Friday, December 17, 2010


No one gets me. My parents are stupid, they don't understand. I don't like what everyone likes. What is right isn't always popular and what is popular isn't always right. He or she dances to their own drummer.

The cliches are laid out for you. I have spoken each of them dozens of times. The truth is few are really special. We are all different, but not as different as we like to sell ourselves or image the world sees us. Just because I might like to listen to punk or alternative music while you jam to Pink or Lady Gaga doesn't mean I'm that much smarter than you. I have better taste and I'm right but that's obvious. That is sarcasm, hope you smelled it. Occasionally people do happen along that are really, truly, without argument, different and special.

Don Van Vliet died of multiple sclerosis today, he was 69 years old. He was a painter of international reputation. You may have heard of his alter ego, alternative blues singer and avant garde band leader, Captain Beefheart. Don Van Vliet grew up destined to be an artist. He sculpted, painted, wrote; his parents were asked to send Don, then a tender age of 13, to Europe to study art. It was the 1950s, and that idea seemed so, well, foreign, they moved him to a California suburb to "normalize" him. Instead, yound Don met another young artist named Frank Zappa. Suddenly Don wasn't as "different". He met a contemporary. Zappa, who became the most famous avant garde musician of the 1960s and 1970s, rechristened Don Van Vliet, Captain Beefheart, helped the Captain recruit his "Magic Band" and the late 1960s became revolutionary for each artist's musical visions. 

While attending the University of Alabama for interim session, a six week, one class, curriculum right after second semester, I roomed with a guy who loved off the wall stuff. The weirder the better for him. One day, after class, I walked in the room and he was playing Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band's 1968 album Trout Mask Replica. I was a college radio station DJ, self desrcibed "music geek" and "music snob" yet I had never heard of the record. It sounded like crap. I thought it was a recording of my roommate's band that had never played instruments before. Then I listened to the album again. It sounded the same. Finally after a third listen I started "getting it". I wasn't supposed to like it at first. It didn;t sound like what was played on the radio. It wasn't particularly melodic. Other than weird, it belonged to no genre. It was as if Velvet Underground and Jefferson Airplane and Van Morrison all stopped doing drugs got really depressed and made a very cranky baby. It was brilliant, but it was that kind of crazy brilliant that conventional thinking would never believe. That was the point of Captain Beefheart.

For research and further understanding read this:

then read this:

For the purpose of this blog, it's important to view anything artistic with an open mind. Genius is always subjective. Different is almost always layered, nuanced, and studied. Captain Beefheart was never meant to sell millions of records. His buddy Frank Zappa was ignored by the mainstream for decades. He wasn't inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame until after his death. Few serious artists are recognized during their lifespans. How many authors that we read now are alive for us to appreciate?

I never got around to thanking my six week roommate for turning me on to Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica or The Minutemen's Double Nickels on a Dime or Nirvana's Bleach. I hope he has the internet and stumbles across my blog while looking for alternative South American architecture or the enxt Daft Punk since Daft Punk just sold out to the Tron movie soundtrack. If he does, I can say hello and say, thank you for teaching me how to appreciate the different and go beyond conventional thinking. I hope all of you do the same.

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