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The Beefheart Baseball...and the Lost Press Conference!  
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Otto Reverse
Joined: 2017-10-21
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Post 2017-10-21 07:32   [Quote] 
Whenever it's World Series Time and when provided a chance, I always tend to take the opportunity to flaunt and display my suitably ancient CAPTAIN BEEFHEART SIGNED BASEBALL -- I imagine I possess the only standard MLB-style baseball ever signed by Don...here's the story...

In 1982 (in the autumn, I think) I drew illustrations for my college newspaper..."ICE CREAM FOR CROW" had just been released and one of our music writers got an invitation to attend a "college newspaper-oriented" press conference featuring Don (Mr Captain Beefheart) Himself in the flesh...

I volunteered to drive and a bunch of us crammed into my '71 blue VW and headed to Westwood (I think) to some sort of record company (I think) upstairs in a medium-sized conference room

We were the first to arrive, not knowing what to expect...and we tumbled out of the elevator and a lady ushered us down a cluttered hall wherein we walked straight into Don sitting un-moved in a chair...we started yakking with Don, but then the lady rudely dragged us back into the special conference room, which soon filled up with pimply-faced college writers and hangers-on

I had sat myself down in the middle of a semi-circular table in front and was pleased that when Don came in, he sat straight across from me on the other side of the table...Don was managing at least three brown paper sacks filled with who knows what and then he cordially greeted the minor throng...he then incessantly began answering questions while lighting his pipe and puffing smoke...I had my cheap cassette recorder in front of me (recording the Q and A) when five minutes into the proceedings, Don suddenly stopped and asked the room: "CAN YOU HEAR THAT? THAT WHIRRR...IT'S A WHIRRRR..." and he pointed at my cassette recorder..."THAT'S IT!!" and without skipping a beat, Don reached into a sack and convinced me to use his little Sony tape machine, which did not whirrr

The questions came and went and soon Don asked the original lady to turn off all the lights in the room...so a good portion of the afternoon was spent in darkness (Don still taking questions)...at some point the lady wheeled in a 19-inch TV and VCR and we watched the video for "ICE CREAM FOR CROW" all the while Don gave a sweet, tender running commentary, he really seemed to be proud of the video!

As the press conference wound down, I showed Don a caricature I'd done of him ("YOU MADE ME LOOK SAD!- WELL I AM SAD!!" Don told me in a serious tone) - then I asked Don if he'd like to visit Watts Towers with us, but he didn't seem interested and said that he'd never heard of Watts Towers (and anyway we had no room for Don in my '71 VW)....

For some reason, we'd brought a baseball with us and my friend asked Don to sign it
but I ended up in possession of the ball...

Even today, Don's signature is fairly clear on the surface of the old baseball ("Van Vliet '82")...I keep it in one of those corny baseball memorabilia ball display things...knowing that the ball is probably the only one like it in the world...I keep thinking it should be in a fancy Swedish Captain Beefheart Museum...but rotting slowly on my desk is probably its ultimate and appropriate fate...although just for fun, I listed the baseball on eBay once...but the hardcore Beefheart eBay freaks didn't know how to handle the ball's existential beauty...some guy offered me $10.00 for it, but I told him I couldn't take less than $10.50

PS-

I have the (mostly) complete 1982 college press conference saved as hi-rez audio (remastered, EQ'd and pumped up, most of the proceedings recorded direct from Don's little Sony machine (in stereo! - listen as someone spills a Coke in the left channel!)...what a true gentleman he was, and not the "goofball, space cadet genius" that most people seem to remember him as being...he was an odd, funny and unique gentleman, who repeatedly stated that he despised the "Captain" moniker (and he did seem a little sad...nothing wrong with that) - during the conference Beefheart fielded questions about pygmies, The Baby (his Baby) and a mini-plethora of typical music and career questions and a few inquiries about the then-current "Crow" album...but to this day I feel fortunate to have spent a couple of hours within spitting distance of the guy, trying to catch each comment and joke and bit of wordplay.

PSS -

I'd taken four cheapo Kodak snapshots of Don fiddling with his shopping bags and awkward pipe, but I lost them over the years, but I seem to recall that the photos were not that good anyway (Beefheart with red eye X 4) and weren't exactly Pulitzer material...but (for you fashion historians) he was adorned in his typical public garb of that era (plain Stetson hat, sensible brown shoes, dark brown long-sleeve shirt over a standard light dress shirt) - he never broke out the drawing pad and marker...and Don seemed genuinely more interested in promoting his music than in promoting his burgeoning painting career, which in retrospect seems important to me

PSSS -

Maybe someone else can pinpoint the year and location of this bitchin' press conference...or maybe someone has additional pertinent facts, recordings or photos...there were at least 40 of us college types at this press conference, surely I can't be the only person who documented it on cassette...are Beeefheart press conferences even considered part of Don's "underground" legacy? --- Beefheart was NOT touring behind "Crow" in So Cal in 1982 as far as I know...I wonder if this press conference occured AFTER his final FINAL stage shows were done? In the age of Skype and other obnoxious product hyping apps, it's strange to even think that an artist of Don's significant magnitude would have to resort to "one on one promo contact" with a room full of college music journalists, a VCR and a 19-inch TV


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Last edited by Otto Reverse on 2017-10-23 06:38; edited 9 times in total
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bazbo
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Post 2017-10-21 08:11   [Quote] 
Cool story, bro'. Thankz for sharing.

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Zappamaniac
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Post 2017-10-21 22:48   [Quote] 
Yep, cool story !

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Pepe Nusbaum
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Post 2017-10-21 22:55   [Quote] 
Must of been a very interesting experience. Thanks for sharing.

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Otto Reverse
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Post 2017-10-22 06:17   [Quote] 
About 7 or 8 years ago I posted file links to my CB '82 press conference (on one of the main Beefheart fan websites*) but the haggling and greedy responses to my free files forced me to scrap the whole notion of calmly posting the conference online (it's 2 hours 35 min in its final state....starting with a few minutes of conversation with Don when we bumped into him...poor audio quality, but whatever...then some better initial audio of Don talking to the PR lady and crinkling his shopping bags...everything after the tape recorder switch sounds great...Q and A for a while then Don's audible comments during the ICFC videotape showing...the whole experience was not entirely happy, with some college students being unable to form complete questions and a few awkward silences while Don shnorked tobacco into his pipe...but the amassed college journalists seemed interested (in Don) if not impatient with his circuitous answers (as we all know, Don tended to repeat a lot of his jokes and peculiar witticisms (in person and in print) as a way to fill conversational space...but by 1982 he'd dropped his Reagan (Ray Gun...jellybean...rope tricks) references and schtick

A college kid asked Don if THE BABY was still with him and
if The Baby was in the room (right then)
and Don said "yes, The Baby's right here, uh huh...yes right here"

99% of those in the room were clueless about Don's Baby,
so Don's answer elicited silence and a hushed perplexation in the room
(WTF is this dude talking about?)

A shaky college journalist sitting to my left was starstruck...he asked
Don several questions like a giddy fan would ask questions...
this kid asked Don if he believed in God, but on my tape
you can't hear Don's answer...I'm pretty sure Don
just changed the subject

Then the kid asked Don about his inspiration for
his paintings and Don gave the "I have to turn myself inside out"
response

Some of the questions were silly, stereotypical music industry questions
("who's in your band? how long did it take to record the album?")

My clever friend asked Don about PYGMIES and Don gave a mini-lecture
about how pygmies live simply and recycle and live close to the land

By the end of the press conference, the lights were
slowly coming back on...many people had left, but
a lot of people had brought their chairs forward,
like they were trying to get closer to Don

There were maybe 20 of us left at the end of the thing
and then maybe 10 of us shooting the shit with Don until
the PR lady shooshed us out of the room into
the harsh daylight of Los Angeles

People forget that Beefheart in 1982 was still a relative unknown...in 2017 he's only slightly better known...but I always laugh when I hear about or read someone's giddy confession that they've just heard and have cracked the code of TROUT MASK REPLICA or LICK MY DECALS and that they truly have grokked the mystical essence of Beefheart's music...it's laughable because Don's music is basically low-comedy for fun and entertainment...to pretend that one KNOWS what the deeper meanings of Don's music are is to miss the point...TMR is terrifically funny and it becomes boringly morose when it's analyzed by semi-wits like a dead laboratory rat

But anyway...as we head towards 2018, Don's memory, recorded legacy and reputation are still treated with great flippant ignorance and disdain...the endless bootlegs released after Don's death are generally horrifying and only serve to satiate the grotesque "collecting needs" of misguided Beefheart obsessives and groupies...Beefheart's illicit LIVE recordings don't hold up well...mostly because of all the Magic Band clatter that couldn't be captured fairly from a noisy audience with a cassette recorder with a mono condenser mic or from a crummy soundboard recording...Beefheart's studio work is nice because the instruments are balanced in unique ways...but CB bootlegs are mostly tough listens

* a website that's always been obsessed with uninteresting Magic Band reunions, Beefheart tribute albums, dull fan stories (like mine) and sub-par reviews of Van Vliet art shows...one day hopefully there will emerge a better way to pay tribute to Don and his activities...Beefheart fans tend to be unquestioning and somewhat naive, mostly because they see Beefheart as some sort of god on an ATONAL MOUNTAIN...forgettng that Beefheart appropriated a lot of sounds from the Free Jazz world (Albert Ayler makes Beefheart sound like Johnny Mathis) and a little bit from true geniuses such as Harry Partch, Bo Diddley and of course Howlin' Wolf...no artist or musician creates in a vaccuum, not even Don Van Vliet...the (mostly) self created myth of Beefheart as "isolated, stoic desert creator" is more harmful than helpful when assessing and enjoying his unique sounds...

SUPERFLUOUS ADDENDUM

It seems as if the ONLY person who ever spoke at length about Beefheart in basic human terms was his good buddy (wait for it...) Frank Zappa...ex-and current Magic Band members frequently speak of Beefheart as a "task master" or "dictator" but Zappa was the only person who could speak of Don as an occasional "fuck up" or as an "annoyance" or as simply a person with faults and personal issues...

When Zappa talked about Don, you can tell he was talking about a friend...he wasn't talking about the semi-mythological Don who lived in the desert (hey, millions of people live in the desert!) painted (lots of people paint!) and wrote poetry and sang (lots of people write poetry and sing!)


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Last edited by Otto Reverse on 2017-10-23 07:25; edited 6 times in total
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brainpang
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Post 2017-10-22 18:56   [Quote] 
Otto Reverse wrote:
About 7 or 8 years ago I posted file links to my CB '82 press conference (on one of the main Beefheart fan websites*) but the haggling and greedy responses to my free files forced me to scrap the whole notion of calmly posting the conference online....

* a website that's always been obsessed with uninteresting Magic Band reunions, Beefheart tribute albums, dull fan stories (like mine) and sub-par reviews of Van Vliet art shows...one day hopefully there will emerge a better way to pay tribute to Don and his activities...Beefheart fans tend to be unquestioning and somewhat naive, mostly because they see Beefheart as some sort of god on an ATONAL MOUNTAIN...forgettng that Beefheart appropriated a lot of sounds from the Free Jazz world (Albert Ayler makes Beefheart sound like Johnny Mathis) and a little bit from true geniuses such as Harry Partch, Bo Diddley and of course Howlin' Wolf...no artist or musician creates in a vaccuum, not even Don Van Vliet...the (mostly) self created myth of Beefheart as "isolated, stoic desert creator" is more harmful than helpful when assessing and enjoying his unique sounds


Don't know what you are going on about here. Maybe you feel your ego hasn't been sufficiently stroked? Go ahead: calmly post the conference and prove me wrong.
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vivalapsych
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Post 2017-10-24 20:02   [Quote] 
Thank you for the well written story. You have sufficiently stoked my interest in hearing this tape. I hope you choose to share it here.
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brainpang
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Post 2017-11-03 06:33   [Quote] 
vivalapsych wrote:
Thank you for the well written story. You have sufficiently stoked my interest in hearing this tape. I hope you choose to share it here.


Some great insights. I applaud the "low-comedy" line and many other observations, but this guy is the worst of the worst. I hate people who gloat. Burn the tape! Talk about lame Beefheart fans, this guy is the epitome... but can't see it. Ha ha ha.
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vivalapsych
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Post 2017-11-03 16:03   [Quote] 
brainpang wrote:
vivalapsych wrote:
Thank you for the well written story. You have sufficiently stoked my interest in hearing this tape. I hope you choose to share it here.


Some great insights. I applaud the "low-comedy" line and many other observations, but this guy is the worst of the worst. I hate people who gloat. Burn the tape! Talk about lame Beefheart fans, this guy is the epitome... but can't see it. Ha ha ha.


Yeah, now that I notice this line from above “About 7 or 8 years ago I posted file links to my CB '82 press conference (on one of the main Beefheart fan websites*) but the haggling and greedy responses to my free files forced me to scrap the whole notion of calmly posting the conference online ”

Why would there be “haggling” if he was just going to put it up for free? Hoarders are bad enough, but ones who dangle something in your face expecting you to jump through unspecified hoops or show some collective appreciation that only he can quantify are far worse.
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airstreamdriver
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Post 2018-01-23 08:02   [Quote] 
Otto Reverse wrote:
About 7 or 8 years ago I posted file links to my CB '82 press conference (on one of the main Beefheart fan websites*) but the haggling and greedy responses to my free files forced me to scrap the whole notion of calmly posting the conference online ...

"Posted," you say? I remember someone around that time promising to post tapes that sound very much like what you describe, but the postings never actually materialized. I remember a lot of eager waiting, then recordings never appearing.

Anyway, your complaint doesn't even make sense. You're promising to give something away for free, yet someone expressing interest in it constitutes "greed." The only greed I see here is someone dangling something they want people to salivate over, but then claiming that that exact interest constitutes "greed."

Since you like stories, here's one for you: three years ago I posted an interview online that was recorded in 1971, very generously provided by the man who conducted the interview and recorded the conversation. He made it publicly available provided that I "spread it far and wide", so I did just that. No, "haggling," no "greedy responses”, no self-serving histrionics -- just 2000+ drama-free plays to date. Here's the link, enjoy with my compliments: https://soundcloud.com/hellsdonuthouse/captain-befheart-interview-by-richard-einhorn-for-wfmu-1971

If you have something to share, then share it. If not, then go off somewhere and give your own baby the attention it clearly needs and come back when you’re ready to play well with others.
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brainpang
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Post 2018-02-10 21:36   [Quote] 
Ha ha ha! Thank you, Jeff!
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