Say It's Your Birthday: Captain Beefheart

One of the greatest albums ever made:

How could I be a captain? I didn't even own a damn boat."

So says internationally renowned painter Don Van Vliet of his previous life as

the incomparable Captain Beefheart, whose music has perhaps best been described

as "How you get from Howlin' Wolf to Ornette Coleman." Van Vliet (born this day

in 1941) now commands more for a single canvas than Beefheart made in his

entire 18 year musical career (which he terminated after 1982's Ice Cream

For Crow), the good Captain refused to go down with the ship. He has had a

profound influence on several of the most influential figures in mod music

(Pere Ubu, John Lydon, Can, Devo, XTC, Sonic Youth, P. J. Harvey, etc.),

touching millions more who couldn't tell Captain Beefheart from Captain Crunch.

The lives of a few more budding cognoscenti will no doubt be changed forever

when one of the many corporate arms of the Frank Zappa estate releases the

Bat Chain Puller album later this spring, which Zappa financed when his

boyhood chum Van Vliet was between deals in 1976. Much of its material was

plundered and rerecorded for Beefheart's subsequent trio of great albums

--Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) in 1978, Doc At the Radar

Station in 1980 and 1982's Ice Cream For Crow--but this will mark

the first release for the original recordings. Other birthdays: Ronnie Van Zant

(Lynyrd Skynyrd), Martha Davis (Motels) and incomparable jazz drummer Gene