Magazine
Latest Issue

Fifty years ago, a musician called Captain Beefheart set off on the weirdest musical career of all time

His band's debut album proved that progress isn't linear. Experimental rock music was never so good again

By Alex Dean  

Captain Beefheart performing in Toronto in the 1970s. Photo: Jean-Luc/Leahtwosaints

“Babbette baboon, abba zaba zoom.”

Captain Beefheart’s Safe as Milk, from which those lyrics are taken, ushered in one of rock music’s most important—and unusual—careers. Real name Don Van Vliet—known to die-hards simply as “The Captain”—Beefheart fused Mississippi delta blues with avant jazz to astonishing effect. His debut album, 60 years old in September, still sounds breathtakingly experimental—and reminds us that progress isn’t linear. Rock music has not reached the same heights since.

Don Van Vliet had always been peculiar,…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to letters@prospect-magazine.co.uk

More From Prospect