Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band: Safe As Milk Production Notes

Production Notes

The Rising Sons' Gary Marker had made an agreement with Don Van Vliet that if he persuaded Ry Cooder to join The Magic Band, he would produce Safe As Milk, but when Buddah Records' Bob Krasnow put forward Richard Perry, Van Vliet agreed. Although annoyed at Van Vliet's 'treachery', Marker still helped engineer the initial sessions.

In preparation, Marker had already lobbied the record company to use the eight-track facility at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, and while Perry would go on to become a top producer, working with Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon and Harry Nilsson, at this early stage in his career he was unfamiliar with the desk. This meant production moved down the road to RCA Studios and completed on a four-track machine.

The recording was bounced down from four tracks to two, leaving two for the vocals and overdubs. This saw the drums all but disappear on 'Call On Me'. None of the group were happy with the mix – Cooder has said that Safe As Milk is a great record except for the production, and Krasnow later remixed the album, hence gaining a production credit.

One famous story from the sessions is that Van Vliet audibly blew out a microphone with the power of his voice during the take of 'Electricity' that appears on the album. This certainly isn't apparent and appears to be another one of his tall tales. However, in a radio phone-in on WBAI in 1984, the host Tom Pompasello recalled that Van Vliet had been invited to repeat the feat on the Woody Woodbury TV show and proceeded to overload the microphone and short-circuit some of the other equipment...