Not Pulling Your Chain: Captain Beefheart’s Unreleased “Bat Chain Puller” Coming From Zappa Records
Though Frank Zappa had much to say as a musician and a social commentator throughout his lifetime, the keepers of the flame over at Zappa.com are a little more understated. But the team led by Zappa’s widow, Gail, continues to offer a number of exciting projects relating to the Zappa legacy. One of the most unusual is on the way: the first-ever release of avant-garde wizard Captain Beefheart’s original Bat Chain Puller. A lost 1976 album produced by Zappa, portions were re-recorded in later years, but the original LP has never materialized, until now. Accepting pre-orders for the CD to arrive the week of January 15, the official Zappa store only says this, in typically succinct fashion: “Here’s to the Good Captain. We rest our case.” For those who’d like the case stated just a little bit more, though, read on.
The album entitled Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) was the tenth and third-to-last studio album of Captain Beefheart (a.k.a. Don Van Vliet) and the Magic Band, released in 1978 on the Warner Bros. label. But that effort (lauded by Ned Raggett of Allmusic.com as “manna from heaven for those feeling Beefheart had lost his way [on the albums that preceded it]”) wasn’t the album originally intended to bear the Bat Chain Puller name.
The original circa-1976 album was recorded by Beefheart with the 1975 touring Magic Band line-up, minus Elliot Ingber and Bruce Fowler: John French (drums), John Thomas (keyboards), Moris Tepper (guitar) and Denny Walley (guitar). Intended for Frank Zappa’s Warner-distributed DiscReet label in the U.S., a rough mix was provided to Virgin Records’ U.K. offices, reportedly to solicit interest in the album for release abroad. When a legal conflict between album producer (and on-again, off-again Beefheart associate) Zappa and his controversial manager Herb Cohen reached boiling point, Beefheart’s tapes got lost in the shuffle. The Captain retooled and re-recorded some of the tracks for the 1978 Shiny Beast, and indeed, for his next two albums. But the Shiny Beast re-recordings utilized a different band, and were produced by Captain Beefheart with Pete Johnson. The original Zappa-produced recordings became much-bootlegged, thanks to the leak of the early mix. At least five unique bootleg versions of the LP are catalogued at the Captain Beefheart Radar Station.
Tracks from the original Bat Chain Puller on Shiny Beast include “The Floppy Boot Stomp”, “Harry Irene”, “Bat Chain Puller”, “Owed t’Alex” and “Apes-Ma.” 1980’s Doc at the Radar Station offered “A Carrot Is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond”, “Brickbats” and “Flavor Bud Living,” while Beefheart’s 1982 swansong Ice Cream for Crow presented “’81′ Poop Hatch” and “The Thousandth and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole.” At least three songs possibly planned for the original LP, “Seam Crooked Sam,” “Odd Jobs,” and “Hobo-Ism,” hadn’t been released in any form in Beefheart’s lifetime.
Hit the jump for more, including the track listing and pre-order link!
An email communication shared on the Zappa.com forum and elsewhere has revealed the track listing, containing 12 core tracks and 3 bonus cuts. A 16-page booklet featuring liner notes by John French and Denny Walley is also promised. Bat Chain Puller is scheduled to ship the week of January 15, one year and one month to the day of Beefheart’s passing on December 15, 2010. It can be pre-ordered at the link below!
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Bat Chain Puller (Zappa Records, 2012)
- Bat Chain Puller
- Seam Crooked Sam
- Harry Irene
- 81 Poop Hatch
- Flavor Bud Living
- Brick Bats
- Floppy Boot Stomp
- Chariot (Ah Carrot Is As Close As Ah Rabbit Gets To Ah Diamond)
- Owed T’Alex
- Odd Jobs
- Human Totem Pole (The 1,000th and 10th Day of the Human Totem Pole)
- Bat Chain Puller (Alternate Mix) (Bonus Track)
- Candle Mambo (Bonus Track)
- Hobo-ism (Bonus Track)