Anatomy of a Field Recording

One of the most interesting things about acquiring Frank Zappa field recordings is that after a certain point of collecting and listening to them, one reaches a point of critical mass where particular questions keep popping into one’s mind again and again. How would an earlier version of a song sound with a particular drummer? Violinist? Percussionist? Or from an ensemble from a completely different era? I mean, after a point, the sheer number of individual versions of songs becomes quite incredible.

Take Zappa‘s almost annual run of shows at the Palladium in New York City during the mid to late 1970s, for example, to answer any number of these questions. From year to year, not only did musicians change, yet during these shows many Zappa songs would first premier, while other, lesser known pieces would be performed alongside future fan favorites.

Take these six tracks that I have excerpted from the October 29th, 1978, Palladium show, for instance. “Watermelon In Easter Hay” opens up this concert, yet after it’s official release on Joe’s Garage it almost always ends every show. This evening’s particular version of “Watermelon” has an immediate energy as opposed to future versions which are more melancholy. Of particular interest is the interaction between Ed Mann on percussion and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums on “Black Page #2” and “Twenty-One“, as well as Vinnie’s workout on an earlier version of “Zeets“. Versions of the “Black Page #2” performed by Chad Wackerman and Terry Bozzio also pop to mind. The last two tracks, “Yo Mama” and “Packard Goose” show Zappa and band in top form. All these tracks, in my opinion, would be at home on the YCDTOSA series. Perhaps two more discs of tracks added from Zappa’s Palladium run of shows. Why not? That’s still a mystery to me, quite frankly.

For your critical enjoyment:

Watermelon In Easter HayPalladium, October 29th, 1978

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Black Page #2Palladium, October 29th, 1978

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Twenty-OnePalladium, October 29th, 1978

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

ZeetsPalladium, October 29th, 1978

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Yo MamaPalladium, October 29th, 1978

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Packard GoosePalladium, October 29th, 1978

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

11 Responses to “Anatomy of a Field Recording”

  1. Thinman says:

    The butchered “Halloween” DVD-audio: another chance for a musically valuable release missed.

    Th.

  2. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Thinman:

    The butchered “Halloween” DVD-audio: another chance for a musically valuable release missed.

    Th.

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Thinman. How can such incredibly fantastic tracks be overlooked? It really makes one wonder if the “vault” is truly just a myth, or if FZ used up all his tapes in his various “xenochrony” cut ups. Knowing how forward thinking Zappa, the archivist, was though – I don’t believe he’d purposefully destroy source material without first making copies (or having them made for him).

    Or perhaps it’s just my Cosmik Wet Dream that one day these historically relevant concerts will be fully released in all their splendor?

  3. Paul Sempschi says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    Or perhaps it’s just my Cosmik Wet Dream that one day these historically relevant concerts will be fully released in all their splendor?

    I bet Ryko would have…

  4. Sterbus says:

    I always dreamed about listening to a 1988 version of Echidna’s arf/Don’t you ever wash that thing?

  5. Alex says:

    A quote from Alex:

    I bet Ryko would have…

    No shit. They’ve really dropped the ball except for the audio-documentaries and the complete concerts.

    Hmm…maybe releasing more Project/Objects and full concerts (yes, thank you, Philly ’76!) would be in the cards?

    As usual, guess that makes more sense. This would also mean El Dweeze would have to make an actual solo record again.

    Try the veal.

  6. jonnybutter says:

    Strange to hear Vinnie C. rush so much on ‘Black Page’. Maybe he or Frank were adjusting the tempo on the fly and we just can’t see it…

  7. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Sterbus:

    I always dreamed about listening to a 1988 version of Echidna’s arf/Don’t you ever wash that thing?

    I suppose the closest you’ll get to your dream, Sterbus, are the versions performed at 1) Backstage, Seattle, Washington, 18 Oct 1995 (Set Two), and 2) Fox Theatre, Boulder, CO, 21 Oct 1995 by Ban(ne)d From Utopia. They essentially have the same line-up as the 1988 band, except for FZ, that is (and Mike Keneally, too).

  8. Plooker says:

    A quote from Plooker:

    I suppose the closest you’ll get to your dream, Sterbus, are the versions performed at 1) Backstage, Seattle, Washington, 18 Oct 1995 (Set Two), and 2) Fox Theatre, Boulder, CO, 21 Oct 1995 by Ban(ne)d From Utopia. They essentially have the same line-up as the 1988 band, except for FZ, that is (and Mike Keneally, too).

    Is there a recording of flo and eddie doing “Billy the Mountain” in 88? I thought I read somewhere they rehearsed it with frank.

  9. Plooker says:

    I will never get that quote thing right.

  10. Barry's Imaginary Publisher says:

    A quote from Plooker:

    I will never get that quote thing right.

    Plooker: to do so, scroll up to the comment you wish to quote, locate the “Quote” link underneath the commenter’s name and click it. All the text from that comment is now pasted in the commenting textarea with proper quoting tags. Happy quoting!

  11. Plooker says:

    Thanks Barry!

Comments for this entry have been closed.