The Best Captain Beefheart Song…

… on each album. Or what I consider to be an official album. It gets murky. These are my favourite from each little slab of Don Van Vliet’s musical career. No stunning insights, just some great tunes. There’s lots of excellent live versions of these too…

1. Here I Am I Always Am – The Legendary A and M Sessions

Released way after it was recorded this song is far more “straight forward” than most of the Cap’n’s output, lyrically and musically but still manages to sound ummm  odd. The lead guitar sounds a bit like a banjo. It switches time signature, Beefheart’s voice is incredibly full of yearning. A wonderful piece of R n’ B.

2. Sure Nuff ‘n’ ‘Yes I Do – Safe As Milk

I like Safe As Milk, don’t Get Me Wrong but just not as much as a) other people do and b) as much as the later albums. That being said sure nuff n yes i do, theNew Minglewood Blues  quoting song, is a great blues song and the performance in Cannes is fantastic to watch. They’d just started to get “weird”, you can see Jeff Cotton looking decidedly odd.

3. Tarotplane – The Mirror Man Sessions

20 minutes long? Mantra like lyrics based on robert johns terra plane? Sure. Awesome though. apparently john French’s drum sticks were too heavy and he hurt his hands. I like it.

4. Kandy Korn – Strictly Personal

The end of Kandy Korn is a pure joy. Chiming guitars working together with a super sweet melody slightly off. Hypnotic.  The lyrics are dumb but i think that’s the point?

5. Moonlight On Vermont – Trout Mask Replica

The least outré track on Trout Mask Replica, recorded prior to the main sessions. I used to think “how amazing would Trout Mask Replica be if they’d had all the songs like this”, i.e. a bit weird but not too weird. I’m glad the record’s as odd as it is. This song is still amazing though.

6. Dr Dark – Lick My Decals Off, Baby

Apparently Lick My Decals Off Baby was composed in the same way as Trout Mask but arranged differently – and by a different band member (Zoot Horn rather than Drumbo). You can kind of tell. The songs have a much different feel. I have to be in the mood for them. I like this one.

7. Grow Fins – The Spotlight Kid

Beefy goes Souly! Kind of. This song is goofy and a box set was named after it. I love Don’s (I’ll call him Don cos he was my mate) voice on it.

8. Big Eyed Beans From Venus – Clear Spot

Possibly the best Beefheart song. The drumming at the end is the best drumming ever. The put it in space. Well they should have.

9. Upon The My Oh My – Unconditionally Guaranteed

Best track on worst album. Next.

10. Observatory Crest – Blue Jeans And Moon Beams

This is from “The Tragic Band” era. It should be awful – songs cowritten, entirely new band but I have grown to love the record. Jack White likes it to. this song is great. Mercury Rev covered it.

11. Owed T’Alex – Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)

After a hiatus of a few years, a Frank Zappa album here, an aborted Bat Chain Puller there, the Cappers released this. The title is making amends with his old guitarist Alex Snouffer (back here), the solo is amazing. I like to shout “Party time with the Jones”. Yes.

12. Dirty Blue Gene – Doc At The Radar Station

People like this album but they don’t love it hard enough. PJ Harvey put most of this song into one of hers for some reason. The bit where the guitar drops out and comes back on genetically mean is the best bit in music. Just generally. Well done.

13. Evening Bell – Ice Cream For Crow

The end. I like the instrumentals so here’s one of them. Goodbye.