The career of multi-octave sonic experimentalist Captain Beefheart was never governed by commercial success. But it’s typically paradoxical that the album in his catalogue with the Magic Band that’s generally thought to be their most commercial, is one that failed to make the charts on either side of the Atlantic, after a run of regular (if fairly modest) appearances on the bestsellers. That album, Bluejeans & Moonbeams, was released on 29 November 1974.
Beefheart is better known, and much more widely lauded, for earlier albums in his canon such as Trout Mask Replica and Safe As Milk. The Bluejeans & Moonbeams record was the ninth studio project by Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, and his Magic Band, recorded in Hollywood with producer Andy DiMartino.
Perhaps its lack of success was partly explained by the fact that that it was Beefheart’s second album of 1974, in the space of some seven months. It followed Unconditionally Guaranteed, which at least tickled the Billboard 200 at No. 192. He’d actually been a more regular seller in the UK, where Lick My Decals Off, Baby had even reached No. 20, in 1971. Either way, Guaranteed and Bluejeans marked the end of Beefheart’s tenure with Mercury Records, and even he didn’t care for them, later describing the pair of albums as “vulgar and horrible.”
Thankfully, some notable artists liked Bluejeans more than he did. Kate Bush once chose it among her favourite top ten albums, and Jack White dug it so much that he covered its track ‘Party Of Special Things To Do’ on an early White Stripes EP, the 2000 release of that name which comprised entirely Beefheart material, also including versions of ‘China Pig’ and ‘Ashtray Heart.’
“The Captain is back with his own rather distinct songs blending humour and pathos,” wrote Billboard in its review of Bluejeans. “Much more commercially oriented than past sets, but still retaining the Beefheart touch and still more or less for special tastes.”
Bluejeans & Moonbeams can be bought here here.