Product Reviews

Product: Captain Beefheart - Harpo's Detroit Dec 11th 1980
Date: 2014-05-12 

Harpo's Detroit Dec 11th 1980

Captain Beefheart Harpo's 1980

It seems that even the bootleggers had a hard time pinning down the legendary Captain Beefheart (a/k/a Don Van Vliet) since there seems to be a lack of the artist’s live material available for purchase. There are a handful of European shows of dodgy legal (and sonic) provenance released via fly-by-night labels, a misbegotten effort that did little to extend the good Captain’s musical legacy. 

Rhino Handmade had a nice little 1978 vintage radio broadcast available on a limited basis, but there were no authorized live records released during Beefheart’s major label career that I’m aware of…and since the few Beefheart boots and semi-boots appear and disappear without warning, there’s not much available for the collector to spend their hard-earned coin. Thanks to Gonzo Multimedia, however, fans of the Captain have reason to rejoice with the May 13th, 2014 (U.S.) release of Harpo’s Detroit Dec 11th 1980, a 17-track live recording from the infamous Motor City venue and a show that the Reverend likely attended (mass beer consumption has dulled otherwise vivid memories of many Detroit nights).

Captured live on tape during the 1980 tour for their Doc At The Radar Station album, Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band at the time included guitarists Jeff Moris Tepper and Richard Snyder, bassist Eric Drew Feldman, and drummer Robert Williams. While the set is heavy on material from Radar Station, comprising six of that album’s twelve songs, it also includes such Beefheart favorites as “Abba Zabba,” “Safe As Milk,” and “Bat Chain Puller” as part of the set list.

Growing up north of Los Angeles in the desert community of Lancaster, California Van Vliet found a kindred spirit as a teenager with fellow musician and oddball Frank Zappa. He began performing as Captain Beefheart in 1964, joining the existing Magic Band line-up that had been formed by Alexis Snouffer in 1965. Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band released their critically-acclaimed debut album Safe As Milk on the Buddah Records label in 1967, but Buddah execs shied away from that album’s follow-up, Strictly Personal, which was subsequently released in 1968 by producer Bob Krasnow’s Blue Thumb Records.

The third time’s a charm, as they say, and after being dumped by both Buddah and Blue Thumb, Beefheart and crew were signed to Zappa’s Straight Records, where they were provided complete artistic control, resulting in the classic 1969 album Trout Mask Replica. Beefheart and one form or another of the Magic Band would record a total of thirteen studio albums before Van Vliet retired from music after the 1982 release of Ice Cream For Crow. Van Vliet turned to painting as his chosen form of expression, a career that proved to be more commercially successful than music, and in which he was equally as influential.

Read on...


Don Van Vliet (born Don Glen Vliet; January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010) was an American musician, singer-songwriter, artist and poet known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. His musical work..


Don Van Vliet (born Don Glen Vliet; January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010) was an American musician, singer-songwriter, artist and poet known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. His musical work..

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