Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dallas Convention Center Arena 1980

The 1980 tour could almost be given one of either two monikers: the Tinseltown Rebellion Tour or the Chunga’s Revenge Tour, as both these songs were played at many of these concerts, based on the bootlegs that are out there from the era.

With the Oct. 17, 1980 show at the Dallas Convention Center Arena, we get a blistering guitar solo out of Frank with “Chunga’s Revenge” opening the show. The sound quality of this boot fluctuates a bit throughout the song, and with the next tune, “I Don’t Wanna Get Drafted,” a song Zappa jointly composed with one of his major influences, Johnny Guitar Watson, the audio comes across very compressed, like listening to an AM radio. Incidentally, the song appeared on the album “You Are What You Is” as “Drafted Again.”

We have a decent, but brief, guitar solo, possibly out of Steve Vai, during “Cosmik Debris,” but with this bootleg the solo doesn’t come forward; you really have to listen hard to hear it. Also, this brief solo is nothing like the solo that shows up on the studio release from “Apostrophe(‘).” The band then launches into a frenetically-paced “Keep It Greasey” from “Joe’s Garage.”

The vamp and intro to “Tinseltown Rebellion” is actually pretty cool. I admit that this is not one of my favorite Zappa songs, but this particular performance actually comes pretty close to getting me to like it. And the lapse into the sing-songy presentation style at the end of the song doesn’t bother me like it does when Frank uses the technique during live performances of other songs (such as on the last track on this boot).

When you got four guitar players on stage, you have to expect some guitar-centric work during this show. This boot doesn’t disappoint on that point when “Outside Now” comes along. Deliciously eviscerating.

A primary reason that I enjoy listening to bootlegs, despite their at times substandard sound quality, is the opportunity to hear the wide variety guitar solos that Zappa performs. Another reason is to have the opportunity to hear performances of the many different musicians he played with, particularly those occasions when it was only during a concert solely available via bootleg.

But given the number of shows Zappa performed, hearing how some very standard songs get tweaked a bit for live performance – largely for the band’s benefit, I’m sure, so they wouldn’t get bored with playing it. “Honey Don’t You Want a Man Like Me?” fits into this category with this particular show.

Ah, but the guitar solo returns with the next track “Pick Me I’m Clean,” a funny song I’ve always enjoyed apparently written about a real groupie that wanted to stand out among all the others at a show, so she hollered out, “Pick me! I’m clean!”

Another excellent song that is structured to accommodate a guitar solo is “City of Tiny Lights.” However, in this boot, the song begins well after its start, moving into that guitar solo. I realize that this is a bootleg, but it sure would have been nice to hear the song from the beginning. Nonetheless, the guitar solo here (or solos? Are Vai and Zappa trading licks?) is thrilling. It smoothly transitions into a vamp from Rod Argent’s “She’s Not There” before returning back to “City of Tiny Lights.”

The next song, “Easy Meat,” also has an outstanding extended guitar solo.

Following “Ain’t Got No Heart,” the bootleg closes with “The Torture Never Stops.” Aside from the annoying sing-song segue that was common with live performances of this, we get another great guitar solo. And what is really intriguing about this solo is that you can hear how well orchestrated it is. Sometimes people think of guitar solo as purely extended improvisations, which many are, following a steady beat. The guitar player gets up there and plays what ever comes out of his fingers; when finished, he usually nods to the rest of the band to indicate he’s done, they collect themselves around a few bars to get back into synch, and then return to the song. But listening to this particular solo, you can hear quite plainly the time signature changes, as well as the melodic theme shifts, that occur and which are followed precisely by Vinnie Colaiuta’s expert drumming. Zappa’s playing is followed by a segue led by Arthur Barrow’s bass playing followed by some keyboard playing that could either be Tommy Mars or Bob Harris. But unlike other segues, the band never returns to the main theme of “Torture,” and in fact, the song ends, as does the bootleg.

Overall, not a bad bootleg despite some fluctuations in the sound quality. And while the set list was a common representation of the 1980 tour, the show contains some interesting variations that will keep a true Zappa fanatic pulling it out from time to time for a listen.

I rate this four of five stars. Add your own rating below.

Track listing:

1. Chunga's Revenge
2. I Don't Wanna Get Drafted
3. Cosmik Debris
4. Keep It Greasey
5. Tinseltown Rebellion
6. Outside Now
7. Honey Don't You Want A Man Like Me?
8. Pick Me I'm Clean
9. City Of Tiny Lights (incl. She's Not There)
10. Easy Meat
11. Ain't Got No Heart
12. The Torture Never Stops


FZ, guitar, vocals
Ike Willis, vocals, guitar
Steve Vai, guitar, vocals
Ray White, vocals, guitar
Arthur Barrow, bass
Vinnie Colaiuta, drums
Tommy Mars, keyboards, vocals
Bob Harris, keyboards, trumpet, high vocals


Anonymous said...

Hey Richard - I went to this show, do you know where I can get one of these CDs? ... thanks - James

Richard Harrold said...

Hi James, this is a bootlegged recording. Your best bet is to do a Google search.