Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I’m always amazed about the bizarre and mystickal connections that reveal themselves through this business of blogging.

Take, for example, Eric (the Straight White Guy) and Dax Montana, fellow members of the loose confederation we call the Jawja Blodgers.

Now let’s select three musical artists, not quite at random: Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, and Don Van Vliet, AKA Captain Beefheart.

Those who know Eric know that he is a Tom Waits fan. It’s a bit less obvious to the casual observer, but Dax likes Captain Beefheart. And, of the three, my strong preference is for Frank Zappa... although I like all three.

[I’ll confess that I’m always surprised to find others among my friends and acquaintances who admire the work of Captain Beefheart. He’s not the most accessible artist out there... a bit of an acquired taste, as Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons) will tell you:
The first time I heard Trout Mask [Trout Mask Replica, Beefheart’s landmark album], when I was 15 years old, I thought it was the worst thing I’d ever heard. I said to myself, they're not even trying! It was just a sloppy cacophony.

Then I listened to it a couple more times, because... a double album cost a lot of money. About the third time, I realized they were doing it on purpose: they meant it to sound exactly this way. About the sixth or seventh time, it clicked in, and I thought it was the greatest album I’d ever heard.
It may not be the best album I’ve ever heard, yet parts of it are brilliant. But we’re not talking Top 40 hit radio here.]

These three artists are connected, just as we three bloggers are connected.

Frank Zappa and Don Van Vliet were friends as far back as junior high school, with Zappa later producing Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. Beefheart contributed vocals to Zappa’s “Willie the Pimp” - the second cut on Hot Rats - and later the two would tour together. The Zoot Allures album was one product of that collaboration.

As for Tom Waits, he was the opening act at several Zappa concerts in 1973-74... alas, not at the April 27, 1973 show at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre where I first saw Zappa.

Now: I can somehow imagine Dax enjoying Beefheart. After all, he is full of surprises. Even likes the Mahavishnu Orchestra, fer cryin’ out loud! And from there, it’s not a huge stretch to imagine him enjoying Zappa... or even Waits.

Eric is another story. Somehow, I can’t picture him enjoying Zappa or Beefheart quite as much as he likes Tom Waits. Or the early Tom Waits, anyway.

But I could be wrong. Not only is there no arguing about taste (de gustibus non est disputandum, after all), but sometimes there’s no understanding it, either.

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