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Captain Beefheart: Harpo's Detroit Dec. 11, 1980

A rare, raw live set from the Don and his Magic Band.

This rough and ready, toppy, tinny concert recording captures the late Captain with the generation of the Magic Band that (with inevitable personnel shifts) accompanied the last few years of his music career (he retired from ‘being Beefheart’ in ’82).

It’s messy, scratchy and apparently mixed by an easily distracted four-year-old. And it’s very welcome – when it comes to Beefheart, you don’t want or expect polish, gloss or anything resembling conventional notions of ‘quality’. Structure’s for squares, daddio. Numerous live albums from this period have emerged (Amsterdam ’80 and Merseytrout – Live In Liverpool 1980 are both favoured by most fans). This setlist’s broadly similar, coming in with Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man and spiralling in squalls through raggedy-jagged whirling-dervish delights Abba Zabba, Dirty Blue Gene, Bat Chain Puller and Sheriff Of Hong Kong. The inter-song rumble and chat stalls momentum, but makes you feel like you’re in the room. Around this time he was being pitched afresh to New Wave audiences by Virgin, with the Doc At The Radar Station album. This racket reaffirms that he was always beyond time and genre.

Via Gonzo

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.