- Category: Reviews
- Published on Thursday, 31 March 2011
- Written by Ben Watson
John French, Captain Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic, Proper Music Publishing, London, 2009.
After 766 pages documenting in exhausting detail the life and crimes of Donald Vliet, aka Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart, author and longtime Magic Band member John French searches for an anecdote that can sum him up:
I remember Don once holding a pair of nail nippers in his hand and saying to me, ‘You are looking at these right now, but don’t ever forget that they are also looking at you.’ It was a puzzling statement for a moment, but I grasped that he was saying there are universes within as well as without, and we are collections of matter moving around in relationship to other collections of matter.1
This statement is pregnant with suggestion for anyone interested in the subject/object dialectics of Western philosophy, particular those who might wish to combine a radical materialism with a dada absurdism sourced from everyday objects. It was not for nothing that in Phenomenology of the Spirit Hegel said: "The Enlightenment … upsets the housekeeping of Spirit in the household of Faith by bringing into that household the tools and utensils of this world, a world which that Spirit cannot deny as its own, because its consciousness likewise belongs to it." (§486). But how could this extraordinary statement insert itself into the conclusion of a massive biography written by someone who is now a born-again Christian, and who more than once defines Beefheart as a demon? Beyond his silence (no release since the short spoken-word CD that accompanied the Stand Up To Be Discontinued catalogue of Beefheart’s paintings in 1993) and beyond the grave (multiple sclerosis finally took him in December), Beefheart’s heavy influence warps the thought of even his detractors.Add a comment