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Now in our sixth calendar year
PCR #292  (Vol. 6, No. 43) This edition is for the week of October 24--30, 2005.

Florida's Witch Town?
 by Will Moriaty
"The Legend of Zorro"
 by Mike Smith
Post Industrial Carnival....Mobile Performance Group....Cob: More Than Just Something With Corn On It
 by Vinnie Blesi
Frank Zappa
 by Terence Nuzum
The Sandman, AKA, One of the Best Graphic Novels Ever Written!
 by Dylan Jones
ScreamFest '05
 by John Lewis
Happy Halloween....The Birthday Boy....Masters of Horror Invite
 by Matt Drinnenberg
The Best of Times....This Week's Issue....Happy Birthday....Another Top 10 Challenge....2,000 Americans Killed In Iraq....Like Rap Music....No Wonder I Can't Sit Down....Put It On The Board--Yes!...Passing On....You Never Give Me Your Money....We're Number Three....Jaws: The Story, Part 39
 by Mike Smith
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The Audio Philes by Terence Nuzum

Frank Zappa

In honor of his favorite holiday, Halloween, I am covering the career of Frank Zappa. I am only covering the era of 1967-1979 and it is a list of what this author considers essential and also some of my favorites. Zappa’s music like the man himself is a contradiction. Zappa’s music consists of serious classical compositions yet they are played in the form of rock. While Zappa eschewed typical rock song structures he couldn’t help but belt out blistering guitar solos that were more than rock enough for aspiring teens to play air guitar to. He went on to explore pop, jazz, funk, his beloved doo wop, and of course his accursed synclavier (ok so it wasn’t that bad). So get ready for cheap thrills and the great conceptual continuity and never forget “the modern day composer refuses to die”.

Suzy Creamcheese, Honey, What's Got Into Ya?: The Counterculture Albums

1. Freak Out: The first concept album ever (unless you count Johnny Cash’s Songs of Our Soil) and the one that would inspire The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Basically an album about “freaking out” and America’s obsession with the so-called freak scene. Zappa himself saw the U.S. counterculture as fake and knew that by the time the media in 1966 was on to it, it had already been co-opted by the record companies. Like many of Zappa's 60’s LPs, Freak Out sounds to the uninformed completely acid-frazzled but Zappa himself was straight as far as psychedelic drugs were concerned and he alienated himself from his band, other musicians, and even groupies. Zappa’s lyrical obsessions are apparent even on the first album, lewd humor, perverted sex, and obsessions with everyday objects. Musically the album ranged from collage pieces (as most of his 60’s output with the Mothers of Invention did), doo wop, and even possibly the first form of DJ sampling on record. Arguably the song “Trouble Coming Everyday” , on which Zappa rants about the Watts riot (possibly Zappa’s only serious lyrics), could be considered the first Rap song.

2. Absolutely Free: One of the lesser known Zappa albums it is now one that sounds like a masterpiece. Using the same stylings as on Freak Out! Zappa attacks the Nazi tactics of the LAPD and on the awesome “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It” he blasts rude barbs at the sexually repressed old men who rule the country and what they’d like to do to little girls, “if she were my daughter I’d…..smother that girl in chocolate syrup” and then attacks the girls themselves “Only thirteen and she knows how to nasty”. Zappa’s lyrics on this paved the way for the 60’s rock acts to take the place as the beatniks and Zappa himself as the new William Burroughs.

3. We’re Only In It For The Money: The ultimate shot at the biggest band in the world a parody of Sgt. Peppers and of course hippies in general. The title itself was meant to point out that the Beatles themselves were only in it for profit while the fans and the media viewed them as gods. While never short on parody, right down to the cover which was stopped due to the Beatles lawyers but not the Beatles themselves, it also has its share of serious subject matter like on “Mom & Dad” in which a long-hair gets shot by the cops for looking weird and the tale of a G.I. who plays hippie for a weekend in “Who Needs the Peace Corps.?” The band's own cover of “Hey Joe”, “Flower Punk”, is priceless.

4. Lumpy Gravy: Using a full orchestra and a 12 track studio Zappa issued his first full orchestral work. While his previous albums all had classical structures, for example a man screaming or a car horn would be used in the same context as a fleeting flute note in a classical piece, it wasn’t until Lumpy Gravy with its tape collage cut-ups and white noise chaos harnessed that Zappa would give us a hint of what was to come. Probably Zappa’s most difficult album but one of the best.

5. Cruising With Rueben and the Jets: Zappa had a huge Doo Wop collection and always preferred the music of his youth the pop of the 60’s. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he would make an entire album of pure Doo Wop. Well almost. While not mocking it Zappa certainly exaggerated certain aspects of the lyrics. Zappa hated love songs and believed they were the cause of America’s mental illness so he purposely made over the top lines like “Stars in the sky, they never lie Tell me you need me, don't say goodbye I love you only Love, love of my life “. As the legend goes a radio station supposedly was so fooled by the album's authenticity that they played it as if it was genuine doo wop. Of course the trained ear could hear the opening themes to Rite of Spring and background chants of the Moonglows all at once on “Fountain of Love”.

6. Uncle Meat: What is Uncle Meat exactly? Well it claims to be the soundtrack to an aborted film that Zappa and the Mothers were working on involving a Jekyll and Hyde character who believes in musical progress or..something like that. Doesn’t matter the album itself is a masterpiece of instrumental collage chaos. Sounding like a looney tunes orchestra the Mothers play Zappa’s avant garde compositions like they were the London Symphony Orchestra doing Beethoven. Harpsichord, doo wop harmonies, and zany noises all mix together to make Zappa’s best album with the 60’s lineup of the Mothers of Invention. Think Lumpy Gravy mixed with Absolutely Free. “Dog Breath, In the Year of the Plague” a mix of doo wop, avant jazz, and squeaky vocals is one of the 60’s most underrated songs. Made while Zappa was struggling to keep the band together or rather the band was struggling to get along with Zappa’s (most of the time justified) ego.

7. Hot Rats: Quite possibly Zappa’s most straight forward album, Hot Rats is also the first born of a new genre Jazz Fusion. Uncle Meat was Zappa’s ultimate and mostly final word on tape and sound collages, so for Hot Rats, also his first solo album, he put his offbeat time signatures to jazz and created one of his greatest albums. “Willie the Pimp” with vocals by Captain Beefheart (the only man to out weird Zappa), who ripped his lyric sheets to pieces in a moment of self doubt (luckily one of Beefheart's Magic Band members had a copy), mostly sounds like a typical quirky blues number by the Captain but then goes on to include a infectious violin beat by Sugar Cane Harris and of course Zappa’s soaring godlike guitar solo. It was here that he displayed his unknown talent for being nothing short of one of the greatest rock guitarists ever. “Peaches En Regalia” has not only the distinction of being one of the most known of Zappa’s songs but also his most catchy and yet contains no lyrics just that amazing opening of drums, trailing guitar strum before going into the attention grabbing chorus of clarinets. Jazz pioneer Miles Davis would one year later explore jazz fusion himself -- whether Hot Rats was an inspiration is unknown but one thing is for sure, Zappa was there first.

8. Burnt Weeny Sandwich: Book ended by two Doo Wop obscurities “WPLJ” by the 4 Deuces and “Valerie” by Jackie & the Starlites the rest is an odd mix of Zappa’s penchant for movie soundtracks. “Igor’s Boogie,” a tribute to Stravinsky, completes the first album up to this point to show all Zappa’s sides: doo wop, movies, and classical.

9. Weasels Ripped My Flesh: After the Mothers disbanded Zappa put out this collection of unused songs and live material. Far from being unworthy outtakes it actually holds its own as a fully realized LP. It ranges from the disturbing “Dija Get any Onya” to searing heavy metal guitar on “ My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” which foreshadowed some songs on Zappa’s next release, Chunga’s revenge.

Lemme tell you the story 'bout the Mud Shark . . .: Flo & Eddie and the Vaudeville Band.

10. Chunga’s Revenge: More leftovers from Hot Rats sessions and the new Mothers material. This is also one of the first albums where Zappa displayed his love of Heavy Metal (he was a huge Sabbath fan). “Transylvania Boogie” is pure guitar god Zappa. “Twenty Small Cigars” perhaps is a tribute to his days playing lounges with its harpsichord and soothing sax evoking images of smoking jackets and backlights while “Chunga’s Revenge” is exactly what it says: a threatening ripping guitar solo torn from hell (gives Hendrix a run for his money). This album is also the first appearance of the new Mothers line-up which includes two ex-Turtles members. The line-up was often referred to as The Vaudeville Band. The next album shows why.

11. Fillmore East-June, 1971: Zappa was once told that the Mothers could be huge if they only sounded more like The Turtles. So maybe when Zappa hired Mark Volman (Flo) and Howard Kaylan (Eddie) it was his big revenge punch line. Zappa’s most famous live album and one that would pave the way for the smutty humor he would be known for in the 70’s. While still containing riveting versions of “Peaches En Regalia” and “Willie the Pimp” mostly the album is his version of the current fad for comedy albums. Flo and Eddie simply yuck it up in their best doo wop mock while Zappa entertains us with the infamous legend of “The Mud Shark” in which members of Vanilla Fudge and Led Zeppelin “ahem” penetrate a groupie with their recent catch. Zep drummer Bonham insists Zappa got it wrong; he claims it was in fact a red snapper because the groupie was a natural redhead so to speak. Well now!

“Cus it just might be a one shot deal…” Big Band Zappa.

12. Waka/Jawaka: Saturday December 4th, 1971- Frank Zappa while performing is pushed by a fan off the stage ten feet into the orchestra pit. He is found in a bloody heap unconscious, his career is cut short and forever ended. Well it could have gone that way. Except it didn’t. Zappa only months later while in a wheelchair for his broken leg writes and records two of his most underrated albums. The first Waka/Jawaka is mostly instrumental. Zappa’s lineup for the Petit Wazoo band played his compositions as if like gangbusters. Essentially big band meets classical music , especially on the 17 minute “Big Swifty”, it also highlights some more great guitar chops by Frank.

13. The Grand Wazoo: Uncle Meat returns! This time Meat makes a miniature version of Rome whose leader Cleetus Awreetus-Awrightus must fight off his arch enemy Mediocrates Pesdtrium from invading his empire. The battles are all fought with music but Mediocrates stands no chance against his stellar army band and his own mystery horn. While Hot Rats itself could be considered Prog-rock it wasn’t until The Grand Wazoo with its plotline linked to the music that it was really apparent Zappa had been making Prog-rock all along. Finally perfecting his amazing big band orchestra into what he called an electric symphony orchestra he gave us this album before the lineup disappeared forever.

Dummy Up… The Roxy Band albums

14. Overnite Sensation: Supercharged and inspired by the release of a recent smut film called Deep Throat ,which broke barriers unheard of at the time , Zappa went all out with his use of sexual subjects. The sexual humor backed by white boy funk with offbeat time signatures helped make this album go gold, Zappa’s first. Not exactly Zappa’s most thought provoking album it nevertheless paved the way for the most famous incarnation of the Mother’s: The Roxy Band. Although to this reviewer it seems to fall way too much into the Cheech and Chong pothead comedy album crowd it still does contain Zappa’s great comment on Television propaganda “I Am The Slime”. One of Zappa’s lesser efforts. Unfornately the rest of his early 70’s output focused on mainly perverted humor and because of it gained him the label of humor rock that would dog him for the rest of his career.

15. Apostrophe (') : Like the previous record Apostrophe was filled with crude humor but this time it was backed by more sophisticated playing. Where Overnite Sensation seemed to fail was in the compositions but on Apostrophe it all came together. The hilarious single “Yellow Snow” was a hit of sorts and the album itself cracked the top ten.

16. Roxy & Elsewhere: Originally filmed for TV this concert never saw light of day except on this excellent record that displays the Roxy Band at its best. The opener “Penguin in Bondage” continues Zappa’s obsession with the sexually bizarre, “Dummy Up” gives us Zappa’s opinion and hatred for the educational system, and “More Trouble Everyday” delivers the sequel we had been waiting for. But it’s on “Cheepnis” that the band shines, a loving tribute to Z budget horror films.

17. One Size Fits All: The best studio album of the Roxy line-up also includes Captain Beefheart on harmonica (billed as Bloodshot Rollin’ Red). Zappa finally secure in his guitar god status gives us excellent airy solos on “Inca Roads” and gets all autobiographical on us for “San Ber’dino”. Some say Zappa never made a better album than this. They might be right.

Broken Hearts Are For Assholes……Solo Frank.

18. Bongo Fury: Recorded Live in Austin Texas this was Franks reconciliation after neglecting his high school friend Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) for so long after producing his classic Trout Mask Replica. Highlights include “Debra Kadabra” which references the soundtrack to a 1961 Mexican horror film called Braniac while “Poofters Froth…” supposedly named without Zappa knowing it was English slang for a homo. Of course Beefheart and Zappa fell out favor with each other again after the tour. The reason purportedly being because Zappa was offended by caricatures Vliet was drawing of him in his notebook. It could well be that this was only myth but then Zappa hypocritically did a thing that he hated big music executives for. He refused to release Beefhearts great masterpiece Bat Chain Puller. At the time Zappa claimed he wouldn’t release it till rights issues were settled but years later after the settlement it remained shelved. To this day the record has not seen the light of day.

19. Zoot Allures: Zappa does heavy metal! Being a huge fan of Black Sabbath Zappa went all the way with this heavy dose of zany metal. The awesome instrumental “Black Napkins” (inspired by sliced turkey rolls) is followed by the Gothic Dungeon horroshow “The Torture Never Stops” with Zappa’s wife Gail and a friend supplying moans of agony(ecstasy?). “Disco Boy” marks the beginning of Zappa’s more direct attacks on certain individuals, races, and fashion trends a theme that he would use for his remaining years.

20. Lather: The legendary lost masterpiece. Originally a 4 record box set Zappa was forced to split it up into four separate albums (Zappa In New York, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt, Orchestral Favorites, and even several songs made it onto Sheik Yerbouti and Joe’s Garage) by Warner Brothers executives but not before he had his revenge and after telling listners to set up tape recorders aired all two and half hours of it. Probably the best example of what Zappa’s music really is; from the zany “The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit” to instrumentals “The Purple Lagoon” all ending with the culmination of all these in the epic “The Adventures of Greggery Peccary”. While some of these songs had been played live for years and others would appear later it is this album that Zappa wanted released and it stands as his greatest achievement of his middle career.

21. Sheik Yerbouti: Zappa’s grand insult album ( the first on his own label) gets at everyone. Its single “Dancin’ Fool” insulted the entire disco scene and Travolta wannabes. The track “Rubber Shirt” was composed of three solos of guitar, bass, and drums, all of the same tempo yet when created into a track their relationship remained random to each other. This composition was called Xenochrony by Zappa. Several tracks parody well known rock staples, “I Have Been In You “ parody’s Framptons “Im In You” and “Trying to Grow a Chin” makes fun of both The Who’s Tommy and The Eagles “Hotel California”. There is also the classic moment on “Flakes” in which Adrian Belew does a hilarious vocal mocking Bob Dylan. Of course it wasn’t all this or Xenochrony (obviously) that made Sheik Yerbouti infamous it was the two songs “ Bobby Brown” and “Jewish Princess. The former concerns a high school jock who loves date rapes but then gets raped himself by a dyke feminist who turns him gay. The latter song is the one though that caused the most trouble. “Jewish Princess” makes fun of rich nose job Jew girls and the Anti-Defamation League had a major fit. They called it racist and stereotyping. Zappa’s reply was that the remarks in the song were true and correct and went on to say that the League wanted the world to believe in a certain view of Jewish people but ,that though they may not want to believe, some stereotypes are real.

22. Joe’s Garage Acts I, II & III: A rock opera/ concept album about a society where music is a crime. The main story is about Joe a young rock n’ roller who because he played in a rock n roll band gets a VD, has sex with an appliance, screws it to death, is put in jail, is raped by music exec inmates, is released in a daze, and finally spends the rest of his days in a Muffin Research facility getting off when he fires up the icing nozzle. The story is narrated by The Central Scrutinizer who enforces laws that haven’t been passed yet. The albums story is like the Scrutinizer’s own bad high school educational film. The album's magnificent guitar solos were all recorded live and “pasted in” later. One of Zappa’s best guitar solos ever on “Watermelon In Easter Hay” was not done that way. This album with its high school humor alienated a lot of Zappa’s older fans. Its humour and that of Sheik Yerbouti obviously inspired the satire rock of Weird Al Yankovic. But as the crew slut Mary declares on “Packard Goose”, music is best.

"The Audio Philes" is ©2005 by Terence Nuzum.   All graphics (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.