Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

3. Captain Beefheart & His Magic BandShiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)

Something to lighten the atmos a bit… I was at a house party probably when I was 16 or 17. And my friend Alex put some music on, and I’d just never heard anything like it up until this point. I’d been into almost exclusively Queen, Pulp and Lou Reed, and I just heard this music that was like nothing else. And I said, “What’s this?” and he said “It’s Captain Beefheart.” And it’s similar to Van Morrison in a way, because to the list reader he seems to be defined by Trout Mask Replica. Which I love. And it’s difficult, but it’s not intellectually difficult because he wasn’t an intellectual. I don’t think he was trying to make a difficult album that would be on lists. It’s just out there. So Trout Mask is great, but is to quote many people I’ve who I’ve played it to, it’s not party music. Whereas Shiny Beast… well, most of Beefheart’s stuff, or half of it at least, is quite melodic, with lots of love songs. You know, albums like Clear Spot or The Spotlight Kid, songs like ‘Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles’ or ‘She’s Too Much For My Mirror’. But for me, Shiny Beast is the most fun.

I would pick it just for the sixteen bar intro to song called ‘Harry Irene’, which reminds me of walking around Bristol on my way to parties and being excited about the evening. And there’s a song called ‘Candle Mambo’ which I love. ‘Candle Mambo’ and my memories of house parties become one, because that’s what the song is about. The flickering of candles and the sound of music and all those slightly hazy visions of stumbling downstairs into bars, all that sort of thing. So I would never be without Shiny Beast, even though it is a highlight amongst a career of highlights.

Selected in other Baker’s Dozens: Karl Hyde
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