Book of the Week – In Search Of Captain Beefheart – Pt. 5 – Authenticity from the Delta – the Blues

Authenticity from the Delta – the Blues

At the same time that my ear was getting attuned to the wonders of Mersey and Beat my friend Dick Brunning, who was evidently utterly immune to the marvels of Pop Music, seemed keen to introduce me to authentic Chicago Blues. I have no idea how Dick got into what was such an obscure thing as Chicago Blues. In 1964 it was still largely unknown and certainly not popular. It wasn’t even by some eccentric word of mouth as he did not seem to know anyone else interested in Blues. He was, like me, fourteen years old and living in Surrey. Yet he’d developed an obsession with Blues.

Dick was one of that small group of people who you might find wandering around clutching a Blues album under his arm. This was how Mick Jagger had met up with Keith Richard. If Dick had lived in the right place and been on the correct railway platform he might have ended up playing in the Rolling Stones – but then he probably would have needed to have mastered a musical instrument and I don’t remember Dick having any musical abilities or interest in playing any instrument.

Dick lived some way off in Aldershot so it was quite a bike ride to his house. Therefore, whenever I went, he had a captive audience. We sat on his bed while he extolled the virtues of various Blues Artists. His favourite was an album of Lightnin’ Hopkins called ‘Lightnin’ Strikes. It had an echoey quality as Lightnin’, unaccompanied, played highly amplified electric guitar and had nailed bottle tops to his shoes so that he could accompany himself by tapping his feet. I kinda wished he wouldn’t.

At first it was a noise. I couldn’t make out a word the guy was singing and it was raw and unsophisticated. After many hours during which I politely showed interest I began to get more attuned and had a revelation as I started to make out that it was actually being sung in English even if it was not quite the variety I was used to.

Lightnin’ sang in a rich, black, broad Texas drawl that seemed to deploy a novel approach to the English language. In fact it appeared that he was attempting to create a whole new grammar as well. I found it quite intriguing. Out of sheer boredom I graduated to carefully listening to the guitar. I liked electric guitar but had never listened to anything that was remotely like this. Lightnin’ was playing loud with a great deal of distortion. As my ear tuned in I gradually grew to love the type of fluid runs he was putting together. That was all it took. The door had opened.

It did not happen overnight. It took Dick many months of hard work to get me hooked but get me hooked he did. I grew to love it. I have since hunted for that old vinyl album of Lightnin’s (He released a whole slew of albums called Lightnin’ Strikes) but have failed to locate it. I got its sequel ‘Dirty House Blues’ but it’s not as good. I have all the numbers on CD but they don’t sound the same. Somehow I imagine that even if I tracked it down those sounds are trapped in Dick’s bedroom over fifty years back and it could not possibly have the same magic.

Dick went on to introduce me to Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Moaning in the moonlight’ and Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed and a host of others. I am eternally grateful.

On one occasion I can remember we were at his local record shop and they miraculously had a John Lee Hooker EP in featuring ‘Dimples’ and ‘Boom boom’. Dick was debating as to whether he could really afford it while I was extolling the virtues of  ‘Ferris Wheel’ the new Everly Brothers single that had just been released. He ignored me and bought the Hooker.

On another occasion I found an old 78 of Muddy Water’s ‘Honey Bee’. I was really proud of it. Dick conned it out of me – promising me that he knew a place where he could get me a replacement. There wasn’t any such source but Dick was so insanely in need of the 78 that I let him have it. He still owes me.

Because of Dick I got into a lot of the Blues before the Beat groups brought out their versions. That didn’t stop me loving them though. I loved the way the British Beat bands did their often freaked out versions of old Blues. They made them different.

So there I was playing my Lightnin’ Hopkins in my bedroom along with my Searchers and Beatles. It seemed to make sense to me.

A strange thing happened to Dick at some future point in time. He was at a crossroads at the top of a hill leading down into town and edging out to go down to the shops. A car came careering along, tried to get round the bend and ended up rolling over twice and ending up in a field. Dick sat there open-mouthed. The driver of the crashed car kicked his door open and clambered out. He staggered across to Dick. Dick thought that he was going to say something like ‘Did you see that?’ and wound his window down. Instead the driver simply thumped Dick right in the face and knocked him out. Dick slumped forward, his foot came off the brake and he rolled down the hill.

He came round with his car in a great heap of tinned baked beans and a copper slapping his face. Seemingly he’d gone straight down the hill and through the front of a supermarket, right through the tills and into the beans. Fortunately, miraculously, nobody was hurt.

My love of the Blues blossomed and I ventured out into acoustic and also discovered the wonders of slide guitar. I was on the trail of Son House and I did not even know it.

First I had to discover Robert Johnson who I loved. Then I stumbled on Elmore James and I lit up. Elmore was a revelation. Those searing guitar runs and cracked up voice were explosive and I adored him. Dick had Lightnin’, Muddy, Jimmy and Howlin’ but Elmore was all mine. I discovered him!

I remember driving past Dobell’s on my motorbike and noticing two Elmore James albums in the window. They were like gold dust and the first I’d ever seen. Unfortunately the place was shut and I had to go back. It took me best part of a day to buy them. I had to drive all the way up to Charing Cross Road. It was like breaking into Tutankhamen’s tomb. The place was a treasure trove. I spent ages picking through the racks of American Blues. There were albums I’d never dreamed of! I had severely limited funds but came out clutching a handful of precious albums. I might not eat much for a few weeks but my ears were going to get nourished!

Unfortunately Elmore died before ever playing to a white audience so I never got to see him. Supposedly he had a heart attack in the recording studio in the early 60s. I always imagined that somewhere out there is a tape of Elmore crying out in pain and expiring. But that’s just me and my bad taste. I adored Elmore.

Later, because of the Blues boom, I got to see a number of the great Blues guys. I got to see Jimmy Reed play in a small London club. He had his son on bass and brilliantly slurred his way through a set of all his immaculate songs. But then he’d always sounded permanently drunk and the show was spot on.

I saw Muddy Waters three times with Otis Spann and his late 60s band. He was great but I think he’d toned down his act for white audiences. I would have loved to have seen him in one of those steamy Chicago clubs doing his full on act with all the women screaming at him, when he used to put a coke bottle down his trousers and get ‘em all going with ‘I’ve got my Mojo working’ and then flick the top off of the bottle and spray the audience at the crescendo. I think he felt that white audiences might find that a bit too raunchy. He may have been wrong.

That’s what Blues meant to me. It was dirty, dangerous and full of sex – a million miles away from sanitised white Pop music. You could see how it had fed into early Rock ‘n’ Roll. There was something seminal and real about it. It didn’t skirt the subject. It didn’t play for a gentile audience. It hadn’t been over-produced. It was still authentic and earthy. Where Sinatra sang of ‘Moon in June’ McKinley sang ‘I just want to make love to you.’ It was direct and honest.

They brought these Blues packages across in the late 1960s and I was privileged to see two of them at the Hammersmith Odeon. It gave me the opportunity to see many of my heroes before they slipped away. Many were at the end of their lives but still managed to give great performances, revitalised by the adulation of white audiences in Britain. They’d been dug out of obscurity and put back on the stage for a second career.

One package was Mississippi artists. I was really looking forward to it. I loved Bukka White, Skip James and Big Joe Williams and they did not disappoint. There were lots of them on the bill and they each got a twenty minute set. Big Joe Williams went down so well that he wouldn’t leave the stage and in the end they had to physically drag him off. Skip and Bukka were both ill and nearing the end of their days. Skip died shortly afterwards. But they both were great and their honest performances brought tears to my eyes. You wouldn’t have known how ill they really were.

Towards the end there was this guy Son House. I’d never heard of him. He was old and frail – in his late seventies. He shuffled on stage trailing his steel guitar behind him and we all wondered what on earth they were serving up. This guy looked well past his sell-by date. He sat on a chair, somehow lifted his guitar in his lap and began mumbling into the microphone like Hillbilly Bear (A cartoon character of the day). There was a muffled set of laughs. It was embarrassing.

Then he started to strum the opening to ‘Death Letter Blues’ the years dropped off him and the power radiated out. It was so powerful that it blew the whole audience away. The bottle-neck National Steel guitar was the most strident and forceful guitar-work I had ever heard. His voice was rich and expressive and he sang from the heart. By the end everyone in the hall was up standing on their seats bellowing for more. He shuffled off dragging his guitar behind him. The noise went on and he came back on without guitar. He stood there, clapped and stamped and sang a cappella.

I had discovered him.

I had found what I did not know I had been looking for. Son House had entered my life.

It is one thing to discover something but quite another to fully understand it. That is something I have been pursuing to this day. It is only with the advent of CDs that much of the material has come to light and is available. Back in 1967 there was only one album that had been released entitled ‘Death letter blues’. I played it in the shop in a tiny listening booth and it was every bit as strident and powerful as I remembered. I snapped it up.

Now I have 26 CDs of Son house material – including his early ‘field’ recordings and a number of live concerts.

Son House was playing at the time of Charlie Patton and those other early itinerant Mississippi blues musicians. He is fabled to have taught Robert Johnson to play. As such you could say that he was the focal point for all that was to follow! Rock music might not have existed without him.

You could say that my quest had led me all the way back to the beginning.

The beginning is a good place to start. Once you have the beginning you’ve got a cornerstone to build the rest of the story on. I consider myself fortunate to have seen the man who started it all. He was as awesome as his reputation.


The Blues Muse – A book on Rock Music like no other – The introduction.

The Blues Muse

Posted on  by Opher

I think this is the most imaginative book I’ve ever written yet it tells the story of Rock Music from its roots in the early twentieth century right up to today. It is a novel.



This is a novel. It is the often repeated story of Blues and Rock Music but like it has never been told before. My character is the man with no name; the muse, the witness, the time traveller. He was there through it all. We see everything through his eyes. My character is fictional and I’ve taken liberties with some of the events, and a few of the timings, but the spirit is as real as the day is long. It’s more real than when it happened.

This is Blues and Rock. I have taken the main characters, the important scenes and stepping stones and brought them to life by painting the picture around them, filling in the background, and embellishing the stories. What we have is not real, not history, not just dry facts. This is more of an impressionist painting than a photograph. But perhaps you can see more reality from an impression than a stark record.

Each scene is a vignette that is self-contained. The timing is by necessity approximate. While my man is a spirit he cannot physically be in two places at once. All I ask is that you suspend your disbelief and give full rein to your imagination. If you do that I will take you there and show you what was really going down. There was a social context, an establishment response, a rebellion and new youth culture that accompanied that rhythm. It meant a huge amount to the people who lived through it. I was one of them. It gave us hope. It gave us a new way of looking, raised our awareness and gave us sight of a different future. Through the excitement there was a fraternity that crossed race, national boundaries and creed.

That music was new and it was ours.

Music is elemental. It was created right back in the dawn of time; it is in the DNA of man. When that first percussion created the initial beat, that first voice found its range, something was released that has never died.

Africa was our home and where that beat was first invented. Maybe as a backdrop to provide substance to a religious ceremony? Maybe as a unifying force to raise the courage for war? But maybe, I like to think, as a celebration, for dancing to, losing yourself in and becoming as free as the wind.

That beat is centred in our body and our mind, built on our heart-beat, generating emotion and excitement, liberating and elevating.

Who knows when the first instruments were invented, the first harmonies, choruses? Certainly a long time ago. Music is in our blood and has permeated our lives.

Back in the early twentieth century music was revitalised and reinvented. The black slaves in America reached back to their roots, pulled out that rhythm and created the Blues, Gospel, Jazz and Soul. They married it to the white country jigs, reels and barn-dance, to the Cajun and Creole, to electricity, and came up with Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The winds of the Blues blew straight out of Africa, straight from our ancestors, to talk to us through our genes. They stir our spirits, our passions and raise up our minds. The young recognise its power and are moved by it.

The world has felt its power and the establishment has been shaken by the hurricanes it releases.

This was first mentioned by W C Handy in his memoirs. He claims he was sitting on the station in Tutwiler Mississippi, where a black man was playing the Blues using a penknife to create the sound on the guitar strings and singing a plaintive refrain. He said it was the weirdest sound he had ever heard but it stirred his imagination and caused him to change from playing Sousa to performing and popularising the Blues.

Tutwiler is where our story starts.

The wind from the Blues is a spirit that blows through us, in us and out from us into the world. It is transformational.

This is the story of that spirit. It’s a spirit that lives in all of us. This is the story of Blues and Rock told through the eyes of that spirit, that essence. It is there in all of us and was there throughout, witnessing, inspiring and creating energy, change and emotion. It has the power to move mountains and bring down nations.

This is the muse of the Blues, the story of Rock.

It hasn’t stopped blowing yet!

Opher 1.10.2015


If you would like to purchase The Blues Muse, or any of my other books please follow the links:

In the UK:

In the US:

For all other countries please check out your local Amazon outlet.

Rock genres – Acid Rock

Rock genres – Acid Rock

acid 4
captain beef

Acid Rock as a genre started in the mid-sixties and flourished in the late sixties.

At that time LSD – lysergic Acid Diethylamine – was legal and thought to be safe. Marijuana was the drug of choice for the burgeoning alternative culture and was extensively used.

A Rock Scene sprang up in the two cities on the West Coast of America which had attracted in large numbers of alternative characters. In Los Angeles the scene was centred around Venice and the Sunset Strip and in San Francisco it was around Haight Asbury.

The culture was very radical. It became known a the Hippie movement typified by its long hair and bright clothes, liberalised attitudes to drugs and sex and a distrust of the establishment.

The Acid Rock culture had grown out of a coalescing from a number of sources. There was the influence of the British Bands who had inspired a number of musicians to get into bands; the politics and poetry of the Folk movement, exemplified by Bob Dylan, with its radicalising message; the influence of East Coast musicians like the Lovin’ Spoonful and then the seminal band the Byrds with their Folk-Rock and spacey sounds.

In Britain a similar thing was taking place simultaneously. It was based in London where both cannabis and :LSD were circulating and was creating a Psychedelic scene based around clubs like The UFO Club, Middle Earth and the Eel-Pie Island.

The two were to cross-fertilise and interact.

In Los Angeles the leading lights were the Doors, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Buffalo Springfield, The Mothers of Invention (Frank Zappa) and Love. They tended to have a Blues based sound. Frank was a a bit of a one-off and not really what I would call Acid Rock but …….

In San Francisco it was Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Grateful Dead. There was more of a Folk influence here.

The effects of the drugs on the music was very evident. The pieces were drawn out into long jams with the integration of soaring guitars and harmonies. It was intricate and interweaved into complex rhythms and there was the use of different instrumentation, musical forms, electronic sounds. It created a dense sound that was mesmerising and you could get lost in. It was album based, rather than singles, and was focussed on the ideology of the alternative culture with its peace, love and anti-establishment themes. The music was of and for the sixties alternative culture.

When coupled with light shows in small clubs the atmosphere was a total immersive experience that was intended to be consumed while high.

Surprisingly it was instantly commercially successful with bands like the Doors and Jefferson Airplane hitting the singles charts. This threw everyone into a dilemma. The bands were in danger of being called ‘Sell-outs’ and losing their street credibility and the establishment was shocked and did not know how to deal with the drug references and social messages.

Some of these bands went on to become among the biggest in the world – like the Doors. Others developed huge stadia followings like Grateful Dead and others fell by the wayside like Country Joe and the Fish.

My favourite was the incredible Captain Beefheart who produced the greatest body of work, pushed the boundaries, was innovative and extraordinary, was a poet of great originality, and created complex music the like of which has never been bettered. He influenced a thousand other musicians and remains a largely unsung hero.

My book – ‘In Search of Captain Beefheart’ is not actually about the Captain; it is about my quest for the lodestone of Rock Music. It’s a tale of a man’s journey and love of Rock Music.

I have a number of other books concerned with Rock Music you might enjoy – Tributes to the Top Rock acts:

My views on the greatest albums of all time:

Rock lives!!

Featured book – In Search of Captain Beefheart – An extract

Featured book – In Search of Captain Beefheart – An extract

Posted on  by Opher


The day the world Rocked

It was sometime early in 1963 and I was sitting in Tony Humm’s bedroom as he sat me down and told me to listen to this. I had never seen Tony so animated and excited about music; he usually only got this worked up over snakes. We were not ones for playing a lot of music. Tony was my animal collecting friend and track bike making friend not a music buff.

I am a collector as I have previously explained. It isn’t just music and musical memories I collect. I collect anything that appeals to me. I had what was loosely called a museum at home. It has fossils and minerals that I collect with Billy. It has shells which I collect with my mother. It has butterflies, moths and insects that I collected with Jeff and Clive. It has birds’ eggs that I bought in a jumble sale. It has miscellaneous objects, such as a mammoth’s tooth, a hippo’s tooth, a pair of antlers and the top of an American Indian totem pole.

I also collected animals. Some of these were wild animals that I collected with Tony others were tame. At one time I had two thousand mice with the full range of colours, forty hamsters, forty guinea pigs, a rabbit, a crow, a couple of gerbils and some stick insects. I made money out of breeding them and selling them to the pet shop. I also had a bit pit I had dug in the garden. I had sunk an old porcelain sink into it as a pond and placed rocks and plants around. This was my wild animal sanctuary.

Tony and I would head off into the surrounding countryside on the track bikes we had made from old bikes we had salvaged out of the ditches. We had painted these old rusty frames up with garish gloss paint we had liberated from our parents’ garages so that they were decorated in stripes and stars. They were the first psychedelic bikes and were obviously a precursor of Ken Kesey’s Magic Bus – Furthur. (Perhaps me and Tony invented psychedelia?). We clutched an aluminium milk pail with lid into which we were to put our finds. We waded in ponds for frogs, toads, and newts. We waded up streams for sticklebacks. We lifted up old corrugated tin in search of slowworms, lizards, grass snakes and voles. We took our spoils back and released them into my pit, or kept them in aquaria. The sticklebacks always faded and died no matter what we did.

But that day in late March it was pouring with rain and we hadn’t gone out collecting. Tony took me up to his room and did something that changed my life. Unbeknownst to me, for I had allowed my interest in the charts to wane, Tony was tuned in.

‘Listen to this,’ Tony instructed. He placed a black vinyl disc on his Dansette and put it on 33 RPM and carefully manually lowered the needle on to the rim.

I sat there with no great expectation.

What came out of those crappy speakers set in the front of that Dansette changed my life for ever. I also believe that it changed the whole world in a way that nothing before or after has managed.

For some reason Tony had played the second side. I imagine he did that deliberately because that was the track with most impact.

Thus it was that the first Beatles track I ever heard was ‘I saw her standing there’ and it blew me away. I was gob-smacked. It was like nothing I had ever heard. It was raw and exciting. It wasn’t like 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll. It was somehow more modern.

Somehow ‘Love me do’ had passed me by. I had allowed the trite Pop of Bobby Vee, Fabian and Bobby Rydell to drift over my head. I’d been content with the old Rockers. But this was so vital and alive. It felt like it was my music – music produced for my generation. Old Rock ‘n’ Roll was brilliant but it was from someone else’s time. This was mine!

Tony never struck me as particularly hip and yet he had latched on to ‘Love me do’ and had actually purchased the ‘Please Please Me’ album on the day it was released. I was listening to it just a few days after that and my life would never be the same.

We played the whole album through and through a number of times and I loved it. From there on I bought every Beatle single, album and EP on the day of release and I, like all my friends, were glued to the charts. It had set me on fire again.

I was thirteen years old, living in Surrey on a housing estate in post-war Britain. It was all in the shadows of rationing and war. There were bomb sites and prefabs. The world had seemed very drab and black and white. But on that day in Tony Humm’s bedroom the 1960s began. Hard on the heels of the Beatles Merseybeat hit the charts as Brian Epstein exploited the Beatles overnight appeal to launch a host of Liverpudlian acts and every label in the land fell over themselves to sign up a ‘Mersey’ band. There was an explosion of new acts and all the established Pop acts were blown away. Immediately they were part of the old world. We all went Pop Music mad. It’s all we talked about at school.

Unbeknown to me I had been searching for the Beatles. They were definitely part of my quest but I did not put them in the title because that would have been too trite. Besides, in many ways the Beatles were the stepping stone to what came later. Rock and Pop music were still styles aimed at a young teenage market. When you grew up you were supposed to leave that behind and grow to like more mature types of music like Classical and Opera. At the start the Beatles were a Pop band with many Rock elements. As they developed their music became more complex and their lyrics, under the influence of Dylan’s poetic masterpieces, became deeper and prosaic. They led the way for Rock Music to be considered something much more than trivial Pop music and be considered as an adult art form. They enabled Rock musicians to be regarded as genuine musicians.

But I jump ahead. Right then the Beatles were essentially a Pop band unlike any that had gone before. They actually wrote their own songs as well as nicking stuff from American R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll. I heard someone talking on the radio the other day saying that the Beatles were probably embarrassed by the banality of their earlier Pop songs. He was talking shit. Right from the start their stuff was brilliant. There was a patina on every song. It shone with Beatle magic that transformed it into something more. Those songs have quality that lasts to this day, even the Pop songs. They were in a class of their own and I can’t think of a bad one.

That afternoon at Tony’s is fixed in my mind so that here, over fifty years later, I can still remember the excitement and wonder of it. We played the album to death and thrilled to every track.

Suddenly the world had changed. The charts were full of Mersey bands. I rushed out and bought everything by the Beatles and avidly watched their progress in the charts along with all the other lesser bands. All the kids were turned on like never before. There was a palpable excitement.

There was a record stall at Kingston cattle market that sold new albums for £1.25. By saving up my pocket money I could buy one album every two weeks. Gradually I got my collection together. Alongside my Beatles albums I soon had just about every new Mersey band. There was Gerry, Billy J, Freddie, Brian, Dave, Searchers, Hollies and the rest. I had all the singles and EPs. I even sent away for the two ‘This is Merseybeat’ albums and Billy Pepper and the Pepper Pots. My Rock records had been displaced further down my wall and there were considerably more brackets. One entire wall was full and I’d started on the second wall.

Somehow I never got to see the Beatles play. I don’t know why. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I could. None of my friends did. The Beatles did not seem to play anywhere nearby. There were no venues on the Thames Delta. We were a Rockin’ backwater. It’s one of my many regrets.

But at least the Beatles were in my life and I listened to them, watched them on telly and grew with them. I felt I understood them.

I can’t explain the excitement there was waiting for each new release. You pre-ordered it and were dying to hear it. You watched it explode on the charts and excitedly discussed it to death at school. Was it as good as the last? How was it different? As soon as you got your hands on it you rushed home and played it endlessly. I used to put it on the old Dansette with the arm raised so it played non-stop. I’d do the A-side a dozen times and then flip in over and do the same with the B-side. Unlike all the rest the Beatles never disappointed. There’s nothing like it now. Nothing has ever matched that.

There was a disaster on the day of the release of the Beatles second album. My Dansette broke. I rushed out to the local record shop where I had placed my order and picked up the album. I rushed home and I could not play the thing. It was the most frustrating time of my life. I sat in my bedroom holding ‘With the Beatles’. I studied the cover and noted the length of their hair. Hair had become incredibly important. I studied the track list. I could hold it, look at it and take it out of its cover but I could not play it. It was driving me mad.

In the end I had the idea to nip down the road to me mate Jeff. He had a Dansette.

Jeff was only too keen to play it and the two of us spent the day listening and it was brilliant.

Then I had to go home and the agony started again. Jeff suggested that as I didn’t have a means of playing it perhaps I could leave it with him until I’d got my record player fixed. The idea was appalling but I could not think of a single reason why not. Reluctantly I agreed. For the next two weeks my new Beatles album resided with Jeff and I can still remember the gloom and despondency this produced in me.

I grew up with the Beatles and they were a bit part of my musical voyage. As Rock Music progressed and developed into the revolution of the 1960s they were always there at the forefront on the leading edge.

I never got to meet any of the Beatles or even see them play though I got very close. When Roy Harper was recording at Abbey Road studios I was invited along to the sessions. I spent a lot of time there in the early 1970s and all the Beatles dropped in for various projects. I happened across loads of other musicians there but I never bumped into any of the Beatles though. On one occasion I took this American girl along to a Harper recording session. She had been staying with us and turned out to be a bit of a pain in the arse – a typical strident American whose boyfriend was a college jock. – That about summed it up! Liz had got really pissed off with her and suggested I took her out to get her out of Liz’s hair. I took her to Abbey Road where, true to form, she proceeded to piss Roy and everyone else off. She eventually went for a wander and found Paul McCartney and Wings recording in the next studio. She actually barged in while the red light was on and they were in the process of laying down a track and got severely bollocked by Paul McCartney. So the irony is that I went along all those times and never saw them once and she went once and got to meet Paul. So it was.

So why the Beatles? Why not Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Eddie, Buddy or Elvis? That’s what Mark Ruston, an old student of mine, asked me having read an early version of this book.

Well I loved all those early rockers and the music they made and I still do. I was excited by them but they weren’t mine. Somehow they were from the era before. I was too young when Rock ‘n’ Roll started up in 1956 to really get in to it. I caught up with it five years later. But in 1963 (the year sexual intercourse began – as Mark pointed out) the Beatles were mine. I felt like they were playing just for me. Crazy huh? Their image, the attitudes, the sound was all new. We were creating a new vision for the world, a sixties idealism. It was vital, alive and full of optimism. They blew away the drab post-war drabness of Britain with the Ena Sharples (an old Coronation Street harridan) old ladies in dowdy coats and hairnets. Right from that first track in Tony’s bedroom I felt the energy, excitement and possibility. We were a new generation, with new ideas, a new way of looking at the world. Our horizons were way broader than our parents. We weren’t tied to the strictures of conformity to old ways of dressing, living and thinking. We were making up our own rules. I sensed all that ravelled up in that first track.

Then as the 60s progressed we all grew together. It wasn’t a fan thing. It was a synergy. As our minds expanded with art, poetry, literature and music so did theirs. We mirrored one another. We fed off each other. The sixties scene was an explosion of possibility. There were no leaders. We all evolved along the same lines.

The Beatles were my gateway drug into the hard stuff of the 60s. They were mine – all mine!

As an aside – back in the 1980s I started doing tapes to play in the car. Interestingly I found I could fit all the songs I wanted to listen to of Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis and even the legendary Little Richard on one side of a C90 while the Beatles ran into 5 complete C90s – that about sums it up for me.

(Recently I tried to get Roy Harper to put together a box set and managed to narrow down the essentials to nine CDs!)

By the end of 1963 Merseybeat was dead in the water. Only the Beatles and Searchers really survived. A whole new bunch of bands had appeared with a bluesier, harder sound, a scruffier long haired image and had usurped the besuited Mersey Bands with their chirpy ‘Boy next door’ image. Longer hair was ‘in’ coupled with a surly attitude and ‘Bad Boy’ image.

I did catch Gerry and the Pacemakers in Hull a few years back at a matinee at Hull New Theatre. I went along out of interest and wasn’t expecting much. The original band had reformed and they were performing a show that was their story. Gerry narrated it, told his anecdotes and jokes, and played the music. They ended with the original line-up doing a short set. It was surprisingly good and the when the band kicked in they were really loud and powerful and nothing like the twee Pop stuff they’d charted with. As it was a matinee there were coach-loads of pensioners (mainly old ladies) who had come along to see the nice little Pop group. I’m not sure they appreciated all the stories from Hamburg’s red light district and when the band kicked in at the end they were putting their hands over their ears and complaining. I was impressed. They were good!

Ironically the rise of the new Beat music coincided with the storming of America by the Beatles and every Tom Dick and Harry from England who could pick up an instrument.

We watched in pride, disbelief and ecstatic delight as the Beatles had seven singles in the US Top Ten and Beatle mania was rampant in the States.

Britain was no longer a musical backwater on a par with Finland. We were the centre of the universe and Elvis no longer ruled. There were big differences though. In the States all the new Beat bands somehow got mixed up with the old-hat Mersey acts. There was no progression or distinction. All the Merseybeat bands got a second lease of life.

One of the weirdest downsides of the British invasion was that Herman’s Hermits became one of the biggest acts.

It was Cliff all over again!

If you would like to read more it is available on Amazon.

In the UK:

In the USA:

$2.99 Read with Our Free App in BooksRock musicTagged 1960sacid rockAlternativeBluesBob DylanBookscaptain beefheartDon Van Vlietjournalismmusic writingOpher Goodwinopher’s worldOptimismpsychedelicPunkRock MusicWritingZeitgeist2 CommentsEdit

My Current Writing situation

Current Writing situation

Thanks for all your support – the likes, comments, reviews and ratings are all very sustaining. It’s good to know that so many of you appreciate the writing.

The work of a writer is very insular and takes a lot of time.

Here’s where I am at:

Captain Beefheart On Track: Every Album, Every Song: (Published by Sonicbond publishing)

This book has been out for a couple of months now. So far it has received 11 ratings – all 5*. Which is very pleasing!

It has been well reviewed in Record Collector. It is hard to pick a ‘best’ review. They are all great in different ways.

‘This is such a brilliant book. I have been using this as a reference book to check which musician played on which album! A lot of research has gone into it and the book is very informative! The author loves the band, but isn’t afraid to speak out against something he doesn’t like (The Tragic band !)

It has me listening to the albums more intently now!
Nice to see some of the Captain’s lyrics about the state of our planet ! ( I wonder what he would think of mother earth in 2022!)
Highly recommended.’

‘Firstly, reader, I’ll tell you what this book is like: You know when you go into an art gallery or museum and have an accompanying guide book explaining a little about the art or artefacts? Well, this is very much like that.

A companion piece for every track.

The author has lovingly reviewed and described every song and it is also full of little facts and interesting information.
If, like me, you are a Beefheart and The Magic Band aficionado (and I’m guessing that you are) then you’ll appreciate this book.
We’ve all read John French’s definitive horse’s-mouth and meticulous account, Bill Harkleroad’s equally valid (but not so obsessively detailed) story and we’ve also read Mike Barnes’s fantastic and accurate outsider view. There are a couple of other tomes too but those three are the glorious triumvirate of Beefheartian history.

This book isn’t trying to be that.

What it does is makes you revisit the albums. Not with a different perspective – we all have our own, as does this, but with another incentive; to listen to the most original, influential, unique music in rock history.
It’s a book for Beefheart lovers, nerds and obsessives.
If you don’t agree with some of the author’s viewpoints on the music it really doesn’t matter.

The purpose of the book is as a companion to this vast and broad decade of sheer creativity, originality and music-as-art from a genius/tyrant/eccentric and the supremely dedicated and unique musicians who helped to realise the vision, even taking a backseat to his ego for the sake of the art.

I love it and so will you.’

Captain Beefheart On Track: Every Album, Every Song: Opher Goodwin: 9781789522358: Books

Captain Beefheart On Track (

Really cherish all those reviews!

Roy Harper On Track: Every Album, Every Song: (Published by Sonicbond publishing)

This has been out for over a year now and is also on a 5* rating with an incredible 58 ratings and some brilliant reviews.

‘still in the process of enjoying Opher Goodwin’s paperback book detailing Roy Harper’s most illustrious recording career, i have to declare that this is one heck of a read!’

‘Opher Goodwin is a great writer who knows Roy Harper and was present while important parts of Harper’s catalogue were laid down. The book is lovingly put together and is a very easy read. (It helps if you know at least some of the music of course). There are many snippets and insights that I, as a keen Harper fan, was not aware of. It forms an indispensible companion volume for Roy’s book of lyrics, The Passions of Great Fortune.’

‘Opher’s superb book is an absolute must for any Roy Harper fan.’

Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track): Opher Goodwin: 9781789521306: Books

Roy Harper On Track (

Bob Dylan in the 60s: On Track: Every Album, Every Song: (Published by Sonicbond publishing)

This is complete and is presently with the publishers being edited and set. It should be published early next year!

Unintended Consequences (A Sci-fi novel written under the Ron Forsythe name)

This is a Science Fiction novel that I have just brought out. It’s the sequel to The Pornography Wars. I enjoyed writing this. It has a touch of humour.

‘The politics and satire continues as our humans are set free from control and find themselves in a very different world.
While the aliens continue to argue about the future of pornography and the sentience of human beings, life for the unshackled humans is becoming very grim.

In the tridee film-making studio everything is fraught.
The populist Director General, with her advisers, is being devious.
The Minister for Arts is stoned out of her mind.
A campaign to give humans rights is being fought.
Will the humans find themselves controlled and back in the sex movie, or will they be free?’

Unintended Consequences: Forsythe, Ron: 9798356000638: Books


This is a collection of short stories and writings from the last two years.

‘Words is a collection of short stories, anecdotes and writings accumulated over the last few years.
Some were written for fun; some have a more serious tone. Hopefully some will make you laugh, some will make you cry and others make you angry.’

Words: Goodwin, Opher: 9798358692046: Books

Broken Britain (A book of Poetry)

This is my latest book of poetry – a collection of poems gathered from my blog of a mainly political nature.

‘These are the poems of a madman. Politics makes me mad.

Everything is politics.
The establishment uses the media to control us.
The establishment is controlling politics.
My poems try to capture the mad thoughts that go through my head!
After twelve years of Tory greed and lust for power we are all broken. The country is broken. The public services are broken. Children are freezing and starving in Dickensian squalor while multitudes of billionaires and millionaires stuff millions off-shore tax-free.
All I do is write poetry.

Broken Britain: Goodwin, Opher: 9798358777781: Books

Futile Gestures (Yet another book of what I mistakenly call poems)

I am currently writing a new poetry book and am forty pages in. I imagine that it’ll be out early next year.

The Cabal

This is another Sci-fi novel that will come out under the Ron Forsythe name. I just took a peek. I have written 57 pages so I have a long way to go.

Right – I’m off back to do a little more work on The Cabal.

Thanks again for all your interest and support. Please keep the reviews, ratings, comments and likes coming. They give me a very necessary boost!!     THANK YOU!!

In Search of Captain Beefheart – the blurb

A memoir of a life spent in Rock Music

The sixties raged. I was young, crazy, full of hormones and wanting to snatch life by the balls. There was a life out there for the grabbing and it had to be wrestled into submission. There was a society full of boring amoral crap and a life to be had in the face of the boring, comforting vision of slow death on offer.

Rock music vented all that passion.

This book is a memoir of a life spent immersed in Rock Music. I was born in 1949 and so lived through the whole gamut of Rock.

Rock music formed the background to momentous world events – the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, Iraq war, Watergate, the miners’ strike and Thatcher years, CND, the Green Movement, Mao and the Cultural Revolution, Women’s Liberation and the Cold War.

I see this as the Rock Era.

I was immersed in Rock music. It was fused into my personality. It informed me, transformed me and inspired me. My heroes were musicians. I am who I am because of them.

Without Rock Music I would not have the same sensibilities, optimism or ideals. They woke me up!

This tells that story.

The Beat goes on – In Search of Captain Beefheart – cont. – A Rock Memoir

The Beat goes on

By 1964 we had all grown. Our hair, in particular had grown. I was fourteen and fifteen which was a good if difficult age to be. I was full of hormones, frustration and increasing angst which was beginning to bring me into conflict with authority. Rock Music was much more important than school. The commercial chirpiness of Merseybeat had been replaced by a harder, more individualistic and aggressive sound. Seemingly every week a new band burst upon the scene complete with a new sound, image and style.

Our TV programme ‘Ready Steady Go’ (A little bit of ‘Thank your lucky Stars’ and ‘Juke Box Jury’) featured them live. The Beeb was still too matronly to put on anything so we tuned in to Radio Luxembourg. Its sound kept phasing in and out but at least you could hear the stuff you wanted. Then it was the pirate radio stations with ‘Caroline’, ‘Atlantis’ and ‘London’.

Music was our life. We lived it.

The Stones burst upon the scene, closely followed by the Animals, Them, Yardbirds, Who, Smallfaces, Kinks, and Downliners Sect. Hardly a week went by without another one showing up. These were the days of the Mods and Rockers, scooters, Parkas and layered hair.

The toilets were always crowded with boys preening their hair and moulding it into shape. I went for a distinctive look. My hair was combed back at the sides and carefully arranged to cover my forehead with a long quiff. I tried to get it to create a unique wave. That was really difficult with only greasy brylcream and none of these modern day styling waxes. But I had the longest hair in school. It hung down to my shoulders. Hat was one of the coolest kids. He had a greasy rockers hairstyle with a quiff that he could pull down to his chin.

Hat and I were into motorbikes and that made us Rockers. We liked leather jackets, jeans and motorcycle boots. Hat wore really tight jeans and long winkle-picker boots.

  Opher & Liz on my first motorbike 1967

I idolised Phil May. He had the longest hair of any of the guys in the bands. My appearance caused some consternation among some staff. My Physics teacher affectionately called me ‘Squirrel’ but the Deputy Head took me on as a project. She was determined to get me to toe the line. I was even more determined to do the opposite. We had fun and games.

I also came into conflict with the prefects. They were worse than the teachers. They tried to intimidate and control you. I developed a nice line in smart repartee and sarcasm. It infuriated them even more which was the whole point. Bowyer was a particularly snooty prat who swanned around the school like some bantam pretending to be a peacock. He gave me a four sided essay to do because I refused to pick some milk bottles out of a puddle when ordered. He was a pretentious sod who thought he was at Eton complete with quilted waistcoat. The title of the essay he set me (bear in mind I was fourteen at the time) was ‘Should psychoanalysis be used as evidence in courts’. I wrote in big letters – ‘No! But those in positions of authority should be psychoanalysed before being put in that position!’ He was incensed and wanted to take me under the school and have me caned – prefects were allowed to give three lashes. I explained to him that he could try but either then or later I would beat him to a pulp. I was always a quiet, peaceful young lad. It was out of character – but he was a smarmy geek (reminds me of Cameron) who got right up my nose. He took me to the Head. I exceedingly calmly explained to our illustrious Headmaster that the next time Mr Bowyer asked me to pick up dirty milk bottles out of a muddy puddle would be the day he would be operated on to have them de-inserted. The Head was a wise man and figured out what was going on here. He put oil on the troubled water.

I wasn’t interested in school; I was only interested in girls and music.

One week there’d be the Kinks bursting on the scene with ‘You Really got me’ and then the next it’d be the Who with ‘I can’t Explain’ and Them with ‘Baby please don’t go’, the Prettythings with ‘Don’t bring me down’, the Yardbirds with ‘Good morning little school girl’ the Animals with ‘Baby let me take you down’ and the Small Faces with ‘What you gonna do about it’. It seemed inexhaustible.

Opher Goodwin’s many books on Rock Music.

Opher Goodwin’s many books on Rock Music.

I have many books on Rock Music:

  1. Captain Beefheart –Every Album, Every song

The book is available through Burning Shed (The publisher’s own distribution site) Captain Beefheart On Track (

Or through Amazon:

Captain Beefheart On Track: Every Album, Every Song: Opher Goodwin: 9781789522358: Books

  • Roy Harper – Every Album, Every Song

The book is available through Burning Shed (The publisher’s own distribution site) Roy Harper On Track (

Or through Amazon: Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track): Opher Goodwin: 9781789521306: Books

  • Nick Harper – The Wilderness Years

Through Amazon: Nick Harper: The Wilderness Years: Goodwin, Opher: 9798815185630: Books

  • In Search of Captain Beefheart (A Rock memoir)

Through Amazon: In Search of Captain Beefheart: Goodwin, Opher: 9781502820457: Books

  • Rock Routes (the history of Rock Music)

Through Amazon: Rock Routes: Goodwin, Opher: 9781514873090: Books

  • 537 Essential Rock Albums – Pt. 1

Through Amazon: 537 Essential Rock Albums – Pt. 1 The first 270: Goodwin, Opher: 9781502787408: Books

  • Opher’s Tributes To Rock Geniuses

Through Amazon: Opher’s World Tributes to Rock Geniuses: Goodwin, Opher: 9781508631279: Books

I do have a batch of copies that are available signed (including post and packaging) for between £9 (UK – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) and £23 (1 and 2) depending on which book: £17 – UK     £20 – Europe   £23 – USA

If you are interested please message or email me with your address. Payment through PayPal – Or send me a message if you just want further info or just to chat!

PS – Please leave a review – we live and die by reviews!