Captain Beefheart: The Legendary 1980 Profile by Lester Bangs
And I'm talking about the heart that flies between two or more humans, not to the ghost of the great Auk, or a glob of paint, or any of his other little friends.
All this week, one song off Trout Mask Replica kept playing in my head: "Orange Claw Hammer," an unaccompanied field holler-like poem about a man who's been away at sea for years and catches first sight of his daughter since she was in swaddling. He grasps her hand and offers to "Take you down to the foamin' brine 'n water, and show you the wooden tits on the goddess with the pole out full-sail that tempted away your pegleg father. I was shanghaied by a highhat beaver-moustache man and his pirate friend. I woke up in vomit and beer in a banana bin, and a soft lass with brown skin bore me seven babies with snappin' black eyes and beautiful ebony skin, and here it is I'm with you my daughter. Thirty years away can make a seaman's eyes, a round-house man's eyes flow out with water, salt water."
Now if that isn't pure true American folklore then you can throw everything from Washington Irving to Carl Sandburg and beyond in the garbage.
I'm saying Don Van Vliet, "Captain Beefheart," is on that level. But what I realized this morning, the reason why it was this song stuck out from 26 others: because it's not about the "Neon Meate Dream of a Octafish," but something that happened between people.
Why do you almost always talk elliptically?
"Due to the fact that probably it's very difficult for me to explain myself except in music or paint."
But don't you think talking that way all the time is kind of impersonal, a distancing effect?
"It probably comes out very personal in the music. That's where I'm truthful and honest. I don't know how it happens exactly, but my mind becomes the piano or guitar."
What about when you're alone with Jan?
"We don't talk too much. Because we trust each other, and we don't have that much faith in the spoken word. I guess it's true that I do talk selfishly, as a conversationalist."
Well, don't you think you're missing something you might get from other people by being that way?
"Sure, but they usually won't accept me anyway. I'm comfortable talking to you. Not many people seem to have things in common with me. I guess what intrigues me the most is something like seeing somebody wash my windows - that's like a symphony."
But if you and I are friends, and you trust me, we should be able to have a reciprocal conversation.
"We're talking without talking. I mean that in a good sense. We're saying things that can't be put into the tongue. It's like good music."
In the end I'm not sure which of us is right.