Friday, 2 September 2016

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART and the Safe As Milk identity parade

Safe As Milk was released in the US in the summer of 1967. Original copies came with an inner sleeve that depicted a number of the band's cronies:

Musicians aside, I can identify the following:

Label boss Bob Krasnow

Producer Richard Perry

DJ Tom Donahue

Avalon manager Chet Helms

Los Angeles DJ Bobby Dale

Engineer Hank Cicalo

Mrs. Sandy Krasnow and their children

Producer Richard Perry's younger brother, Fred

An unnamed receptionist at the Kama Sutra / Buddha office in Los Angeles

The others are a mystery. Any ideas?

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART and the release of Safe As Milk

Readers of this blog will of course need no introduction to Captain Beefheart's first album. This post concerns its release date; the one universally given is September 1967, but it's three months out. Here's the evidence.

1) this advert appeared in Cash Box as early as May 27th:

The same ad ran in Billboard on June 24th, with text added to the bottom:

2) this double-spread appeared in World Countdown in June

3) John Lennon posed for this photo at home in Surrey on June 29th (though the stickers, one of which came with each copy of the LP, could easily have been given to him separately by his pal Derek Taylor, who was managing Beefheart's publicity at the time)

4) This collage appeared in World Countdown in July

5) This advert appeared in The San Francisco Examiner of Sunday, July 30th 1967.

6) This advert appeared in World Countdown in August (and makes the unlikely claim that 20,000 copies had already changed hands)

7) In Billboard of August 19th, the LP was tipped as a ‘National Breakout,’ indicating albums that 'have been reported getting strong sales action by dealers in major markets’:

8) Also on August 19th, Cash Box ran this brief 'review'

9) This advert appeared in KRLA Beat on August 26th:

10) For what it's worth, World Countdown ran yet another large ad for it the following month:

11) Finally, on January 11th 1969, the UK music weekly Record Mirror ran an intriguing letter from Michael Ashwell of One Stop Records in London:

The letter makes it clear that John Peel had received a 'review copy' in late July 1967, which - allowing for transatlantic shipping - confirms a release date of mid-July at the latest.

The earliest review I have seen for the album, incidentally, appeared in The Los Angeles Times on Sunday, September 10th 1967, which might account for the assumption that the album was released that month.

One last thought: on the inner sleeve that came with the LP, a jolly chap in a sombrero can be seen holding a copy of Sgt. Pepper, which was released at the start of June - so if Safe As Milk did come out the same month, the artwork must have been turned around pretty fast.