Friday 24th November

The Magic Band

18:45 - 22:00 | £25.50

The Magic Band play the music of Captain Beefheart live at The Garage.

Former Captain Beefheart musical director and drummer, John “Drumbo” French leads out the latest version of The Magic Band for the final tour of the UK. A faithful rendition of the best of Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band’s music is guaranteed. This is the ONLY LONDON DATE.

John French was nicknamed ‘Drumbo’ by Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart. British Underground commentator and DJ John Peel described Beefheart as “the most important figure to emerge from the Rock era of the 1960s and 1970s.” Rolling Stone magazine included John French in their 100 Best Drummers Ever (at #48) and declared: “(his) toms-heavy, polyrhythmic style would become as integral to the group as Don Van Vliet’s modernist-blues croak.”
Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart was a visionary in the field of music. His group, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band started as a Blues group. Later, drummer John French joined and they recorded an album for Buddah Records entitled Safe as Milk — referring to the strontium-90 content found in lactating mother’s milk.

Guitarist Jeff Cotton joined and a second album, Strictly Personal was recorded shortly before a tour of the United Kingdom — where famed DJ John Peel had been playing Safe as Milk to a very interested audience. Van Vliet hated Strictly Personal’s production, rapt with phase-shifting, calling it “Psychedelic Bromo Seltzer”.

Though for the most part commercially unsuccessful, the groundbreaking album, Trout Mask Replica was hailed by critics who recognised Van Vliet’s unique and totally original approach to music composition and lyric creation. Produced by Frank Zappa, who gave the musicians six hours to record the bulk of a double album in a single evening, was amazed when The Magic Band recorded it in four-and-a-half.

Rumours create legends, and there are many rumours circulating, some exaggeration was thrown in for spice (“I wrote the album in 8 ½ hours” claimed Van Vliet). The truth was even stranger: the band all shared a two-bedroom bungalow with Van Vliet in Woodland Hills for nine months while the album was created bit by bit, transcribed in piano notation by John “Drumbo” French, and taught to the others by the same during gruelling 18-hour days of rehearsal, often interrupted by sessions of Van Vliet’s own form of group therapy, which turned into what some consider “brainwashing sessions”. It was a very intense and creative time as all the players learned to transpose piano parts to guitar, as well as having had their complete identities investigated on an all-too-personal level.

Another rumour started by the Captain was that he taught the guys to play. Bill “Zoot Horn Rollo” Harkleroad, Jeff “Antennae Jimmy Semens” Cotton, and Mark “Rockette Morton” Boston had all played in Rock cover bands and made a part-time living during their high school years before ‘graduating’ to The Magic Band, replacing the original Blues band members one by one.

The music sounded “terrible” to Simpsons creator Matt Groening but, because it was produced by Frank Zappa, Matt decided to give it another try, and then another; finally convinced it was “the best rock ‘n’ roll album ever.” Audiences were confused, however, because of all the rules being broken. Where was the backbeat? Why did it sound “out of tune” and “rhythmically complicated”?

That combined with the obsessive leadership of Van Vliet caused there to be a steady stream of ingoing and outgoing members – which eventually reached about 40 members. Van Vliet retired in 1982, after a career of sixteen years and thirteen original albums plus many bootlegs. He became a painter, withdrawing more and more from the public, eventually succumbing to complications of MS in 2010.

Meanwhile, John French earlier had the idea of re-forming The Magic Band back in 2001, eventually succeeding in 2003. They have toured the UK on rare occasions ever since. Due to a variety of factors, Drumbo has decided it is time to call it a day.

The line-up who will be playing this final tour are:

John “Drumbo” French / Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Sax, Drums
Eric Klerks / Extended Ranch guitar, BKP Vocals
Max Kutner / Guitar and Slide guitar
Jonathan Sindelman / Keyboards
Andy Niven / Drums

14+ (under 16s to be accompanied by an adult)

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