Arts, Culture & Media

Captain Beefheart: Trout Mask Replica

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A few months ago, the Republican candidate Jon Huntsman tweeted: "I wonder if a tweet where I admit how much I like Captain Beefheart will make the followers skyrocket even more!"
Not so much, Jon. But the former governor of Utah isn't alone in his enthusiasm. Last year, the Library of Congress inducted a Captain Beefheart record into its National Recording Registry. Trout Mask Replica (1969) is part free jazz, part blues, part beat poetry. Frank Zappa (who gave singer-songwriter Don van Vliet the name Captain Beefheart) produced the album. "It sounds like it's been made up on the spot," describes Mike Barnes, van Vliet's biographer. "But in fact it was rigorously learned so the players would play the tracks the same way every time."
John French was the album's musical director and the Magic Band's drummer. "Captain Beefheart realized the possibilities that existed in music if you looked past the rules." That made for some grueling, 70s-cult-style recording sessions. "They had a very harsh work regime," Barnes explains. "Beefheart would deprive people of sleep, he would keep them up all night."
But the result was a sound that redefined the boundaries of rock. "I just had never encountered anything filled with so much abandon," musician Tom Waits remembers. "It's so unlike anything that we all consider music to be."
Inside the National Recording Registry, our series highlighting works in the National Recording Registry, receives production support from the Library of Congress.

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