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]


Johan said...

Hello! That comment "from Johan Lif" (that's me) that's quoted in the liner notes is a joke. It's a bit of deliberateky false information a friend and I put on a website just for fun. There's nothing to suggest that Bunk Gardner added that riff on his own, nor is it a Smokey Robinsone quotation.

Richard Harrold said...

LOL, hey Johan, thanks for that clarification. I will add a note to my post that readers should check out your response. Thanks for leaving a comment!

Konrad Useo said...

Thanks for a good review.I've only recently heard this collection.
The packaging is an eye-grabber,eh?

Richard Harrold said...

@DJ Useo

Yes, that is some pretty wild packaging. Thanks for stopping by again!

siys said...

Although, the music is great, the cover alone is well worth having on its own! Thanks for a terrific share!!

Unknown said...

I have this LP trick or treat among loads of zappa it's on bizarre 1968 I can't find any information or value please help thanks.

Richard Harrold said...

Sorry, I don't have any information to help you out with that.

andy seniska said...

I liked a lot of this album. "Gas Mask" is a great alternate version, Estrada's voice shrieking and laughing maniacally must have taken the audience by surprise, some maybe shocked. The highlight for me is the version of "Oh No". Ever since it first showed up on Lumpy Gravy which is the best performance of this piece, it is one of my favorite Zappa tunes. I learned it in the mid 70's when I bought a book of the more well known Zappa pieces in notated form and transcribed for mostly guitar and piano. "Oh No" was tough to learn, it's more complex than it sounds, the time signature shifts from 4/4 to 3/4 every other measure. Layered chords, the use of fourths and fifths, which make Zappa's music unique.