a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History Lyrics

Tropical Hot Dog Night

Music/Lyrics: Don Van Vliet

Vocals: Captain Beefheart

Original Artist: Captain Beefheart

Original Album: Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (1977)

Historian: Phil Nazzaro

Captain Beefheart (a.k.a. Don Van Vliet) retired from music to concentrate on his painting in 1982. But he left behind a searing musical legacy made up of a bubbling brew of Delta blues, R&B, free jazz and avant garde-infused madness. Beefheart is a musician’s musician. And his catalogue continues to influence the greatest of artists even today.

Unfortunately, even by 1994 it was obvious that Van Vliet never intended to follow his musical muse again. Some say he lives as a recluse in a trailer with his wife in the Mojave Desert. Combined with his unapproachable 4 1/2 octave vocal range that can blow your sub-woofer on one end or break glass like a shrieking animal on the other, this pretty much ensures that works like “Tropical Hot Dog Night” will never be performed again – by anybody.

Yet on 12/31/94 Phish played it at the going away party for the old Boston Garden. Well, they played the recording from the Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) album over the PA, that is. The song was part of the post-”Auld Lang Syne” New Year celebration as the band flew over the audience in the maiden voyage of the giant hot dog complete with headlights.

Unfortunately, The Captain passed away on December 17, 2010. Appropriately the midnight stunt for New Year's 2010-11 featuring the third flight of the hot dog, and “Tropical Hot Dog Night” as the post-show PA music. Long live The Captain!

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