73 Magic Band:
Don Van Vliet- Vocals, Harp
Bill Harkleroad ( Zoot Horn Rollo)- Guitar
Alex ( pyjama) St. Clair - Guitar
Mark Boston ( Rockette Morton )- Bass/guitar
Roy Estrada (Orejon) - Bass
Art Tripp ( Ed Marimba)- Drums
AUD, B+, 65 min.
Hair Pie Bake III/Suction Prints; Sue Egypt; Mirror Man/Low Yo Yo Stuff;
Crazy Little Thing; Sugar N Spikes; I'm Gonna Booglarize Ya Baby;
Electricity; Peon; Sugar Mama/King Bee
This was the last time I saw Beefheart in the 70's , shortly after this he disbanded the Magic Band and toured in 74 with the so called "Tragic Band .
This consisted of a bunch
of competent, but unsympathetic musicians hired to promote the worst
Beef album ever, " Unconditionally Guaranteed". Its uninspired stuff,
just ordinary , whereas almost everything else that Don recorded was
either inspired or just plain brilliant. Whether the cap'n was trying
to court commercial success or not , it did not work .Most of the old
fans hated the new lineup and there were not too many new fans because
even with a pretty commercial front Beefheart was still too weird for
the average punter out there in dweeb land.
Theres the Monacled Ed Marimba with his see through drumkit, seemingly everywhere at once, cooking up a manic beat that is totally propulsive , I love the portions of this number where the percussion comes to the fore, it comes through really well on this audience tape, which is one of the better efforts from this era. Theres nice separation , and after the muddy bass in the opening intro the bass can now be heard cleanly and its a good mix. By now the band has moved into Sue Egypt , which builds into a nice groove but is short lived. The first traces of the Cap'ns formidable mouth harp are heard , but only briefly, as the song peters out . Theres silence for some seconds, but then , yes its, -MIRROR MAN- I'm sure here I can hear myself yelping in the background when the first distinctive notes are heard , but possibly this is just wishful thinking on my part.
Whatever,we are all boogieing frantically by this time as the band just throws itself into the opening portions of the song. As usual, this is a highlight of the show, its one of my fave songs by ANYONE ,not just the Cap'n, to me this IS what the blues should be. We get a really big dose of Don's harp playing ,and even though this version is not as good as the one off the eponymously named official release "Mirror Man " , (but then what is ?), it is very tasty and finishes with some delightfully soulful blues harp which has the crowd hollering and yelling and is giving me shivers up my spine as I type this. Don then goes into some great vocal improvisation, yelling ' Can you feel it " and getting much crowd response.He then proceeds to give one of the best examples of weird blues scat singing I've heard, ending in him rumbling mightily,accompanied by guitar strangeness. The last moan then becomes the first words of 'Low Y Yo Stuff" .Ah , this is such a great song, definitely one of my favourites from "Clear Spot", but this is a relatively short version , with no jams. The tape pauses after this and then we are into 'Crazy Little Thing", which has a nicely different delivery of " my only question is ,how old can you be ".
Another pause, this time quite lengthy , with quite a deal of crowd laughter , noise and some slow clapping, and then applause. I don't remember what was going on here.Theres a tape cut and the next thing we hear is Don saying " Bass "- and then "Sugar and Spikes" , so theres probably the sifter solo missing for some reason ( and what the hell is a Sifter solo anyway ?, someone , please explain ? )
Sugar N Spikes is appropriately spikey and heavy,
with great guitar , especially slide ( Zoot or Alex ? ) and then the
tape stops during the applause ( trying to save tape , or editing when
making copies ? )
Electricity is phenomenal, with Dons voice reaching awesome heights of power and the guitarwork really shredding the joint apart. The opening vocal is just huge ,the jamming goes on for a goodly till Don joins in on mouth harp and the place is really boogieing fit to bust ,then the band slows and Don gets into his second vocal break repeating " Shout the truth " and getting a good response from the audience, he then goes right out there with some awesomely long " Shout it outs " which are really powerful and astonishes the audience into silence.
Peon seems pretty normal after that , but is well played as usual . Then its into the final numbers on the tape, Sugar Mama & King Bee. I felt that this was the perfect medley for Don to do, as he is steeped in the blues and in many ways he is the natural successor to great blues shouters such as Howlin' Wolf. This version rocks on strong, then pulls right down to be REALLY QUIET, with the audience clapping along softly , punctuated by various guitar squeaks and deep blues vocalisations from Don, then in comes the slide, thunderous bass and Dons hollering "Sugar mama , where do you get your sugar from " until the band takes it way down again and Don allows the number to go out in a long ,slow fade.
Thats it as far as the tape goes, I know there
was a furious Big Eyed Beans at the end of the show. I wish the whole
show had been preserved , although I find it hard to believe that the
tapers would not have come prepared to tape the whole thing.Who knows,
it may still be out there somewhere.
Other shows of this era feature a set list such
as this and its safe to assume that most of these numbers were played
Sue Egypt (instrumental);
Low Yo Yo Stuff;
Crazy Little Thing;
Sifter Solo; Sugar N Spikes;
I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby;
King Bee/Sugar Mama;
( my tape tragicially finishes here)
Anyway, I waited 25 years before I even knew there was a tape made of this show, I was amazed when I heard of its existence and even more amazed when I heard the show again . Although I don't think that this particular Magic band were as high energy as the 1972 outfit , or as charismatic onstage ,this was a great band which presented a different aspect of Don's music through the emphasis on the blues numbers which was largely absent in the earlier band.One has to go back to 66 to hear him playing blues standards such as Rolling and Tumbling.
At the end we were exhausted, having danced
frantically for 90 minutes in a very hot atmosphere and someone had
stolen Daves jacket,which he had flung to the floor in the heat .
But did we mind ?
Ah, those were the days.
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