Captain Beefheart "Dust Sucker"
Ozit/Milksafe BF6003

The story of Dust Sucker - the album

About five years ago, legendary English rock promoter (the late and extremely well-respected) Roger Eagle disclosed to Milksafe Productions some absolutely amazing information he had been keeping up his sleeve for many years. Back in mid-1976, his transatlantic friend (whose concerts he often promoted in the UK) Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, had sent Roger a parcel containing several sets of recordings including a reel of quarter-inch tape in a box labelled "Apes ma" and also several cassettes, plus various scribblings on bits of paper. A rough sketch of a guerrilla was taped to the lid of the quarter-inch tape box and was obviously drawn by Don himself. This had also been photocopied and made onto cassette sleeve artwork by Don with various scribblings. Don had asked Roger to hold these tapes for him in England as they were versions of demos for Bat Chain Puller that differed from the recordings that made the final "ill-fated", shelved album recorded at The Manor. There is definitely a certain rawness to the recordings that the Captain made with his Magic Band on these particular tapes, they are either in some places rough demos or perhaps unfinished ideas - who knows! Anyway, the tape sat around in the UK until the early nineties when Roger (who had been given the permission to go ahead and release the songs as an album by Don on his visit to the UK in 1980 - and yet still they sat around for another ten-plus years doing nothing!) sent the reel to Intersound, Benelux, who were proposing to release the album on CD in certain countries and who had paid Roger an advance for the tape rights for certain territories and finally transferred them to a digital master, which they then sent to Roger for approval. Here the curse of the Captain seems to hit the story again because some sort of dispute arose over artwork between Intersound and Roger, and the whole project seemed to go into limbo with rumours coming back to Roger about Intersound's financial viability, and so the digital master returned to safekeeping in England (well, in fact, it was Wales) until Roger finalised its release through Milksafe Productions in 1997, but even then credit had to be given to Intersound on the sleeve because they were claiming ownership despite being in and out of business a couple of times! So finally in 2002, the "Guerrilla Sketch" - labelled Captain Beefheart's own versions master tapes of the "Apes Ma" album/"Bat Chain Puller" demos see the light of day. The final title of the album, "Dust Sucker", refers to a job the Captain once had selling vacuum cleaners door to door (as well as the fact that both the Captain and Frank Zappa used vacuum cleaners as instruments on stage!) - apparently The Captain would knock on a door during his vacuum cleaner selling days, and when the lady of the house answered the door, he would stand there holding a vacuum cleaner and simply say "THIS SUCKS"!

Dust Sucker a 19-track CD album by Captain Beefheart, and it's released on 18th March 2002 by Milksafe Productions and marketed by Ozit-Morpheus Records, catalogue no. Ozit/Milksafe BF6003

Track Listing

  1. Bat Chain Puller
  2. Seam Crooked Sam
  3. Harry Irene
  4. 81 Poop Hatch
  5. Flavor Bud Living
  6. Brickbats
  7. Floppy Boot Stomp
  8. A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond
  9. Owed T'Alex
  10. Odd Jobs
  11. 1010th Day Of The Human Totem Pole
  12. Apes-Ma
  13. Bat Chain Puller
  14. Harry Irene
  15. Flavor Bud Living
  16. Floppy Boot Stomp
  17. Owed T'Alex
  18. Well Well Well
  19. My Human Gets Me Blues

Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band
Dust Sucker
Milksafe BF 6003 (70:48)

Record Collector, April 2002

In the mystic Egypt postle, dangling down... old Captain, he lurk. With old, former bootleg tape up at door, push through door. Old pantaloon label, Milksafe, white goose-release, hardcore, hardcore. Old Captain at
play, he reel-to-reel. Songs they been mean for album 'Bat Chain Puller', become popular boot tape in 70s but never release, some turn up, sho' nuff, yes, they do, on 'Shiny Beast' and 'Doc At The Radar Station'. Captain
songs, there's a limited supply - and here's a new dozen, and this is why: 'Magic Band', 'Dust Sucker' - oh my oh my. Beef heart, beef flaps, beef curtains.

'Floppy Boot Stomp' and 'Harry Irene' (best version be - 'that's right, the Mascara Snake"). I had to run so far to find prose poetry of this quality; 'Apes-Ma' - unsettle, unsettle - in back of singabus, that's right.  Sometimes a woman's gotta send a man her songs - Polly Harvey to Captain Caravan in desert; sun cream by day, records by night. And an acid gold record swung up and down, up and down. Webcore, webcore.  And I'm glad.

Nat Maven

"A Broad Abroad"
Goldmine, June 2002

The second Beefheart release, also from Ozit, is "Dust Sucker", heralded on the front cover as "the Captain's own tapes of the legendary Bat Chain Puller studio sessions, plus rare bonus tracks." A total of 19 songs comprise this particular treasure trove, 12 drawn from the unreleased 1974-75 era master tapes for what has since become one of the most legendary lost albums of all time, and it is fascinating to compare these originals with the re-recordings that made it out over the next eight years or so, across the albums, "Shiny Beast", "Doc At The Radar Station" and "Ice Cream Crow". The bulk of the bonus tracks offer alternate versions of the Bat Chain material, serving up an intriguing and intricate glimpse of a very special moment in Beefheartian time.

Jo-Ann Greene

What people say...

It's a true lost classic-believe the hype!... This is the real deal, folks... Beefheart was at his most lucid and beautiful when he created these songs, and they have never sounded so good. The band including Denny Walley are one of the best since Trout Mask. An album that bridges the gap between the earlier albums and the final trilogy; if you are a Beefheart fan, do not hesitate or think about it - just buy this record now! If you are not a Beefheart fan, then this CD will convert you!
(Reviews from

Have you been wondering for a couple of decades whether to investigate the good Captain…? Good place to start… This rocks! Hard! That, my little chickadees, is a recommendation.
(Review from 'Careless Talk')

Well, Beefheartian disciples, rejoice! The object of legend and hearsay has come to light! And if you got ears, you gotta listen! The tapes (from Don's very own collection) present us with rough mixes of the album along with contemporary live material and the differences (or lack thereof) are at once startling and strangely comforting. What this album contains is the spontaneity and wisdom that was largely lost by 1977. Buy this album, it's safe as milk!
(Review extract from BBC Online)

What more can be said about the good Captain? Don Van Vliet hasn't made an album since 1982... Yet his influences can be heard everywhere to this day, and at least two recent winners of the Mercury Music Prize - Gomez and P.J. Harvey - cite him as one of their main inspirations... Taken from the recently discovered master tapes of Beefheart's own recordings, released for the first, time on "Dust Sucker".
(Uncut Magazine)

Critical consensus names 1969's Trout Mask Replica as Captain Beefheart's finest moment, but: Dust Sucker compiles lost recordings that will make fans lick their decals off! Fuzzy-sounding tracks comprising the unreleased 1976 Bat Chain Puller album find Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) back on top after wilderness years in which he ditched his dismembered blues muse for some sell-out 1970s rock that still failed to sell. Many of these tunes and spoken-word stories were re-imagined on the band's final three albums, and exemplify their fantastic fusion of traditional shapes and avant-garde conceits. Van Vliet retreated to the Mohave with his paints in the early 1980s; Dust Sucker is a lifeline to the legend.
(The Sunday Times)

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