Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band – Safe As Milk
Early US issues had red labels, followed by 'kaleidoscope' labels, then later black labels (under Arista). For some stereo issues a foil 'stereo' sticker was applied to mono sleeves. First inner liners had a photo-montage & loose sticker.
The band recorded in the Spring of 1967 at Sunset Sound Studios, later for the finished work at RCA Studios, Hollywood, C.A., USA.
The band members were:
Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, publishing in his real name and performing by his alias. (Vocals, Harmonica & Bass Marimba).
Alex Snouffer, aka Alex St. Clair, also known as Alexis St. Clare Snouffer. (Guitar).
Jerry Handley (Bass Guitar).
John French, aka John 'Drumbo' French or simply Drumbo. (Drums & Percussion).
Ry Cooder (Guitar, Slide Guitar & Bass Guitar) [A subsequently disaffected member & not appearing in photos].
Session or Guest Musicians [that are known. Others were present]:
Taj Mahal (Percussion), Russ Titelman (Guitar), Milt Holland (Log Drums & Percussion), Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman aka Sam Hoffman (Theremin).
Vliet wrote all of the songs, with the exception of Grown So Ugly, by Robert Pete Williams. Herb Bermann (Lancaster resident & soul-mate at the time) co-wrote the lyrics with Vliet on all songs - with the exception of the aforesaid and; Call On Me, I'm Glad and Abba Zaba. Jerry Handley co-wrote Plastic Factory with Vliet & Bermann. Cooder arranged Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do & Ugly, Vliet arranged the remainder.
At this time, in 1967, 'Kama Sutra' records had a distribution deal with MGM. Meanwhile a Verve 3000 series catalog was allocated for Beefheart (FTS 3054), but not used because Vliet had signed with Kama Sutra after failing to be picked up by A&M. To extricate from MGM, Kama Sutra had created Buddah Records late in 1967, headed by Neil Bogart. Thus, Vliet & the band were recording for Buddah, although signed to Kama Sutra and Kama Sutra is shown on international releases. Bob Krasnow and Richard Perry produced the sessions. Some engineering was done by future TMR bassist Gary Marker*, then Hank Cicalo at RCA. This is the first mono & stereo album on the Buddah label, later celebrated by the reissue on BMG's new-look & retitled Buddha in 1999.
After "Safe As Milk" the band line-up was in flux. When they re-entered a recording studio in October 1967, for what was to be a double album "It Comes To You In A Plain Brown Wrapper", the project met various problems. Tracks from sessions surfaced on Beefheart's 2nd "Strictly Personal" & 5th "Mirror Man" albums, among other releases. Consequently, some of the recordings from these sessions appear later, issued as 'bonus' tracks on "Safe As Milk" releases**.
The album's working title was "Abba Zaba", after the American candy bar of Cardinet Candy Co., in a yellow/black checkered wrapper (hence the back cover design). See; Abba Zaba. However, the company vetoed use of the name and a title that was as 'safe as milk' was used. (A track titled "Safe As Milk" can be found on "Strictly Personal").
*Marker engineered at Sunset Sound, as he describes in the 'Grow Fins' set.
**These are technically 'Compilation' releases, as indicated thereon by reissue distributors BMG [for example]. Being compiled by 3rd parties from 2 different recording sources and significantly remastered without control by the artists.