RIP Capt. Beefheart

The erstwhile Don Van Vliet dead at 69.
He never sold many records. His biggest hit album, Lick My Decals Off Baby, reached number 20 in the UK in 1970. But in a recording career that lasted from the 1960s until 1982, he succeeded in redefining the parameters of rock music.

His sound shifted over the years, from relatively straightforward blues rock to doomed attempts to court a mainstream audience; but at its height, it reached hitherto-unimaginable heights of avant garde experimentation.

Beefheart's most celebrated album, Trout Mask Replica of 1969, offered a world in which rock music appeared to have spun entirely off its axis.

The singer's earthy holler grounded it in the blues tradition, but the lyrics were wild and surreal. And the music seemed to be from another planet, far beyond even the most acid-fried psychedelic band could muster.

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