Like him, hate him, despise him, abhor him – the one thing you cannot do with Ben Watson is ignore him. No matter what your position is when it comes to Frank Zappa – Ben Watson’s thought provoking, sometimes shocking, sometimes scurrilous perspectives are always bound to generate volatile responses among Zappa fans, especially hardcore Zappa fans (are there really any other kind? Ever heard of a casual Zappa fan?). (more…)
Archive for July, 2010
Barfies in my mailbox:
Since last month’s confirmation of the September 19th date for Baltimore City’s dedication of a bust of Frank Zappa, community support has been growing for a concert and festival in tribute to the legendary musician, composer and social icon, whose birthplace is Baltimore. The bust, donated by a Lithuanian fan club, will be placed at the Enoch Pratt Free Library Southeastern Anchor Branch in Highlandtown, and plans now include an outdoor concert featuring Zappa Plays Zappa (fronted by Frank’s son Dweezil), and various events at the library and nearby Patterson Theatre in support of the dedication ceremony.
The date itself is especially significant as September 19th is the anniversary of Zappa’s 1985 testimony on Capitol Hill in favor of free expression by Recording Artists at the Senate hearing instigated by certain congressional wives (members of the PMRC) concerning record labeling. Frank Zappa’s widow Gail commented on the remarkable coincidence, stating, “Frank’s legacy rests in his uncompromising defense of the First Amendment and his uncompromising pursuit of excellence clearly demonstrated in the standards he set in all areas of Music and the arts and sciences associated with it. He was self-taught and self-realized. It is hard to imagine how that is possible except for the 4 cornerstones he had going for him: a talent for music, a hard-core curiosity, a keen sense of humor and access to a library. He was a cheap date for History.”
Aside from five days of live Zappa music, the Zappanale festival will this year be hosting an exhibition reflecting 20 years of Zappanale. One part will consist of information specifically about “Zappa and the GDR“:
Did Mr Penman get it right back in 1995, when FZ’s back catalog was being re-issued by Ryko? Let’s have a look…
For the pop life of me, I cannot see why anyone past the age of 17 would want to listen to Frank Zappa again, never mind revere him as a deep and important artist, never mind worship at the tottering edifice of his recollected, remastered and repackaged works. Surely the only pertinent use for Zappa was as an interim stage for young lads ‹ scared witless by what they suddenly perceive as the transience or hollowness of popular culture ‹ for whom Zappa represents a gi-normous prefab sneer of self-importance behind which they can shelter for a while. (And, lest we forget: in the pre-Viz, pre-Mayall and Edmondson 1970s, he was the only legitimate supplier of fart and bum and willy jokes).
I beg, as they say, to differ.
What has gone down in history as probably two of the worst produced Frank Zappa concerts are the early and late Palladium shows from October 31st, 1981. Neither presented in their entirety then or since. MTV broadcast one live and a slightly shortened and modified rebroadcast of the late show (omitting Sinister Footwear). To add insult to injury, what could have been a distinctive live concert experience of Frank Zappa in the 1980s – on par with the 26th – 29th December 1976 Palladium shows which made Zappa In New York a quintessential example of 70s Zappa – were cut up and delivered piecemeal to Zappa’s fans, instead. The promise of the Big One – still unfulfilled almost thirty years later. Yes, like all fans of these shows, I have all the various recordings and DVDs, both unofficial and official, including most recently, The Torture Never Stops (which also has Sinister Footwear omitted). Until that day comes when these shows are released in their entirety, and given the treatment they deserve, I’ll have to enjoy these sporadic YouTube clips – “Sinister Footwear II“, “Black Napkins“, “Black Page #2” – and dream:
ZAPPATiKA! is a British-born Frank Zappa tribute band of international musicians who presently live near Amsterdam, Holland, that tour all over Europe playing their own original and very alternative music to live audiences, sometimes performing Frank Zappa tribute shows. Formed in the late 1990s by Keltik minstrel McINNES and bionic Indo-Dutch drummer BATTATUTTI – their intention was to perform Frank Zappa’s music and further develop and further modernize certain concepts and rhythmic and melodic principles contained in Zappa’s enormous catalogue of compositions as well as their own original compositions.
In this 1980 Austrian TV Documentary, interviews with Frank Zappa are interspersed with concert footage from New York’s Mudd Club on May 8th, 1980 (“Mudd Club” and “Chunga’s Revenge“) and Upper Darby Township’s Tower Theatre on May 10th, 1980 (“Beauty Knows No Pain“) as well as an interview (of sorts) with hardcore fans (including Al Malkin) backstage at the Mudd Club. Despite poor video quality and bad overdubbing – it is still a great artifact of Zappa‘s 1980 tour and New York’s infamous Mudd Club which opened in October of 1978, quickly became a fixture in downtown Manhattan’s underground music and counterculture scene, until its closure in 1982.
While compiling the prior four installments of this mix – I was intrigued by the sheer energy, vitality, and variation Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention brought to each of their show’s encores. Traditionally, Zappa‘s contemporaries might toss out an occasional song or two to satisfy their audience at the conclusion of a concert. In contrast, Zappa‘s encores would sometimes morph into mini-concerts onto themselves – the maestro and the band often returning for two, sometimes three encores. Something truly incredible to hear, especially when compounded one show after another, one tour after another, one incarnation of the band after another.
Listening to these encores – some a little over ten to twelve minutes in length, others almost a full hour – it’s obvious that Frank Zappa and the Mothers had a special connection with their audiences as well as to the music, itself.
A wonderful way to end the Immaculate Voodoo Butter Mix, n’est pas?
Click here to listen to the mixtape.
Sit back, get comfortable, slip those headphones-to-oblivion back on your head, and prepare yourself for a colossus of a final installment.
Note: for those who require a detail listing of individual tracks, go to KUR’s Frank Zappa Gig List and plug in the date and venue for each encore.
If anyone ever asks you what has come from Cincinnati, Ohio, lately tell them a Frank Zappa cover from the likes of The PsychoAcoustic Orchestra (formed in 1990 by composer Pat Kelly). Comprised of thirteen Cincinnati area musicians, the group blends aspects “of jazz, rock, Latin, funk, European “serious” music, and avant garde” into their music – Psycho- of the mind; Acoustic – of hearing. The PAO has released two CDs, Supreme Thing (1994) and Reactivation (1996).