Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, ‘Big Eyed Beans From Venus’ – Rock’s Hidden Gems
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For every universally celebrated song, known to all and played to death by radio stations everywhere, there are countless hidden gems — album cuts that, for reasons unclear, somehow missed their predestined date with classic-rock immortality. But in the case of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, you could almost say hidden gems are all they have — such is the nature of a musical catalog so original, so ahead of its time, and therefore so challenging to the average listener, that their albums literally soared well over the heads of all but a few.
They still do.
So instead of harping on about the innumerable examples of avant-garde genius found in groundbreaking LPs like ‘Trout Mask Replica’ and ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ (songs that were and may always be simply too “out there” for mainstream absorption), we look to one of Beefheart’s most comparitively accessible albums, ‘Clear Spot,’ for this latest installment of Rock’s Hidden Gems: ‘Big Eyed Beans from Venus.’
Released in 1972, at a time when Reprise Records was pressuring Beefheart to tone down his eccentricities to improve tepid record sales, ‘Clear Spot’ was overseen by capable staff producer Ted Templeman (Montrose, Doobie Brothers, later Van Halen) and actually managed to scrape into the Top 200 — just! — before topping out at No. 191.
In other words, there was still nothing conventional about ‘Clear Spot,’ nor the longstanding fan and concert favorite, ‘Big Eyed Beans from Venus,’ which boasted a typically abstract set of Beefheart lyrics, stitching together seemingly random outer space jargon (the sun, Venus, “beam together,” etc.) with comparatively earthly man/woman relations.
In fact, some have suggested the song’s title was a typically oblique, very Beefheart-ian play on the words “Bug Eyed Beings from Venus,” and others still saw clear sexual connotations in verses like “Men let your wallets flop out and women open your purses” (not to mention the title’s allusion to breasts), which, from the Captain’s idiosyncratic viewpoint simply referred to the decidedly “alien” magic of…love.
The truth is out there…
Also, while the musical bed of ‘Big Eyed Beans from Venus’ utilized all kinds of irregular tempos, counterpoint guitar parts, and clashing doses of harmony and dissonance (all of them quite typical of the Magic Band), guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo’s reverberating bottleneck breakdown around the one-minute mark ultimately reminds us that, at its core, Beefheart’s art essentially consisted of extrapolating the fundamental blues idiom to the absolute limits of human (if not alien) expression.
Like Howlin’ Wolf blasting off into space, and beyond…
That’s why we can virtually guarantee that Beefheart’s like will never be seen this way again; nor should we expect any future entries in Rock’s Hidden Gems to be as perplexing, unique, yet also beautiful as ‘Big Eyed Beans from Venus.’