Opher Goodwin – Captain Beefheart On Track; Every Album, Every Song – Thank you Nicky Crewe!

  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



Opher Goodwin - Captain Beefheart On Track; Every Album, Every Song

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.


Photos – Magic Band – Leeds 2011

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band were my favourite band of all-time. As they disbanded back in 1981 I thought I would never get the chance to hear that brilliant music again. With the Captain indisposed (and then later dying) it looked like the end. But then John French, who was the musical director of the band, put together a band to commemorate the incredible music of Don Van Vliet.

I went to see the new incarnation without much hope for great things. They did have four original members in Denny Walley, Rockette Morton Gary Lucas and John French (Drumbo) but I was still not allowing my hopes to get too strong. Who else could sing like Beefheart? How wrong I was. John French did an admirable job on vocals and the band were so hot they burnt a hole in the stage. True they did not look quite as trim as they had done thirty years before but they sounded monstrous.

By the time Leeds came around Gary Lucas had left but was replaced by the remarkable Eric Klerks. Here’s a few photos from that brilliant Leeds concert in 2011.

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Rockette Morton with Laser Beans

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Anecdote – My first Captain Beefheart concert in 1968


My first Captain Beefheart concert in 1968

I was introduced to Captain Beefheart and the West Coast Acid Rock sound by a very long-haired friend of mine called Mike. His aim in life was to grow his hair as long as he could. To that end he lived in fear of split-ends so he refused to either comb or brush his hair. He would run his fingers through it.

Mike was also fond of LSD. He would take a tab and go up to London to Middle Earth or the UFO to catch Pink Floyd or any of the West Coast Bands. He would tell me about coming out of an all-nighter into the daylight while still tripping and seeing the mounted police morphing into centaurs.

Mike’s favourite bands were Country Joe and the Fish, the Doors, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. He would play them to me incessantly and I loved them too.

At the time I was taking my A Levels. I had a place at university sorted. All I had to do was achieve the grades. Mike was a year older and was already away at college in York doing a history degree.

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band came across for their first tour. I already had that first album ‘Safe as Milk’ which I thought contained some of the best music I had heard. I knew I had to see them. They were appearing a week prior to my crucial Biology exam. That was fine. I knew that I wouldn’t get back from the concert to two or three in the morning but that was alright. I had a whole week to recover and do a spot of revision. I wasn’t very good at revision. I tended to leave it to the night before.

Eagerly I went up to London to see them only to discover the concert was postponed. Rockette Morton was ill. They put the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation on in their place. Now I liked Aynsley but he was by no means my favourite Blues band. I was extremely disappointed.

During the concert they announced that they were going to do a special double-header the following week. Not only was Captain Beefheart going to play but they were putting on John Mayall as well.

Well that floored me.

John Mayall was a favourite of mine. He had Pete Green on guitar. When that was added to Beefheart it was a package not to be missed.

To be fair I did think it over for a day or two. I knew how important those exams were. If I messed up that was my whole future. My career was out the window.

But then I never messed up Biology. I had done well in every test. There was no need to panic.

You would think that I might have found a compromise and really put in an effort on the revision on the days leading up to the exam. Unfortunately my adolescent brain simply did not function that way.

I went to the concert. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band completely blew my mind. The album had been good but live they were in a different universe. I had never heard music like it. It was so exciting, complex and dynamic that it had me bouncing and beaming right through. It was so incredibly good that I only have the vaguest memory of John Mayall. They did all the best stuff off that first album – Electricity, Yellow Brick Road, Drop Out Boogie and Abba Zabba. I still think of it as one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

I did get back at three o clock and my Biology exam started at 9.00 o clock. But I was too excited by what I’d seen. I couldn’t possibly sleep.

Needless to say I missed my university place by one grade. That could conceivably have been one single mark. I ended up going to a polytechnic and not becoming a doctor.

I worked out at some point that the Beefheart concert cost me between one and three million pounds.

But it was worth every penny. You can’t buy memories.

Magic Band – 2015 November Tour Dates – The Best Band in the Universe!

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Even without the Captain this band are superb. Rockette Morton on brilliant bass, Denny Walley and Elliott Ingber on guitar and John French on Drums and vocals. Unbelievably good.

The music is spot on; the musicianship outstanding, sound brilliant and music superlative. I’ve not heard better!!!

I’ve been raving about Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band since 1967. Here they are albeit without the Captain. I never believed anybody could take his place but Drumbo (John French) is amazing.

This may be their last tour. Don’t miss it!!  Here’s where they are:

4th Nov – Nottingham – Rescue Rooms

5th Nov – Manchester – Band on the Wall

7th Nov – Preston – Continental

8th Nov – Liverpool – Kazimier

10th Nov – Sheffield – Greystones

11th Nov – Leeds – Brudenell Social Club

16th Nov – Wolverhampton – Robin 2

17th Nov – Bristol – The Fleece

20th Nov – London – Under the Bridge

21st Nov – Aldershot – West End Centre

I’ll be hitting at least two if not four. Sheffield & Leeds are definites. I’m toying with Liverpool and London. We’ll see!!

Be there or be square.


It’s worth a trip from Perth!!

Get in with a flight from Berlin!!

Be in the know with a flight from Rio!!

Hear them play with a trip from L.A.!!

Magic Band photos from Lincoln 2014 – now on Opher’s World



I have put the photos of the incredible Magic Band performance at the Engine Room at Lincoln up on my blog: https://opherworld.wordpress.com/

I loved the gig – hope you like the photos!