04/12/2018: “Electricity” by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Captain Beefheart (real name Don Van Vliet) and His Magic Band (various line ups throughout the years due to his nuttiness and difficult personality) influenced a lot of musicians. He was punk-y, funky, and thoroughly experimental.

His music often sounds quite “normal” today, given the various styles that have come since, but the sometimes gritty and abrasive sounds he made were unusual for the time, to the point that labels found it hard to stomach.

“Electricity” is an unusual sort of track, and is very much “out there”. The drums remain some of the coolest in rock history, with a hit hat driven syncopated beat. The vocals aren’t particularly pleasant, but it’s not that kind of song. Captain Beefheart actually shattered a microphone recording this!

The lyrics, if you could understand them, are very much in his tradition of surrealism, like Bowie and Zappa. There might be some deeper meanings; there might not.

It’s notable for it’s use of the theremin, which is that weird UFO sounding thing. Theremins were very popular with psychedelic bands in the 60s precisely because of this otherworldly feeling.

Unlike a lot of the other songs it was released alongside, the blues influence is less present. In fact, “Electricity” might have been one of the main reasons that A&M Records dropped them, because it was viewed as too negative.

The tune was released in 1967 on the band’s debut album, Safe As Milk, and as a B side to “Sure ‘Nuff ‘n Yes I Do”.

Mad stuff!


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