‘Abba Zaba, zooooooooooooooooooo’.
The Captain’s voice wails over the cracked-bell tones of the guitar. The sky is his blue million miles, today: as it will be tomorrow, the day after and – most likely – the day after that. Much as I love Beefheart, I play this music loud for my neighbours. Don’t get me wrong, I like ABBA too: but music is for more than background. There’s nostalgia too, if I remember rightly. More than that, though, there’s the mad, the individual, the ‘I’m-going-to-create-my-stuff-and-I-don’t-care-if-no-one-in-Poughkeepsie-buys-it’ attitude that marks out the truly great from the merely very good.
If I see someone in the bar the next day, they may ask me ‘What the hell was that?’ If it is Beefheart that they have been enjoying, I tell them it’s the sound of the Blues written by Bulgakov or Dada-ists. It stops the conversation and it’s easy to read their minds from the look on their faces.
But perhaps they have a point. Anyone creative – a writer, for example – can point to Beefheart or Cage or Picasso or Van Gogh and say that everyone laughed at them and look what happened. Everyone creative – this writer, for example – can also say to themselves ‘Yeah, well they were every one a genius whereas…’
So, write what you know? Write what they want? Or write what you must? As for the last of those options:
‘Sho’ Nuff ‘N’Yes I Do’