I knew a wonderful musician named Don Van Vliet. He called himself Captain Beefheart. He said he had a beef in his heart. He used to call me late at night and talk for hours. I mostly listened. He'd talk about hats and consequences, playing with words. I'd lie in bed with the phone at my head listening to Don follow himself like a 5 year old. Don was a big deal to me. I would get restless and bored after a while. He was becoming a real person to me. I was starting to learn that no one would always be as interesting or as profound as my expectations of them. I needed to learn that and cut it out. I was sent the following, years ago, by another musician:
Captain Beefheart's Ten Commandments for Guitarists
1. LISTEN TO THE BIRDS. That's where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren't going anywhere.
2. YOUR GUITAR IS NOT REALLY A GUITAR. Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you're good, you'll land a big one.
3. PRACTICE IN FRONT OF A BUSH. Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn't shake, eat another piece of bread.
4. WALK WITH THE DEVIL. Old delta blues players referred to amplifiers as the "devil box." And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you're bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts demons and devils. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.
5. IF YOU'RE GUILTY OF THINKING, YOU'RE OUT. If your brain is part of the process, you're missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.
6. NEVER POINT YOUR GUITAR AT ANYONE. Your instrument has more power than lightning. Just hit a big chord, then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.
7. ALWAYS CARRY YOUR CHURCH KEY. You must carry your key and use it when called upon. That's your part of the bargain. Like One String Sam. He was a Detroit street musician in the fifties who played a homemade instrument. His song "I Need A Hundred Dollars" is warm pie. Another church key holder is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin' Wolf's guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty making you want to look up her dress to see how he's doing it.
8. DON'T WIPE THE SWEAT OFF YOUR INSTRUMENT. You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.
9. KEEP YOUR GUITAR IN A DARK PLACE. When you're not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don't play your guitar for more than a day, be sure to put a saucer of water in with it.
10. YOU GOTTA HAVE A HOOD FOR YOUR ENGINE. Wear a hat when you play and keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house the hot air can't escape. Even a lima bean has to have a wet paper towel around it to make it grow.