Beefheart, The Orb & Radio 1 Books
15th March 2023
Spanning the genres, Paul Rigby looks at a weighty tome devoted to Captan Beefheart, another on The Orb with rocking Radio 1 bringing up the rear
TITLE: BEEFHEART: THROUGH THE EYES OF MAGIC
Author: John “Drumbo” French
Publisher: The Last Music Co.
TITLE: BABBLE ON AN’ TING
Author: Kris Needs with Alex Paterson
TITLE: THE REMARKABLE TALE OF RADIO 1
Author: Robert Sellers
BEEFHEART: THROUGH THE EYES OF MAGIC
The Beefheart book is an expanded reprint of a 10-year old publication.
It’s a book that is less biography than an analyst’s report on the relationship between Beefheart and the author…with a supporting cast of thousands.
Packed with sometimes rambling information within its closely printed text, almost 100 pages are devoted to a remarkably detailed, track-by-track analysis of Beefheart’s albums plus CD outtakes releases. A book in itself.
The meat of this tome reflects on the exploitation, manipulation and bullying from the ‘good’ Captain, the people caught in the middle and the great music this negativity produced. A mix of creation and destruction, then.
Myths are exploded here, truths unveiled.
French presents a narrative, he did this and she did that, then reaches into the story and says to that very person, give me your take on what happened there and explain your actions. Whereupon you’ll get a bold quoted Q&A interview with each character, adding context to the event. There’s a ‘Here’s what happened and here’s the proof.’ aspect about this design. I love it.
Of course, this is Beefheart, so Frank Zappa fans also need this book. Ever wondered why Zappa man, Ray Collins left his band? It’s all here. In short? Possibly the best Beefheart book ever written.
BABBLE ON AN’ TING
Babble On An’ Ting covers the history of Alex Paterson’s legendary ambient dub outfit. We hear tales of his school bullying, his time as a punk, how he proposed to his girlfriend with a donut ring (smooth, Alex, very smooth) and becoming a roadie for the band, Killing Joke, the classic, Adventures Beyond the Underworld debut LP, the KLF connection and more.
Both the albums Adventures... and U.F.Orb were classics but Pomme Fritz and especially Orbus Terrarum exhibited Paterson’s genius. Oxbow Lakes? Pure perfection as Paterson subverted neo-classicism before the genre even got off the ground. And he is a genius, make no mistake. No surprise then that he was slated for both by Same Again Please fans, media (and the record label!) Paterson the genius fled to a place deep inside his head and was never seen again. Paterson remains upset. It’s there in the book. A book in desperate need of an index. Nice discography, though.
THE REMARKABLE TALE OF RADIO 1
The Remarkable Tale of Radio 1 is a Curate’s Egg. Sellars skims and crams. If this was The History™ , as claimed, then this book should have been three times the size. Doing so would have meant digging into fascinating corners – like Old Grey Whistle Test’s Mark Ellen’s time on the station, for example. His take on life as a stand in for John Peel and ‘Kid’ Jensen would have been interesting. Also, despite the ‘first hand interview’ boast, there’s not enough depth, not enough narrative. It’s a book of bits, a casual fireside chat with too much reliance on cut and paste interviews. I can’t see any new quotes from Annie Nightingale, Liz Kershaw or Janice Long for example (draw your own conclusions), and there’s no author’s notes explaining why. The book feels rushed. Live Aid coverage flies by in a few pages. New insights are few and far between. The book is….passable.