Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween 1978 The Palladium NYC

In 1978, Zappa played the Palladium in New York City for six shows: one on Halloween, two each on Oct. 27 and 28, and one on Oct. 29. As mentioned in my post on the official “Halloween” audio DVD release, Zappa recorded all these shows, leaving behind a ton of taped material. This boot from the Halloween night show is what should have been re-mastered and officially released. Why a cut-and-paste release of various songs from these shows was put together is beyond me. And added to my dismay is the fact that the official recording was released on an audio DVD, severely limiting how folks can play it. I don’t have a home theater to play it on and it won’t play in my CD changer or in my car stereo, so I had to download someone else’s rip so I could listen to it in my car. The official release sits on my CD shelf as a testament of how I occasionally waste my money.

But when you listen to the 1978 Halloween show in its entirety, it’s like WTF! Why wasn’t this put together into a three or four CD release? It is freaking outstanding, one of the most amazing concert recordings I’ve heard!

How amazing? This concert had some serious head-banging heavy metal guitar solos that stimulate your entire body with scintillating current; you will hear the magical musicianship of the band as it displays complete mastery of some of Zappa’s most difficult material; you will be awed by Denny Walley’s super sweet and melodious slide guitar delivered with a Delta blues fingerprint so implacable and delicious that it’s like a savory sweet potato pie; and the interplay between L. Shankar’s electric violin and Zappa’s guitar approaches the mystical.

And you’ll also hear Zappa just being himself as he includes some of his famous audience participation.

Granted, this recording is a bit rough due to the fact that it is a bootleg, but the material is so incredibly awesome that it really doesn’t matter. The only portion of the recording that is so rough that the final maniacal interplay between Shankar and Zappa is almost lost is at the very end. That part of the show was re-mastered and released on the official “Halloween” recording.

This was a very long show, as you can see by the track listing, so I’m only going to touch on some of what I consider to be the highlights.

Frank shreds on the fourth track, “Easy Meat,” which was also on the “Halloween” recording, except that the performance on that release came from the second show on Oct. 27. I really like the rhythmic and melodic progression of the solo as well as Vinnie Colaiuta’s aggressive drumming.

The band is incredibly tight on “Keep it Greasy,” and Frank’s vocals on “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing” are really good, his singing effortless. And you can hear Denny Walley warming up the slide in preparation for the next song.

“City of Tiny Lights” always gives me the shivers, and this performance delivers. Walley’s slide guitar is electrifying, his solo brings a flavor of Texas and Delta blues while still retaining that cosmic aura of floating chaotically above the twinkling lights of Los Angeles. Frank picks up on the shred to continue the guitar part while Walley’s guitar hums menacingly in the background. The two of them finish off with a note-for-note pairing of the song’s theme.

The band is fantastic during “Pound for a Brown,” a demanding piece. Ed Mann’s percussion is brilliant and the bass playing by both Arthur Barrow and Patrick O’Hearn is flawless. But it’s Mann’s vibraphone playing that stars.

L. Shankar is introduced for the next song, “Thirteen.” This is beautiful stuff. Shankar starts low, but gradually works his way up the musical scale. You begin to notice something rhythmically going on, you’re not quite sure what it is, but Vinnie Colaiuta’s drumming keeps you safe. Because when Shankar begins to unload and let it rip on that violin, it leaves me stunned every time. When Zappa begins to play, the rhythm becomes so complex that there isn’t anyone else playing except for Colaiuta. The bass begins to rejoin as Zappa goes deep into the register to haul out a solo as if from the depths of oblivion. Then Frank, I believe, becomes possessed, his playing so inspired and amazing that I am in eternal regret that I never saw this performance. Shankar comes back, his playing bordering on the outside, giving Frank’s extended feedback an aural texture that becomes transcendent; Zappa takes it another step leaving you in the cosmos, but Shankar is right there as he becomes like a chaotic comet zipping about following no course, bouncing between quasars and super novas.

Both Shankar and Zappa bring the crowd back to earth, slowly bringing them back as the band joins back in for a crescendo that makes me cry. Why this was not included on the official release stupefies me. It is 17 minutes of outstanding music.

The infamous Warren Cucurullo is introduced in this show as well, as he comes up on stage to tell a pretty interesting story of becoming infatuated with a woman who he later finds out, is someone compromising manner, is a transvestite.

Frank pays homage to doo-wop with “Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder,” and delivers very nicely on the vocals. It’s really ironic in that Zappa did so many covers of doo-wop and R&B tunes that could be construed as satirical, as well as wrote many of his own, but the man had a deep love for this music. Check out the backing vocals on this, as they transition the song into “Little Rubber Girl,” which again is used as a transition into the “Idiot Bastard Son,” which is actually a waltz.

L. Shankar returns for more violin playing on “Conehead,” who, as Zappa says at his re-introduction, “give(s) them the works.” The band provides a really cool groove in the background for this as well. Good Zappa guitar solo too with some lovely feedback.

Disc 3 has a lot of treats on it, including “Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance” sans vocals (L. Shankar again on this, putting his interpretation of surf music on this), a decent performance of “Peaches En Regalia,” and “Strictly Genteel.” I really like “Sofa” on this, and “Magic Fingers” is decent as well. The standout, however, in this section of the show is “Packard Goose,” a song filled with time changes and one not often played, but which contains Zappa’s famous progression quote about “Music is the best!” This is followed by Shankar and Zappa trading riffs that rip the top of your head off. It’s probably the most impressive and synergistic part of the show.

Disc 4 begins with the “Yellow Snow Suite,” presented in its entirety as it was always performed. It was a serious blunder, in my opinion, that on “Halloween” only “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” was included.

As I mentioned earlier, the last part of this bootleg probably has the worst noise, which interferes significantly with one’s auditory pleasure while listening to “The Black Napkins” and “Deathless Horsie.” However, the recording was cleaned up and used on “Halloween.”

A note: There was no artwork with this boot, so I scanned some of the cover art from “Halloween” and used that.

I rate this 4.5 stars out of five despite the somewhat substandard audio. Add your own rating below.

Disc 1
1 Ancient Armaments
2 Intro
3 Dancin’ Fool
4 Easy Meat
5 Honey Don’t You Want A Man Like Me?
6 Keep It Greasy
7 The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing
8 City Of Tiny Lights
9 Pound For A Brown
10 Thirteen

Disc 2
11 Ms. X
12 Nancy’s Life Story
13 Dinah-Moe Humm
14 Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder
15 Little Rubber Girl
16 Idiot Bastard Son
17 Bobby Brown
18 Conehead
19 Suicide Chump
20 Little House I Used To Live In
21 Watermelon In Easter Hay

Disc 3
22 Preamble
23 Stink Foot
24 Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance
25 Peaches En Regalia
26 Strictly Genteel
27 Sofa
28 Packard Goose
29 Magic Fingers

Disc 4
30 Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow
31 Nanook Rubs It
32 St. Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast
33 Father O’Blivion
34 Rollo
35 Camarillo Brillo
36 Muffin Man
37 Black Napkins
38 The Deathless Horsie

Frank Zappa – guitar, vocals
Patrick O’Hearn – bass
Arthur Barrow – bass
Denny Walley – slide guitar, vocals
Vinnie Colaiuta – drums
Ed Mann – percussion
Tommy Mars – keyboards
Peter Wolf – keyboards

L. Shankar - electric violin
Warren Cucurullo - monologue
Nancy - monologue

With L. Shankar on tracks 10, 18, 20-21, 24, 28, and 38.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


With 20 live performances on Halloween, and with Zappa’s penchant for recording practically everything he did on and off stage, it’s really quite surprising to see the dearth of Halloween live recordings in the official catalog.

It wasn’t until 2003 that a posthumous release came out that ostensibly was a live recording of a Halloween show, the DVD audio disc dubiously titled “Halloween,” the title being suspect because even that release was not strictly a Halloween show. It contains material (allegedly the best in Dweezil’s opinion) from the 1978 shows at the Palladium, recorded from Oct. 27 through 31.

Perhaps the only true Halloween show pressed by the Zappa Family Trust into media fit for an electronic device is the DVD “The Torture Never Stops,” which represents the two 1981 Halloween shows at the Palladium. All that material from all those Halloween shows, and this is all that’s available. Thank god for bootlegs! Oh sure, there are a few cuts from Halloween shows on various releases of YCDTOSA (which I will address in future posts), but “Halloween” and “The Torture Never Stops” are pretty much it in the legitimate recording arena. And unfortunately, I do not have a copy of “The Torture Never Stops” to review. I do have a bootleg of the 1981 shows, a review of which will be showing up shortly.

And so it is I must begin by saying that “Halloween” is a major disappointment. I admit that’s difficult to say because there are some excellent guitar solos on this recording, and the song set list on this release is not that bad, although it is very predictable. No, what is really disappointing is how the album is set up by Zappa speaking to the crowd. He tells them that the show will first start off with material that everybody knows, but that he also promises material that is new and different.

Believe me, those Halloween shows had some great material that went way beyond what is normally associated as being Zappa’s more popular songs, particularly the 1978 show. After all, he warns the crowd that this one is going to be a long one. And yet, on the official release, we are only teased. Yes, and frustratingly so. I mean, how can you release a recording in which Zappa states clearly that something more is promised, and then not deliver on that?

Mark Prindle has at times been harsher with his comments about various Zappa recordings than I would be, but his review of “Halloween” awards it way too many stars – six out of 10 – particularly in light of what he actually says about the recording.

“Supposedly a big selling point of this record is that it features violinist L. (or Lakshminarayana, as his friends called him as a Nick Name) Shankar… Some of the songs just don’t ZING in these renditions though: ‘Camarillo Brillo’ is rushed through with no soul at all; ‘Easy Meat’ loses its way to boring axe wank; and as beautiful as ‘Black Napkins’ and ‘The Deathless Horsie’ are, you’d have to be a member of the Zappa Family Trust to enjoy seventeen minutes of him soloing over them.”

The track selection was allegedly made by Dweezil. As accomplished a guitar player that he is, the Dweez has been in the business for more than 20 years, and this is the song selection he comes up with? Come on, Dweez, what’s up with that?

According to the liners note with the official release: “When it came time to put together this disc, the issue of sequencing, pacing and continuity became the order of the day. In other words, Joe (Cicarelli) and Dweezil needed to come up with about 70 minutes that played like a show, with all the ebb and flow and peaks and valleys of a continuous performance.

“The only answer was to go back to the vault, find all the original material, listen to it and decide what should go on the finished program.”

Zappa played five nights for the Halloween season that year, and to make this release, all the material was available to them! It seems the entire process could have been made much simpler if the notion of “sequencing, pacing and continuity” had just been tossed out the window and the Palladium show from Halloween night on 1978 was released in its entirety. Instead, with “Halloween” we have a faux show.

It’s incredible how the liner notes really hype everything up, and there was a lot to hype. The 1978 band was pretty awesome. The lineup Zappa had for the Halloween shows in 1978 was stellar and powerful. And the set list for Halloween night that year was a grand slam! But instead of that, Dweezil settles for getting on base with a walk. And add to that it was released in a format that barely anyone has the equipment to appreciate.

All right, enough of why this recording is a disappointment. Let’s look at the material talk about how good it is.

This “show” starts of with “Ancient Armaments,” a totally kick-ass guitar solo piece that has outstanding percussion coming from the great Vinnie Colaiuta. It is also during this track that Zappa announces to the crowd that “This is the big one!” And then he goes on:

“Let me tell you what I’m gonna do tonight. Tonight, since this is the big one, we’re going to play a very long show… What we’re going to do for those of you who have been here before … we are going to play a whole collection of stuff that we don’t normally do. But before we do that, we’re going to play our normal show for those of you who haven’t seen any of the other shows.”

This big band then launches into “Dancin’ Fool.” The numerous musicians in this line up really give this tune a big sound and feel, as well as a deep texture in sound. Plus you can hear Frank having fun with the crowd.

While the first two tracks are from the show Halloween night, Frank’s banter with the girl he pulls up on stage is cut short by the recording switching to “Easy Meat,” which was recorded four nights earlier on Oct. 27. My god, Zappa rips your head off with his guitar solo, the sound just sears your scalp and electrifies your ears. And Vinnie’s drumming is right there, spot on.

The next song, “Magic Fingers” from “200 Motels” is a composite, taking tracks from two shows: Oct. 27 and Halloween. The band is truly tight on this, and Denny Walley’s vocals on this are decent. “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” is from Halloween night, but the major problem here is that this song is part of a suite that was always performed in its entirety, including Halloween night 1978. Here we only get the first song.

What follows is “Conehead” from “You Are What You Is.” It’s a fairly boring performance, only made marginally better by L. Shankar’s violin solo. However, Shankar had much better solos that night that were not included in this release.

Next, we get a drum solo by Vinnie Colaiuta called “Zeets.” While a great solo, I remain dubious about how it fits in following Shankar’s solo. This moves into “Stink Foot,” which was performed on Halloween and includes some interesting interaction with the audience. But the sweetest part is the solo. Many of Zappa’s solos are orchestrated numbers during which he plays precise parts, but in this one, I swear he gets lost and just soars. There are some pre-programmed parts; you can tell because Vinnie Colaiuta’s drumming is so tight, he has to know what’s coming. But there are other parts when Zappa shifts time signature and Colaiuta is still there, but you can tell he’s anticipating. Not catching up mind you; Zappa would never tolerate a drummer who had to catch up.

Although “Dinah-Moe Humm” was also played on Halloween, the version on this release is from Oct. 27. There’s some interesting audience participation during this, but overall, this song is nothing all that special.

The traditional combination of “Camarillo Brillo” and “Muffin Man” come next, which are both from Oct. 27. Frank’s guitar solo on “Muffin Man” is, well, all I can think of are hackneyed expressions filled with superlatives. However, I agree with the liner notes: it’s too short.

“Black Napkins (The Deathless Horsie)” is from Halloween night, and is nearly 17 minutes of some incredible guitar work. Not only does Frank deliver on this very recognizable theme, but he delves into other musical themes and progressions, seemingly spontaneously, because at times the band – except for Vinnie – just stops playing. Frank goes off into his own little guitar world, just like Joe from “Joe’s Garage,” playing those guitar riffs that must have filled his head while Frank was in Tank C after that bogus pornography charge he spent time in jail for. L. Shankar comes in for support, but that’s about it. Shankar’s truly stellar playing is omitted from this recording.

The Audio-DVD also includes a radio interview with WPIX on Oct. 30, 1978 in which Frank reveals that some police danced on the stage during one of his shows because they were “moved to dance by the majesty of the music, are you kidding?” He also reveals that he likes Devo, Blondie and The Stranglers. Cool. I love Devo and Blondie, but I’ll have to check up on The Stranglers. He also mentions an album in the works called “Martian Loves Secrets.” Huh?

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

Released Feb. 4, 2003, on the Vaulternative label.

Audio content
“NYC Audience” – 1:17
“Ancient Armaments” – 8:23
“Dancin’ Fool” – 4:35
“Easy Meat” – 6:03
“Magic Fingers” – 2:33
“Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” – 2:24
“Conehead” – 4:02
“Zeets” (Vinnie Colaiuta) – 2:58
“Stink-Foot” – 8:51
“Dinah-Moe Humm” – 5:27
“Camarillo Brillo” – 3:14
“Muffin Man” – 3:32
“Black Napkins (The Deathless Horsie)” – 16:56

Track 5, “Magic Fingers”, is edited together from versions from the Halloween show on October 31, 1978 and from the two shows which took place on October 27. The other tracks were taken from the following shows:

October 27, first show — tracks 10–12
October 27, second show — track 4
October 28, first show — track 7
October 31 — tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 9 and 13

Additional content
“Suicide Chump” – 9:31
Video in Black and White, recorded at Capitol Theatre, Passaic, New Jersey October 13, 1978
“Dancin’ Fool” – 3:48
Color video taken from Zappa’s appearance on Saturday Night Live, in New York City October 21, 1978
Radio interview – 9:41
Audio only; conducted at WPIX with Mark Simone, October 30, 1978

Frank Zappa – lead guitar, vocals
Vinnie Colaiuta – drums
Arthur Barrow – bass guitar
Patrick O’Hearn – bass guitar
Tommy Mars – keyboards
Denny Walley – guitar, vocals
Peter Wolf – keyboards
Ed Mann – percussion
L. Shankar – violin

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween 1976 Felt Forum Late Show

The late show at the Felt Forum in New York City on Halloween, 1976, was a decent concert. When Frank teases the crowd after the “Purple Lagoon Intro,” which includes Terry Bozzio’s outstanding drumming, with the promise, “I just hope we can make this program everything you hoped for tonight,” you know this is going to be a good show.

But this particular bootleg, an audience recording, really sucks. You can barely hear the concert’s greatness through the crowd chatter, and the guy that keeps yelling “Frank Zappa sucks donkey balls!” is really super annoying. There is also the small matter that I don’t have any art work to go with this. Hence the lame images.

The opener “Stink Foot,” from “Apostrophe(‘)” is a song that Frank tells the crowd he opened the early show with. This is significant because when Zappa played back-to-back shows on a single night, the song sets were never identical and seldom included any of the same individual songs. The guitar solo on this, although muffled in the bootleg, comes forward enough for you to hear Zappa inject a bit of blues into the tune. And then you hear him interrupt the song, apparently to re-tune his guitar, after which he goes through a series of ripping arpeggios to ensure his axe is truly in tune. After that, I believe he slips back into the solo he initially intended on playing. Bozzio does an outstanding job of staying in time with this unpredicted interruption.

The “Poodle Lecture” is a routine that Frank included in a lot of shows during that era, but here it’s not that enjoyable because instead of just hearing the crowd’s general response to Zappa’s narration, you get to hear individual voices, like that annoying guy who was yelling “Frank Zappa sucks donkey balls!”

Bianca Thornton belts out the vocals to “Dirty Love” from “Over-nite Sensation,” but you can barely hear her. What you do hear, however, is enough to make you wish you were there to hear it. We do get to hear another great solo from Frank. However, it appears that he was having some trouble that night keeping his guitar in tune. He abandons his efforts to move into “Pound For A Brown,” a tune from “Uncle Meat,” which turns out to be the band’s first live performance of the tune. A few more attempts at tuning his guitar and then the song begins.

You can hear Frank starts things with a “One-two-three-four,” but this song is way beyond and normal 4/4 time signature. There’s so much going on with this song with Patrick O’Hearn’s bass playing and Terry Bozzi’s precision drumming. All that frenetic activity initially sounds somewhat out of line with Zappa’s playing, but as the song progresses, the synchronicity of the players activity becomes apparent. Things finish with an excellent drum solo from Bozzio, so impressive you can hear the comments and awe from the audience.

Not sure, but when the band slows things down during “Wind Up Workin’ in a Gas Station,” a song from “Zoot Allures,” it sounds like they are either taking a shot at Grand Funk or maybe Kansas. Probably the latter, as about that time Kansas was fairly popular.

Bozzio gets to work his vocal cords in “Tryin’ to Grow a Chin” from “Sheik Yer Bouti,” but the substandard recording of the bootleg is such you really can’t hear much beyond the bass and rhythm guitar lines.

Normally, live performances of “The Torture Never Stops” include famously intense guitar solos out of Frank. Halloween 1976 was a bit of an exception to this. In addition to the performance being marred by the chatter of some guy who is close to the person recording the show, Frank is still having trouble with his guitar. He goes through a solo, but you can tell he seems to be preoccupied with his guitar. And then later in the solo, someone yells, “What is this shit?” To which Zappa replies that he’s tuning his guitar, followed with a “Why don’t you go fuck yourself?”

Ray White and Zappa trade solos during “City of Tiny Lights,” a song constructed to accommodate a lengthy guitar solo. However, the solo isn’t as imaginative as what one might expect out of Frank, leading me to think that he was holding back a lot during this show because of whatever problems he was having with his instrument.

Bianca Thornton’s voice comes through much more clearly during the last song on Disc 1, “You Didn’t Try to Call Me,” a song that goes all the way back to “Freak Out!” She’s gives it a really full, bluesy and spiritual feel. Yet, the band sort of disintegrates into a bunch of dinking around. To me, another solo was probably intended to go along with this song, which would have been bitchin’ to go along with Thornton’s singing, but given what happened early in the show, I think Frank basically punted.

Disc 2 continues with “Manx Needs a Woman,” a short piece that was on the “New York” release, which is followed by “Titties ‘n Beer,” featuring Terry Bozzio as the Devil. Eddie Jobson has some trouble keeping the beat on his keyboards while Bozzio is busy in his role as the Devil, but the routine apparently works the crowd into an enthusiastic frenzy. You get a better sense of Bianca Thornton’s voice toward the end of this, as she sounds very Stevie Nicks.

Zappa overcomes the previous issues with his guitar as he rips into “Black Napkins,” but two-and-a-half minutes into the song, the guitar playing abruptly stops to be replaced by some vocalizations by it sounds like both Zappa and Bianca Thornton. The crowd does not sound all that pleased, recognizing something wrong with the sound. Was Frank having another guitar issue? But the crowd slowly gets into the vocalizations despite the fact that the sequence lacks any cohesion. Someone eventually starts playing an electric violin, but there is no credit for this, and there doesn’t appear to be any reference of someone playing electric violin here as well. The style of playing sounds very much like Jean Luc Ponty. That’s my guess, supported in part by the fact someone in the crowd shouts his name. Some subdued guitar playing follows this, but Frank picks up the intensity a bit when we’re about 12 minutes into the song. If he did have guitar issues earlier in the show, by the end of this song he has surely overcome them: you hear Zappa losing himself in the song, his playing becoming effortless. I have to wonder, however, if it’s a different guitar, because it has a slightly different sound than the one he started with. You can’t tell because this is an audience recording, and the sound quality shifts frequently because of that alone.

Next come “Advance Romance,” a very heavy song that Zappa played a lot, but didn’t show up on any official “studio” recording. Rather, it appears on the live recordings “You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore” volumes 3 and 5, as well as on “Oz.” This concert’s version has a pretty kick-ass bass solo by O’Hearn, if you can make it out. Plus, Zappa’s guitar playing has definitely overcome whatever problems were encountered earlier in the show. Again, despite how shitty this bootleg recording is, the ability to hear solos like this make having these bootlegs rewarding. The solo in this song is why this recording gets two stars instead of one.

Zappa delves into a pretty sweet performance of “What Kind of Girl Do You Think We Are?” with Bianca Thornton, who sings a soulful accompaniment that also shoots back with a satirical tongue that keeps Frank in his place. While I still like the version from the “Fillmore East” concert recording, this one is good too.

Of course, after a song like that, it’s not surprising the group launches next into “Dinah-Moe Humm.” This is followed with “Camarillo Brillo,” which slows down toward the end as was typical of concerts from this era, because it was usually followed, as it is here, with “Muffin Man,” a song first released on “Bongo Fury.” In this case, John Smothers sings the song. Was this someone from the audience? This was not unusual for a Zappa show, as long as you were well-behaved, but as it turned out, Smothers was Zappa's long-time bodyguard. And Zappa delivers again with outstanding playing, albeit interrupted by a glitch in the download.

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

Content was edited and a correction made on Oct. 25, 2009, correcting the name John Scuthers to John Smothers.

Disc 1:
Crowd Noise
1 Purple Lagoon Intro
2 Stink Foot
3 Poodle Lecture
4 Dirty Love
5 Pound For A Brown
6 Wind Up Workin’ In A Gas Station
7 Tryin’ To Grow A Chin
8 The Torture Never Stops
9 City Of Tiny Lights
10 You Didn’t Try To Call Me

Disc 2:
11 Manx Needs Women
12 Titties ‘n Beer
13 Black Napkins
14 Advance Romance
15 What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are?
16 Dinah-Moe Humm
17 Camarillo Brillo
18 Muffin Man

Frank Zappa-vocals, guitar
Ray White-vocals, guitar
Patrick O’Hearn-vocals, bass
Terry Bozzio-drums
Eddie Jobson-keyboards
Bianca Thornton-vocals

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Trick or Treat, London 1968

Despite this bootleg’s title (it was also released by Rhino in 1991) and the overtly Halloweenish cover art, this is not a true Halloween performance, as the live tracks are from the Oct. 25, 1968, show at the Royal Festival Hall in London. And the first half of this boot includes studio tracks that were all officially released, except for Track 3, “Lonely Little Girl.”

According to the notes that come with this:

“From Biffy the Elephant Shrew:

“No, the Trick or Treat cut is not really the single version, except for the last line (where you'll note that it does switch to mono). The single consists of the first verse of ‘Lonely Little Girl’, in mono, with a different ending (like on the Trick or Treat boot), followed by the celesta tinkle and cough. This cuts to ‘Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance’ in its entirety (indeed, the single is more about ‘Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance’ than it is ‘Lonely Little Girl’), make a musique concrete noise here, and finally a sax-led shuffle riff that repeats and fades. This sax passage appears nowhere else in the Zappa oeuvre. [This sax riff is also at the end of side one of the Trick or Treat boot - JWB.]

“This riff is known in the trade as the ‘Bunk Gardner riff’. From Johan Lif:

“During the fade-out of the rare single version of ‘Lonely Little Girl’, there is a repeated brass riff, believed to have been added by Bunk Gardner during the ‘Big Leg Emma’ sessions after Zappa had left the studio [see Chevalier, pp. 224-5]. This riff has now been identified as a copy of the opening bass riff from ‘What’s So Good About Goodbye’ with Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.”

I dunno. (Read the comments to this post. Someone fesses up!)

Things kick off with a hard-driving “Why Don’tcha Do Me Right?” Nice guitar solo, although brief, in this song that reveals the strong blues roots that have influenced Zappa’s playing. In fact, Zappa admits in his autobiography that in learning to play the guitar, all he learned were blues riffs. From that comes his distinct style of playing.

Although released with a re-release of “Absolutely Free,” I had always preferred the version of “Big Leg Emma” released with “Zappa in New York.”

“Lonely Little Girl” comes from “We’re Only In It For The Money,” launched with Eric Clapton announcing “I see God, I see God,” finished with some snorks before heading into “Dog Breath,” which appears on “Uncle Meat.” However, this version is primarily instrumental, heavy on Ian Underwood’s saxophone.

Next up is “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama,” which first appeared on “Weasels Ripped My Flesh.” However, this stripped down version is very cool. I like the “Weasels” cut, but this one is so spare that it’s delicious.

The next cut is taken from the “Fillmore East” album with Flo & Eddie singing “Tears Begin to Fall.” This is followed by the “Junier Mintz Boogie.” This appears to be a live recording, probably circa the Flo & Eddie tours, with Frank jamming away on his guitar. It is sizzling. This solo is a precious moment captured in time, the reason why I like bootlegs. Christ almighty, Frank is killing that guitar, it is so divine.

The London live stuff comes next, with a performance of “Uncle Meat” unlike anything you’ve probably heard, unless you’ve been lucky enough to see Zappa play live during this era. He brings the song down to “one note at a time,” giving the song a completely different interpretation from the official release. This is a character trait of Zappa’s, that even when he plays consecutive shows that include the same songs, they will not be performed the same way in each show. So when we come to the live performance of “Son of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask,” it’s similar enough to the performance on “Weasels,” but is different in its own right.

No Zappa performance would be complete without a doo-wop number, and “In the Sky” delivers on this genre. The sides closes with an instrumental medley. Zappa pulls off several nice solos when the band switches into “The Orange County Lumber Truck,” then blends into one of my all time favorite Zappa numbers, “King Kong.” This is rock-n-roll. It’s avant-garde too. Aw, what the hell, it’s freaking great!

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


1. Why Don’tcha Do Me Right? [listed as “Why Don't You Do Me Right”]
2. Big Leg Emma
3. Lonely Little Girl
4. Dog Breath
5. My Guitar [Wants to Kill Your Mama]
6. Tears Began to Fall
7. Junier Mintz Boogie


8. Uncle Meat (One Not[e] at a Time)
9. Son of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask
10. Oh, in the Sky [listed as “In the Sky”]
11. The Big Medley [“Let's Make the Water Turn Black / Harry, You're a Beast / Oh No / The Orange County Lumber Truck / King Kong” - largely officially released on Ahead of Their Time]