Sunday, December 13, 2009

You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 1

With all that recording going on during the 1981 Halloween shows at the Palladium, some of that material was bound to be released by Zappa. What was a bit strange, perhaps, was how long it took for the material to be published, and the form it took.

In 1984, portions of the concert appeared on the video “The Dub Room Special,” but even that release included just five songs from the shows, with only three of them in sequence. The video with the most material from the 1981 shows was “The Torture Never Stops,” but that wasn’t released until 2008. Despite that, “TTNS” is the most complete package released, coming the closest to a true live release of the shows.

More material from the shows was eventually released while Zappa was still alive through the “You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore” series, beginning with Vol. 1, which was released in 1988. Three songs from the 1981 early show appear in sequence on this release: “Dumb All Over,” “Heavenly Bank Account,” and “Suicide Chump,” all of which are from “You Are What You Is.”

The YCDTOSA series is a six-volume collection, plus one sampler. Most of the subsequent volumes have a theme, although sometimes a loose one, around which the song selection is focused. But Vol. 1 appears to have no theme at all, taking material from a wide variety of sources performed by many variations of Zappa’s touring ensemble. There’s material from 1969 all the way to 1984, including a complete performance of the “Yellow Snow Suite” from a London show that includes some of Zappa’s famous audience participation.

Some of the more interesting items on this double CD are tracks 2 and 3 on Disc One. These consecutive takes were recorded Dec. 10, 1971, at the Rainbow Theater in London, just a week after the band lost its equipment at the Casino de Montreux in Geneva, Switzerland, in a fire immortalized by Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” The song “Once Upon a Time” acts as an introduction into “Sofa No. 1” with Mark Volman setting things up with allusions to both the upcoming song as well as to material the band had been playing in previous concerts, in particular the song “Eddie Are You Kidding Me,” which was released on “Just Another Band from L.A.” Of course, the song “Sofa No. 1,” as well as its companion “No. 2,” weren’t released until 1975 with “One Size Fits All.”

Another interesting song is the guitar solo “The Mammy Anthem,” which pulls heavily from themes developed and later released as the instrumental “Zoot Allures,” from the album of the same title. However, this particular item later appeared as “The Mammy Nuns” on “Thing-Fish,” with vocals by Ike Willis and Ray White.

There are two songs set to the musical signature of “Louie Louie,” about which Zappa comments on the second of these two songs, “Plastic People,” which was originally released on “Absolutely Free.” While introducing “Plastic People” in 1969 to the folks at The Factory in the Bronx, Zappa tells the crowd, “Now, if you’ll analyze what we’re playing here, if you use your ear and listen, you can learn something about music, y’see? ‘Louie Louie’ is the same as the other song with one extra note, see? . . . They’re, they’re very closely related and they mean just about the same thing.”

The song “Ruthie Ruthie” is also based on the “Louie Louie” melody, this time the lyrics themed around an homage to Ruth Underwood, who performs on this song and the next, “Babbette.”

The performance of “I’m the Slime” (from “Over-Nite Sensation”) on this release was taken from a couple 1973 gigs at The Roxy in Los Angeles. It includes a very tasty and heavily fuzzed guitar solo. This transitions right into “Big Swifty,” also recorded at The Roxy, a sweeping orchestration that debuted a year and a half earlier on “Waka Jawaka.” There’s a really fine keyboard solo by George Duke here. Gotta love Ruth Underwood’s playing during this as well, she was brilliant. But the really delectable treat during this performance is Zappa’s solo. It pulls the band away from the original musical theme into a much funkier and more rock-n-roll timbre that is beautifully executed rhythmically by the dual drumming of Chester Thompson and Ralph Humphrey. It all smoothly returns to the “Big Swifty” theme, played by Zappa on his guitar.

Disc One closes out with a complete “Yellow Snow” suite that also includes “Rollo.” Of course, there is Zappa’s famous audience participation throughout this with apparently deranged audience members reading bizarre poetry, etc.

Unsurprisingly, on Disc Two, there is a performance of “The Torture Never Stops.” I say unsurprising because this composition shows up on a lot of Zappa recordings, both official and bootlegs. This performance is credited to being from an “unknown venue,” likely during the band’s European tour during the winter of 1978. It doesn’t sound like any of the performances from that tour that I have, so I remain stumped.

“Torture” is followed by “Fine Girl” and “Zomby Woof,” both recorded at the infamous concert in Milan, Italy, on July 7, 1982, when the band was nearly eaten alive by swarms of mosquitoes, an incident immortalized on the cover of “The Man From Utopia.” Despite that annoyance, the band’s performance of “Zomby Woof” is chilling. Steve Vai’s “stunt guitar” is crisp and fantastic, and Zappa’s guitar solo is the best I’ve heard for this song ever – even better than the studio solo.

“The Deathless Horsie” comes next from a 1984 performance at The Pier in New York City. Although a frequent number in the sets lists for live performances, it was first officially released on the “Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar” series in 1981, and then again later on “Halloween” in 2003.

I rate this 4.5 stars out of five. Add your own rating below.

Released May 16, 1988, Rykodisc.

Track listing

Disc One

1. The Florida Airport Tape (1:04)
2. Once Upon A Time (4:38)
3. Sofa # 1 (2:53)
4. The Mammy Anthem (5:41)
5. You Didn’t Try To Call Me (3:39)
6. Diseases Of The Band (2:22)
7. Tryin’ To Grow A Chin (3:44)
8. Let’s Make The Water Turn Black (3:28)
9. The Groupie Routine (5:41)
10. Ruthie-Ruthie (2:57)
11. Babbette (3:36)
12. I’m The Slime (3:13)
13. Big Swifty (8:47)
14. Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow (20:16)

Disc Two

1. Plastic People (4:38)
2. The Torture Never Stops (15:48)
3. Fine Girl (2:55)
4. Zomby Woof (5:39)
5. Sweet Leilani (2:39)
6. Oh No (4:34)
7. Be In My Video (3:30)
8. The Deathless Horsie (5:29)
9. The Dangerous Kitchen (1:50)
10. Dumb All Over (4:20)
11. Heavenly Bank Account (4:06)
12. Suicide Chump (4:56)
13. Tell Me You Love Me (2:09)
14. Sofa # 2 (3:01)


Brady Bonk said...

Merry Zappadan!

Dan said...

By far the most infuriating aspect of the Torture Never Stops DVD is the omission of Sinister Footwear. It's one of Franks best compositions and yet, after the ZFT repeatedly removing it from YouTube it's nowhere to be found.

I've asked Dweezil on web forums and even at shows and he treats me like a piece of shit.