Updated with a new introduction written by the original author John ‘Drumbo’ French and published by The Last Music Company on April 22nd to commemorate what would be Don Van Vliet’s 80th year, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic is a no holds barred first hand account of working with – and being a member of – Captain Beefheart. Now in its third printing the book features interviews with all the key players inside and around The Magic Band and the Mothers Of Invention, alongside 90 pages of track notes to Beefheart material and 16 rare photo outtakes from Guy Webster. As drummer and musical director, John ‘Drumbo’ French was a key contributor to the band’s many ground breaking albums, including the now iconic Trout Mask Replica.
Explaining why he’s updated the book now author John ‘Drumbo’ French says, “I have had a lot of requests for the book, which was out of print, so it made sense to make more available and share the stories again. It’s very informative with many interviews – it’s not just ‘my’ story but the stories of several. And it also covers the early history of band in Lancaster (the Antelope Valley) and overlaps with a lot of great Zappa stories.”
Drumbo continues, “The way I wrote the book was to make an outline of everything I could possibly recall. I then spent some time putting that into a fairly accurate timeline (and) added extensive interviews to that. I had over three hundred pages of interviews and added more later. The interviews, all 23 of them, were difficult to arrange time wise, because when I started interviewing people it was only for a booklet for the Revenant Compilation ‘Grow Fins’, which was about 50 pages. I had no experience at doing interviews and I wasn’t thinking of ‘hundreds of pages’. I just had conversations with my old bandmates without thinking ahead to the amount of work it would take, if I later wrote a book, to organize all this ‘skipping around’ into a timeline. I used quotes from Bill’s book, ‘Lunar Notes’ and Zappa’s book ‘The Real Frank Zappa Book’, and Mike Barnes’ ‘Captain Beefheart.’”
WATCH: John French chat about his upcoming book here.
In addition to the publication of the new version of Through The Eyes Of Magic, Drumbo is re-releasing the 2008 album City Of Refuge on vinyl for the first time on April 30th. Featuring twelve John French compositions performed by Drumbo with his former Magic Band members Zoot Horn Rollo, Rockette Morton, Ella Guru Davidson and John Thomas, this unique group was assembled in 2008 specifically to record these tracks. None of the material has ever been performed in public and the reissues provide listeners with a chance to experience Drumbo’s trademark drumming and remarkable singing.
LISTEN to City of Refuge here.
Published April 22nd Includes a new intro, track notes and rare photos Hardback, 864 pages Preorder HERE
Drumbo’s 2008 album City Of Refuge Released on vinyl for the first time on April 30th
About the author:
John ‘Drumbo’ French was born in California and grew up in the Mojave Desert town of Lancaster, the hometown of Frank Zappa and Don Van Vliet. He played in local bands including Merrell & the Exiles and Blues In A Bottle, before joining Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band in late 1966 where he developed one of music’s most recognisable and influential drumming styles. Given the moniker ‘Drumbo’ by Beefheart on Troutmask Replica, Drumbo left the band in 1980 to make albums with Henry Kaiser. In 2000 he compiled and annotated the ‘Grow Fins’ anthology and in 2003 reformed the Magic Band with some of its earlier members. They toured and released a few albums until John’s retirement in 2017. In 2008 he recorded an album of self penned music under the name of ‘Drumbo’ with three former Magic Band members.