Archive for the ‘album review’ Category

Meat Light

Posted: January 23, 2017 in album review, zappa, zappology
Meat Light - The Uncle Meat Project/Object Audio Documentary (3CD, Zappa Records/UMe ZR20024, November 4, 2016)

Meat Light – The Uncle Meat Project/Object Audio Documentary (3CD, Zappa Records/UMe ZR20024, November 4, 2016)

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Uncle Meat is a milestone, the landmark where The Mothers of Invention reached the highest point, but also the time when the project termination phase began. This double LP set was recorded between October 1967 and February 1968, it was released on April 1969, the following summer Zappa would have disbanded the MOI.

After such recording sessions the MOI become almost only a live band. Of course Zappa used a lot of 68/69 live material to mold two further “posthumous” MOI album, namely Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh (and much later, YCDTOSA Vol.5 disc 2 and Ahead of Their Time), however the studio MOI era closed with Uncle Meat, as often with FZ, an unfinished project, since it should have been a movie also (somehow completed almost 20 years later in 1987).

The “audio vérité” tracks included in the album testify of the economic difficulties of the band that eventually brought his leader to close the project the next year (probably economics was not the only issue, but it was a crucial one). Nevertheless until February 1968 Zappa conceived the MOI as a studio band also.

In the original liner notes FZ emphasizes on technology and studio procedures he was particularly fond of: Uncle Meat is a peak also as a sonic 60’s object, being a balanced mix of electric and acoustic music, often manipulated in speed and through other electronic filters.


[An extract of the original liner notes as it has been included into the Meat Light booklet, a complete set of images of this new edition of Uncle Meat is available through kompaktkiste.de]

Uncle Meat was in fact one of the projects entirely produced at Apostolic Studios (together with Ruben & The Jets), a sonic engine that gave Zappa new opportunities:

By late 1967, Apostolic Studios had installed a prototype Scully 12-track recorder, and the overdubbing opportunities it afforded, together with a variable-speed oscillator used to modify the machine’s 30 ips tape speed, allowed for the creation of a completely new sound palette.
Chris Michie, “We Are The Mothers . . . And This Is What We Sound Like!“, Mix, January 1, 2003

For a detailed account of those Apostolic times, please refer also to: The story of the recording studio that became Frank Zappa’s New York downtown playground!

Apostolic Studios brochure cover

Apostolic Studios brochure cover

Previous Michie quote and Apostolic link via Uncle Meat notes at IINK, a must to go in deep into the album, which was a seminal one.

If you look at the track lists of previous MOI albums to pick songs and compositions that would have traveled time and space, you’ll find for sure some (e.g. Trouble Every Day, Brown Shoes Don’t Make It or The Idiot Bastard Son’s), but if you skim the Uncle Meat list you’ll be amazed to find music that participated to essential future FZ projects, such as Hot Rats (Mr. Green Genes) or Yellow Shark (Dog/Meat, Exercise #4, Pound for a Brown). You will also find King Kong, the perfect embodiment of the matter that kept the Project/Object alive for 25 years. Moreover Uncle Meat features Nine Types of Industrial Pollution, one of the first examples of a completely xenochronized piece, and Project X, a composition that would have fit Jazz From Hell too (at least from 1:35 on).

Forward to 2016, ZFT released Meat Light, the fifth Project/Object in the series of 40ieth Anniversary Audio Documentaries, the second in 2016, after The Crux Of The Biscuit.
It’s a 3 cd set, and its main features are:

  1. the original album restored for the first time on cd to the sonic palette of the ’60s (Original 1969 Vinyl Mix, cd 1)
  2. an early album sequence (Original Sequence, cd 2 and part of cd 3)
  3. 20 sessions outtakes (From the Vault, part of cd 3)

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Here are the main credits from the Meat Light zappa.com page (track list is below the post):

Recording Engineers: Dick Kunc, Jerry Hansen
Studios: Apostolic Studios, NYC; Sunset Sound, Los Angeles
Original package designed by Cal Schenkel, NT&B

THE MOTHERS at the time of this recording were:

FRANK ZAPPA: guitar, low grade vocals, percussion
RAY COLLINS: swell vocals
JIMMY CARL BLACK: drums, droll humor, poverty
ROY ESTRADA: electric bass, cheeseburgers, Pachuco falsetto
DON (Dom De Wild) PRESTON: electric piano, tarot cards, brown rice
BILLY (The Oozer) MUNDI: drums on some pieces before he quit to join RHINOCEROS
BUNK (Sweatpants) GARDNER: piccolo, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, bassoon (all of these electric and/or nonelectric depending)
IAN UNDERWOOD: electric organ, piano, harpsichord, celeste, flute, clarinet, alto sax, baritone sax, special assistance, copyist, industrial relations & teen appeal
ARTIE (With the Green Mustache) TRIPP: drums, timpani, vibes, marimba, xylophone, wood blocks, bells, small chimes, cheerful outlook & specific enquires
EUCLID JAMES (Motorhead/Motorishi) SHERWOOD: pop star, frenetic tenor sax stylings, tambourine, choreography, obstinance & equipment setter-upper when he’s not hustling local groupies

Special Thanks to:
RUTH KOMANOFF who plays marimba and vibes with Artie on many of the tracks,
and
NELCY WALKER the soprano voice with Ray & Roy on Dog Breath & The Uncle Meat Variations.

The Uncle Meat Project/Object Audio Documentary
Compiled & Produced by Gail Zappa & Joe Travers

Mastering:
Disc One – Chris Bellman, Bernie Grundman Mastering 2013
Disc Two & Three – John Polito, Audio Mechanics 2013

Cover and Interior Paintings: Theo Holdt
Photography: Michael Ochs Archive; Additional Photos Courtesy of: The Vault
Package Design: Michael Mesker
Production Manager: Melanie Starks
Special Thanks: Ahmet & Diva, Holland Greco, Kurt Morgan

Vaultmeister Notes:
All material for this release was taken entirely from 1/4” mono & stereo analog tapes except Disc Three, Track 24, taken from the original 12 track analog master (Mixed by Joe Travers, UMRK 2013). All transfers by Joe Travers at UMRK 2012-2013, 96K 24B .WAV (except Disc One- transferred 2005). The original analog tape edit master for Uncle Meat unfortunately suffers in sections from oxide loss due to tape age and bad storage conditions. A new hi-res digital patchwork edit master was created in 2013 with all damaged sections restored from safety tapes found in the vault for best sonics!

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Uncle Meat now sounds near to the original vinyl for the first time on cd. All the digital reverb of the UMRK 1987 version is not there anymore (as it is in all the other cd releases, including the 2012 UMe), and this version does not include the “bonus tracks” featured in the other cd editions (two excerpts from the Uncle Meat movie, and Tengo ‘na Minchia Tanta, a song recorded in the 80’s with Massimo Bassoli). From a sonic point of view, there is the same difference between the Hot Rats 2012 UMe edition and all the other cd versions released before: no digital reverb, maybe a little less brilliant but with a way better response at low frequencies. For instance the bassoon prolonged low note at the beginning of Uncle Meat: Main Title Theme sounds different here! Also, the 2016 soundscape is that of a small hall, which is more appropriate for the sort of chamber music featured in the album.

The early album sequence has a lot in common with cd 1 (many tracks are exactly alike), but includes also two unreleased underground, freak-out instrumentals (Whiskey Wah, The Whip) and a few reworked items (eg. King Kong as a single 10:46 episode at the end of an imaginary LP 1). In spite of the repetitions, this sequence (divided in four parts – four LP sides? – in the liner notes) has a lot to speak as far as FZ “compulsive editing”, to adhere to a Don Preston remark:

I always liked to say that he was a compulsive editor. I saw him three months after an album was released, put that same album together in different ways, and re-editing the album when it’s not even going to come out. He used to love to sit there and edit anything.
Don Preston, quoted by Billy James, Necessity Is . . . , 2001, p. 79
(quoted in the IINK Uncle Meat notes page)

The Uncle Meat listening experience is slightly different with this sequence, particularly interesting is the position of the shortened King Kong, here is in part 2 (side 2?), which is the only full instrumental one. The King loses his status (his full side majesty), but here he is in the flow of the discourse, right in the center. As reported by Vaultmeister Joe Travers at ZappaCast, Episode 30 (October 31, 2016, the Meat Light chat starts approximately at 1:16), this sequence could represent the transition between No Commercial Potential (an earlier project, supposedly 6 sides log) and Uncle Meat.

The Vault section of disc 3 deserves a detailed account such as that given by zappateer Galeans (dig it here!). It features about 50 minutes of music (+4 minutes of spoken words and a beer scream!), a trip into alternate mixes, extended versions, further variations and used and unused building blocks.

Tango, 1/4 Tone Unit, Sakuji’s March, No. 4 are short unreleased nuggets that sounds like sketches of something that never happened, archetypal Zappa, not to be missed.

Tapes on the Scully, Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Tapes on the Scully, Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Blood Unit has an interesting background:

There is some music in [The World’s Greatest Sinner] which actually resides in the Uncle Meat album. I remember the cue is something with a lot of sixteenth notes in it, sextuplets that had something to do with, uh, it’s been so long since I saw the movie, it was for a plane taking off, and that part was used, and also, the trail of blood sequence in World’s Greatest Sinner, where the guy stabs the host and there’s supposed to be a trail of blood on the lawn. That was called “Blood Unit”, in the scoring list, and that whole unit was done with electric instruments for Uncle Meat, but I can’t remember what I called it. I know it’s in the album. I can’t remember what I called it.
FZ on Society Pages (USA), April, 1990
(Quoted in the IINK Uncle Meat notes page)

Blood Unit of course found his way (in a different mix) in Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague (incidentally, the opening number of The Original Sequence).

Both Electric Aunt Jemima and Mr. Green Genes mix outtakes include new guitar parts, those at the beginning of the latter are really short but delightful.

Prelude To King Kong is extended by an unreleased FZ solo, about 2:00 long, a super add-on!

Exercise 4 Variant is self-explanatory: a sequence of variations of the Exercise 4 / Uncle Meat themes with various orchestrations, a great 4 minutes sort of trailer!

My Guitar (Proto I—Excerpt) is another underground, freak-out episode (as noted by Galeans “Frank’s solo sounds a bit treated: a sped up overdub?”), the more you have, the more you want!

For Uncle Meat (Live at Columbia University 1969), again I would like to quote eminent zappateer Galeans notes, truly appropriate:

Someone has suggested that FZ plays drums on this and I think he is definitely right: there are two drums and someone is playing marimba, likely Art Tripp, “FZ/JCB Drum Duet” on YCDTOSA5 comes from an “Uncle Meat” performance and, as shown on the Roxy video, Zappa did play percussion on this song in 1973/4.

The Vault section includes the normal speed guitar track of Nine Types Of Industrial Pollution, a lot of fun and, as already noted at zappateers.com, Stucco Homes comes into mind.

Finally, Echo Pie needs a mention because it is FZ proposing the band to tour without him keeping the MOI moniker, he says there’s a lot of studio work to be done, in general another account of the difficulties suffered by the band.

For a complete report of all the differences between the original album and the music included in cd 2 and 3, do not miss the Meat Light notes page at IINK, it is also the evidence of that compulsive editing!

Meat Light is of course a hard-core item, it is neatly constructed like this. If you are one of those cool people, go grab it. However if you are a newcomer you will probably refer to the main UMe catalog, as released in 2012, but if you do you will get the “digital reverb affected” edition. It would have been the opposite, like it happens with We’re Only in it for the Money: the main catalog single cd edition is the one that sounds like the original vinyl, while the “digital reverb affected” + new bass and drums is available through The Lumpy Money Project/Object.

There is a similar issue with Cruising With Ruben & The Jets: the “regular edition” is “digital reverb affected” and has 80’s bass and drums, while Greasy Love Songs includes the one that should be considered the reference. Luckily enough, they are both single cd editions. Hey newcomer, it won’t be easy, ask for help!

A further note about the cover and the graphics project in general. The gorgeous painting by Theo Holdt on the front cover fits perfectly the theme. A matter of teeth, but also that abstract cow makes it. The other paintings (cds and inner cover art) are also interesting and they would have been probably of interest of FZ too. However the use of such a large amount of graphics external to the original project could be questionable.

In such a case you don’t have to judge the album by its cover, Meat Light gives Uncle Meat the treatment it deserved since a long time, at last!

For a closing remark, I would like to quote Ian Underwood from his concise liner notes (that includes some FZ relevant quotes too):

  1. Listen carefully and in a focused manner.
  2. Read Frank’s own words which are readily available in books or the internet. Here are a few.

~ Ian Underwood, August 2016

You can count me in!

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In the following, more photos from the Getty Images Michael Oches Archives from the recording sessions at Apostolic Studios (New York, February 15, 1968).

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Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

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Chicago ’78

Posted: December 10, 2016 in album review, conceptual continuity, zappa
Frank Zappa, Chicago '78, Vaulternative Records/Zappa Records, ZR 20025, November 2016

Frank Zappa, Chicago ’78, Vaulternative Records/Zappa Records, ZR 20025, November 2016

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The Fall 1978 Zappa line up performed 34 shows between August 26th and October 31st. In 2003 ZFT celebrated this band with a multi-channel (DVD-A) selection of recordings from the NYC Halloween final leg of this world Tour, a special performance as usual for an album definitely titled Halloween. However, Zappa didn’t give these performances much space in his discography, just a few episodes in the YCDTOSA series, most of them from the NYC above mentioned leg, in Volume 6. Probably this material, though evolving and featuring completely different drumming, is too close to Sheik Yerbouti; also the arrangements of the new pieces sometimes were not at their best (e.g. Easy Meat), some other times needed some more eyebrows (e.g. Bamboozled), or were just raw material (e.g. I’m A Beautiful Guy/Crew Slut). Keep it Greasy is a special case that needed that ’79 Garage treatment to reach his best.

In spite of such kind of minuses, this tour has a lot of interest for those hard-core fanatics keen on listening again to the Sheik Yerbouti repertoire with Vinnie “rhythmic encyclopedia” Colaiuta on drums: a completely different interplay later to be spotlighted on Shut Up ‘n’ Play yer Guitar. (It’s not a matter of drums competition here, Colaiuta and Bozzio are different drummers, both deserve to be listened). Also, some “old” news were particularly appealing. Ike Willis vocals perfectly fit Village Of The Sun and that soulful Roxy sound. Strictly Genteel entered the rock band stage for the first time in this tour, and remained there until 1988.

Frank Zappa was almost perfectly in the middle of his career, if you consider the May 1963 Mount St. Mary’s College concerts the beginning, and the Yellow Shark 1993 tour the outstanding but painful end. He had a fresh and solid repertoire (Sheik Yerbouti), he was developing a lot of new material, later to find his way to Joe’s Garage, You Are What You Is and Tinsel Town Rebellion, and he also gave the 1978 audience some hints from far (Little House) and near (Yellow Snow) past.

For these reasons until 2003, hard-core fandom was stuck with some gorilla recordings, being Poughkeepsie and Saarbrücken perhaps the most renowned and heavily bootlegged. The former must be mentioned also for a very special live rendition of Moe’s Vacation (still unreleased), while the latter is also known as part of the Beat the Boots I series (published by Zappa in 1991). Also bootlegged and interesting are the August rehearsals tapes, with a great version of Packard Goose, still lacking the classic Information is not Knowledge anthem.

So the 2003 Halloween album sounded particularly refreshing for such a public as long as this brand new Chicago ’78 album:

cd 1
1 Chicago Walk-On 1:20
2 Twenty-One 8:26
3 Dancin’ Fool 3:29
4 Easy Meat 5:41
5 Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me? 4:21
6 Keep It Greasy 3:41
7 Village Of The Sun 9:15
8 The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing 3:29
9 Bamboozled By Love 8:32
10 Sy Borg 4:36

cd 2
1 Little House I Used To Live In 9:38
2 Paroxysmal Splendor (includes: FZ & Pig/I’m A Beautiful Guy/Crew Slut) 7:14
3 Yo’ Mama 12:28
4 Magic Fingers 2:37
5 Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow 18:36
6 Strictly Genteel 8:25
7 Black Napkins 8:01

Uptown Theater
Chicago, Illinois
29 September 1978 (Show 2)

Players:
Frank Zappa: Guitar, Vocals
Ike Willis: Guitar, Vocals
Denny Walley: Slide Guitar, Vocals
Tommy Mars: Keyboards, Vocals
Peter Wolf: Keyboards
Ed Mann: Percussion, Vocals
Arthur Barrow: Bass, Vocals
Vinnie Colaiuta: Drums, Vocals

Original recordings produced by Frank Zappa
Produced for release by Gail Zappa & Joe Travers
1978 Mix Engineer: Davy Moire
1978 Recordist: Claus Weideman
2014 Re-mix Engineer: Craig Parker Adams, Winslow CT Studio, Hollywood CA
2014 Mastering Engineer: Bob Ludwig, Gateway Mastering
Package Design: Michael Mesker
Production Manager: Melanie Starks
Photography: Courtesy of the Vault
Text by FZ

The album booklet includes the September 29 concert program, also available at afka.

These recordings originate from three different sources, as noted by the Vaultmeister “in order to present this shows in it’s entirety”, and the result is truly excellent, it probably sounds clearer than Hallowen. The opener gives immediately a perfect test for your hears: detailed stereo image, prominent drums and guitar to enjoy that classic interplay, reference vibes and bass a little bit back. Twenty-One, later to be titled Trance-Fusion, should be the single of the album, since the audience here is a hard-core one. A necessary note on this piece by meister zappateer pbuzby:

Twenty-One is a riff in (as the title implies) 21/8. It was played at 9-17-78 (L) and this show as a guitar vehicle, and at 10-29-78 with solos by other band members. It also showed up the second verse of the studio version of Keep It Greasey, and eventually resurfaced in ’88 as the solo vamp for Marqueson’s Chicken. (One of those solos became the title cut of Trance Fusion.)

And side B of the Chicago ’78 single should be the closing song of cd 1: Sy Borg, in an arrangement and with sounds close to the studio version, but with a special live vibe. Twenty-One/Sy Borg could be a perfect Record Store Day treat!

In between cd1 flows at a steady pace, beyond that 2017 Record Store Day single, Village Of The Sun and Bamboozled By Love are other highlights of the show, with a lot of Danny Walley slide guitar to enjoy.

Cd 2 starts with Little House I Used To Live In, it is the classic mid show section with a lot of space for various improvisation, and after a drums solo the band goes crazy and tries also a couple of new things (I’m A Beautiful Guy/Crew Slut), during a section properly entitled Paroxysmal Splendor.

What follows is classic ’70s Zappa, I for one am very happy of another Black Napkins (even if there already are more than ten officially released versions), and I am particularly glad that we eventually have a new version of Yo’ Mama, a 1978 Zappa signature song.

Chicago ’78 is two hours of solid entertainment if you are longing to listen to your fifteenth high-fi Black Napkins and if your are still looking for the missing link between Martian Love Secrets and Arrogant Mop.

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Frank Zappa, Uptown Theater, Chicago, IL, September 29, 1978, by Richard Freeman

Frank Zappa, Uptown Theater, Chicago, IL, September 29, 1978, by Richard Freeman

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Little Dots

Posted: November 14, 2016 in album review, zappa
Frank Zappa, Little Dots, Zappa Records, ZR 20026, November 2016

Frank Zappa, Little Dots, Zappa Records, ZR 20026, November 2016

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In January and April 2002, Jon Naurin and Charles Ulrich interviewed trumpet player Gary Barone about the Petit Wazoo tour (Gary now lives in Germany and teaches at the Jazz & Rock Schule Freiburg). The interview is available through the main web resource for the matter: The Petit Wazoo Tour by Charles Ulrich. The quote that follows perfectly depicts that band concept and gives some useful context information (more about the jazz scene related to Zappa and this tour elsewhere in this blog: That funny smell):

The repertoire consisted of three “sets” of songs: the first was the Grand Wazoo arrangements cut down for the smaller band–these were rehearsed and definitive versions. The second group of songs was rehearsed, but not set in stone–they evolved somewhat as we played them. The third group were “jams”–mostly entirely improvised (blues, grooves, etc.). I would have to hear the pieces again to say “how much” they were improvised.

This was probably one of the “jazziest” of Franks bands. He would come and play at the jam sessions in some of the cities on the tour. He seemed to get off playing with the “jazzers”. He was amazing. Although he didn’t come from the jazz idiom, he wanted to learn more–and sounded good doing it. I really respected him: his ability to put out so much music and so many ideas.

As well as Imaginary Diseases (Zappa Records, 2006) did, Little Dots (Zappa Records, 2016) freshly released 10 years after the former, equally explores the three sets mentioned by Gary.

First of all, main credits:

–       ;- {=      –

1 Cosmik Debris 5:40
2 Little Dots (Part 1) 11:00
3 Little Dots (Part 2) 12:59
4 Rollo (includes: Rollo / The Rollo Interior Area / Rollo Goes Out) 9:04
5 Kansas City Shuffle 6:46
6 “Columbia, S.C.” (Part 1) 8:58
7 “Columbia, S.C.” (Part 2) 16:40

Official Release #109
Catalog Number: ZR 20026

Original Recordings And Mixes Produced By Frank Zappa
Produced For Release By Ahmet Zappa & Joe Travers

Players:
Frank Zappa – Conductor, Guitar, Vocals
Malcolm McNab – Trumpet
Gary Barone – Trumpet
Tom Malone – Tuba/Saxes/Piccolo Trumpet/Trumpet
Earl Dumler – Woodwinds
Glenn Ferris – Trombone
Bruce Fowler – Trombone
Tony Duran – Slide Guitar
Dave Parlato – Bass
Jim Gordon – Drums, Steel Drum
Maury Baker – Drums, Steel Drum (“Columbia, SC”)

1972 4-Track 1/2-inch analog tape show masters recorded by Barry Keene
Mix Engineers: FZ, Michael Braunstein, Kerry McNabb
Mastering: Gavin Lurssen & Reuben Cohen at Lurssen Mastering, 2016
Audio Transfers and Compilation by Joe Travers, UMRK 2016
Liner Notes by Malcolm McNab and Maury Baker
Photos by Bernard Gardner
Package Design by Michael Mesker
Production Management by Melanie Starks

Special Thanks: Ahmet, Diva, Holland Greco, Charles Ulrich
Thanks Forever: Frank & Gail

–       ;- {=      –

(that’s fantastic Charles!!, I’d also like to thank you!)

Going back to the Barone sets of songs, let’s try it, also considering Imaginary Diseases (the 2006 album) and Trudgin’ Across The Tundra (a single Petit Wazoo episode from One Shot Deal with a great trumpet solo by Gary Barone):

rehearsed and definitive
Rollo (ID, LD)
Farther O’Blivion (ID)
Cosmik Debris (LD)

rehearsed, but evolving
Imaginary Diseases (ID)
Little Dots (LD)

jams (blues & groves)
Oddients (ID)
Been To Kansas City In A Minor (ID)
D.C. Boogie (ID)
Montreal (ID)
Kansas City Shuffle (LD)
Columbia, S.C. (LD)
Trudgin’ Across The Tundra (OSD)

Official discography showcase of definitive Petit Wazoo arrangements is therefore limited to such three pieces, that is good but a few more deserves to surface, I for one would go for Waka/Jawaka and Duke of Prunes at least (please refer to the repertoire page of Charles’ site). Hopefully Frank Zappa “mixed, edited & tweaked” (see Imaginary Diseases liner notes) more of them.

The “evolving” sections of set two could be considered part of set three: set two is built of rather short arranged parts as intro or outro to improvised segments. Also, Imaginary Diseases and Little Dots are the only two “songs” peculiar to the Petit Wazoo: performed in 1972 only, between October and December (see repertoire again).

Set three is actually two kind of jams: based on a canon (blues, boogie, etc.) or events based on an open, sometimes truly elaborated, structure.

Frank Zappa introducing Columbia, S.C.:

Suppose we’re in to just sort of make something up right here on the stage, would that be offensive to you?
Blues, Jazz? Suppose it was none of the above.
Suppose some of those other things creep into it periodically.
All we’d like to do is just extend our imagination a little bit up here and see what happens.
Let’s start up with the steel drums, and the bass and the baritone oboe.
[…]
If it’s too crappy we will quit.

Columbia, S.C. starts with a sort of chamber intro followed by trumpet and tuba solo episodes, the latter with Zappa to counterpoint at it also with the Peter Gunn Theme. Then some full orchestra figures, that sound like conducted improvisations (à la Everything Is Healing Nicely), bring to a trombone solo (I bet it’s Bruce) with improvised (probably conducted) full orchestra figures scattered into it. Part 1 suddenly ends and, incredibly enough, frenzy perfectly melts into a relaxed intro to a new improvised section based upon some melodic material vaguely recalling of the James Bond Theme. FZ solo slowly raises tension, then orchestra enters to serve an intro to Tony Duran for a second guitar solo, with FZ at rhythm guitar. Frenzy is back again but a little over everything goes down once more for a gentle start of a short drum solo that brings to a second Zappa solo combined with a lot of orchestra blasts. Then the initial sort of Bond Theme enters (guitar, clarinet, trumpet and brass) to perfectly calm everything down for a “thank you very much” finale. Zappa: “And now for the truly conclusion of that invented song …” As to confirm that it was a one time only event that could be also originated by an incident occurred shortly before that night:

November 5, 1972—Township Auditorium, Columbia, SC
Gamecock, University Of South Carolina, November 6, 1972

Township arrests

Two members of Frank Zappa’s “Mothers of Invention” band were arrested last night at Township Auditorium for possession of cocaine.

Horn player Gary Barone and drummer James B. Gordon were arrested during an intermission in the show between 10:45 and 10:55 according to Sgt. Galvin of the Columbia Police Department narcotics squad.

Both musicians posted $5,000 bond and were released to their attorney.

When the mothers appeared on stage Frank Zappa prefaced the performance with “Our regular drummer couldn’t be here tonight because he has a peculiar malady.”

At the end of the performance the crowd at the auditorium began screaming more, more as is the custom for requesting an encore. Zappa, however, cut the show short saying that circumstances beyond his control prevented extending the performance for another number.

source: 1972—Chronology Sources, Notes & Comments at Information Is Not Knowledge.

Maury Baker was the second drummer for this band and entered the stage that night to participate to this amazing performance that also gives a perfect example of what an awesome musical architect Zappa was.

There must be a criteria for the titles to the jams (Barone set three). Those named after a place with no reference to a canon (boogie, shuffle, etc.) should be one-time only, with blues and jazz to “creep into it periodically”.

As far as we know, all Petit Wazoo issued material has been “handpicked and worked on by the Maestro himself” (from the Little Dots liner notes), Kansas City Shuffle for instance has been cutted down from about 12 minutes to less than 7 (solos by Tony Duran solo and Tom Malone (alto) as been edited out), hopefully there’s more of such pre-produced material chosen from 21 dates and 27 shows, fully packed with gorgeous arrangements, bluesy improvisations and on-time only events such as Columbia, S.C..

Back to the Barone remarks about the repertoire (and to the above tentative subdivision), Joe Travers has carefully compiled the two released 1972 titles giving each one a good balance of the three sets.

We now have Farther O’Blivion (ID) and Rollo (ID, LD), probably the most important “rehearsed and definitive” 1972 renditions, furthermore the Little Dots Rollo arrangement is unreleased in this form, complete with the first two parts with lyrics and with a few breaks later used for Zomby Woof.

The “evolving” set includes the two cornerstones of the tour, and Little Dots perfectly represents the Petit Wazoo approach to music: part 1 is improvisation wide-open, while part 2 gives the audience that “old thing” in a boogie form, with a weird finale. Introducing this performance of this piece, Frank Zappa gave a perfect description of such a structure, that probably also is a comprehensive picture of his whole opus, if you think at it as a fractal thing:

Now we’re gonna play something that contains within it its own devious little boogie, but before you get to the boogie there’s a bunch of weird stuff on either side of it.

“Jams” is the larger set, and “blues and grooves” were in fact a large portion of these shows. Between those picked by Joe, Columbia, S.C. surely push the audience beyond. Hopefully there is more of “mixed, edited & tweaked” by FZ to come from the Vault. Just to give an example I have just ended up listening to the December 9 Portland late show that includes an 18 minute improvisation (the open-wind kind of) with great sections and weak moments, it would be great if FZ had handpicked it for some of his legendary tweaks!

In short, Columbia, S.C., Little Dots and Rollo can be considered the highlights of the second Petit Wazoo release while Farther O’Blivion, Imaginary Diseases and D.C. Boogie were probably those of the first. Handpick both and cross your fingers for a third one!

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Frank Zappa, Cowtown Ballroom, Kansas City, December 2, 1972, by Philip DeWalt (via Charles Ulrich)

Frank Zappa, Cowtown Ballroom, Kansas City, December 2, 1972, by Philip DeWalt (via Charles Ulrich)

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November 16 – Post Scriptum
Today I got the physical CD in my mailbox and I finally managed to read the liner notes. Both Malcom McNab and Maury Baker share their memories of the Columbia incident/concert that eventually brought Zappa to conceive a very special night as far as improvisation was concerned. Maury Baker recalls how he joined the band at the very last minute, he was the drummer in Tim Buckeley’s band that was the opening act for Frank that night. Because of the Barone/Gordon incident, Zappa asked Baker to play drums with the Petit Wazoo right before the beginning of the concert in Columbia! Malcom McNab:

With the drummer from Tim Buckeley’s band, Maury Baker, and was was left the Zappa band, we proceeded to make up the entire performance, improvising along with Frank’s unique conducting and creative influence and of course, great guitar solos.

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The Crux Of The Biscuit Frank Zappa For President CDs

The Crux Of The Biscuit
Frank Zappa For President
CDs

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Out of the blue, on June 9, while many had been pondering about trustees and beneficiaries of the Zappa integrity and of his overwhelming and strangely managed output, ZFT trustees announced the world, including beneficiaries of any sort, two new releases due to July 15.

Frank Zappa for President? You betcha! We know at various times he wanted to run for office. In the spirit of the dramatic 2016 presidential election adventures comes a release that gives us a glimpse into what could have been. This album is comprised of unreleased compositions realized on the Synclavier, along with other relevant tracks mined from the Vault, with a political thread tying it all together. Don’t forget to register and vote!

The Crux of the Biscuit was created in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Frank Zappa’s 1974 album Apostrophe(‘). As part of Zappa Records’ ongoing Frank Zappa Project/Object Audio Documentary Series, it contains rare alternate mixes, live performances, and studio session outtakes. This release celebrates Zappa’s iconic, Gold-certified album, which landed in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart.
source: zappa.com

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Unreleased synclavier compositions, never heard before mixes of ’60s and ’70s classics, nuggets that shed new light on the studio compositional process, live episodes relevant to two basic themes: the President of the USA and 42 years of trudging across the tundra.

In summary: succulent!

However from the outer FZ space perspective, I can’t help feeling still scary of the future, and I do hope the Zappas will be able to continue digging the vault, and I also hope the “cease and desist” nightmare will not happen as it does in the darkest canyons of my mind.

But forget about this mess for a couple of hours, take a deep breath and immerse in these two albums.

–       ;- {=      –

The Crux Of The Biscuit (Zappa Records/UMe ZR 20020, July 15, 2016)

The Crux Of The Biscuit
(Zappa Records/UMe ZR 20020, July 15, 2016)

The Crux Of The Biscuit

1 Cosmik Debris 4:21
2 Uncle Remus (Mix Outtake) 3:59
3 Down In De Dew (Alternate Mix) 3:16
4 Apostrophe’ (Mix Outtake) 9:07
5 The Story Of “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow/St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast” 2:25
6 Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow/St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast (Live) 19:26
7 Excentrifugal Forz (Mix Outtake) 1:34
8 Energy Frontier (Take 4) 3:04
9 Energy Frontier (Take 6 With Overdubs) 4:15
10 Energy Frontier (Bridge) 8:23
11 Cosmik Debris (Basic Tracks-Take 3) 5:11
12 Don’t Eat The Yellow (Basic Tracks-Alternate Take) 2:12
13 Nanook Rubs It (Basic Tracks-Outtake) 0:42
14 Nanook Rubs It (Session Outtake) 0:48
15 Frank’s Last Words . . . 0:16

Produced by Gail Zappa and Joe Travers
Vaultmeisterment and audio transfers by Joe Travers
Mastering: Bob Ludwig
New mixes: Craig Parker Adams, 2014

Cover photograph: Yoram Kahana (probably) [uncredited]
Other photography: Emerson/Loew, Mark Aalyson, Jeffrey Mayer, Michael Mesker
Illustration: David Calcano/Christian Garcia
Art direction: Ahmet Zappa
Package design: Michael Mesker
Liner notes: Simon Prentis
Production Manager: Melanie Starks

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For most listeners, Apostrophe(‘) is mainly the place where snow is yellow and feet stink. Also, the Bromhidrosis epic is where THE question arises: “What is your Conceptual Continuity?” Since the easy to be seen answer is “The crux of the biscuit is the Apostrophe(‘)”, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of one of the best known FZ albums without Stink-foot – hence without Fido who will eternally bring those stink-fated slippers and gives THE answer – is like giving praise to Don Quixote not mentioning Sancho.

Let’s commemorate such conspicuous absence with the commercial that inspired a distinguished dog-man relationship (relevant scene at 0:17):

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That said, The Crux Of The Biscuit is a must for hard-core fanatics due to plenty exquisite episodes, and may have a lot of interest for the rest of the world, for instance for the main Yellow Snow celebration, almost 20 minutes live from Hordern Pavillon, Sydney, June 1973, a tape that should become road, if you know what I mean.

The album, possibly the last produced by Gail and Joe, starts with a proto Apostrophe(‘) side A (tracks 1-4) whose main interest is the dynamic duo Down in the Dew/Apostrophe’, new to mankind as a dual system. Simon Prentis, who delivered a truly relevant piece of zappology as liner notes, gives information and his own view about Energy Frontier, the original title of such a double jam sessions. Simon quotes a well-known Zappa statement:

Q: What about playing with (bass guitarist) Jack Bruce on Apostrophe?

FZ: Well, that was just a jam thing that happened because he was a friend of (drummer) Jim Gordon. I found it very difficult to play with him; he’s too busy. He doesn’t really want to play the bass in terms of root functions; I think he has other things on his mind. But that’s the way jam sessions go.

Frank Zappa
By Steve Rosen
Guitar Player, January, 1977

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Then he reports (via joe Travers) that those Dew/Apostrophe’ jams were all recorded on November 8, 1972, also with an unknown flute player on tracks 8 and 9. As effectively remarked by Prentis, the subsequent work has been an editing matter, that night after night shortened Jack Bruce contribution and brought Down in the Dew out (later to emerge for Läther without Jack Bruce in a version near to track 3). What is presented here (proto tracks 3 and 4, and jam tracks 8-10) is the evidence of a process that started with a jam session, continued with a proto dual system (with Bruce in Apostrophe’ only) and ended as we know it simply as Apostrophe’. Thanks to this album, now we know better why Zappa said that Bruce was “busy”, it seems that such a one-day encounter didn’t give what could be theoretical expected in terms of interplay, but the way the bass guitar of Jack Bruce sounds in these unreleased jams is gorgeous (a FZ post-production?) and some of his lines are truly remarkable (like those delivered into the first minute of the original Apostrophe’ – and of track 4 – that give a clear mark to that jam).

So editing as a major Zappa craft and practice, and “omission” as a keyword to guide the transition from the on-field recorded matter to the edited recorded object to be released. That is one the main subjects of the liner notes, fully available through simonprentis.net, a must read!

And omission is at work within lyrics too, significance is often hidden or lies on a metaphoric level, or may be even almost faint in cases when information is delivered for conceptual continuity purpose only.

The Crux Of The Biscuit, and its liner notes, brought this blog to closely consider the mysterious and elliptic lyrics for Excentrifugal Forz (a Mix Outtake belongs to this album too) and hopefully get nearer to some of the omitted points. See what you think:

–       ;- {=      –

The clouds are really cheap
[Reality is not so interesting]
The way I seen ’em thru the ports
[That’s how it looks to me]
Of which there is a half-a-dozen
[A little part of it]
On the base of my resorz
[Is what I have been doing]
You wouldn’t think I’d have too many
[From everyone point of view, a very little part]
Since I never cared for sports
[Because I’m an outsider]
But I’m never really lonely
[But I don’t care to be seen/understood]
In my Excentrifugal Forz
[My nature is to escape from what is accepted by most people]

There’s always Korla Plankton
[And if I feel too much out of reality (as Korla Pandit do!)]
Him ‘n me can play the blues
[I can always play the blues]
An’ then I’ll watch him buff that
[And I will enjoy shining every single blues canon]
Tiny ruby that he use
[… canon …]
He’ll straighten up his turban
[… canon …]
An’ eject a little ooze
[… canon …]
Along a one-celled Hammond Organism
[The blues is an archetypal culture, as one-celled organisms are archaic forms of life]
Underneath my shoes
[And it is part of me, deeply]
An’ then I’ll call PUP TENTACLE
[I can also get inspiration from cheap monsters]
[The monster in Cheepnis, a “pup tent affair”, seems to be recalled here, as noted elsewhere by Simon Prentis, it may represent one of those “clouds”, or reality as constructed/perceived by most people]
I’ll ask him how’s his chin
[I can image further mutations]
I’ll find out
[And doing so]
How the future is
[Time as everyone knows it]
Because that’s where he’s been
[Loses in significance]
His little feet got long ‘n flexible
[And I found myself on a spherical time constant]
An’ suckers fell right in
[Far from what is accepted by most people]
The time he crossed the line
[That’s where my mutations live]
From LATER ON to WAY BACK WHEN
[Because when I deal with my favorite mutations, before and after do not make sense anymore]

–       ;- {=      –

A few more remarks are needed to close the not yellow side of this album, discussion is open at zappateers and other FZ loci. Cosmik Debris (track 1) opens with an unheard before brass intro. This version of Uncle Remus includes new and not to be missed Ikettes embroideries, but also further gorgeous George keyboard treatments. Apostrophe’ (mix outtake) shares the drum intro with Stink-foot (the only link discovered so far with the Fido song). The two Energy Frontier takes are two different Down in Dew versions with Jack Bruce, Energy Frontier (Bridge) is actually an early version of Apostrophe’. Cosmik Debris (Basic Tracks-Take 3) includes a new bluesy FZ solo and is a no vocals version to be sang to!

The Crux Of The Biscuit starts dealing with Yellow Snow with the words of FZ introducing this new piece in 1973. He tells how he was also inspired by an Imperial Margarine commercial, “Good morning, your highness!” comes from it. Unfortunately only a bad quality recording of such a promotional feature survives into the Internet, but it is worth watching anyway (the “black gentleman” commercial starts at 01:02).

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Margarine inspired also the 1973 Mar-Juh-Rene routine, well-known but officially released only in 2008 in One Shot Deal as part of Australian Yellow Snow. This routine is also included here in track 6 which is an extended version of the Yellow Snow suite, also including Rollo and part of the Steno Pool section of Greggery Peccary. Both versions derive from the June 24-26, 1973 Sydney concerts, once again, road one please!

In his Zappa dissertation, Tomasz Michalak digs into significance and symbols related to the apostrophe and hyphen (“something that might be used for erotic gratification by a very desperate stenographer”) signs. He also quotes FZ who recalls a linguistic inspiration for Yellow Snow in two different interviews:

I had a conversation in approximately 1972 with a schoolteacher in Kansas. She taught English. And she was talking about the way language works. And her point was that any language develops for a culture based on the things that the culture needs to talk about. And as an example she said in Eskimo language they have, you know, a whole number of different words for snow because snow is their life. And she was the one who said maybe they even have something for yellow snow, which you wouldnít want to eat it. And thatís what gave me the idea. (FZ, interviewed by Jim Ladd, August 1, 1989)

And:

as an example she talked about the Eskimo language, which she said had twenty words for snow because it was so important to them. And she actually made the comment that probably in the Eskimo language there was some sort of warning for children not to eat yellow snow. And thatís where the idea came from. (FZ, interviewed by Allan Handelman, East Coast Live, June 6, 1993)

Quoted (P.293) into
“THE MEGAPHONE OF DESTINY-” COMPOSITION, VOICE, AND MULTITUDE IN THE AUDITORY AVANT-GARDE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: GERTRUDE STEIN, SAMUEL BECKETT, JOHN CAGE, AND FRANK ZAPPA
Tomasz Zbigniew Michalak
A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (English Literature) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)
December 2013

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The album closes with three early snippets from the Yellow Snow suite and a last brief track with Frank stopping the tape. Very hard-core maniac type stuff with no commercial potential at all, enjoyable for a limited audience such as Rne who noticed in his “rudimentary notes” that “the marimba figure and the laughs that were inserted at the very end of “Father O’Blivion” in the Apostrophe (‘) album” are included in Frank’s Last Words… .

For the full story of the Yellow Snow suite I would recommend a brief article by Charles Ulrich hosted on the ARF web site: “Some notes on the Yellow Snow suites permutations

Finally the original artwork for the back of the CD inlay deserve to be mentioned. It’s a Zappa cereal box probably illustrated by David Calcano of Fantoons Animation Studio in Los Angeles. Here it is with some details (click the images to enlarge them).

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image Zappa cereal box

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image
Zappa cereal box

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image detail Nutrition Zappa Facts 1

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image detail
Nutrition Zappa Facts 1

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image detail Nutrition Zappa Facts 2

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image detail
Nutrition Zappa Facts 2

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For further notes on the cover of the album refer to the Information Is Not Knowledge (IINK) web site, at the beginning of the Apostrophe (‘) notes page.

–       ;- {=      –

Frank Zappa For President (Zappa Records/UMe ZR 20021, July 15, 2016)

Frank Zappa For President
(Zappa Records/UMe ZR 20021, July 15, 2016)

Frank Zappa For President

1 Overture To “Uncle Sam” 15:16
2 Brown Shoes Don’t Make It (Remix) 7:27
3 Amnerika (Vocal Version) 3:10
4 “If I Was President” 3:43
5 When The Lie’s So Big 3:38
6 Medieval Ensemble 6:31
7 America The Beautiful (Bates/Ward; Traditional) 3:36

Produced for release by Ahmet Zappa & Joe Travers
Vaultmeisterment, transfers and compilation by Joe Travers
Mastering: Gavin Lurssen & Reuben Cohen
Art direction: Ahmet Zappa
Art, layout: Keith Lawler
Production management: Melanie Starks

Cover art details available at the proper IINK web page.

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If The Crux of the Biscuit objective as an Audio Documentary is very well stated and accomplished (including omissions), with the support of informative and in-depth liner notes, Frank Zappa for President appears like an unglued sequence of nuggets and lush unreleased pieces joined together by a political thread that ends up to be too weak in absentia.

Also, from a hard-core fanatic perspective the album is full of interest beside the basic theme, but such material would have deserved more informative liner notes.

Take Overture To “Uncle Sam” for instance, since this piece is in the repertoire of Ensemble Ascolta for the never released project Ascolta Plays Zappa, it would have been very interesting to hear their point of view about this composition dated 1993. And why not take them for a note to the other synclavier material included?

Part of Overture To “Uncle Sam” has been premiered by the Ascolta ensemble at Radialsystem, Berlin, July 14, 2007 (the 0:00 – 4:49 section). An excerpt (2:35 – 4:49) is available through their web site.

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The version included here is ten minutes longer than the Ascolta one and features the sonic palette typical of the late FZ synclavier works that can be heard in Civilazion Phase III and Dance Me This. Also, Overture To “Uncle Sam” should have a close relationship with the Wolf Harbor suite. No link instead with Dio Fa (the abandoned FZ opera project) as elsewhere stated in this blog (the notes to the Berlin, July 14, 2007 Ascolta ensemble concert program led to this probably false conjecture: “planned as an overture to an opera for La Scala in Milan, world premiere”).

To focus on the right Uncle Sam / Wolf Harbor setting you should go back to the liner notes to Dance Me This:

Over the years I had seen Frank jump from project to project often shelving one indefinitely to focus on another. There was an elaborate stage piece titled Dio Fa; An opera titled Uncle Sam (about a dystopian future America with a ludicrously polluted New York Harbour); A music notation book with accompanying audio disc titled The Rhythmic Sadist’s Guide to Drum Patterns for the 21st Century.
Todd Yvega–

In his vision for a staged presentation for modern dance [FZ] described how he wanted to represent Wolf Harbor (do the research on this place which really does exist): Groups of dancers side by side would hold long rolled out lengths of black trash bags (think Hefty) and “wave” them at waist (waste) height to signify the dark and murky polluted waters of sludgy Wolf Harbor.
Gail Zappa–

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A sort of unresolved melancholy in a suspended time environment is a feeling common to both compositions. The difference resides in how the tension ends up to be unresolved. In Wolf Harbor tension is low and everywhere, time is suspended, no resolution allowed.

Overture To “Uncle Sam” features a main melodic (and melancholic) material used as opening and with some variations at 02:02, 05:58 and 11:08. Right after every variation tension grows and its resolution seems to happen when the listener recognizes the melodic material, but relief is denied when he realizes that melancholy is still there. The finale is true Zappa: tension grows again and closes with a sort of brief broadway hoopla!

The illusion of a resolution results to be more effective than no resolution at all!

Hoopla! back to 1966/1969, Frank Zappa for President brings the listener to a never heard before remixed version of Brown Shoes Don’t Make It, a pleasure for everyone, especially for those who spent countless time with this 1966 sonic movie and will recognize all details changed in this remix. Acoustic ensemble is often clearer and the overall sound image results spatially enriched. In this case also it would have been much interesting to know what was the purpose of such a 1969 remix. Rejected for the 1969 Mothermania (which included the 1966 mix)?

No particular questions to ask for Amnerika (Vocal Version), a well-known (for FZ tape traders) and beautiful unreleased Thing-Fish outtake that needed to be released. Maybe one: why it has been rejected?

“If I Was President” is Zappa explaining in 1990 why he “wouldn’t campaign” but “file as a candidate of no party” with a 1985 synclavier background (for the full text transcript please refer to the relevant IINK web page). Was it a Zappa produced audio object?

An unreleased 1988 When The Lie’s So Big take follows, politics is of course the rationale for the inclusion, however the hard-core fanatic (the main audience for this album) attention declines, this version does not add zappology elements (except for some slight changes in the lyrics) and it does not give particular help to the flow of the program.

For the next Medieval Ensemble, an unreleased 1985 synclavier composition, attention is back. It sounds like a Jazz From Hell outtake, a long march with no resolution with a medieval flavor, could be used for the eternally postponed Terry Gilliam Don Quixote!

The album closes with another 1988 episode. The America The Beautiful version digitally (mp3 only) released in The Frank Zappa AAA·FNR·AAA Birthday Bundle 21.Dec.2008 Nice to have it in a good audio quality (but strangely different from the official 1988 releases), relevant to the main theme, but in an album of unreleased material and with a surprising 1969 mix of a classic, the role of this song is simply to close the curtain.

Now I’m wondering, in an album like this, where politics in America is a theme sometimes loose (Medieval Ensemble?!?), why do not take advantage of the lines:

Could result in the end
To a worrisome trend
In which every American
Not “born again”
Could be punished in cruel and unusual ways
By this treacherous cretin
Who tells everyone
That he’s Jesus’ best friend

to include another bundle nugget that unethically still remains unreleased in a lossless audio standard? I’m thinking to Treacherous Cretins from The Frank Zappa AAA·FNRAA·AA Birthday Bundle 21.Dec.2010, a killer version that needs to expand its audience.

Moreover, can you spot any treacherous cretins somewhere in this 2016 USA campaign?

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Frank Zappa, Road Tapes, Venue #3 | Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN | 5 July 1970, Vaulternative Records, May 27, 2016

Frank Zappa, Road Tapes, Venue #3 | Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN | 5 July 1970, Vaulternative Records, May 27, 2016

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In today’s rapidly changing world, ziblings appear almost every day with some new promotional device.
Some of these devices have been known to leave irreparable scars on the minds of foolish old consumers.
One such case is seated behind this pages, yes, The Resentment Listener.

There is only one possible relief for scars such that: music. And I do hope there will be a lot of music from now on, before that Jabberwocky day when some sordid lawyer will suggest a cease and desist whatchamacallit that will silence the Big Note.

In the hope of a truly different outcome, let us get some blessed relief with a little known live period: Flo & Eddie, the 1970 embodiment.

Mark Volman & Howard Kaylan by Michael Hodsdon

Mark Volman & Howard Kaylan by Michael Hodsdon

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The Flo & Eddie Band, the so called FZ’s Vaudeville Band, is mainly known for two early 70’s releases (Fillmore East – June 1971, and Just Another Band From L.A.). For those who are familiar with the whole official discography, the body of such works grows with Playground Psychotics (a 1992 release). Also, you may want (and you should) consider posthumous releases, hence Carnegie Hall (a 2011 release). To complete the picture some tracks from YCDTOSA Vol.6 should be mentioned. However, with some very little exceptions (one of them strictly related to this release, later on this), all official recordings are from the 1971 Flo & Eddie Band, that was slightly different from that of the previous year: in 1971 Jim Pons and Don Preston replaced Jeff Simmons and George Duke.

The Mothers 1970, photo by Barrie Wentzell

The Mothers 1970, photo by Barrie Wentzell

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Charles Ulrich’s “FZ’s Vaudeville Band” pages are a good place to focus on differences between 1970 and 1971 in terms of repertoire. As it can be seen in the “repertoire by tour” chart, in 1971 vocal numbers increased (Magdalena, the Sofa suite, Billy The Mountain, etc.) while listening to concert tapes you will realize that in 1970 instrumental material had larger room and included one grand instrumental more: Chunga’s Revenge (originally known as The Clap). Mudshark is an example of a piece of music that in 1970 was an instrumental section of Little House, while in 1971 become a Vaudeville number (Fillmore East – June 1971). Flo & Eddie 1970 should be seen as a transition period, the missing link between the 60’s Mothers and Billy the Mountain, with echoes of the short lived Hot Rats Band (Feb-Apr 1970).

Until the release of Road Tapes, Venue #3, the only way to appreciate such 1970 live shows were the zappateers archive (sing praise to them) or the following titles from the Beat the Boots series (all of them with fair to good audio quality):

Freaks & Motherfuckers (BTB I, Fillmore East, NYC, November 13, 1970)
Tengo na Minchia Tanta (BTB II, Fillmore East, NYC, November 13, 1970)
Disconnected Synapses (BTB II, Palais Gaumont, Paris, France, December 15 1970, featuring Jean-Luc Ponty)

As for concert tapes, go for instance for 18-Jun 1970, Uddel, Netherlands (Live at the “Piknik” show, VPRO, Dutch Television, good audio quality).

So this Tyrone Guthrie Theater, 5 July 1970, set is highly welcome to fill such a gap.

The Mothers, Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, 5 July 1970

The Mothers, Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, 5 July 1970

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Road Tapes, Venue No. 3

Disc One

Show 1
1 Tyrone Start The Tape… (1:59)
2 King Kong (3:37)
3 Wonderful Wino (Zappa/Simmons) (4:47)
4 Concentration Moon (2:34)
5 Mom & Dad (3:25)
6 The Air (3:46)
7 Dog Breath (2:01)
8 Mother People (2:06)
9 You Didn’t Try To Call Me (4:10)
10 Agon – Interlude (Stravinsky) (0:36)
11 Call Any Vegetable (7:59)
12 King Kong / Igor’s Boogie (20:25)
13 It Can’t Happen Here (3:05)
14 Sharleena (4:59)

Show 2
15. The 23rd “Mondellos” (3:13)
16. Justine (Harris/Terry) (1:46)

Disc Two

Show 2, continued
1 Pound For A Brown (5:07)
2 Sleeping In A Jar (3:37)
3 Sharleena (5:49)
4 “A Piece Of Contemporary Music” (7:03)
5 The Return Of The Hunchback Duke (incl. Little House I Used To Live In, Holiday In Berlin) (10:00)
6 Cruising For Burgers (3:44)
7 Let’s Make The Water Turn Black (1:42)
8 Harry, You’re A Beast (1:29)
9 Oh No / Orange County Lumber Truck (11:01)
10 Call Any Vegetable (11:29)
11 Mondello’s Revenge (1:46)
12 The Clap (Chunga’s Revenge) (13:01)

Frank Zappa: guitar
George Duke: electric piano, vocal drum imitations
Aynsley Dunbar: drums
The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie (Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan): vocals
Jeff Simmons: bass, vocal
Ian Underwood: alto sax, electric piano

The Mothers at Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, June 1970

The Mothers at Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, June 1970

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The perfect instrumental trailer for this Vaulternative Records release is The Nancy and Mary Music from Chunga’s Revenge: a patchwork from show 2 recordings. Thanks to zappateer Ed Organmax, here is the deconstruction (RT3 timings):

King Kong 8:12-9:51 (sax + drum solos)
The Clap (Chunga’s Revenge):
7:20-8:21 (guitar solo)
King Kong:
10:06 – 13:09 (more drums, slightly more sax, second guitar solo)
15.19-19.04 (electric piano solo, vocal-drum and assorted screams)

Reasoning about King Kong, one more from Ed Organmax:

The two minutes in King Kong/Igor’s edited off “The N&M” between Guitar Solo 2 and the Electric Piano Solo (13:09-15.18 or so) are really driven by Aynsley who swings like a bad motherfucker! Stick in some horns and it would have sounded like The Grand Wazoo! So Dunbar had the chops from the outset!

Aynsley Dumbar drumming is in fact one the most remarkable elements of this recordings, also because drums are often clearer than other instruments and quite in front of the mix (especially in show 2). The overall audio quality is fair as the other Road Tapes releases. The Nancy and Mary Music is a good reference, even though show 1 (most of cd 1) audio quality is not as good as show 2, because of tape quality. Liner notes states that the first 35 minutes have been recorded over a previous used tape. During some songs (The Air and Call Any Vegetable) some other sounds can be heard far back in the mix.

As stated by zappateer pbuzby:

I can only guess that FZ may have thought of the first half hour of the first show as time to check the mix and perform material from the albums, before using better tape for the rest.

A huge thanks should be given to the persons at the control knobs, audio source often changes, there should had been a lot of mixing work behind this release.

Audio quality apart, this double set has a lot of appeal of course for the Vaudeville era fans, but also for those who are not in the mood of groupies entertainment.

(Almost) full instrumental numbers as King Kong (3:27+20:26), Pound for a Brown (4:57), Sleeping in a Jar (3:37), The Return of the Hunchback Duke (10:00), Oh No/Orange County Lumber Truck (11:01), Chunga’s Revenge (13:01) amount to about half the program (about 1h:12min of 2h:26min) and include fiery solos by Zappa, Underwood (especially on woodwinds), Duke and Dumbar.

In the rest of the program there still room for further Zappa solos (Wondeful Wino, Call any Vegetables (2 takes), Sharleena (a short solo in both takes)).

As for Sharleena, interesting to note that in his intro to the song Zappa explains (at about 1:05 into It Can’t Happen Here): “a song that we recorded in London a couple of weeks ago […] it will probably be released under the pseudo-name of Bognor Regis”. It should be a reference to the Chunga’s Revenge recording sessions. On the other hand Bognor Regis became the b-side of the unreleased Sharleena single.

Bognor Regis, from the Hot Rats sessions, August-September, 1969)

Back to the instrumental side of Road Tapes, Venue #3, “A Piece Of Contemporary Music” is a conducted improvisation episode that sounds like the 60’s Mothers of Invention (with a funny quote of Duke Ellington’s Caravan).

Moreover, Agon – interlude and Igor’s Boogie are brief nuggets also reminiscent of the MOI.

All the other Zappa songs feature great vocal performances of the Flo & Eddie duo, namely:

Concentration Moon
Mom & Dad
The Air
Dog Breath
Mother People
You Didn’t Try To Call Me
Cruising For Burgers
Let’s Make The Water Turn Black
Harry, You’re A Beast

They all are from the 60’s catalog, no groupies on the scene!

The surf/rockabilly number Justine, and the Mondello routines are that bit of previously unreleased folklore that gives further interest to the set.

Adrian Lloyd & the Sunsets, Justine (Harris/Terry)

Zappa told about the Mondello folklore in an “interview happened in Minneapolis on Sunday, July 5, 1970. The Mothers had gigs in Indianapolis in July 3 and 4, and then two shows in Minneapolis in July 5 at the Guthrie Theater”

HF: Didn’t one of them used to be on “Leave it to Beaver?”

Z: That’s the ‘Larry Mondello case.’ [2] They’ve been both mistaken for Larry Mondello for six years. It used to be Corky, the fat little kid that took care of Lassie between Jeff and Timmy. [3] At every concert for six years one of them has been mistaken for that kid on Beaver. Their real names are Mark Volman and Howie Kaylan.

“Frank Zappa Speaks” by Hundred Flowers, Hundred Flowers, July 10, 1970

Finally, tough posthumous, this album includes the first official release (not counting Beat the Boots) of Holiday in Berlin with lyrics, here as a section of The Return of the Hunchback Duke.

Live long and prosper, Road Tapes!

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We’ve been recording our shows here, at Tyrone Power Theater, and put them in a time capsule.
Frank Zappa, Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN, 5 July 1970 (The 23rd “Mondellos”)

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Motels keys, 200 Motels vinyl (1971), 200 Motels scores

Motels keys, 200 Motels vinyl (1971), 200 Motels scores

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Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale, Frank Zappa: 200 Motels—The Suites (Universal/Zappa Records, 2CD, November 2015)

Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale, Frank Zappa: 200 Motels—The Suites (Universal/Zappa Records, 2CD, November 2015)

 

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The orchestral music used in 200 MOTELS was composed over a five-year period. Some of it originated with this performance in 1968.

The piece heard here in its premiere performance by members of the BBC Orchestra eventually became “THIS TOWN IS A SEALED TUNA SANDWICH”.

Most of the orchestral sketches were done in motel and hotel rooms around the world during early MOTHERS Tours, hence the movie title “200 MOTELS” (based on an estimate of the actual number).

The True Story of 200 Motels (honker home video, 1988)
overlay text for Like it or Not
(London, October 25, 1968, audio released in 1993 in Ahead Of Their Time)

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The True Story of 200 Motels, Barfko-Swill/MPI, 1989 (VHS PAL and NTSC)

The True Story of 200 Motels, Barfko-Swill/MPI, 1989 (VHS PAL and NTSC)

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Like it or Not later become part of Bogus Pomp, included both in the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra performance (available through Orchestral Favorites) and in the extended London Symphony Orchestra version (from LSO Vol.2).

Zappa: The fact of the matter is, 200 Motels is a stack of music about like this, (opposing palms 2 ft. apart). In order for it ever to be played again, anyplace other than on a record, it had to be boiled down to a concert piece that could be used for live performance. “Bogus Pomp” is a compilation of main themes from 200 Motels which was a concert piece, for a forty-piece orchestra. It was just played again in the 120-piece version at the University of Wisconsin, along with “Strictly Genteel”. It’s nice that some of the things are actually getting played. But unless somebody takes the time, mainly me, to sit down and put it together to one book that thick instead of a pile of scores for movie background music, nobody’ll ever hear it.
Robert Cassella, Z=AP2, Gold Coast Free Press, January 5, 1984
[This interview is from the end of December, 1983 and was first published in the Gold Coast Free Press, later in the same year in Mother People #22.]

The music named under the large 200 Motels “trademark”, slowly took shape in the late sixties, a little part was performed live by the original Mothers of Invention and in 1970 by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta, most part was then played by the movie cast, later some portions were performed live by the Flo & Eddie band, and finally concentrated as Bogus Pomp, a “symphony in one movement”, a fitting definition by David Ocker who worked for Frank Zappa from 1977 to 1984 as clarinet player.

The composer told the whole story in 1988 in The True Story of 200 Motels: he cared for such “orchestral sketches” for more than 20 years!

Early in the nineties also there were signs of how much he cared for 200 Motels and particularly for Strictly Genteel: Make A Jazz Noise Here (1991) the last live recording of his last rock band closes with this piece as well as the You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore series (last track of Vol. 6, 1992).

Moreover, Steve Vai recalls:

I once asked him what was his favorite thing he ever wrote. I never expected such a choice could be made but he said, and I need to paraphrase a little bit here, “The majestic section towards the end of “Strictly Genteel””.
From the Frank Zappa: 200 Motels-The Suites booklet (more about this 2015 release later)

Mid eighties/early nineties were the years he was working with the Synclavier. Then he met The Ensemble Modern, two new crossed paths were developing, such circumstances eventually brought him far from those old seminal works.

The 200 Motels timeline then jumps to the year 2000 when Ali N. Askin adapted the old stack of scores in the form of The Suites for the Holland Festival.

Holland Festival Program, Amsterdam, June 23-24, 2000

Holland Festival Program, Amsterdam, June 23-24, 2000

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Here are the main credits:

Holland Festival
Amsterdam, June 23-24, 2000
Adaptation: Ali N. Askin
Company: Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest and Cappella Amsterdam
Conductor: Jurjen Hempel
Soloists:
Claron McFadden: vocals (Rock & Roll Interviewer, Girl, Jeff’s Good Conscience)
Lieuwe Visser: vocals (Rance Muhammitz, Jeff’s Bad Conscience)
Tommy Dunbar & Jon Rubin: vocals (Flo & Eddie)
Mats Öberg: keyboards, vocals (Jeff)
Morgan Ågren: drums
Stage-Manager: Johan Simons

An audience recording is available through zappateers.

Kasper Sloots gives and effective summary of this 2000 project in his FRANK ZAPPA’S MUSICAL LANGUAGE study/web site.

200 Motels, The Suites, was reassembled by Zappa’s earlier assistant Ali N. Askin at the request of Gail Zappa. It could be made up from the archives with the pieces meant for a live performance by The London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1971. About 80% coincides with the 1971 album version of 200 Motels. The other 20% is unreleased. The set up of 200 Motels, the suites, is:

Overture
Went On The Road
Centerville
Tuna Sandwich Suite
The Restaurant Scene
Touring Can Make You Crazy
What’s The Name Of Your Group?
Can I Help You With This Dummy?
The Pleated Gazelle
I’m Stealing The Room
Shove It Right In
Penis Dimension
Strictly Genteel

The unreleased material deals with a groupie, addressing herself to the audience. She’s asking if she can take a polaroid picture and then continues confessing that she likes masturbating with the aid of a dummy. “Can I help you with this dummy?” is about the girl being sexually excited by the dummy, while a certain Rance first asks if he can help. Later on Rance gets disgraced as he understands what the girl was doing, while she’s trying to apologize. The score was first published in the The Frank Zappa Songbook from 1973. Zappa comments: “Can I help you…” was originally scheduled for use in 200 Motels but was excluded due to technical difficulties beyond…”. 200 Motels, the suites, was premiered on June 23 in the Carré theatre, with a second concert on June 24 (flyer above, there’s no information about the image designer on it). It was performed by the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra and the Amsterdam Capella choir with Jurjen Hempel conducting.

If you need to go in detail about the differences between the movie soundtrack and The Suites you should go for “Information Is Not Knowledge” web site as usual: at the end of the “Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels” page you’ll find the proper comparison table.

In 2000 a small part of the Holland Festival performance, an extract from I’m Stealing the Room named Dental Hygiene Dilemma, was already in the last Ensemble Modern Zappa program: Greggery Peccary and Other Persuasions, also presented at the 2000 Holland Festival.

This powerful vocal number, featuring David Moss and Homar Ebrahim, has been partially released as an hidden track in the third (the fourth, if you count CPIII in also) Ensemble Modern Zappa album that includes further arrangements by Ali N. Askin. (Greggery Peccary and Other Persuasions, RCA Red Seal, 2003). Here is the Dental Hygiene Dilemma animated (by Calvin Schenkel) sequence from Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels.

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After a 13 years hiatus, The Suites were back again for two big events:

Green Umbrella: Zappa’s 200 Motels
Los Angeles, October 23, 2013
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale

Main performers:
Jeff Taylor: Larry the Dwarf
Michael Des Barres: Rance
Matt Marks: Mark
Zach Villa: Howard
Rich Fulcher: Cowboy Burt
Hila Plitmann: Soprano Solo
Morris Robinson: Bass Solo
Joel David Moore: Frank
Joe Fria: Jeff
Ann Cusack: Donovan/Good Conscience
Alan Ruck: Ginger/Bad Conscience
Diva Zappa: Janet
Sheila Vand: Lucy
Ian Underwood: keyboard 1/electric alto sax
Randy Kerber: keyboard 2/Hammond organ
Joe Travers: drum set
Scott Carter Thunes: electric bass
Jamie Kime: electric guitar

Jeff Taylor as Larry the Dwarf (Photograph: Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging), Green Umbrella: Zappa's 200 Motels, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, October 23, 2013

Jeff Taylor as Larry the Dwarf (Photograph: Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging), Green Umbrella: Zappa’s 200 Motels, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, October 23, 2013

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The Rest Is Noise
London, October 29, 2013
Royal Albert Hall
Jurjen Hempel conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia & London Voices (Terry Edwards: chorus master)

Main performers:
Claron McFadden: soprano
Tony Guilfoyle: Frank
Richard Strange: narrator, Rance
Ian Shaw: Mark
Brendan Reilly: Howard, Cowboy Burt
Sophia Brous: Groupie 1 (Janet), Larry the Dwarf
Diva Zappa: Groupie 2 (Lucy)
Jessica Hynes: Good Conscience, Donovan
Jay Rayner: Bad Conscience, Ginger
Scott Thunes: Jeff

Tony Guilfoyle as Frank Zappa (Photograph: Chris Christodoulou), 200 Motels-The Suites, The Rest Is Noise, Royal Albert Hall, London, October 29, 2013

Tony Guilfoyle as Frank Zappa (Photograph: Chris Christodoulou), 200 Motels-The Suites, The Rest Is Noise, Royal Albert Hall, London, October 29, 2013

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The London concert is available from the bigO audio archive as a BBC Radio 3 broadcast.

(BTW, also available through the bigO audio archive is Frank Zappa Live at the Civic Center, Santa Monica, August 21, 1970 that features some 200 Motels related material)

The Los Angeles concert has been released on November 2015 as a double Zappa Records CD: Frank Zappa: 200 Motels-The Suites. Here is the trailer:

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As reported in the press release linked above:

“I would say that the outrageous aspects of Zappa are perhaps less important for today’s audience,” Salonen told Variety in an interview before the 2013 performance. “We’re witnessing an historical moment where we can actually hear the other aspects of his music better because we are no longer stunned by the outrageousness. Reading this score now, there is a sheer richness of fantasy. He had such a vivid imagination in every way.”

And in fact the music sounds overwhelming, however the script does not give back that deviant climate the way it did in 1971. Salonen should be right, 43 years later the audience is different: maybe also thanks to Frank Zappa “the fringe of audience comprehension” has gone a little bit ahead. Furthermore these Orchestras seems happy to execute such a composer, while in 1971:

The jolly lads of the R.P.O. cavort with depraved abandon, shredding their rented tuxedos in an act of revenge.

Gary pretends to be dismayed.

The movie is over. Now they can go home.

R.P.O. stands for The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the text above is the overlay text around 50:00 into The True Story of 200 Motels, Zappa recalls how the musicians seemed to be offended to be part of the production of the movie.

Later, Zappa wrote this note for Strictly Genteel into the London Symphony Orchestra Vol. II booklet (the story dates 1983).

This was written for the finale of ‘200 MOTELS.’ It has lyrics and was sung by Theodore Bikel, Mark Volman, and Howard Kaylan on the original United Artists soundtrack album released in 1971.

The performance included here was recorded in the last hour of the last session of the last night . . . with no possibility of overtime (at any price) to correct mistakes. During the final ‘rest period’ just before the big push to get a good take, the entire trumpet section decided to visit a pub across the street. They returned 15 minutes late. No recording could be done without them. The orchestra refused to spend another 15 minutes at the end of the session to make up for their glowing brass section neighbors. I have done as much as possible to enhance this fine British ‘craftmanship’ (at least 50 edits in 6:53), but, to no avail . . . the ‘human element’ remains intact.

The Real Frank Zappa Book includes some more accounts of the his life-long difficulties with Orchestras and musical Institutions. One of the most infamous is the long lawsuit he had in London where he claimed over the cancellation of the 200 Motels Albert Hall concert. It was 1971 and the program could have had something in common with The Suites, as above speculated by Kasper Sloots.

Here are some old and recent articles about the controversy:
From the Guardian archives:
Frank Zappa’s lyrics outrage Royal Albert Hall management
Originally published on 9 February 1971

A Mother goes a-courting
NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, April 26, 1975

Sanchez Manning
Frank Zappa settles an old score after 42 years: Banned in 1971, ‘200 Motels’ will finally be played in the UK
The Independent, August 11, 2013

The composer gave a detailed account of such lawsuit in The Real Frank Zappa Book, Chapter 7 Drool, Britannia.

Drool, Britannia has been dramatized during the pre-concert talk (right before the 2013 Los Angeles, October 23 performance) hosted by Chad Smith. He introduces performers RICH FULCHER (Frank Zappa), MICHAEL DES BARRES (Mr. Ogden), JOE FRIA (Mr. Campbell), and SCOTT THUNES (Justice Mocatta) reading Drool, Britannia. The pre-talk closes with Chad Smith chatting with GAIL ZAPPA. The audio is available at the end of the show credits page at laphil.com.

Here it is too:

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The Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall show visuals and comedy has been produced by James Darrah, who has a 200 Motels page on his web site.

Darrah contributes to the Frank Zappa: 200 Motels-The Suites liner notes as well as Frank Filippetti, Gail Zappa, Scott Thunes, Steve Vai, Joe Travers, Michael Des Barres, Diva Zappa, Peter Asher, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kurt Morgan.

The latter being credited on the album as “Scrutinization & Remediation by Kurt Morgan, Scoremeister”. From his contribution to the album liner notes:

“Every idiosyncrasy of FZ’s way of notating music would be reproduced, right down to the beaming of notes and the layouts of the pages themselves. The job took almost two years for me to complete”

One might wonder what is the difference between the Askin Holland Festival version and the 2013 L.A./London Morgan scores.

It could be a matter of orchestration, the program should be almost the same, also according to the above mentioned comparison table.

As a final remark concerning the 2015 album, I would recommend the in-depth review of the Los Angeles concert by David Ocker, available through his Mixed Meters.

But let’s go back again to the late sixties to start a 200 Motels timeline (mainly a London/Los Angeles affair). There a few more facts that is worth to point out to fully appreciate and frame these new brilliant recordings.

1966-1970 The Orchestral Sketchbook
1968 October 25
London, Royal Festival Hall
The Mothers of Invention
assisted by members of The BBC Symphony Orchestra
Prologue, Like It Or Not (Redneck Eats), The Rejected Mexican Pope Leaves The Stage / Undaunted, The Band Plays On (Dance Of The Just Plain Folks); included in Ahead of Their Time (1993); parts on The True Story of 200 Motels (1988)
c. 1968-69 The Mothers of Invention
opening for Holiday In Berlin, Full-Blown (Ouverture)
included in Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970)
1969 date unknown
KPFK Radio Panel
: current state of popular and classical music in the U.S.
with Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta (L.A. Philharmonic Music director), Ernest Fleischmann (L.A. Music Center and L.A. Phil. Manager), David Raksin (film-music composer); hosted by station Classical Music Director William Strother
1970 May 15
Los Angeles, UCLA, Pauley Pavilion
CONTEMPO 70
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Zubin Mehta (conductor)
Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention
Excerpts from 200 Motels for Mothers & Orchestra
Bootleg recording available through the bigO audio archive
Chunga’s Revenge (October 1970)
Zappa liner notes: “All the vocals in this album are a preview of the story from 200 Motels. Coming. Soon. Near you.” However these songs didn’t make it to the final shoot.
1971 January 28-February 5
Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels shooting/recording
Produced at Pinewood Studios, Iverheath, England
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Elgar Howarth (Conductor)
February 8
London, Royal Albert Hall cancelled
Frank Zappa’s lyrics outrage Royal Albert Hall management
Originally published on The Guardian on February 9, 1971
October 4
Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels (2LP, Bizarre/United Artists UAS 9956)
October 10
Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels movie premiere
1975 April 14
At 10.30 in the morning Bizarre Productions began to sue the Royal Albert Hall in front of Mr. Justice Mocatta. Bizzare lost.
A Mother goes a-courting
NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, April 26, 1975
September 17-19
Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA
Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra
Michael Zearott (conductor)
Strictly Genteel
Bogus Pomp
included in Orchestral Favorites (1979)
September 17 zappateers audience recording available
September 18 zappateers audience recording available
1983 January 12-14
London, Twickenham Film Studio
London Symphony Orchestra
Kent Nagano (Conductor)
Strictly Genteel
Bogus Pomp
included in London Symphony Orchestra Vol. II (1987)
1988 The True Story of 200 Motels (Honker Home Video, May 15, 1988)
2000 June 6 – November 29
The Ensemble Modern Greggery Peccary & Other Persuasions concerts
Peter Eötvös (conductor), Ali N. Askin (arrangements and transcriptions), Todd Yvega ( synclavier transcriptions)
The album released in 2003 includes en excerpt of
Dental Hygiene Dilemma (partially unreleased, from I’m Stealing The Room)
June 23-24
Holland Festival
Amsterdam, Koninklijk Theater Carré
200 Motels, The Suites
Adaptation: Ali N. Askin
Company: Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest and Cappella Amsterdam
Conductor: Jurjen Hempel
zappateers audience recording available
2013 October 23
Green Umbrella: Zappa’s 200 Motels
Los Angeles, Walt Disney Concert Hall
200 Motels, The Suites
Scruitinization & Remedials by Kurt Morgan: scoremeister
Company: Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale
Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen
Chorus Master: Grant Gershon
October 29
The Rest Is Noise
London, Royal Albert Hall
200 Motels, The Suites
Scruitinization & Remedials by Kurt Morgan: scoremeister
Company: BBC Concert Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia, London Voices
Conductor: Jurjen Hempel
Chorus Master: Terry Edwards
BBC Radio 3 broadcast available through the bigO audio archive
2015 November 20
Frank Zappa: 200 Motels – The Suites (Universal/Zappa Records, 2CD)
spotify link

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The CONTEMPO 70 concert was the first orchestral performance of 200 Motels scores. Unfortunately, due to the usual difficulties with unions regulations, he could not record the concert performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta. Frank Zappa recalls the story in The Real Frank Zappa Book.

Sometime in 1970, I had an offer for a major concert performance of the orchestral music accumulating in my closet. During the M.O.I.’s first five years, I had carried with me, on the road, masses of manuscript paper, and, whenever there was an opportunity, scribbled stuff on it. This material eventually became the score for 200 Motels (based on an estimate of the number of gigs we played in the first five years—forty jobs per year?).

The performance was to be held at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion (a basketball arena seating about fourteen thousand people), with Zubin Mehta conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. A pretty big deal.

There was a ‘catch,’ though—the orchestra didn’t really want to play the stuff—they wanted AN EVENT; something ‘unique’—like—uhh, maybe a ROCK GROUP and—uhhhhh—a REAL ORCHESTRA sort of—uhhh—well you know—‘rocking out together.’ It didn’t matter what the music was.

This eventually led to a few problems. First of all, I didn’t have a ‘ROCK GROUP’—the M.O.I had been disbanded for about a year. Second, there were no parts copied for the scores, and I was being asked to pay for this enormous job (seven thousand 1970 dollars). The third problem was that I wanted some kind of tape of the show, and the Musicians’ Union wouldn’t allow it. (They didn’t do anything when some asshole in the audience ran a cassette and made a bootleg album out of it, but they were promising stern action if I made one for my own use—just to find out what my pieces sounded like . . . but let me slow down here.)

We solved problem number one by putting together an interim one-shot ‘Mothers-Of-Invention-Sort-Of-Group.’ It did a short tour to warm up, maybe half a dozen dates, and returned to L.A. for the show.

The second problem was solved by me spending the seven thousand bucks on a team of copyists.

The third problem never got solved, and I never got a tape of the show.

It was the most successful indoor concert of the L.A. Phil’s season that year—sold out. Somewhere in the mass of spectators were Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, a.k.a. Flo & Eddie.

They came backstage after the show, said they liked it, and told me that the Turtles had split up and they were looking for something to do. The rest is history.

In spite of all those issues, the show was a success and gave a chance for the first encounter with Volman and Kaylan (Flo & Eddie), a crucial duo for the future of 200 Motels. Luckily enough bootleg recordings exist, one of them is available through the bigO audio archive.

Right before the “hit it Zubin!” (FZ during the intro) Pauley Pavilion concert, KPFK Radio organized a panel called “current state of popular and classical music in the U.S.” with Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta (L.A. Philharmonic Music director), Ernest Fleischmann (L.A. Music Center and L.A. Phil. Manager), David Raksin (film-music composer) and hosted by station Classical Music Director William Strother. Here is a recording:

From left: Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta and Ernest Fleischmann at a 1970 news conference (John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

From left: Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta and Ernest Fleischmann at a 1970 news conference (John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

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Considering how emerging was rock culture in 1969 and what FZ wrote about CONTEMPO 70 in The Real Frank Zappa Book (“the orchestra didn’t really want to play the stuff—they wanted AN EVENT”), the background of the discussion appears clear. Metha asks “Once and for all: what is rock music?” or “rock is an instinctive idiom, how an Orchestra can play rock?”. Zappa answers (a paraphrase here): “Whatever merchandized in a rock packaging” and “I don’t want the Orchestra to play rock but I do think the Orchestra should sound instinctive”. Metha was looking for the secret recipe of the rock popularity, Zappa answered his way trying to put the issue differently: it is not a matter of Rock/Classical (low culture/high culture) it is a matter of proper content in the right frame.

Zappa:
I wanted to have a performance of the Rite of Spring in a dance environment where you could actually get kids to dance to it. I wanted to get the LA Philharmonic down there and have them taking up the whole back of the place, amplified, so it can really ride across your chest by the Rite of Spring, put on a light show and let everybody dance to it!
[…]
I would be more than happy, if I had a group, to carry on from The Rite of Spring and keep on pumping after the tune was over, because I never did like the end of The Rite of Spring.
[…]
As soon as the Orchestra quit, like a tape edit downbeat, then the other band starts up with a fuzz-tone!
[…]
You want people to appreciate beauty, give it to them!

I would run for such a thing!

Anyway, in 1969 in the U.S. the so called classical world was hardly trying to understand how to design musical events as successful as rock ‘n’ roll shows, and this circumstance brought an interest on Frank Zappa, probably more as a rock-star than as a composer. FZ was smart enough to understand and catch it.

If you bear in mind such a background the panel flows with a sort of underlying text behind.

The last jump across the timeline is to 1975 for the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra concert (Michael Zearott: conductor). There is not much information available on the web about these performances, later partially released on Orchestral Favorites (1979), with some other remnants on posthumous releases (QuAUDIOPHILIAc (2004) and One Shot Deal (2008)). On a 1976 article Frank Zappa gave a particularly zany comment: “I had a few laughs.” (Rip Rense, A Unique Musical Force or Blasphemous Freak: Which Is Frank Zappa?, The Valley News, Van Nuys, CA, June 27, 1976).

Zappa/Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra/Micheal Zearott, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975 - Ad

Zappa/Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra/Micheal Zearott, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975 – Ad

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The overall feeling is that the composer was happy enough with the project also because he was able to insert some kind of “instinctive” elements, the “eyebrows” he probably was trying to explain to Zubin Metha during that 1969 panel. One of them concerns Bogus Pomp.

Micheal Zearott conducting the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975

Micheal Zearott conducting the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975

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Early in Bogus Pomp there is an electric, wah-wah viola solo. Zappa explained before the piece that the rest of the orchestra would musically attack the viola player later in the piece because the viola got the first solo and because the soloist was a woman.
L. Roy Goldberg, Zappa Gives UCLA Audience The Bird, Daily Trojan, September 25, 1975

The episode is at 6:15 into Bogus Pomp (and there’s another at 9:21), Orchestral Favorites version, and the viola player is Pamela Goldsmith:

It was Jerry Kessler who asked me to join him in a string quartet (electrified) to play with Frank in a giant Royce Hall Concert. It was the first time I had dealt with a pickup (Barcus Berry in those days) and amp (giant Benson amp), so in combination with dealing with Frank I remember being extremely pressurized. I had feedback all the time, as I remember. I used a combination volume control and wah-wah pedal, and once I was fooling around with it during rehearsal and tried using it to produce ‘vibrato’. Frank came running out wild-eyed saying ‘that’s it-you have to use that’. So I did. I played barefoot because that was the only way I could feel the pedal underneath my foot (you must realize violists don’t use their feet to play and this was all new to me. I was fresh from Stanford University, having received my doctorate in eighteenth century performance practice). In the performance, Frank had the string quartet right in front at the edge of the stage, dressed in formal orchestral attire. Except for my bare feet. He definitely wrote for individual players, writing more and more difficult passages until you would hit your ‘wall’. I remember finally saying to him, “Frank, I can’t play that any faster”. Then he said, ‘okay’, and that was that. Everyone was apparently relieved that I was not intimidated by him (only by the electronics). I think I was the only woman around in that group (does anyone remember? this was a long time ago). Yes the music was highly complex and difficult, but challenging and fun to play. Michael Zearott conducted (the meter changes were so difficult and frequent)quite wonderfully as I recall. In fact, everyone was in top form, rising to the occasion of this incredible collection of players. more to follow later. pg

Here’s more: Frank definitely wrote personal music for his musicians. Someone must have told him I was involved with a trombone player at the time, so he wrote duets (in unison) for viola and trombone. I remember the marking was ‘grotesque’. The great trombone player, Bruce was a pleasure to try to imitate–he really had the satirical style down. The only two titles I remember were Bogus Pomp and Gregory Peccary. Somewhere in the Concert Frank came to the mike and announced to the audience, “you think I am a wonderful composer, but the truth is these musicians could improvise their own piece and it would be just as interesting, so let’s have them do it now. Let’s start with Pam”. Then he turned around and gestured to me. Can you imagine the terror that sprung into me at that moment. I picked up my viola and began to improvise, in a very avant-garde, all over the place style. (they tell me it sounded a little like Ornette Coleman) Then he gestured to others to join in, waved people in and out, indicated dynamic changes and so forth. When he cut off the music (noise, whatever), the audience cheered wildly. I could only think: “thank god that’s over–I hope no one ever asks me to improvise in public ever again”!
From the “Frank Zappa and The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra” Bill Lantz web pages

To close this erratic trip back and forth the 200 Motels timeline, a final question arises (paraphrasing Zubin Metha): Once and for all: what’s the 200 Motels message?

We have an answer, it was given by Howard Kaylan at the end of The True Story of 200 Motels (0:51:13):

His intention is to create a, a piece of film so bizarre and, parts of it so full of bullshit and other parts of it so technically perfect, that the people are gonna leave the theater going, “I didn’t understand it at all! What’s he doing? What’s, what’s the message? What’s he trying to say?” Well, that’s the message, that he’s not trying to say it.

Or: “I had a few laughs.”

200 Motels collage by Dave McMacken

200 Motels collage by Dave McMacken

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The Movie

Posted: November 14, 2015 in album review, folklore, zappa, zappology

Roxy_Invite

On October 14, 2015 the Roxy Eon eventually found his way to the closing when Roxy: The Movie had his world premiere at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California. As an old European Zappa hard-core fanatic, I had to wait a couple of weeks more to get the Eagle Rock DVD (the DVD + CD version) and when The Movie at last started, I could hardly believe my eyes.

In the meantime I kept watching the trailer.

As can be readily seen through this taster, the shooting is sometimes slightly out of focus but in spite of its venerable age, it gives intensely back the power and the fun of one of the best Zappa bands. Although the aspect ratio of the original film is 4:3, the production decided to crop it to 16:9, the modern day audience loose something but they say they did it to bring the Movie to contemporary standards.

It is possible to compare the result with the 4:3 Montana-Dupree’s Paradise footage available on the Internet since 2006.

As it would have been clear few days later, strangely enough this 32 minutes sort of Short Roxy has not been included in the Roxy: The Movie release, as well as the Dummy Up Roxy episode (featuring special guest Jeff Simmons) presented into The True Story Of 200 Motels, a 1988 Honker Home Video.

Finally, I put my hands on this long awaited audiovisual and my first hour or two into The Movie has been rather erratic, I couldn’t help going around here and there looking for the visuals of what I knew deeply by hard (Roxy & Elsewhere) or simply by hard (Roxy by Proxy), watching for instance at the Be-Bop Tango dance (featuring Carl Franzoni and Brenda the Stripper!), or discovering that it is Ralph Humphrey playing timpani on Cheepnis – Percussion towards the end, living the one and only Chester Thompson on drums. Then I started looking for new material, in terms of different takes if compared with the Roxy recordings included in the albums (Roxy & Elsewhere, Roxy by Proxy, YCDTOSA) and I realized that new stuff is mainly in the extras even though there are plenty of nice little differences scattered around.

Frank Zappa made as usual a lot of post production work, such differences are often due to the fact that The Movie is a no-overdubs view over The Roxy concerts. As clarified by Joe Travers, five performances: “one soundcheck/invite-only type show on the 8th. Then two shows on each night after.” Probably followed by at least one day of studio sessions at Bolic Sound.

Relevant on this matter is the following excerpt of a 1977 interview by Tony Bacon (Zappa, International Musician And Recording World, March, 1977):

“A good example of all this is the “Be Bop Tango” (from the “Roxy and Elsewhere” live album). On that, the drums are original, the bass is original, the piano is original, the trombone is original and most of the tenor is original, but the rest of the synthesizer stuff was put on at the studio. There’s also some stuff that sounds like trumpets in there that are actually Bruce Fowler playing at half speed. He can play the thing up to speed on the trombone, it just comes out an octave lower.”

However, beside the new material (more on this subject later), the main difference between all sources concerns the mix and the overall sound. The sound of The Movie (and of the soundtrack CD of course) is near to the one of the Roxy & Elsewhere album, however the mix is slightly different, George Duke for instance is on a lower level on The Movie and sometimes other instruments are also low in the mix, with the exception of the percussion section. My feeling is that R&E sounds better balanced, but it also true that The Movie mix emphasizes the percussive nature of the music. Speaking of that, every time the camera leaves the dynamic trio (Ruth, Ralph & Chester) you are going to say “No, bring them back”!

On the other side, Roxy by Proxy (a UMRK 1987 Digital re-mix by Bob Stone) and the Roxy YCDTOSA recordings (a mix from the same era) sound much more drier (I would say “digital”, as Gail also does in the liner notes) and differently mixed than The Movie and the original album (as Gail too, I would call this ones “analog”). George Duke for instance is much more in front in the digital eighties realm than in his analog seventies incarnation. Compare Inca Roads, in Roxy by Proxy George is drier and more in front than in The Movie, both voice and keyboards.

The following table shows the main Roxy recordings available through various official sources, from the point of view of The Movie contents. It is useful to quickly see if a certain piece is available in more than one album or video. For a precise comparison between all Roxy sources please refer to “The Roxy Performances” page at IINK, a fantastic place to push forward any FZ knowledge.

The Roxy official recordings (for the sake of brevity it does not include Dummy Up from The True Story Of 200 Motels)

The Roxy official recordings (for the sake of brevity it does not include Dummy Up from The True Story Of 200 Motels)

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As shown in the table, The Movie also includes further material as: end credit features, three extra tracks and two hidden pieces. Unfortunately all such extras are not included on the soundtrack CD that it is also a subset of The Movie itself (see table).

End credits flow first over a (16:9) Bolic Sound Studio short footage of Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow, interleaved with video only fragments of The Movie presenting the musicians. Credits end over an audio only Bolic fragment of Father O’Blivion.

The three extra tracks suffer of a low-fi mono audio, nevertheless they are more than needed: two of them are new and Zappa takes a great (unreleased) solo on Pygmy Twylyte, that also features some innocently lascivious dancing by Pamela Miller De Barres.

One of the hidden tracks (search zappateers for menu tricks) is Cheepnis, a “tiny film”, iTunes only 2013 release. It is a 4:3 ratio film and it is presented as follow:

“Outside of a segment included in “The True Story Of 200 Motels,” the following tiny film is the only edited piece by FZ from the Roxy footage identified from the Vault thus far.”

 

Cheepnis, December 17, 2013, iTunes

Cheepnis, December 17, 2013, iTunes

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Cheepnis, Debbie Wilson and Linda Sims

Cheepnis, Debbie Wilson and Linda Sims

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It has been filmed and recorded at The Roxy & Bolic Sound in December 1973 and features Debbie Wilson and Linda Sims. An absolute must that once again focuses on the monster movies topic as the DVD cover does, as promptly noticed on the killuglyradio Roxy: The Movie page.

theatrical release poster for It Conquered The World

theatrical release poster for It Conquered The World

Roxy: The Movie cover

Roxy: The Movie cover

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The other hidden feature is a 4:3 mute accelerated footage of the Roxy stage, probably a sound check or a technical session of some sort, over a speeded up bass/guitars version of Uncle Meat. Yet another lost episode to be revealed.

Said that the great three extras are inexplicably low-fi audio, the Dummy Up episode has been permanently confined to The True Story Of 200 Motels, and that the Montana-Dupree’s Paradise (4:3) short film has been left floating around in a low 2006 Internet quality, this, folks, is a veritable feast of lore, and you will enjoy every single minute, in spite of the fact that image quality is sometimes far from perfect.

To reach such a fantastic result the production had to resolve an audio/video synchronization rebus, dramatically depicted by John Albarian (who edited the footage) in the liner notes, an issue that could have been solved only through digital technology.

In the liner notes Gail Zappa tells about the frustration of Frank who “mixed and mixed and mixed away (analog quad in ’74, digital stereo in ’87, with Roxy & Elsewhere in between) but the mad cocktail was too big for the beakers of ancient algorhythmic machinations”. She must have been particularly happy for this result.

However Frank Zappa did not show to the public his technical nightmares, rather, in line of the Penguin in Bondage preamble, he once again used to say that a movie like this would not have commercial potential.

Thanks to the IINK “The Roxy Performances” page we have this quote form the lecture at the Gifford Auditorium, Syracuse, 04/23/75:

“Can you tell us if anything is going on with your ‘Live at the Roxy’ movie?”

“Well, I wish there was…The status of that film is this: I spent about $30.000-40.000 trying to get the thing on film, and I got it on film, and there’s some things that happened down there that were absolutely fabulous. However, they’re too weird to show on television, and I don’t think there’s really a market in the theaters for a straight concert film like that.. So right now, it’s sitting in my shelf, being an expensive piece of home movie. Maybe one day, when TV loosens up a little bit, we’ll be able to show the lovely Brenda, doing…(FZ and George Duke laugh)…that was a real nice piece of film, that Brenda…(more laughter).”

Such “loosen” moments are now forever part of The Movie!

But there’s another quote that resonates with The Movie:

“It’s like yelling through the wall of the time capsule of your reader’s mind.”
From “A Conversation With Frank Zappa
By Dave Rothman
Oui, April, 1979

Actually FZ was in a line of reasoning concerning his sixties, however if you replace “your reader” with “the watcher” such a time image precisely describe the feeling of a bunch of old hard-core fanatics sited in a dark video room highly pumped with The Roxy volume.

An experience hopefully to be repeated soon in a cinema near them!

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Credits

Roxy, Los Angeles, CA
December 8-10, 1973

Produced by FZ, GZ, Ahmet Zappa & Jeff Stein
Edited & co-produced by John Albarian
Digital Restoration by Ben Satory
Post Production Coordinator Sid Patel

Film and Sound Crew: Camouflage Productions
Hand-held Camera: Barry Feinstein

Original 16-Track recordings produced by FZ with Kerry McNabb
Sound truck: Wally Heider Mobile
Mix and mastering by Bruce Botnick
Vaultmeisterment & music transfers by Joe Travers

Art of packaging by GZ, Michael Mesker & Ahmet Zappa
Liner notes by GZ & John Albarian

Frank Zappa: lead guitar, vocals
George Duke: keyboards, synthesizer, vocals
Tom Fowler: bass
Ruth Underwood: percussion
Bruce Fowler: trombone, dancing (?), vocals
Napoleon Murphy Brock: tenor sax, flute, lead vocals
Ralph Humphrey: drums
Chester Thompson: drums

Special Appearances by:
Pamela Des Barres
Carl Franzoni
Brenda
Joan Sloatman
Carl, Rick, Jane & Lana

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More information, lyrics, dialogues at the Roxy: The Movie page at IINK.
Lyrics and dialogues also on the Roxy & Elsewhere album are printed in red.
Lyrics and dialogues also on previous CDs are printed in light grey.

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