Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Safe As Milk
|The original stereo Safe As Milk cover artwork, with fisheye photo of the band inside a wooden structure|
As a precursor, I'll state that this overview of the events surrounding this album can be read in more detail (and also probably with a higher degree with accuracy) in John French's book, Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic.
|An early band performance, ca. 1967
L to R: Van Vliet, Cooder & Handley
Supposedly the only gig to feature Ry Cooder.
The picture that Safe As Milk paints of the Summer of Love is quite different than that depicted by the usual L.A. groups. Van Vliet's vocals, with obvious draws from the raw delta wails of Howlin' Wolf, portray surrealistic Daliesque scenes upon a tapestry of stop-and-go drums, staggering dual slide guitars of Ry Cooder and Alex St. Clair, and intricate bass lines, woven together in a dynamic, ever-changing landscape of blues, pop, and heavy fuzzed-out psych. The constantly-changing song structures are smoothly integrated and still give the façade of conventionality while simultaneously drawing upon obscure folk- and African-inspired rhythms, somehow keeping every song interesting from beginning to end.
|Photography by Guy Webster: (L to R) John French, Jerry Handley, Alex St. Clair, & Don Van Vliet, all cleaned-up with fresh haircuts|
It is curious to me why Ry Cooder wasn't pictured on the LP cover, but little information seems to exist on the subject; he apparently was never very keen on being in the band, so it probably was by his own discretion. Tom Wilkes' cover design, which encases those photos, clearly portray the influence (worship?) of the Abba-Zaba candy bar, as of course does the track itself, whose title is featured prominently at the top of the rear design. Perhaps Don Van Vliet just liked the sound of the name, or maybe he was actually an avid consumer of the peanut-butter-filled taffy, which can still be found at some old-school candy shops -- but it honestly isn't anything to write home about, in my opinion. Nonetheless, the song would remain a staple of Beefheart's career, making a regular appearance at shows throughout the '70s.
|An Abba-Zaba candy bar|
|Rear album cover slick with the yellow-and-black checkerboard pattern|
|Ad for the 1970 reissue in the|
Buddah Group inner sleeve
- Don Van Vliet: lead vocals, harmonica, bass marimba
Google Drive: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/16TAjmsBPlQtB713sRltu6_-dq-0DdnGq?usp=sharing