A talented multi-instrumentalist with a rampant imagination he explored to the full, Captain Beefheart became one of rock's most left field and eccentric characters, delighting and confusing his audiences in equal measures. Growing up in California, he was a gifted child sculptor, developing an eclectic musical taste in music and a schoolboy friendship with Frank Zappa that was to prove influential throughout his career. He released his first album Safe As Milk in 1967, but when his offbeat songs and strange vocals jarred with mainstream expectations, Zappa signed Beefheart to his Straight Records label and gave him complete artistic freedom, producing 1969's Trout Mask Replica album - an inspirational mix of free jazz, avant-garde rock, brass, strange narratives and dark blues. It wasn't successful but secured Beefheart's reputation as an inspirational innovator, with John Lennon and Paul McCartney among those who regularly sang their praises; although Beefheart responded by lampooning the Beatles in his song Beatles Bones 'n Smoking Stones on his Strictly Personal album. More experimental work followed with the improvised albums Lick My Decals Off Baby (1970), The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot (both 1972) and Bluejeans & Moonbeams (1974) backed by different line-ups of The Magic Band. Later albums Shiny Beast (1978), Doc At The Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream Crow (1982) saw him hailed as the father of new wave music, but Beefheart subsequently retired from music to pursue a new career as a painter.