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Baker's Dozen

Grit In One’s Third Eye: Robyn Hitchcock’s Baker’s Dozen
Julian Marszalek , February 11th, 2013 11:14

English songwriter and frontman of The Soft Boys, The Venus Three and The Egyptians, Robyn Hitchcock leads Julian Marszalek through his most played LPs

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Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band - Trout Mask Replica
It made sense on the third listen. The thing is, I paid really good money for it. I was 16 and sent off to One Stop Records. I sent a cheque or postal order for £6 and it was a double LP import. I’d never spent so much money on a piece of music before. It arrived and I put it on and I couldn’t really fathom it but I’d spent this money on it and I thought, right, I’m going to get my money’s worth out of this thing; at least it’s long and I like the artwork and I like the titles. I looked at the lyrics and I liked the lyrics and this is not an easy listen and then… ‘Moonlight On Vermont’ I liked straight away and that drum intro I used to play on the coffee cups. I’m surprised I didn’t become a drummer, actually! The first thing I ever learned off of a record was the drumming off ‘Moonlight On Vermont’! It’s great with a ruler and a pencil case!

And then, oh God! Little things like the beginning of ‘Ella Guru’ and things like ‘Dali’s Car’, instrumentals that were quite uncluttered, just two guitars playing… well, it was just formalised chaos which were either designed to avoid conventional harmony or just made up by someone who knew nothing about it.

Beefheart kept the publishing and [drummer] John French seems to have done all the work but you know Beefheart; it was a cult. He ill-treated those men, yes, but they let him do it and also they produced Trout Mask Replica. People have been treated worse for less. It’s interesting meeting Magic Band survivors now; they’re all Beefheart casualties and they all suffer from hats. They all wear hats and they make these oblique remarks and you think, they’re not really like that, but Beefheart imposed his personality on them when they were so young. It was like Dr Van Vliet’s Academy For Boys. I’ve met about four of them and they’re all suffering from hats. He sent them off on a particular direction they wouldn’t really have gone in and they’re grateful in a way and they resent him in a way and I think they also resent the fact that that’s what they’re known for, this guy. But it’s thanks to them. As he said, he went through them. “If people won’t be gone through them I’ll have to make them!” A horrible bloke, obviously, but also really smart.

There’s an interview where he says sometime in the 70s, “I’m either too smart or I’m too dumb!” He was a very intelligent guy; he had two brains compressed into one. He was a hell of a lot brighter than most people and he knew it. I think he put dead weights on; he had to handicap himself, to bring himself down to human level. He was another great mind like Barrett’s that kind of ran riot. He had something but he carried on producing paintings and it wasn’t kind of the dead end that Barrett forced himself into.

I spent a term at school listening to Trout Mask Replica, reading William Burroughs and Shakespeare and my vocabulary tripled. I became a word guy. I entered 17 totally unprepared but my God I had words in every direction! And that’s Trout Mask Replica!


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