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Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by johnny k, Aug 2, 2019.
...must have had a "face-over" too.
I always felt that he was enough into himself for the both of us.
Do you mean this gent? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgard_Varèse
Have you heard this?
That actually sounds pretty legit.
I tried but never could get into his music.
Yes... I already got in trouble for that careless mistake!
I'm not gonna read this entire thread, but I'll say this:
I love Frank's instrumental music. He was a fine composer who knew how deliver intricate but memorable music. Memorable, in my opinion, anyway. He composed music played by some of the finest orchestras in the world. Don't hand me that "They're just doing it for the publicity" line, I think people like Pierre Boulez and Kent Nagano were above doing stuff "for the publicity".
He had a lot of top flight musicians who played in his bands because off the challenge of working with him. At least one of those musicians, Ruth Underwood, essentially retired from performing after she left Frank's band. I don't think she's played on a single record or done much in the way of concerts since 1977. Supposedly, Ruth decided that there wasn't going to be anyone she could play with who was challenging and fun to work with, so basically become a teacher and housewife.
Frank's also one of my favorite guitarists. Crazy phrasing, going all over the place, and confounding the frell out of any rhythm section on a regular basis, but often times highly melodic and with great guitar tones too. My favorite period for Frank's guitar work, actually, is circa 1981-1984. He was playing regularly playing a Strat copy (made by an LA guitar shop called Performance Guitars) with a Floyd Rose and a custom made EQ system that allowed him to dial in feedback and get some seriously warped stuff out of the guitar.
But beside all that, he also had that whole satire thing, and that's where it starts to fall apart from me. Certain things I thought were reasonably funny, or at least barable but a lot of demonstrated the sense of humor of a 12 year old. I'm thinking of things like Jewish Princess, Catholic Girls, The Illinois Enema Bandit (based on a true story, look up Michael Kenyon on Wikipedia, and you'll see), We're Turning Again and things like that. You get the feeling Frank looked down on everyone and everything and felt compelled to comment on it in his lyrics. This is something that's also conveyed in a lot of the interviews I've read or seen on video from him. If Frank had lived into his 70's, he'd have been the proverbial grumpy old men, yelling at kids to get off his lawn.
Frank's best records are the one the ones that are mostly or entirely instrumental. My favorites are Burnt Weenie Sandwich, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, Uncle Meat, Hot Rats, Waka/Jawaka, The Grand Wazoo, and Guitar. A lot of people go on about how great the Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar set is, and it's very very good, excellent even, but I prefer the one that's simply called Guitar, as it focuses more on the 81-84 era recordings, which as I said above is my favorite era of his guitar work.
I also like Them Or Us, because it has some good instrumentals, namely Marqueson's Chicken and Sinister Footwear, even though the rest of the record is mostly vocal based music. The title track is a really cool thing, basically a guitar solo lifted out of a live performance of The Black Page No. 2 (you can hear the same riff used on a couple of the tracks on Guitar, as well).
One Size Fits All is another one that a lot of people like. There's only a couple instrumentals, but there's some great guitar work, and the whole band sounds awesome. I think Chester Thompson and George Duke gave Frank's music a funkier vibe than usual. And the lyrics aren't as obnoxious as they are on some of the other records.
Another record I should mention is Roxy And Elsewhere, a great double live album (well, mostly live, he admits in the liner notes there are overdubs) from I think a little bit before One Size Fits All. Some good music here, and again, the vocals aren't as obnoxious. In fact, a couple of the songs are actually kinda good here. Phil Collins has said it was listening to this record, in particular a song called More Trouble Every Day, that put him onto the idea of asking Chester Thompson to be Genesis' touring drummer. In fact there's a particular fill in that song that Phil insisted on inserting into the song Afterglow (you can hear them do it on the Seconds Out live album).
The You Can't Do That Onstage Anymore set was a crap shoot, in my opinion. As annoying as some of his songs were, he'd get even worse onstage, inserting "comedy routines" into the live shows, some of which are represented on this set. But there's also lots of great music. I liked Vols. 2 and 5 the best.
Oh yeah, and there's two late period live albums I should mention:
Does Humor Belong In Music?: recorded in 1984. Again, you've got some stupid "comedy", including him taking unnecessary swipes at Scorpions, Devo, and Culture Club, as well as a potty mouthed doo wop song that Frank learned from an old bootleg of whichever doo wop group (Frank was a huge doo wop fan, he regularly did note perfect doo wop covers in his shows, and you can hear that influence in the vocals on his own songs), but there's also several great guitar solos from Frank, a great version of Zoot Allures, and an instrumental called Let's Move To Cleveland.
Make A Jazz Noise: taken from Frank's last tour, in 1988. some great instrumentals, super fine guitar solos. Mike Keneally, who was Frank's "stunt guitarist" (that means he had to play all the difficult written guitar stuff that Frank himself couldn't play accurately) said that back half of disc two, I think starting from Sinister Footwear, I believe, he considered to be the best representation of the 1988 band on an official release.
Oh, and as far as Joe's Garage goes, I think that album is pretty boring (though Keep It Greasy is a brilliant metaphor for what happens to any musician who gets involved with a major label), but it's absolutely essential for a track called Watermelon In Easter Hay, which is perhaps Frank's finest moment as a guitarist. Yes, it's sentimental, that's the whole point! It represents Joe finally realizing he has to give up on music altogether and get a "straight" job. And Frank does a great job of conveying the emotions any of us would have if we were told that we could never play or listen to music ever again. And he does it in an instrumental too.
And for anyone who likes Frank Zappa, you should pickup a book written by his late 70's bassist Arthur Barrow. It's called Of Course I Said Yes. It's basically his memoir, talking about his whole life, from his days as a teenager growing up in Texas, to working with Frank, to the stuff he did after he left Frank's employee. He also talks a bit at the end of the book about how the music industry has changed from the times when he was making a living as pro musician in the 70's and 80's.
He tells some good stories about the origins of some of Frank's songs. You basically had to be careful what you said or did to or around Frank, because he could and would turn it into a song (as was the case with Teenage Wind, Stevie's Spanking, and Why Does It Hurt When I Pee, to name just three examples Arthur talks about in the book). We also find out what The Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression is, and how a track where he deliberately played badly (because he was pissed at Frank one night for telling him what to play during The Torture Never Stops) ended up on one of the Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar records.
Heck yeah, he's cool.
A few favorites:
I love Frank Zappa. You can never accuse him of playing the same old stuff everyone else is playing. Brilliant musician, lyricist, composer. Funny, funny guy.
I get him. I don't like his music, but I get him.
I jus don't gets peoples dat don't gets FZ. Dey ain't de kinda peoples dat I wanna hang out with.
If he ever did mention him, it would be in a song called "Edgar's Valise".
Fripp and Belew, for example. I wonder if these [types?] of players have something in common. I was just discussing the phenomenon of talented-but-I-don't-like-them with a serious jazz trumpet player. He has the same feelings about some players, even more in jazz. Maybe it has something to do with where our heads were at when we first heard them or maybe their kind of music… kind of fusiony, so not belonging wholly to a realm we can identify, lock into…? (For the record, there are lines/songs by all of these players that just blow my mind.)
I always thought Zappa was goof-music. I was digging 10 Years After, Led Zep, Clapton, and the likes, and this goofy kid in the dorm room next door has this Zappa goof-music on. WTF ?
I couldn't take it and I didn't care how good the playing might be, I didn't like it.
When I got FZ, it was like getting myself.
His musical taste and my musical tastes rarely cross paths.
Not really. I like a few of his things, but the rest- no thanks.
Hmmm... No fooling?