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

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Black Page #2Palladium, October 29th, 1978

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Twenty-OnePalladium, October 29th, 1978

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ZeetsPalladium, October 29th, 1978

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Yo MamaPalladium, October 29th, 1978

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Packard GoosePalladium, October 29th, 1978

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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:

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