My Essential 100 Albums – 5 Trout Mask Replica Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band


Quite simply, this is the best rock album ever. 

Less simply, it is not really a rock album.  It is a bluesy, rocky, multi faceted, arty, album that is difficult to pigeon hole.  The only easy description is that it is clearly the work of a genius. 

 By now I think that I have nailed my colours to the mast.  I love this album, I have always loved this album.  I am one of those poor sad so and so’s who will quote lyrics from their favourite artists, Beefheart being one. 

 I bought this as soon as it came out.  I was so struck with it I played it to my mates the next time they all came round, they hated it.  It was quite some time before I met anyone else who admitted to liking it.  Throughout my life this album has been like a secret code known to only a few of us.  When out with an old girlfriend watching Wilko Johnson playing in a blues club in Blackpool – OK a room above a pub – we got chatting to a couple only to find that he was a secret Beefheartian.  The women rolled their eyes as we chatted about the albums, the sayings and the general wonderfulness of “The Captain”.

 He had actually run into The Captain in a restaurant after a show.  The Captain came into the restaurant where John was eating.  Naturally John went over to The Captain and said how much he had enjoyed the show.  When The Captain left he came over to John and gave him his napkin.  On it was one of The Captain’s drawings, and although it would be valuable (The captain being a collectable artist) Joh obviously treasured it.

 One day while cleaning his partner found the napkin, and, without thinking, threw it away!  Amazingly their relationship survived, but John recounted the trauma with great passion in his voice.  THAT is what being a Beefheartian means to us.

 So, what is so great about TMR?

 Released in June ’69 it was released on Zappa’s Straight Records label.  Zappa, who was a long term friend of Beefheart’s was also the producer of this mystifying album.  It was a double album with 28 tracks.  It is said that all the instrumentals were recorded in under 6 hours.  Having said that the band spent 8 months learning, writing, and practicing the songs.

 To say that they spent 8 months rehearsing may give a benign gloss to what was a brutal process.  They practiced for up to 14 hours a day.  The band was in a house the suburb of Los Angeles, rarely going out except for buying and occasionally steeling food.  They had no money.  Captain Beefheart was a tyrant.  He would pick on a band member and taunt and bully him into submission.  All band members suffered at his hands.  There are some that said the bullying took on a physical edge.  The atmosphere within the house has been called cult like with Captain Beefheart at its head.

 The music shows many influences, it has an obvious blues element as well as elements of free jazz.  There are more subtle influences.  Is that a guitar line from a Gene Autrey song? Yup.  Someone highlighted a melody from Mile Davis to me that I had not noticed.  There is gospel in there as well.  Captain Beefheart was catholic in his tastes, just like his old mucker FZ.

 Since its release (it was nota commercial success in the USA initially but it did fair better in the UK) TMR is always mentioned in the lists of the most important and best albums released, show me a list and I will find you TMR.

 As John Peel said said of the album: “If there has been anything in the history of popular music which could be described as a work of art in a way that people who are involved in other areas of art would understand, then Trout Mask Replica is probably that work.”


The only mystery is why it is only at number 5 of my list.

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My Essential 100 Albums – 4 – Music in a Dolls House, Family.

music in a dolls house

The first album by Family “Music in a Doll’s House” (1968) is a strange and wonderful thing. Roger Chapman is blessed with a distinctive, warbling voice. The band were all talented musicians including Ric Grech on bass and Jim King on sax being the most recognised.

Family released this complexly orchestrated album in 1968 and it has been included in lists of great rock albums ever since its release. The band went on to have other well received releases but suffered over the years with in-fights, fist fights and constantly changing personnel. The result being that I do not think that the band reached its full potential.

Having said that this first album was breathtaking in its majesty. I was never a fan of progressive rock but I regard this as more a jazz rock fusion thing, whatever the genre it has remained a firm favourite over the years. I can not imagine a CD collection that did not give me the option to listen to the sound of British prog/jazz fusion at its best.

Standout tracks, for me, are “Old Songs, New Songs”, “Mellowing Grey”, and “Me, My Friend”.

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My Essential 100 Albums – number 3 – Horses by Patti Smith


Horses – Patti Smith (1975)

This was The and Glorious (to use her official title) Patti Smith’s first album and was released in December 1975. This album rescued me from a life in which I thought that music was dying, if not dead. I was blown away by the power and majesty of what she was trying to do.

The first track that I heard was Gloria. It was one of those moments that stick in your mind. “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”. A glorious opening, unexpected, haunting and thought provoking. Then it opens up to a song sung by Van Morrison while he was with Them. By half way through the track I had forgotten the original version. It is one of those rare things a cover that supersedes and improves on the original. She owns that song.

There are several very song tracks on this album. Although always credited as a leading light of punk the album includes “Birdland” that reflects her mother’s love of Jazz. The lyrics for that song is based “A Book of Dreams” by Wilhelm Reich. The album also references Arthur Rimbaud. This was just another punk album it was made by someone with a love of classic rock, of art, and the art of words. During the following years Patti fell in love, fell out of love with the music business, and returned to recording and performing.

Always Great and always Glorious Patti’s first album was a statement of intent that she followed up magnificently with some seminal works. Most people’s catalogues would be enhanced if they produced even one album half as good as Horses. For Patti this was just the first in a string of wonderful recordings.

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My Essential 100 Albums – 2 Gone Aint Gone Tim Fite (2006)


It is my quest here to establish those essential 100 CDs that I would save if the house is going up in flames. The first one to be saved is Strictly Personal by Captain Beefheart and His Magic band.

That was an easy, easy choice. The second was equally easy.

Gone Aint Gone by Tim Fite (2006)

This was a chance find in 2006. There was a guy on eBay in the UK whose cousin was The Edge in U2. The Edge used to pass him lots of promo CDs that had been sent to U2. Whether that was the truth or not I have no way of knowing. This guy was selling them off at ridiculously low prices. I used to buy job lots of 20 at a time. There was a load of rubbish and some real gems. I came across bands that were new to me including the excellent PK-14, Twinemen, and The Transplants. There was also a promo copy of Horses by the great and glorious Patti Smith.

Amongst the piles of CDs was a promo copy of Gone Aint Gone. This is a wonderful CD.

Tim Fite is an interesting individual. An American multi instrumentalist he is hard to pigeon hole. His past releases have run the gamut from alternative rock, hip hop, indie with a bit of country thrown in. In other words, you do not know what you are going to get, which can be off putting for some. He produced one album that was railing against consumerism. Instead of trying to make money out of it (like so many others) he released “Over the Counter Culture” free on the web. (Damn good bloke in my view).

Gone Aint Gone was his first album and it was released on his (?) Anti- label. Although there are a couple of musicians on it the album is mainly sampled from $1 CDs that he picked up in used record shops. The result is an oddly wonderful album. I have seen it classified as Rock, or Folk, or Hip Hop. I don’t care, it is just sublime.

As for stand out tracks, there are 18 of them. “I hope Yer There”, “No Good Here”, “If I had a Cop Show” are among the best, but. For me the best track is the one featuring Paul Robeson “I Kept Singing”.

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On This Day – In Car Entertainment

crysler record player 2On this day in 1955 Chrysler introduces a high fidelity record player that was to be available in some of their 1956 Chrysler, DeSoto, Dodge, and Plymouth models.  The unit played 7 inch discs played at 45rpm as well as the relatively new 16 2/3 rpm.  It was some 4 inches high and a foot wide and was slung under the dashboard.  If you ordered this option with your new car you also received a set of 35 classical records.

You may be surprised to find out that there were problems with the needle skipping as the car went over bumps in the road (Who’d a thought it?) and so the units were discontinued.  I have only a couple of thoughts ab out this;

One, how much would one of these units be worth now?

Two, if it is dangerous changing CDs while driving can you imagine the dangers involved in changing discs while driving?  It just does not bear thinking about.

Amazingly, the disc player remained as an option until 1961.

crysler record player

Here is a copy of the press release;


Press Information Service
Detroit 31, Michigan
Tulsa 3-4500

For Immediate Use


columbia-open.jpg (19k)

DETROIT – - Highway Hi-Fi, a record player that provides music and speech as you go, has been developed exclusively for the 1956 Chrysler Corporation cars.

This novel addition to the pleasures of highway travel, specially designed by CBS Laboratories as an accessory for Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler and Imperial, was introduced today at the press preview of Chrysler Corporation’s new cars at the company’s Engineering Proving Grounds.

For driver and passengers who prefer the lively scores of Broadway musicals, Highway Hi-Fi provides the lilting and memorable tunes from the hit show, “Pajama Game.”

And if the children are restless on a long ride, Davey Crockett and Gene Autry are ready at hand to help keep them quiet.

Highway Hi- Fi plays through the speaker of the car radio and uses the radio’s amplifier system. The turntable for playing records, built for Chrysler by CBS-Columbia, is located in a shock-proof case mounted just below the center of the instrument panel. A tone arm, including sapphire stylus and ceramic pick up, plus storage space for six long-play records make up the unit.

Using a new principle of design worked out by CBS Laboratories, the player and position of the stylus on a record are not affected by the angle of a car, its highway speed, or even severe cornering. Tests demonstrate it is extremely difficult to jar the arm off the record or even make the stylus jump a groove.

The special records also developed by CBS Laboratories, are seven inches in size, transcribed on both sides, and pressed especially for Chrysler by Columbia Records. They give up to 45 minutes of music and up to one full hour of speech per side, A collection of six disks will be presented to customers with each player.

Making up the collection are Tschaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, Borodini’s Polovtsian Dances, Ippalitov-Ivanov’s Procession of the Sardar, the complete score of the Broadway musical show Pajama Game, Walt Disney’s Davey Crockett, Gene Autry and Champion, Romantic Moods by Percy Faith and his orchestra, quiet jazz by Paul Weston and his orchestra, Music of Cole Porter and Victor Herbert by Andre Kostelanetz and his orchestra, and dramatic readings from Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell by a cast of top Hollywood and Broadway artists.

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My Essential 100 Albums – The First One! Captain Beefheart


The idea behind this list is for me to say which 100 albums I will take with me if I was marooned on a desert island or when I have to go to live in an old folks’ home (not that I am anticipating that in the near future). The prospect of paring my CDs down to just 100 essential albums is daunting. However, it is also quite intriguing, which albums would I just have to keep and which, however good, would have to stay behind?

The only self imposed rule is that most artists or bands would be restricted to just one CD. Obviously, that ‘rule’ will probably not apply to Zappa or Beefheart but will to most people.

Although later choices will be more difficult the first choice is easy.

Strictly Personal – Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. (1968)

I have written an article about this album or rather How I Met Beefheart elsewhere on this site. This was the first Beefheart album I heard and is an automatic choice for the essential 100 albums list.

Released in October 1968 I first heard it in 1969 when a friend gave it to me as he had bought it and hated it. It had a profound affect on me. It seemed like grown up music. I had listened to blues, firstly, as part of the British Blues Boom and later I had begun listening to the original bluesmen. This was different. It was not like the straight blues copies of the BBB, Beefheart had taken a blues and changed it. Ah Feel Like Acid is the first track on the album and it mesmerised me.

From Strictly Personal I went to the wonderful Safe as Milk, the first album by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. I was a Beefheart believer, sometimes disappointed, often mystified, but always a devotee.

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My 100 Essential Albums

My 100 Essential Albums

I like Desert Island Disks.  For those that do not know this radio show the premiss is very simple.  A celebrity is asked to choose just 8 tracks that they would take with them if they were to be marooned on a desert island.  Obviously, 8 tracks is a nonsense.  That is just too few.  So I have set my limit to 100 ( essential albums, not tracks).  It is a great way to while away a few hours, actually, more than a few hours.

So far I have produced my top 40, probably, the list could still change.  In later posts I will explain why the albums are in the list.  Here is the initial List of essential albums;

1 Strictly Personal Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
2 Gone Ain’t Gone Tim Fite
3 Horses Patti Smith
4 Music From a Doll’s House Family
5 Trout Mask Replica Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
6 Transformer Lou Reed
7 The Original Ray Charles
8 Disraeli Gears Cream
9 George Thorogood and the Destroyers George Thorogood and the Destroyers
10 Exile on Main Street Rolling Stones
11 Velvet Underground with Nico Velvet Underground with Nico
12 The Great 28 Chuckles Berry
13 The Complete Recordings Robert Johnson
14 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin
15 Bitches Brew Miles Davis
16 It’s A Beautiful Day It’s A Beautiful Day
17 Punk Single Collection The Adverts
18 Berlin Lou Reed
19 We’re only in it for The Money Mothers of Invention
20 Howlin’ Wolf Howlin’ Wolf
21 Go Bo Diddley
22 Songs for Swinging Lovers Frank Sinatra
23 The Heart of Saturday Night Tom waits
24 Bringing it All Back Home Bob Dylan
25 Let It Bleed Rolling Stones
26 Revolver The Beatles
27 The Rise & fall of Ziggy Stardust etc. David Bowie
28 The Anthology Muddy Waters
29 Live at the Regal BB King
30 Marquee Moon Television
31 Back in Black AC/DC
32 Raw Power Iggy and the Stooges
33 Freak Out The Mothers of Invention
34 American Beauty Grateful Dead
35 Closing Time Tom Waits
36 Stripped Rolling Stones
37 With Eric Clapton John Mayall Blues Breakers
38 Nick of Time Bonny Raitt
39 Ramones Ramones
40 Saucerful of Secrets Pink Floyd
41 In the Court of the Crimson King King Crimson
42 Those About to Die Coliseum

I know I said 40, but the last 2 just had to be in the list somewhere and so have sneaked on at the end.  Those that know me will not be surprised by Beefheart being well represented at the top, or that George T and the Great and Glorious Patti is up there.  But perhaps they will be more surprised by Tim Fite. I will explain later.


Oops, just noticed, no White Denim, now that is a BIG mistake.


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My Essential 100 Albums

In these days when we are all living longer more and more of us will be faced with be faced with spending our declining years in sheltered housing.  It goes without saying that most of our possessions will not be going to the home with us.  There is not the room in sheltered housing to accommodate a lifetime’s collection of memorabilia, ornaments, and keep sakes.

As that time approaches for me I have begun to think of what CDs I will take with me.  (Do not talk to me of downloads, compressed files etc.  I want to have things to hold, treasure, pore over, and remember when and where I bought them – or the original vinyl).  

Anyway, it would seem to me that any reasonable home would allow about 100 CDs, after all, they take up little space.  The problem is how to pick my essential 100 albums.  I have a dislike of “best of” albums.  The tracks are out of context and invariably, not all the tracks chosen are the ones I want.  I do not want to spend lots of time burning tracks onto my own “best of” CDs.  That, in turn, means that I can only choose one or two albums from every artist or band to ensure I get a good spread. 

With most bands restricting myself to one album is easy.  Take the Beatles as an example, there is only one album worth having, Revolver.  Revolver is the epitome of the perfect pop record and so an obvious choice – if I decide I need anything by the Beatles.  Zappa is the complete opposite.  There are just too many great albums, Freak Out, Joe’s Garage, Chunga’s Revenge, Hot Rats to name just 4.  Deciding which one or two to take is going to be a problem. 

Over the coming weeks I will start making decisions and update you on my choices.  Please feel free to suggest albums that I should include in my list of essential 100 albums.

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On This Day 26th September 1887- Thanks Emile

250px-Emile_Berliner_with_disc_record_gramophone_-_between_1910_and_1929This day in 1887 was one of the great days of popular music.

Emile Berliner who emigrated from Germany to the USA when he was 26 applied for a patent for his invention, the gramophone. This was the first machine to play discs and not the wax cylinders. He solved the problem of getting the turntable to revolve at a steady and measurable rate after teaming up with Eldridge Johnson.

Although he also designed a very (very) early helicopter and a loom suitable for mass weaving his contribution to popular music is what he will be remembered for.

My thanks to Emile, you saved my young life.

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On This Day, The Beatles First Real Recording Session, Or Perhaps NOT…………..

On This Day,  4th September, 1962, the Beatles entered EMI Studios at Abbey Road for the group’s first proper recording session

Or perhaps not, according to your perspective.

They were there to record two songs for their debut single. The band was John, Paul, George, and Ringo – Ringo is the key to the ‘perhaps not’ comment.

Ringo had recently replaced Pete Best on drums.  On June 6th The Beatles, with Pete Best, had been to the EMI studios at 3 Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, London.  On that day they recorded a number of songs including; Love Me Do, PS I Love You and Ask Me Why.

beatles 1962 - 1

On 4th September they rehearsed a number of songs before going into studio 2 to record some songs, including the 3 from 6th June.  One interesting aspect of that day was that Geroge Martin, producer, was not convinced about the Fab Four’s (or rather the dynamic duos) songwriting ability.  A self penned song for a B side was one thing, but he felt that they needed a ‘proper’ song for the A side.  With that in mind he handed them  “How Do You Do It,” was which was written by a proven written by song writer Mitch Murray.  The lads were not happy, and eventually Love Me Do was released as the A side.

The recording of Martin’s choice went well, quite probably done in just one take, but no one seems to quite remember.  They do remember the “new” Beatles recording “Love Me Do”, however.  Ringo Starr took more that 15 takes to get the drum part right.  (Years later Paul would when asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world said that Ringo was not even the best drummer in the Beatles!  Ringo eventually quit the band in a fit of pique when he discovered Paul going back into the studio at night to re-record Ringo’s parts.  With friends like that…..)

TheBeatlesdm_468x311 - 1Anyway, after this first, or second, recording session the rest has become history, and music was changed forever!









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