By on December 18, 2010

Back when I was doing the Los Angeles-San Francisco round-trip in various heaps, beaters, clunkers, and jalopies at least twice a month, I wore out several cassettes of Captain Beefheart’s masterpiece, Trout Mask Replica. No other album seemed quite so perfectly suited for that stretch of Interstate 5. Now Mr. Vliet is gone, forever.

Yes, TMR is a difficult album— in the same way that the Citroën SM is a difficult car— but when it’s 4:00 AM on some feedlot-stinking rural interstate and “Neon Meate Dream of a Octafish” comes on, you’ll be glad for all those excessively complicated timing chains.


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19 Comments on “R.I.P. Captain Beefheart, Creator of the Greatest Driving Album of All Time...”

  • avatar
    M 1


  • avatar

    A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous. Got me?
    Definitely an A+. I too mourn his passing.
    I’d like to find out what other loyal readers use as their ‘go-to’ music when it’s 3AM and the road gets weird.

    • 0 avatar

      Usually mine would be a mix tape of the Ramones or Kate Bush – something with a lot of energy but…London Calling was definitely my choice for an album if I chose a commercially available release.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Me too…
    Captain Beefheart and Mr. Zappa kept me company during many of my 16 year old excursions through upstate New York.
    Some kids my age were into hip-hop.
    Some were into rap.
    Some were into classical music.
    Some were into classic rock… which I already cycled through thanks to three older brothers and about a thousand lp’s that came from a closed up radio station in Denver.
    I was perhaps the only one into ‘weird shit’. In fact, I was responsible for corrupting a friend of mine who had been a strait lacked Straight-A conservative Korean before I started sliding him CD’s of Zappa and Beefheart.
    I think he runs a strip club now. Anyway, sorry to hear about the passing.

  • avatar

    The prose seems oddly akin to, but even more enigmatic than, that of our own OhBop…

  • avatar

    “…even more enigmatic than, that of our own OhBop…”
    Will commence arduously struggling to correct this lacking despite the rapidly aging psyche/persona developed within the minute gaps between my neurons, those spark plug-like biological whose gaps are non-adjustable akin to the spark plug-type called for by the 4.8 liter V8 Generation III Vortec propulsion unit crafted by either a flock of crazed Canucks in St. Catharines, Ontario or some really alien alien Romulans in Romulus, Michigan (I would prefer my engine to be built by Klingons for sundry reasons but anything is preferable to below-the-southern-border assemblage from my experiences).
    Arduous struggle to commence in near future.  If a cadre and/or cohort was present would strive to achieve compliance from my mini-herd but since it is a solo endeavor will diligently self-propel self to achieve the lofty goals awaiting the Disgruntled Old Coot within his shanty atop the Ozark Plateau surrounded by the hillbilly horde.
    Onward through the fog.

  • avatar

    I have all his vinyl albums and saw many of his performances during the early 1970’s while an undergrad at MIT. Our two house cats were named “Fast” and “Bulbous.” His collaboration with Frank Zappa produced some of my favorite music at the time. Along with The Captain, Zappa, Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground, etc. were on the turntable at the time. Miss them all.

  • avatar



    RIP, DVV

  • avatar

    I don’t care for Beefheart. His music comes off as “experimental”(really just weird) just for the sake of it. To me it comes across as more gimmick than artistic expression. As far as bands that some find inacessable, King Crimson is one that sticks out to me as being so much more than experimental in the name of gimmicks.  Thay did some great stuff and the first 3 or 4 albums are all masterpieces.
    Truckducken as far as music on the road, I usually listen to sirius 14,15,16,23 and the dead channel(can’t remember the number right now)
    But Odessey and Oracle  by the zombies is one that never seems to leave the cd changer. Another is 12 dreams of Dr. Sardonicus by Spirit.

  • avatar

    “Boogie with Canned Heat” by Canned Heat, 1968. Nothing better either back in the day or now! A close runner-up: “Sunflower” by the Beach Boys, 1970. Still good stuff! Many late nights returning to base from Sacramento, I listened to these when KROY played something I didn’t like.

  • avatar
    Mike C.

    Wow.  Other people who enjoy Captain Beefheart recordings…  I’m stunned.  The dust blows forward and back indeed…  Bon Voyage CB.  I’m sure he will be collaborating with Frank again.

  • avatar

    I have all of the Captain’s albums in digital form. Trout Mask Replica is a little hard to take outside of the smallest of doses, but I’ll happily cruise with Lick My Decals Off Baby, Spotlight Kid, Shiny Beast, or Doc at the Radar Station. He made a couple of clunkers in the ’70s when he tried going commercial (Unconditionally Guaranteed, Bluejeans and Moonbeams).

  • avatar

    for those seeking a little bet more accessible entrance into the genius that is van vliet, i offer zig zag wanderer:

  • avatar

    I knew Don in LA.  He was “the guy from Lancaster and Zappa’s buddy.”  I heard many years ago that he wasn’t well and that he possibly had MS.  The man was a huge inspiration for many, many currently successful musicians.  He was also a painter and sketch artist.  RIP Don Van Vliet.

  • avatar

    i never got this guy, even back in my drug addled youth.  Now, listening to these two pieces, I still dont get him.

  • avatar

    Oh the shame, I know we ALL gotta go sometime but man, he was a genius in his own way.
    I was fortunate to have been exposed to his work, along with the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa back in 1984-85 when I was working at Domino’s Pizza as a delivery driver while in my very early adult hood years (18-20) and our day manager, Alan, whom was in his mid 20’s introduced me to them and to a minor extent, Husker Du, Die Krutzen and Black Flag but it was Zappa, Beefheart and VU that piqued my interest, later I discovered Tom Waits (thanks to my best friend) in the early 90’s.
    I want to get more of CB’s work, I have his first album, Safe as Milk on CD and a 10″ EP on vinyl that is a collection of songs, mostly from Milk that was released in the mid 80’s and it was that album that introduced me well to Zig, Zag Wanderer and Autumn’s Child and my fav, Yellow Brick Road.
    I DO, however, have 2-3 of Zappa’s early LP’s on vinyl, Wiesels Ripped my Flesh, Hot Rats and his 1988 Barking Pumpkin release, Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention where he does mostly Jazz stuff, good LP too and I have Lumpy Gravy, We’re Only In it for the Money on a 2 for one early CD release and a later Rykodisc release of the remastered, Freak Out, Zappa’s first album and have 3 Velvet Underground albums as well, a beat, but original VU and Nico on Verve and 2 80’s reissues of Loaded and Live 1969.
    May Don Van Vliet rest in peace.
    As for music on the long drives, mix CD’s I made, especially my Freeform series as it was largely inspired by the old freeform FM days, and when my favorite radio station back in the early 90’s used to do a freeform Friday’s thing where listeners called in between 10-2 and that became the playlist and it varied greatly from week to week, mixing of old and new stuff and that became 6 volumes of CD’s after conversion to CD from cassette (from scratch, natch).
    However, there ARE some albums that do fine on the road, such as Cheryl Crow’s first LP, Tuesday Night Music Club is a good one to play, just for starters, but in the end, it is my mood, the weather etc that determines what I decide to spin. :-)

  • avatar
    Mike C.

    Weasels has some outstanding cuts mixed in with the experimental.  Hot Rats is certainly a classic.  Money is also great but the re-mix is horrible-  Although more in the ‘strictly commercial’ vein, Overnight Sensation, Apostrophe, One Size Fits All and Zoot Allures are very entertaining albums.

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