In a case of What Could Have Been the album was originally going to be called Bat Chain Puller, a subtitle still visible on the album cover and the best known track on the album. Frank Zappa would produce it, but a dispute with his manager Herb Cohen, who funded the album with Zappa's royalty checks, caused the project to remain on the Shelf of Album Languishment until its posthumous release in 2012 (before that it was heavily bootlegged, however). Because of these legal problems Beefheart went to another label, Warner Brothers, and re-recorded four tracks and one outtake from this album for Shiny Beast. The original Bat Chain Puller, which contains a substantially different track listing and different performances, was released in 2012.
- "The Floppy Boot Stomp" (3:51)
- "Tropical Hot Dog Night" (4:49)
- "Ice Rose" (3:38)
- "Harry Irene" (3:43)
- "You Know You're a Man" (3:14)
- "Bat Chain Puller" (5:27)
- "When I See Mommy I Feel Like a Mummy" (5:04)
- "Owed t'Alex" (4:07)
- "Candle Mambo" (3:24)
- "Love Lies" (5:03)
- "Suction Prints" (4:25)
- "Apes-Ma" (0:40)
- Captain Beefheart: vocals, harmonica, soprano sax
- Bruce Fowler: trombone, air bass
- Jeff Moris Tepper: slide guitar, guitar, spell guitar
- Eric Drew Feldman: synthesizer, Rhodes piano, grand piano, bass
- Robert Arthur Williams: drums, percussion
- Richard Redus: slide guitar, bottleneck guitar, guitar, accordion, fretless bass
- Art Tripp III: marimba, additional percussion
Trope-ical Hot Dog Night note
- Alliterative Title: "Love Lies".
- Ambiguous Gender: "You Know You're a Man"Yeah, you know you're a man''Yeah, you know you're a girlAbout the same time
- Animal Motifs: "Shiny Beast" is in the album title, "Tropical Hot Dog Night" makes a mention of "two flamingos in a fruit light." "Bat Chain Puller" has the lyrics "pulled by rubber dolphins with gold yawning mouths". In "Owed t'Alex", Beefheart mentions "a wolf, chrome claw". "Apes-Ma", to conclude, is about an ape mother locked inside a small cage.
- Artistic License Astronomy: "The Floppy Boot Stomp":And the sky turned white in the middle of the night
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: "When I See Mommy, I Feel Like a Mummy"Oh, whoa, when I see mommy, I feel like a mummy(...) Her interest fades like breath on a mirror(...) Gonna wrap her upNext time I see herI'm gonna seize herThen I'm gonna freeze herIt's the only wayThat I might get to see her
- At The Cross Roads: "The Floppy Boot Stomp"And the bow caught down for to do the hoodoo the devil hoedownThrough the fog, huddlin' in the hollow, standin' at the crossroadsWas that bunged-up, bandaged broken bum that fell in the wrong circleHe had a sole red tail, once went red, now was paleFe-fi-fo-fum, he was summoned up from hellBooted down a spellBy a square-dancin' farmer
- Badass Boast: The farmer in "The Floppy Boot Stomp" warns the Devil:If you fall into my circle again, Ill tan your red hideAnd dance you on your tail, and pitch you from now 'n' now
- Break Up Song: "Love Lies"I wish I hadn't told you all of those love lies
- Careful with That Axe:
BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT CHAIN PULLER!
- "You Know You're a Man".
- "Bat Chain Puller":
- Claustrophobia: "Apes-Ma", where Beefheart talks to a mother ape who is stuck inside a cage where she "eats and goes to the bathroom too much", which is awful since "her cage isn't getting any bigger." To make the situation more horrid: apparently "the little girl that named you years ago has died now", making you wonder how long this poor animal has been caged this way? And to make you really Squick Beefheart mentions that Apes-Ma is "not strong enough" to "break out her cage anymore." So there is nothing to do except waiting for her eventual death.
- Continuity Nod: In "Dirty Blue Gene" on his next album Doc at the Radar Station (1980), Beefheart shouts out: "The shiny beast of thought", a Call-Back to the title of this album.
- Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover is a painting by Captain Beefheart himself.
- The Devil: Summoned up from Hell by a farmer in "The Floppy Boot Stomp", but gets his comeuppance.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: "The Floppy Boot Stomp", where a farmer isn't scared of the Devil at all.When the farmer drew up, said"Listen, son," and the horse compared his hooves"If you fall into my circle again, I'll tan your red hideAnd dance you on your tail, and pitch you from now 'n' now"
- Epic Rocking: "Bat Chain Puller".
- Evil Laugh: Near the end of "Owed t'Alex".
- Instrumental: "Ice Rose" and "Suction Prints".
- Last Note Nightmare: "Bat Chain Puller" ends on a horrifying mixture of electronic bleeps, harmonicas and guitars while Beefheart screams the title.
- Mind Screw: "Tropical Hot Dog Night"Everything's wrong, at the same time it's right!
- Miniscule Rocking: "Apes-Ma", barely 40 seconds long.
- Mundane Made Awesome:
- "Candle Mambo", about a fire candle.
- The rhythm on "Bat Chain Puller" was inspired by windshield wipers in a car, but is actually about a chainsaw that chops down trees.
- Monster Fan Girl: "Tropical Hot Dog Night":I'm playin' this songFor all the young girls to come out to meet the monster tonightHow would you like to be the lucky girl, the lucky oneTo meet the monster tonight, ow to meet the monster tonight
- Name and Name: "Harry Irene", where Beefheart doesn't use the "and" form, but it's about a couple that ran a canteen. But:Harry Irene were a couple that lived in the greenRan a canteenRan a canteen, took Harry for all of his green and IreneHarry was left holding an empty canteenAnd by the way folks, it was Dusty, not HarryWhat does this mean?Whats the meaning of this?Poor Harry, I guess
- New Sound Album: "Shiny Beast" was a welcome return to form for Captain Beefheart. He had a totally new Magic Band, who were more dedicated to his music and their energy really shines through all the tracks. "The Floppy Boot Stomp", "Tropical Hot Dog Night", "When I See Mommy I Feel Like a Mummy" and "Suction Prints" are even more or less danceable.
- No Animals Were Harmed: Subverted with "Apes-Ma", about a mother ape living inside a far too small cage for many years.
- Non-Appearing Title: Shiny Beast's title doesn't appear in any of the lyrics, but it does appear during "Dirty Blue Gene" on the next album Doc at the Radar Station (1980).
- One-Woman Song: "Apes-Ma".
- Pun-Based Title: "When I See Mommy I Feel Like a Mummy".
- Repurposed Pop Song: The original Bat Chain Puller album was recorded in Frank Zappa 's studio without his permission, and as a result was unreleased for years. Beefheart then recorded four tracks of this album for Shiny Beast: "The Floppy Boot Stomp", "Bat Chain Puller", "Harry Irene", and "Owed T'Alex", whilst reusing "Apes-Ma" as is. Also, "Tropical Hot Dog Night" was based off a riff in "Odd Jobs". "Candle Mambo" was originally an outtake, but added to this album nevertheless. "Ice Rose" was a remake of "Big Black Baby Shoes" from the Strictly Personal sessions, Also "Suction Prints" was a remake of the Spotlight Kid era "Pompadour Swamp" that was a live favorite.
- Of the original Bat Chain Puller tracks, Beefheart further recorded "A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond", "Brickbats" and "Flavor Bud Living" for Doc At The Radar Station. At the time, Beefheart hoped that he could reissue the remaining four tracks of the original Bat Chain Puller as the B-side to his final album Ice Cream for Crow (1982). Zappa refused on the grounds that it would be disjointed, so Beefheart reused the spoken word piece "Poop Hatch" from his own safety copy (adding '81 to the name to circumvent Zappa's copyright), re-recorded "The Thousand And Tenth Day Of The Human Totem Pole" as is, and left "Seam Crooked Sam" and "Odd Jobs" unreleased in order to not completely devalue the original recordings. Gail Zappa eventually released the original Bat Chain Puller after the death of both Beefheart (who never returned calls) and Herb Cohen (who had owned the rights to the 1976 studio recordings).
- The line "Fe Fi Fo Fum" in "Floppy Boot Stomp" is a reference to Jack and the Beanstalk.
- Coati Mundi covered "Tropical Hot Dog Night" on his album The Former 12 Year Old Genius (1983).
- PJ Harvey's song "Meet Ze Monsta" from her album To Bring You My Love (1995) was inspired by the line "I'm playing this music/ so the young girls would come out/ to meet the monster tonight" from "Tropical Hot Dog Night".
- Tom Barman (dEUS) and Guy Van Nueten covered "Harry Irene" on their album Live (2002).
- Soprano and Gravel: Not within the same song, but in contrast to his usual Harsh Vocals, Beefheart sings the Surprisingly Gentle Song "Harry Irene" in a smooth croon.
- Spoken Word in Music: "Apes-Ma" is entirely spoken.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Harry Irene", which is quite a lovely song amidst all the other weirdness.
- Walk the Earth: "Owed t'Alex"I'm a wolf, chrome crawLeavin' you now, I'll write ya, ma