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Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band – Safe as Milk (1967) & Trout Mask Replica (1969)

January 28, 2020

[Albums 715 & 716 / 1001]

Are you familiar with the Diffusion of innovations theory?

According to the theory (developed by E.M. Rogers), a new technology or idea goes through five different stages of adoption by consumers.

The first category, Innovators, represents about 2.5% of the population. Innovators are the consumers that are keen to take risks & explore new ideas. Therefore, they will be the first to roll the dice & try a new product.

They are then followed by a trio of larger population segments: early adopters, the early majority, and the late majority.

Finally, once a new idea/technology has been widely embraced by the mainstream, the risk-averse laggards eventually join in as well.




“The first time I heard Trout Mask, when I was 15 years old, I thought it was the worst thing I’d ever heard…About the sixth or seventh time, it clicked in, and I thought it was the greatest album I’d ever heard.”
– Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons)

How long did it take you to “get” Captain Beefheart?Trout_Mask_Replica

I propose that the Diffusion of innovations theory applies when it comes to “getting” Captain Beefheart.

Is it fair to estimate that only about 2.5% of the population in 1969 “got” Trout Mask Replica on the first listen?

But then for larger segments of the population, the brilliance gradually started to reveal itself on subsequent listens, as it did for Matt Groening?

And finally, once it was clear how influential the album was on a variety of artists, even if the laggards still derived no enjoyment from the music, would they have to concede that they at least appreciated its experimental importance?




With Safe as Milk, I would probably put myself in the Early Adopter category, as it didn’t take very long to see the album’s appeal.

It was bluesier than I expected and considerably more accessible than I anticipated.

It was nice to hear the theremin make a couple of appearances & I now have another layer of appreciation for The Hip’s 100th Meridian lyric sheet (as Ry Cooder does a nice job multi-tasking here as a member of the Magic Band).Safe_as_Milk

Though as is sometimes the case with records that resonate right away, sometimes repeated listens don’t necessarily enhance the experience.

Trout Mask Replica, on the other hand, requires a bit more of a time investment.

In part, due to the fact that it is a double LP, more time is needed to get through the running order.

But mostly, because it requires significant time/energy/attention to find the melodies buried in the cacophonies.

As a result, it probably took me longer to ‘get’ the appeal of this album.

But like Matt Groening’s experience with the album, I’m finding the more I listen, the more I really like it.

With each subsequent re-listen, additional layers are revealed; I imagine I’ve only scratched the surface of those layers so far.

Which would mean I’m probably not anywhere close to actually “getting” Captain Beefheart.

But based on these albums, especially the latter, I now definitely get the appeal.


Verbalize the Positive

I enjoyed this new-to-me Simpsons episode recently, where Milhouse attempts to woo Lisa with a theremin!

From → 1960s

  1. I feel like Trout Mask Replica should be required listening for adventurous listeners. Took me at least a dozen listens to really enjoy it.

    • I’d agree with that – I believe it has been included in the National Recording Registry, likely in part for that reason.
      I’m about 1/3 of the way to a dozen listens, so I have a feeling my enjoyment will continue to grow!

  2. Okay, I might have to give that Trout one a bunch a tries as it has always intrigued me with the cover, but I have never given it a try. I guess I will be laggard then on this one.

  3. TWO OF MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE ALBUMS! Safe as Milk is goes down so easy compared to TMR. “It requires significant time/energy/attention to find the melodies buried in the cacophonies” That is the key.

    • Nice choices, Mike! I think I’m 4 listens into Trout Mask – it feels like there’s still much more to be discovered within the album & I’m quite enjoying the discovery process!

      • My sister points out that TMR is one of very few mainstream albums to feature bass clarinet. The Mascara Snake was the player’s name. “Fast and bulbous,” commands Don Van Vliet to him! Fast and bulbous!

      • I thought of Dr. Ladano on one of my recent listens – when I heard the bass clarinet, I thought, what a great addition!

  4. jprobichaud permalink

    I’m with you. Likely nowhere near getting Captain Beefheart.

  5. I was raised on this stuff. This explains exactly why I have short hair and work in the law!

  6. Are you familiar with the Diffusion of innovations theory?

    I was baffled after that!! lol

    Captain Beefheart, I don’t get but The Simpsons I get! HAHA…
    Tells you where my head is at age 52! lol

  7. The trick to “getting” the Good Captain is don’t listen to Trout Mask. Haha. Seriously its a huge time drain when you could be listening to Clear Spot, Lick My Decals Off, Doc at the Radar Station or Bat Chain Puller.

    • That’s good advice – and now that I’m enjoying his work, I appreciate having a few next stops mapped out on the Beefheart journey!

      • No problem. There is a great live album you may be able to still locate (the apple place has it) “I’m Going To Do What I’m Going To Do” Live at My Fathers Place. Its a great, legit live album he did with his incredible late 70’s Magic Band. Its really breathtaking stuff.

  8. I liked him better when he was just Ensign Beefheart.

  9. Well, would you believe I’ve never given Captain Beefheart the time required? I find other things to get lost in…

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