Captain Beefheart – Observatory Crest

7th May 2024 · 1970s, 1974, Music

Captain Beefheart enjoyed one of his more mainstream moments when he recorded Observatory Crest for his ninth album Bluejeans & Moonbeams.

Back in my school days it was cool to like Trout Mask Replica, the mostly unlistenable album by Captain Beefheart.

I had my suspicions it was the distinctive cover (with that trout mask) that made it cool, rather than the sound of a homeless man barking over scratchy guitars, tuneless parping and what sounds like children banging household objects.

I do, however, remember seeing Beefheart on the Old Grey Whistle Test at one point and discovering he had a different, far more listenable side to him.

Then one day I heard this beautiful song and thought: he’s all right, ol’ Don Van Vliet. Sometimes.

It’s a very simple song: a guy and his girl drive up to a place high above Los Angeles after a gig and admire the view. That’s it basically. But it’s blissfully elegiac, and so perfectly evokes a time and a place and a romantic mood.

I think I read recently that Tom Ravenscroft, the DJ son of John Peel, named this as his favourite song of all time, and that Kate Bush named the album from which it’s taken, Bluejeans & Moonbeams, as one of her ten favourites, while Mercury Rev covered this song for a BBC session in 1999.

Conversely, the uncharacteristically mainstream album is also widely considered to be Beefheart’s worst album, according to Wikipedia.