Captain Beefheart aka Don Van Vliet R.I.P. 1941-2010: Click here
Click here: The Odyssey Of Captain Beefheart, Rolling Stone’s 1970 cover story (with thanks to Ernie Clark)
The studio jam. The excuse of every lazy musician to waste studio time while trying to spark an idea worth recording. But for some, it was magic.
Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & THE MAGIC BAND The Spotlight Kid Outtakes 1971-1972 [Revision 3, March 2009, 3CD] Generally excellent studio recordings. Details below.
It all started here with this quote from the Captain to NME’s Roy Carr: Don Van Vliet: I was thinking warm and nice when I did that one (The Spotlight Kid) and I feel that it has all come through. Actually, though there are only ten tracks on the album, we recorded thirty-five songs altogether. (Roy Carr: Svengali Zappa And A Horrible Freak Called Beefheart. New Musical Express. January 12, 1972)
So where were the rest? In 2005, a triple CD containing what were outtakes and sessions for The Spotlight Kid emerged. It was a tasty revelation of the Magic Band hard at work. Then earlier this year, the third incarnation of these sessions appeared online, sounding better than ever. This time with the following note:
“Finally, this is how the sessions from 38 years ago surfaced. A very friendly DIME fellow who wants to stay anonymous sent his collection of Spotlight Kid outtakes… Every Beefheart fan has his own version, but this time we are talking about a known 2nd gen!
“A former band member received the tapes on getting the gig, they were made for him in order to learn the tunes. Our guy got them directly from him, he transferred the tapes to CD-R using a stand alone CD burner, no editing or mastering in this step. What I got are FLAC files directly ripped from the CD-R. The sound quality of the tracks is astonishing… You have to hear them!”
It was signed off cryptically - “Shared by ‘unknown’.” You’ll be happy to learn the quality is exceptional.
What you get though are a rambling of ideas cooked in the studio while jamming. Writer Pete Mulvey describes them as “two C90s, the first of which contains a range of material most of which does not make the album, but gets resurrected on a future release.”
As for the second tape, Mulvey said the music was “more extended, instrumental-based stuff, reminiscent of those tapes of backing tracks”. He said “some are rambling runs, seven minutes of ‘Drink Paint, Run, Run’ and 25 of a blues-based jam which contains the words ‘Sun Zoom Spark’, along with ‘Key To The Highway’ and ‘Baby Scratch My Back’.”
“Hard to hear such work-outs without thinking that if anyone came up with the key phrase, new sound, or decent rhythmic touch, then Beefheart would incorporate it. If not, they take place simply to loosen fingers. If so, the musicians’ claims to have had more than a hand in the writing could carry a little weight,” Mulvey concluded.
We will add that the years when these were recorded were a progressive time. Experimenting with sound as with chemicals was the order of things. To hear them now is to hark back to a different era before precision, computer and digital tools became integral in recording studios. No more time for the hippie or gonzo type. The suits would have been running the sessions recording the titles of every track to ensure “copyright, copyright, copyright”.
Unfortunately, aside from titles and fading memories, no one really knows who composed what. Beefheart’s stylistic rhythms are there but so are the distinctive virtuoso playing of his band. As Mulvey pointed out, “if only (Beefheart)… could have bolted some lyrics onto these, there would be an unreleased album fighting to get out”.
But band members had a different view of these sessions. Referring to The Spotlight Kid, drummer John French has said, “At the time I hated that album… A lot of that stuff was really boring to play, because it was so simple and it wasn’t going anywhere. For another thing a lot of the tracks were just so slow… We just hated it.” Guitarist Bill Harkleroad has said “the music was played and recorded anaemically… the band had been beaten into submission and played like mummies.” This would support the view that it was Beefheart who dominated the sessions.
Highlights include the “twenty-five minutes of Pompadour you can hear pleasure in the band’s playing that does not stay the course to the ‘Shiny Beast’ version.” During this period, Beefheart and band were immersed in the delta blues. Later when Beefheart discarded his rock star pose to paint, it was for landscapes and rural, primitive expressionism.
But for now, relish the moment in 1971. With thanks to all who made this possible, including “unknown” and laryddave for the artworks and comprehensive pdf file. - Professor Red
(Pete Mulvey wrote extensively on The Spotlight Kid Outtakes in fanzine Steal Softly Thru Snow #6)
The Spotlight Kid & Pompadour Sessions October - early November 1971. Recorded at The Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles, CA. Acoustic Blues Session, early 1972. Probably recorded at Amigo Studios, Sherman Oaks, North Hollywood, CA.
The three CDs were assembled with the chronological order of the sessions in mind. The pdf file that you can download contains 24 pages of info regarding personnel and very detailed information of the differences of each track. The liner notes assembled by “Jazzfan” are incredible for their insight and entertainment. Click here to download 24-page pdf file. (1.4MB)
Note: Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (these are high quality MP3s - sample rate of 192 kbps). As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released on CD.
Due to the size of some of the files, please be very patient when downloading the tracks. It could be that the server was very busy. Please try again later. Kindly email us firstname.lastname@example.org if you encounter persistent problems downloading the files.
Disc 2 (70:24m) Track 201. Suzy Murder Wrist (3:47:285) (1) excellent sound quality (5.2MB) Track 202. U Bean So Cinquo (2:51:291) (1) excellent sound quality (3.9MB) Track 203. The Witch Doctor Life (3:51:869) (1) excellent sound quality (5.3MB) Track 204. Little Scratch (Version 1) (4:48:648) (1) excellent sound quality (6.6MB) Track 205. Flaming Autograph (4:44:098) (1) excellent sound quality (6.5MB) Track 206. Love Grip (4:48:176) (1) excellent sound quality (6.6MB) Track 207. No Flower Shall Grow (5:44:902) (1) excellent sound quality (7.9MB) Track 208. Best Batch Yet (Version 1) (3:40:819) 3 takes (1) excellent sound quality (5.0MB) Track 209. Your Love Brought Me To Life (4:10:338) 2 takes (1) excellent sound quality (5.7MB) Track 210. That Little Girl (5:18:342) (1) excellent sound quality (7.2MB) Track 211. Campfires (5:47:664) (1) excellent sound quality (7.9MB) Track 212. Well Well Well (1:57:587) (1) excellent sound quality (Lick My Decals Off Baby o/t) (2.6MB) Track 213. Funeral Hill (Version 3) (3:55:744) (1) excellent sound quality (5.4MB) Track 214. Seam Crooked Sam (Version 1) (2:15:360) (2) improved sound (3.1MB) Track 215. Alice In Blunderland (3:55:727) (2) improved sound (5.4MB) Track 216. Funeral Hill (Version 2) (3:17:453) (2) improved sound (4.5MB) Track 217. Best Batch Yet (Version 2) (2:14:814) (2) improved sound (3.0MB) Track 218. Dirty Blue Gene (Version 2) (3:14:470) (2) improved sound (4.4MB)
Disc 3 (52:16m) The Acoustic Blues Session mono (1) excellent sound quality, less bass, 2.1% faster and Pompadour Session (1) excellent sound quality, 3,8% slower Track 301. Pompadour I (13:54:520) 2 takes (19.5MB - visit the html page to download the track) Track 302. Pompadour II (12:41:308) 5 takes (17.8MB - visit the html page to download the track) Track 303. Sun Zoom Spark (Version 1) (8:03:536) (11.0MB) Track 304. Scratch My Back (1:51:574) (2.5MB) Track 305. Blues Medley (7:16:838) (10.0MB) - Down In The Bottom (Howlin’ Wolf, 1961) - Key To The Highway (Big Bill Broonzy, 1941) - Grandpa Don’t Love Grandma No More Track 306. Sun Zoom Spark (Version 2) (8:28:741) (11.6MB)
Captain Beefheart’s The Spotlight Kid (1972) has been described as his attempt at mainstream acceptance after the critical high points were reached with Trout Mask Replica (1969). If mainstream was where he was headed, then he was ahead of the curve. The Spotlight Kid is a bluesy album that in ‘72 was not in sympathy with the hard rock of the times. Try it yourself. Buy it here.