Zoot Horn Rollo,aka Bill Harkleroad fills the gaps in Captain Beefheart's murky history without the worshipful reverence of the Captain's followers or the dismissive smugness of his detractors. As guitarist in a 'cult of personality' band,Bill was forced to render his leader's artistic vision into musical form. This process seems to have been full of struggle,and a bitter tone creeps in from time to time,despite his obvious affection and respect for Beefheart's huge talent(and ego). A good insider's account of an enigmatic group. Most readers,however,will be put off by the conversational tone of the book,which seems to have been poorly ghostwritten. The thoughts and feelings of the author come through clearly,but I was left feeling more like I'd heard an interview than read a personal account. I am a fan of Harkleroad's guitar playing,and interested in his musical history,so I found it interesting and it did fill in many unknowns for me. Those not familiar with Captain Beefheart will be bored. A cult book for a cult band.
The Beefheart fan should not expect too much from this book.It is very readable(you can finish it in a couple of hours) but it reads like no more than an extended magazine article- a chat with ZHR. There is little solid factual stuff here and no use made of contemporary interviews and reviews.No discography.It is a pleasant read and is as much as you would expect from someone who was 19 at the time and is a musician not a writer. It is good to have the insiders view of the Beefheart band but the more I find out about the creation of great pieces of music the more amazed I am that the thing ever got done-particularly by these people in those circumstances. A spark started the fire and the spark was Beefheart.
After reading the book, I do think it gets below the surface, and if that's all the info we can get for now, that's fine. It would be nice to get another perspective. In any case it is very interesting, especially since the amount of info generally available is amazingly scarce.
The "Trout Mask Replica" era Magic Band were an amazing group of people that did amazing things during an amazing time. This wonderful book takes us into that central place. Harkleroad has a weird way of expressing himself, like he's so involved in his music that he has all these strange shorthand terms he's had to coin. It's great. I also got a big kick out of Harkleroad's put down of guitar "god" Jimmy Page. Great book for anyone interested in Beefheart and his music, and experimental music in general.
Zoot Horn Rollo gives a fairly objective view of life within the Magic Band. More informative for debunking of myths than new insights, it will none the less get Beefheart fans replaying the songs and listening to them in a a new light. Ignore ZHR's bitterness and concentrate on the positive observations.