Saturday, June 30, 2007


Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band (Abstract Rock)
Tracks: Dali’s Car (
Reprise / Ada. 1969) / One Rose That I Mean (Capitol, 1970)
Guitar Hero #1: Antennae Jimmy Semens
Guitar Hero #2: Zoot Horn Rollo

Antennae Jimmy Semens / Zoot Horn Rollo

A strange feeling came over me yesterday as I was examining vegetables at the supermarket. The bright lights, heat and swarming crowds of shoppers brought on an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia. Combined with the intensity of colors on display - the deep reds and yellows of the bell peppers, the jarring purple of the Japanese eggplants - my head started to spin.

When I finally got home I locked the door behind me and took a deep breath. I had a craving for music which was angular and abstract. Maybe that would counteract the mania.

I immediately thought of two of my favorite guitar heroes: Antennae Jimmy Semens and Zoot Horn Rollo, the outrageous axe duo of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band. They blew my mind over thirty years ago when I was floored by their complex, jagged rhythms on Beefheart’s astounding Trout Mask Replica LP. Passing years have not diminished the fascination.

As its title suggests, Trout Mask’s Zappaesque guitar duet Dali’s Car is a bizarre and surreal work which lurches along like a Dadaesque jalopy. Semens and Rollo's guitar lines perform insane pirouettes around each other, and invoke a panoply of feelings - disorientation, shock, even joy before they come to a shuddering halt.

On another favorite Beefheart album, Lick My Decals Off, Baby, Zoot Horn Rollo contributes the gorgeous solo guitar ode, One Red Rose That I Mean.

It blows my mind that this tune was originally created by patching together fragments of the good Captain’s free-form piano playing, then transposed to guitar. This semi-improvisatory feel means that, even after many listenings, the track retains its freshness. With its almost Elizabethan delicacy, it's one of the loveliest instrumental wigouts to appear on any rock album.


Matt the mongrel said...

love th' captain and his cohorts!

STANALEC said...

Excellent blog! Saw the Captain in Birmingham Town hall many years ago ....... What a great and wild performance!