I received Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica on CD for Christmas years back when I was about 14. Being long-haired and 'into music' I had written a list as long as an unrolled toilet roll with a list of albums I had never heard, but was aware were 'must haves'. It took me a long time to appreciate Trout Mask Replica but it now stands (along with their debut Safe as Milk, the follow-up Lick My Decals Off Baby, and Clear Spot) as one of my all time favourite, endlessly-listenable albums.
The responsibility for this album actually being made possible lies with the author of this book, drummer John French (who was, I think, nineteen at the time?).
Drumbo relates anecdotes of his own experiences working with the Captain, of tours and working odd-jobs, and his interests at the time, augmented by his position as author thirty years on. He interviews previous Magic Band members (from every version of the band) to fill in the gaps or add to his own memories. Needless to say its a well-researched and thoroughly honest work. At times there are a (very) few punctuation or grammatical errors that probably should have been picked by an editor, but these only attest to the authenticity of this tome.
The long cast of characters are portrayed as they presented themselves to John and to others (with the addition of hindsight) including Don Van Vliet himself, who comes across as both a raving, sometimes deluded, egomaniac, yet one the most charming, sweetest and talented human beings ever to grace the planet. French does not shy away from criticising or from praising anyone, including himself.
If you only own one Beefheart record, this is still a must have (and will no doubt encourage you to pick up more). Other fan(atics) already know that it is.
Through the Eyes of Magic takes the well-publicised Captain Beefheart mythology (81/2 hour compositions, teaching band members not only their parts but their instruments) and throws it out of the window, replacing it with an account that is honest, and in turns, educational, heartbreaking, laugh-out-loud funny, difficult to put down (and makes it difficult to listen to anything non Beefheart related for the duration of the reading) and downright more interesting than anything Rolling Stone has written about the Captain through the years.
As with everything else Drumbo has put his dexterous hands to, this is an essential purchase.