Thursday, February 25, 2010

Captain Beefheart - Grow Fins

There are blues songs about wanting to leave town, or leave the country... there's a tradition of artists who want to go back to the land, or back to the womb ... tortured figures who want to escape society and even history. Beefheart actually wants to go back to the sea...

“Grow Fins” (which you can find here, click on the small orange play button) is like a sequel to “I Wish I Was A Mole in the Ground”:

“It is the awesome, impenetrable fatalism that drives the timeless ballads first recorded in the twenties; songs like Buell Kazee's "East Virginia," Clarence Ashley's "Coo Coo Bird," Dock Boggs' "Country Blues" -- or a song called "I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground," put down by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in 1928. "I wish I was a mole in the ground -- like a mole in the ground I would root that mountain down -- And I wish I was a mole in the ground."

Now, what the singer wants is obvious, and almost impossible to really comprehend. He wants to be delivered from his like, and to be changed into a creature insignificant and despised; like a mole in the ground, he wants to see nothing and to be seen by no one; he wants to destroy the world, and to survive it.”

Greil Marcus – Liner Notes to Bob Dylan & The Band's The Basement Tapes (1975)

Here in “Grow Fins” Beefheart wants to negate the results of millennia of evolution and slip back into the depths of. He wants to abandon the burden of land, the burden of humanity, even the burden of sentience. He wants to destroy the self, and to survive it.

Tell me he doesn’t sound serious. That beat doesn’t sound real to you? That howl sound light? Seen the guy around recently? Heard any albums from him in the last three decades? I think he was serious. I think he’s left this life for something lesser and simpler and better. They say he’s retired to become an artist, but I think he’s fooled us all. I think he’s grown fins.


Whisk E. Bear said...

(He has MS.)

(Dan) said...