The beefheart / bee fart chronicles

An old Zits strip — Jeremy twitting his father affectionately over Walt’s musical tastes — that’s been hanging around on my desktop for some years. This will take us far afield, thanks to the activities of the performer Don Van Vliet, best known by his stage name Captain Beefheart.

(#1) The relatively easy part of this has to do with the phonology of connected speech, which in casual speech has the compound noun beefheart / beef heart /bif.hart/ ‘the internal organ, the heart, of a bovine animal raised for its meat’ (also the name of, very roughly, a rock music performer) resyllabified and reduced to /bi.fart/ — so becoming homophonous with a novel compound bee fart / beefart; amusement ensues

The reduction without the resyllabification yields yet a third compound noun, beef art, also attested with reference to artworks featuring either bovine animals (in, say, pastoral — bucolic — scenes) or their meat (especially in still lifes, but also in performance art pieces involving raw meat).

I will now abandon this third compound in this posting. And also various imaginative uses for bee fart. I have pretty much all I can handle today with beefheart and Captain Beefheart.

beefheart / beef heart. From NOAD on the noun beef:

1 [a] the flesh of a cow, bull, or ox, used as food …  [b] Farming a cow, bull, or ox fattened for its meat. [that is ‘a bovine animal raised for its meat’] [sense 1b is the relevant sense here; sense 1a is a metonymic development from 1a, listed first in NOAD because it’s the most frequent use]

The compound noun beef heart / beefheart then refers to the internal organ, the heart, of a bovine animal raised for its meat (And then there are various figurative senses of the compound, as in the metaphoric beefheart tomatoes.)

The actual stuff, as offered by butcher’s shops:

(#2) From Tag’z Premier Meat Shop in Murfeesboro TN

Captain Beefheart. From Wikipedia:

Don Van Vliet (/born Don Glen Vliet; January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010) was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and visual artist best known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. Conducting a rotating ensemble known as the Magic Band, he recorded 13 studio albums between 1967 and 1982. His music blended elements of blues, free jazz, rock, and avant-garde composition with idiosyncratic rhythms, absurdist wordplay, a loud, gravelly voice, and his claimed wide vocal range, though reports of it have varied from three octaves to seven and a half. Known for his enigmatic persona, Beefheart frequently constructed myths about his life and was known to exercise an almost dictatorial control over his supporting musicians. Although he achieved little commercial success, he sustained a cult following as an influence on an array of experimental rock and punk-era artists.

A prodigy sculptor in his childhood, Van Vliet developed an eclectic musical taste during his teen years in Lancaster, California, and formed “a mutually useful but volatile” friendship with musician Frank Zappa, with whom he sporadically competed and collaborated.] He began performing with his Captain Beefheart persona in 1964 and joined the original Magic Band line-up, initiated by Alexis Snouffer, the same year. The group released their debut album Safe as Milk in 1967 on Buddah Records. After being dropped by two consecutive record labels they signed to Zappa’s Straight Records, where they released 1969’s Trout Mask Replica; the album would later rank 58th in Rolling Stone magazine’s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

(#3) The album cover for Trout Mask Replica

You can listen here to “Ella Guru” from Trout Mask Replica.


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