Sunday, January 24, 2010

drumbo and the raft of the ravenscroft

John French, far left.

From a recently published interview conducted by David Sinclair, regarding Drumbo's "
Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic":

"He was a bully and a tyrant, but it's like a family thing.

Your brother or your sister might treat you like crap, but they're still family."

John Ravenscroft Peel.

John French (aka Drumbo): lead vocal, harmonica, sax, drums;
Bill Harkleroad (aka Zoot Horn Rollo): guitar (left channel);
Greg Davidson (aka Ella Guru): guitar (right channel);
John Thomas: keyboards, bass.

All songs composed by John French. Performed with survivors from the Magic Band.
illustration by ib.

DRUMBO: TO THE LOFT OF RAVENSCROFT from "City of Refuge" CD (Proper) 2008 (US)
DRUMBO: GET SO MEAN from "City of Refuge" CD (Proper) 2008 (US)


ib said...

The bass on "Ravenscroft" reminds me eerily of Tortoise on their debut City slang LP. Some J. Mascis type guitar in there too.

"Get So Mean", of course - as with most of the album - is pure Captain Beefheart. Despite the 'off the cuff' feel of Trout Mask Replica on, every song was painstakingly transcribed by French into musical notation; so that every beat might be 'replicated' in the fashion of a definitive version.

Van Vilet was incapable of reading or writing music, but emphatic in his utilizing French and others into capturing every fumble and improvisation for the record and beyond.

Your driver said...

John French is my Friend, Dan's, boyhood chum. They've been friends for more than 50 years. Dan has a lot of Beefheart stories to tell, few of them are complimentary to the Captain. When I write about my visits to Boron and Lancaster in the Southern California desert I'm talking about visiting Dan in Beefheart country. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet Mr. French.

ib said...

Well. If you do get the chance to meet up with Mr. French, let us hope he hope he is not as niggardly about file sharing - previewing ? - as that other Van, Morrison and his protectorate.

His book, from the little I've read of it, would seem to be quite a fascinating account of his time with Beefheart and his attempts to distance himself from the working hell of The Magic Band. He likens the experience to being a kind of brainwashed member of some cult; Van Vilet the dictator and punisher of creative dissent.

To be fair, though, he is at pains to deny that he is out to assassinate Beefheart. Merely to set the record straight regards certain misconceptions.

Smokin' Stones n' Beetle Bones.

Your driver said...

I had been hearing rumors that Beefheart couldn't read music but made his band members painstakingly transcribe every little screek and scronk. Interesting to know that's true. From what I hear, John French is a fine fellow. I'll tell Dan to tell him to leave you alone. Dan views Beefheart as a brilliant talent but also as The Devil himself, horns, tail and all.

ib said...

Yeah. Weird, really. Who the fuck cares if Beefheart should read music or not ?

He, patently, had a problem with that. And nobody else.

Brilliant talent, yes. French stop short of referring to that talent as genius. Given Beefheart's reliance on those around him to not only actively participate in the making of the music, but to exploit them - seemingly - with little acknowledgement or credit, that seems perfectly reasonable.

This comment has been removed by the author.
ib said...

That reminds me. I need to dig out "El Topo" again.

Never seen the "Holy Mountain", though.

Many years ago, I was booked into a rehearsal room with my fellow bandmates. We were the last booking. Fairly late into the night in the middle of winter.

We set up the six packs and checked the levels. It was a full moon out, or waxing close, and I expected a little magic.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Every song we got into sounded out of time.

Our drummer had some blankets rolled up in the bass drum to muffle the noise a little. Experience had taught us all to err on the side of ambience.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

We threw the drummer a dirty look. He shrugged and adjusted the kit.

This went on for the better part of two hours. We skinned up and sank a few beers.

Bang! Fuckin' bang!

We were on the point of packing up when the guy who ran the place comes in and strides to the far corner just behind or drummer. All the walls are carpeted with this cheap red shit for soundproofing, He yanks open a door we never knew was there and this terrified looking dude with drool all down his shirt tumbles out and sprawls on the floor.

"Fucking idiot!" the first guy says, grabbing him up by his shirt collar.

"He is always like this. Sorry. I'll give you a discount."