In the spring of 1969, the inauspicious release of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band's "Trout Mask Replica", a double-album featuring 28 stream-of-consciousness songs filled with abstract rhythms and guttural bellows, dramatically altered the pop landscape. Yet, even if the album did cast its radical vision over the future of music, much of the record's artistic strength is actually drawn from the past. This book examines how Beefheart's incomparable opus is informed by a variety of diverse sources. "Trout Mask Replica" is a hybrid of the poetic declarations of Walt Whitman and the beat writer Gregory Corso, the field hollers of the Delta Blues legend Charley Patton, the urban blues of Howlin' Wolf, the free jazz of Ornette Coleman and the early Southern Californian R&B sound of Richard Berry and the Coasters. This book illustrates how "Trout Mask Replica", far from being an arcane specimen of the avant-garde, was instead a defiantly original declaration of the American imagination.
Kevin Courrier is the author of several books, including Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa and Randy Newman's American Dreams. He has been a writer/broadcaster and film critic for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) since 1990.