica
    Label: Reprise/Ada
    Purchase: Amazon
  7. Hair Pie: Bake 1
    Artist: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
    Album: Trout Mask Replica
    Label: Reprise/Ada
    Purchase: Amazon
  8. Veteran's Day Poppy
    Artist: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
    Album: Trout Mask Replica
    Label: Reprise/Ada
    Purchase: Amazon

Contributors:

Erik Beith, Ben Manilla and Devon Strolovitch

Comments [8]

Wayne Scott from TORONTO

It took some study, but after a couple weeks of repeated listening in 1969 I became convinced this was my favourite album. I have heard many great records before and since, but never anything I've enjoyed more, eh? Merci mon Capitaine!!! ( :-)

Mar. 12 2012 10:02 PM
Simon Evans from London

- anybody who ever attempts such instrumentals as'Peon' or 'One Rose that I mean' will realise that there was much more self discipline, application and painstaking graft than the photos of the band on their record covers might suggest.

Mar. 12 2012 05:11 PM
JBBX from Oregon

Having grown up in the 80's & 90's there was some really good music around (especially in the 90's) but, my father and his bandmates where of the older guard and one day as I walked into the rehearsal studio (A.K.A. the Garage), I heard this voice and this "music" blaring from the Hi-Fi. I was around 12-13 years of age and at this time "thrash metal" was the bee knees for me. I sat in the corner, listening with wide open ears as these guys who I looked up to continually played TMR over & over & over whilst discussing old blues, free jazz and "other" yet unspecified genre's of "music" (later to be labeled as "progressive" & "Avant-Garde". That day will forever stick in my brain as well as Beefheart's "music/genius". I have been a rabid Captain fan from that day on and have now built up my own little vinyl collection which includes much beefheart. I can only hope that one day my child(ren) will walk into the garage themselves and ask "papa, what is this magic floating into my ears. Long Live Captain Beefheart....you will forever be loved & missed Don!!!

Mar. 12 2012 02:31 PM

Recommended: "O Postman o' Mine," a YouTube video from the late 70s featuring Captain Beefheart and his band. Similar to songs on "Doc at the Radar Station" but not on any album I've seen.

It is the quintessential late 70s CB.

Jan. 17 2012 10:45 PM
NeoQDio from St Louis / So.Ill.

AHHHH the good Captain....rememberances of dropping some "clearlight 4 way windowpane" in early '70s with a friend who had Never Heard (or of ) Captain Beefheart....he was TOTALLY flabbergasted and thought my HUMONGOUS stereo system was "ALL BOXED UP!!" and was kinda' gettin' SCARED !!!....(he got an Education that night)......R.I.P....Miss Ya Man!.......Neo

Jan. 16 2012 09:13 PM
Michael Kelly from A Pink Pantry

Don was not a hamburger.

Jan. 16 2012 08:58 AM
william sarkozy

I had just returned home for a year in VietNam and was anxious to get "back on the block" and especially experience the new music which was being played out on the reformatted FM stations. Goodbye Dion & The Belmonts, Hello Crosby, Stills & Nash. But late one night when I first heard the good Captain I realized that some of the "new" music was indeed really new. The next day picked up a vinyl copy of TMR and after expecting modern versions of old blues tunes, I quickly relegated it to the bottom of my favorites stack. As time passed, it kept percolating up higher in the stack until I realized that this was creative talent at its best. I'm pleased to hear/see that Don has received the attention and respect he so truly deserves. RIP, Don. We're still with you.

Jan. 15 2012 11:56 AM
Steve Andricks from Nashville

That single album not only changed my way of listening to music, but changed my whole approach to life in general (at the tender age of 15). I often give Don and the boys a silent nod of thanks...

Jan. 13 2012 10:15 AM

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