In 1980, as I took my own first forays into the wilds of electromagnetic schizophonia, bouncing twisted walkie talkie tracks between two battered Superscopes, Captain Beefheart released an album that would deeply impact my understanding of the wired up human voice and its seductive tangle of paradox and possibility: Doc At The Radar Station.
Suddenly, here was a fully charged songbody that contained within its convoluted nervous system the same double edged vibe I was sensing both on tape and in the air: the lucid paranoia of the electrified persona, with its modulating potentials for revelation, wounds or oblivion; the juiced immersion with some other entity, some other ethereal field, floating somewhere close to the gods — though maybe it was just some scrambled cipher left behind by an unscheduled sparagmos.
I had been listening to the Magic Band for many years before then, with a transistor radio tucked beneath my pillow, Trout Mask Replica, cross rhythmic incantations for the shocked disembody — but song/poems like Telephone took signature Beefheart out-thereness and injected it straight into the bone marrow of the lone schizophonic self. At the radar station, the rips and crackles became very personal, no longer out there, but in here.
And I strangled
And I ripped the cord
And I saw the bone
And I heard these tweetin’ things
N twinkling lights
N there was nobody home
Where are all those nerve endings coming out of the bone?
Don Van Vliet , aka Captain Beefheart, died yesterday at the age of 69.