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Captain Beefheart

Bat Chain Puller LP - Color

Near the end of the 100-page history that came with the 1999 box set Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band: Grow Fins, there's a heartbreaking story from one-time Beefheart guitarist/manager Gary Lucas, which happened in the early 1980s, close to the end of the Captain's (aka Don Van Vliet) recording career. Lucas and Van Vliet approached the latter's old high school pal and kindred 1960s iconoclast-crank Frank Zappa to retrieve the master tapes of Bat Chain Puller, an album the Magic Band had recorded for Zappa's label in 1976, before a lawsuit with Zappa's then-manager Herb Cohen stopped its release. When asked about taking the masters back, Zappa flatly replied: "I thought there might be a higher market value out there in 'BeefheartLand' if I didn't split up the set." By this point, Zappa had held the tapes for over five years, and the Band needed to fill the side of their last album, 1982's Ice Cream for Crow, so Zappa cut them a deal: "Well, I got a track about 12 minutes long called 'Do You Want a Pepsi?' Don sings on it. I wrote it." Needless to say, they declined.
Zappa passed away in 1993 and Van Vliet retreated to the desert for the last decades of his life; the tapes never emerged. It seemed the hatchet had never been buried between these old friends. When John Fahey's Revenant label approached Zappa's estate to include this missing album as the last disc of the Grow Fins box, they were rebuffed with a ludicrously high fee. So when a review from Edwin Pouncey appeared in a recent issue of The Wire proclaiming the legitimacy of this disc, it still seemed unlikely that these could be the missing tapes. Another bootleg had been released earlier in the decade, a woeful-sounding disc called Dust Sucker, and even with both men gone, the argument seemed forever unresolved.
But lo and behold, this is the real Bat Chain Puller, as recorded in 1976 and released by a subsidiary of the Frank Zappa estate via their website, complete with liner notes (and more importantly, approval) from longtime drummer John "Drumbo" French and guitarist Denny Walley. It was to be the album that would restore Captain Beefheart to critical acclaim after two loathsome cash grabs often attributed to "The Tragic Band" by his spurned devotees. In the lore of lost albums, Bat Chain Puller is the good Captain's Smile, a fragmented text never quite assembled. Six of these songs were reworked for the Captain's "comeback" album, 1978's Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), another three were re-recorded for 1980's barbed Doc at the Radar Station, and two of the darkest tracks resurfaced on swan song Ice Cream for Crow.
-- Pitchfork
Unofficial release on yellow vinyl!
item # 38364
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