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As his spellbinding, often shocking tale unwinds, he encounters names including jazz giant Ornette Coleman, Jim Morrison and Paul McCartney, writing with dry, sometimes surreal humour and disarming honesty about his old boss and even himself, occasionally bringing in his old Magic Band comrades to jog his memory. The book is packed with new revelations, many previously-unseen photos and enough anecdotes to keep the Beefheart faithful ruminating for years, French finally crystallising and bringing to life over 40 years of legend and speculation in what has to be the ultimate book on the mercurial genius of Captain Beefheart.

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Captain Beefheart Radar Station. John writes well as we already know and it comes as a relief after some of the longer interview sections to read his prose. For the sake of this review I started at page one and worked my way through to the end.

In fact, I think it might even work if you dipped into the book at random points. The chapters tend to be quite short and focussed which helps, although you need your wits about you in the early chapters because the timeframe is not always linear and there are a lot more interview sections. It could prove difficult for some fans not to mention non-fans who do not know the early Magic Band members and the other people on the periphery.


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  3. Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic by John French » Captain Beefheart Radar Station?

The details in this book are mind-boggling. Inevitably there are gaps or the exact chronology is unclear … but can you remember what you were doing 40 years ago?


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  • Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic press release » Captain Beefheart Radar Station.
  • The depth of detail is both fascinating and frustrating. So, there will, inevitably, be gaps. The most noticeable gap is during much of to when John was not part of the band. This could lead to a bit of confusion for some when Alex Snouffer makes an appearance talking about the break- up of the band in Perhaps some notes to fill in these gaps would have helped … especially for non-fans. Well, yes, I am being picky …. But what do I think of the book overall?

    Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic

    There is plenty in here to fuel debates for years to come. I have no intention of revealing any of that in this review. Inevitably many of the old Beefheart myths are demolished but there are some revelations in here that will surprise you and make you wonder once again about the personality and strange powers of Don van Vliet. John gives us some interesting details about the recording of each track, the history of the lyrics, who plays what and how the musical parts were devised.

    Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic by John "Drumbo" French

    Obviously wearing his musical arranger hat, John is very critical in places not least about his own playing. I have to confess a bit of a personal interest in this book.


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    • There were many occasions when John would get quite depressed about his writing and wondered whether it was really worth all of the effort and time it was taking when he could be better off looking for a proper job to support his family. I wrote several times encouraging him to continue and that there was no one else better placed to tell this extraordinary story. I was privileged to be asked by John to help edit some of his original manuscript.

      Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - I'm Glad

      He felt that it was much too long but seemed unsure as to what needed to be done to it. I did proof-read the text and corrected some errors in the first six or seven chapters, and was able to suggest areas that could be reduced by removing some duplication and extraneous detail.