by Nicky Crewe
Thank you to Nicky Crewe for his review of my book on the great Captain Beefheart.
Opher Goodwin – Captain Beefheart On Track; Every Album, Every Song
by Nicky Crewe
published: 26 / 11 / 2022
Longtime Beefheart enthusiast Opher Goodwin has researched and written an essential reference work for fans old and new. Nicky Crewe takes us through the pages
It could be argued that we can now expect the internet to provide the answers to our curious questions on any topic, but sometimes it’s important to know what questions to ask, and whose information to believe. That’s where the ‘Every Album, Every Song’ series from Sonicbond Publishing steps in. The series is a great resource for those who want to know more about the music and musicians they admire and love. Written by fans who dig deep into the archives and their own experiences, these slim volumes pack a huge amount between the covers. In this one, Opher Goodwin shares some of his own life-changing encounters with Captain Beefheart and his music, coming right up to date with the Magic Band tours of 2014 and 2017. He sets Beefheart’s music and legacy into context, socially and culturally – in his case, John Peel’s radio programme and a significant 1967 London gig at Middle Earth meant he never looked back. Goodwin doesn’t avoid the difficult aspects of Beefheart’s behaviour towards members of his band, especially during the ‘Trout Mask Replica’ era. Some of the stories are as discordant and disturbing as the music they produced. Credit is also given to the roles played by John French, Ry Cooder and Frank Zappa in building Beefheart’s success and lasting reputation and relevance. He both researches and reviews this music that continues to inspire and influence, setting it in context, unpicking some of the stories and myths that have built up around the man and his chosen musicians. As the author his task is to listen with attention to every track: what an amazing opportunity. My own love of Beefheart’s music followed a similar trajectory. I first heard ‘Electricity ‘on the jukebox at the Magic Village, Roger Eagle’s cellar club in Manchester in 1968, and was blown away. I was then introduced to ‘Trout Mask Replica’ and ‘Safe As Milk’. Beefheart’s music may have been an acquired taste, but it was one I acquired quickly. I saw the band at the Bickershaw Festival in 1972, as I was working in a wholefood catering tent right next to the stage. No sleep possible! Roll on another year and I was in a band managed by Roger Eagle (later responsible for Eric’s in Liverpool). Not only did he promote Beefheart’s tours in the UK, but the two of them became close friends, sharing a love of blues music and a similar stature and approach to life. Through Roger, I was invited on the tour bus whenever I was free and got to see much of the ‘Clear Spot ‘tour. I took this opportunity for granted at the time. Many of my friends were musicians, in bands with varying degrees of success. I still have my gifted copies of ‘Spotlight Kid’ and ‘Clear Spot’ from those days, and over the years I have come to realise how privileged and fortunate I was to have had such an adventure. I followed Beefheart’s new releases for many years, but for me those two albums stand out. They contained songs that were unexpectedly tender and poetic, as well as harking back to the delta blues that Beefheart was so influenced by, and they are forever associated too with that particular period of my young life. Sometimes when I walk in to a cafe, club or shop, I unexpectedly hear one of Beefheart’s songs. My heart leaps: it’s a little piece of magic for the day. It happened to me last week with ‘Too Much Time’, which led to a conversation with a young barista, about the same age now as I was when I met Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. It’s fantastic that people are still discovering him, still sharing his music, as his legacy continues to grow. Opher Goodwin’s book covers the official albums, the compilations, rarities and bootlegs and the live albums. There’s information about the offshoot band Mallard, and the reformed Magic Band, and the solo projects of all those who passed through that legendary band. There’s even a section on tributes and covers. Sometimes I wonder if you can know too much: when I was 16 I didn’t need to know the hows and whys to respond to the music, the voice, the presence and the genius, but now I find those back stories fascinating, and I owe Opher Goodwin my thanks.