Don Van Vliet
The Past Sure Is Tense
by G. Don Trubey

Vegetable Buddies, South Bend IN — Thursday, November 9, 1978

The ol' grey matter ain't what she used to be, but here goes... In 1978, Goshen, Indiana was a boomtown, exploding with jobs in mobile home construction and van conversion, so Tim Noe and I ventured north to seek employment in the promised land. We wound up living in a two-floor apartment with cheap rent — the catch being that we were supposed to "fix up" the interior. Each day, after toiling at the trailer park, we'd come home and smash the plaster walls, then kick back upstairs and crank up Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller). Soon, we were spending all of our free time up there with our saxes and tape recorders... and Captain Beefheart and Wildman Fischer on the turntable. At work, Tim heard on the radio that the Magic Band was coming to South Bend (about 15 miles west of Goshen), and that was that. Michael Gitlin and Dex Medlock cruised up from Bloomington for the gig.

We arrived during the sound check and plunked ourselves down at a table directly in front of the Captain's mic, and Tim noticed Jan Van Vliet flitting about the back of the room. Then, on with the show... To announce that Los Bozotros was in the house, Tim and I donned masks during the first song — on stage, Don made no mention of it, but he did remark that he admired Dex's tweed coat very much. The whole performance was a highlight, but the most memorable doings were when the Captain pulled out a book of poetry and read "Well," and when he asked the audience (very earnestly), "What do you call this music?" What else could we say? We shouted, "Bug music!" and "Music from the other side of the fence!"

The tunes: (1) Tropical Hot Dog Night, (2) Nowadays A Woman's Gotta Hit A Man, (3) Owed T'Alex, (4) Dropout Boogie, (5) Harry Irene, (6) Abba Zaba, (7) Old Fart At Play, (8) Well, (9) Ice Rose, (10) Moonlight On Vermont, (11) Bat Chain Puller, (12) When I See Mommy I Feel Like A Mummy, (13) Safe As Milk, (14) Bellerin' Plain, (15) Suction Prints

PS: Tim and I left that apartment in Goshen... pretty much destroyed... with a letter to the landlord saying something like, "Thanks... Sorry."

Tut's, Chicago IL — Friday, December 12, 1980

The day after playing a gig in Bloomington, one half of The Dancing Cigarettes — Tim Noe, Jaclyn Oddi, and I — motored up to Chicago to see the best batch yet. The "Doc at the Radar Station" show was very good indeed. Afterward, we ran into drummer Robert Williams at the bar and gave him one of our band promo tapes, then he told us that the Magic Band was going to be in Milwaukee the following night. We looked at each other, and that was that. When we got to the Milwaukee city limits, we stopped at a donut shop and downed gallons of coffee. Then we headed downtown and stumbled and dozed... and woke up with the chill wind from Lake Michigan and a few Black Beauties™.

Starship, Milwaukee WI — Saturday, December 13, 1980

This was an inspired, intense, intimate evening. The Starship was a small punk club where the audience sat on the floor, up close and personal. When we entered, the Captain was sipping Chivis Regal at a corner table in the bar. We said "Howdy" and that we enjoyed the previous night's gig, then we parked ourselves in the performance space. Then, on with the show... I had a cheap instamatic camera in one pocket [see photos above] and a microcassette recorder in another [see Mp3s below]. At the beginning of the first set, Don was hot (temperature-wise) and a bit pissed about it. And there was some knucklehead in the crowd yelling, "Roxanne!" and "More disco!" But the band was hot (performance-wise), and by midstream, the Captain really seemed to be enjoying himself.

The tunes: (1) Hair Pie Bake 3, (2) Nowadays A Woman's Gotta Hit A Man, (3) Hot Head, (4) Ashtray Heart, (5) Dirty Blue Gene, (6) Best Batch Yet, (7) Smithsonian Institute Blues, (8) A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond, (9) One Red Rose That I Mean, (10) Doctor Dark, (11) Bat Chain Puller, (12) My Human Gets Me Blues, (13) band intros + Sugar 'n Spikes, (14) Sheriff Of Hong Kong, (15) Kandy Korn, (16) Suction Prints, (17) Big Eyed Beans From Venus

PS: After the first set, we ran into guitarist Jeff Tepper at the bar, and he told us that the band had listened to the Dancing Cigarettes tape on the road from Chicago to Milwaukee and liked it fine. Robert Williams (who was producing records in L.A.) said, "If you guys ever come out to California..."

Soundbite Mp3s from the Starship
Microcassette recorders were not built to capture live music,
so I whipped up these audio files featuring the Captain's stage patter.
Download 'n enjoy...



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