At the tail end of last year we lost a good soul in the form of avant-garde crazy music maker/painter Don Van Vliet a.k.a Captain Beefheart. Having been a fan for sometime his sad demise made me think back to when I first discovered him. A couple of friends and myself were driving back from a club one night and as we rounded a corner the headlights washed over a group of rag tag hippy types walking along the pavement. ‘Stop a minute’ I said ‘I’m going to ask them where they are going’ and as we pulled alongside I leaned out of the window and spoke to the nearest to me, a long haired chap in a bandana with a battered acoustic guitar slung stereotypically over his shoulder. ‘Hey where are you going guys’ I asked ‘we’re all heading up to the woods’ and then came the sentence that was weird music to my ears ‘wanna come along?’. So we parked up and joined the late night travellers, destination a clearing in the woods. On arrival everyone settled into natural routines within the group while some collected firewood others made art out of nature. All night the fire burned as bright as the alcohol and drugs sparkling through everyone’s systems and then I heard it. Long after everyone was too tired to play the guitar or run through the woods holding aloft a flaming branch, echoing between the trees, crackling out of a little tape machine came the deep throated words ‘mirror man, mirror me’. The bass line seemed to mimic my heartbeat as the blues harmonica cut through the approaching dawn. As the song rumbled on as people started to shuffle around in the dirt like Pig-pen from Charlie Brown creating clouds of dust just below the knees, like a disease the song seemed to be infecting everyone. Like the Bisto kids following the scent of gravy no one could sit still and those 15 minutes (it was the full version) lasted for what seemed like hours. As the song drew to a close a kind of sadness descended upon us all there was only one thing for it and we played it again. I have no idea how many times we played the song that night, at four times an hours for a good few hours I’d guess at 12 minimum, but amazing the batteries held out and it was still faintly playing as the gorgeous sunrise bathed us all in colour and warmth. As the reality of morning onset we all said our goodbyes and I never saw any of them again. Later that week I brought the album ‘Safe as Milk’ which to this day still remains one of my all time favourites.
January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010