25th October, 1980. My first month in Wales. A phase of intensive gig-going is already in full flow - a principal reason for coming to Cardiff in the first place was its prominence in the music-press concert-listings; I’ve experienced the mighty Slade
on my first night, and The Skids
a few days later. Prior to starting university, I’ve already noted that Captain Beefheart
will be playing at the Students Union Great Hall. I’m familiar with Beefheart from listening to John Peel
, although I’ve never fully understood what I was hearing – perhaps seeing the great man live will put it into context. Supporting are the Comsat Angels
:– atmospheric post-punk guitar music, absolutely my kind of thing, and excellent. Eventually, the Captain himself takes to the stage. For the next hour or so, I have little idea of what’s going on. It sounds like someone throwing a blues band down the stairs. A couple stood in front of me are smoking something which makes me feel weird. My chewing-gum disintegrates. Beefheart periodically brings out that least punk rock of instruments, the clarinet, and toots, apparently at random. At one point, he introduces a guest guitarist (“Gary Lucas
!”) who looks the dead spit of Graham Parker
, and plays some remarkable solo slide guitar. The acoustics are dreadful, but the Magic Band
is obviously virtuosic without being showy, and I discern a few familiar tunes – “Hot Head”, “Big-Eyed Beans From Venus”. When it’s over, I wander back to my accommodation, my head spinning, not entirely sure that I’ve enjoyed myself, but convinced that I’ve witnessed something extraordinary. And, as it turns out, unforgettable.
R.I.P. Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart; January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010.
In other news: http://yerblues-novel.blogspot.com/
Labels: cardiff, gig, music