“Zappa The Hard Way” Reviewed

Quick! Name one artist that deserves a book about his last tour – a tour that ended prematurely? Andrew Greenaway, aka The Idiot, did just that with “Zappa The Hard Way”, a book focused solely on FZ’s ill-fated 1988 tour.

I pre-ordered the book almost instantly, naturally because I’m quite fond of the lusciously arranged live music this tour offers, but also in hopes of finding out more as to why it had to end the way it did: was it all Scott Thunes’ doing? Really?

Andrew’s book delivers fascinating insights on both counts. It takes us on a rollercoaster ride, starting with the 1987 rehearsals, through the American leg of the tour and onward to Europe where, as they say, things got really ugly. We get first-hand accounts of key concerts from the likes of Dr Dot, Ian Stonehouse, Al Stone (first ever to post a comment on KUR!), Morgan Ågren, and Andrew himself – replete with musical details, secret words, morphing playlists and tunes, never-before published photos, and more.

Throughout, the book features fly-on-the-wall accounts by many of the musicians involved such as Ike Willis, Mike Keneally, Ed Mann, and most notably bassist and Clonemeister, Scott Thunes.

Over the years, the general perception has been that it was Thunes’ impossibly rude character and bullying tactics which made the other bandmembers turn against him. Even though to an extent, the book paints a similar picture, it is fascinating to finally read what Thunes himself has to say of the whole affair. As with most things, there are a bit more shades of grey to add to the black and white.

In closing, the book has a detailed look at the subsequent (official) releases that sprang from the tour, follows up on what the bandmembers have been up to since then, and on top of that there’s an exhaustive list of dates and set-lists, as well as a brief explanation of some of the more mystifying references in the lyrics — all of which makes for a work of reference well worth having.

In short: I’ve enjoyed this book immensely. Because of the subject matter obviously, but also because of Andrew’s contagious enthusiasm and dry wit, from first page to last.

If all this has whetted your appetite, the book is now available to purchase from Wymer Publishing. For further information you may also want to read this interview I made with “The Author” back in July.

On a final note, Andrew Greenaway will be hosting a book promo next Saturday November 6 at The Barfly Club (49 Chalk Farm Road, London, UK), conveniently concurrent with the Zappa at The Roundhouse event.

There will be a ‘Broadway The Hard Way tour’ quiz, with the winner receiving a signed copy of the book. In keeping with the ’88 tour events where the band had a raffle in Spain, they will be doing the same. However unlike their raffle there will be no prostitutes to win, just copies of the book, signed by Andrew and ’88 band member Mike Keneally. For more info, check this page on Facebook.

26 Responses to ““Zappa The Hard Way” Reviewed”

  1. urbangraffito says:

    A beautiful looking book, Barry, and a must have reference for any Zappa fan and fan of the 88 tour!

  2. Rob says:

    Any word on when the paperback will be available?

  3. Dark Clothes says:

    Good review, Barry, but why not spoil us a little and give some titbits of the famous ugliness?

  4. Barry's Imaginary Publisher says:

    A quote from Dark Clothes:

    Good review, Barry, but why not spoil us a little and give some titbits of the famous ugliness?

    There are clues and tidbits sprinkled throughout the book – there’s no one single chapter entitled “And Now For Scott Thunes’ Definitive View Of Things”. Simply posting a couple of pullquotes here would do wrong to the book, as it attempts to bring all sides to the fore.

    A quote from Rob:

    Any word on when the paperback will be available?

    Andrew will have to answer that… Paging Andrew?

  5. Andrew says:

    I’d hoped Wymer would have it out in paperback by the end of the year, but that’s not happening now. All I can say is “2011″…all being well. Sorry, it’s out of my hands.

    Thanks for the excellent words, Barry. Record Collector has also just reviewed it.

  6. Magic Fingers says:

    A Must Have book, absolutely no doubt. As a matter of interest Barry, Andrew, anybody, is there any mention of anything occurring during the show in Bilbao? It’s a show that rarely gets mentioned as I don’t think we have a tape from it (just a few minutes on video only) and I am led to believe, on good authority, that it could have turned ugly.

  7. ABOOK says:

    I liked the book reading it was a lot a fun, there is lots of information.
    i think andrew greenaway done a nice job with the photos and the pack.
    Sure a must read for the the zappa fan ! On top reading the book it teleported me to all the neverseen places the band and frank where.
    after a while i didnt care anymore who was the bag guy. I love franks support for Tunes ……………………..there is a lot of kindness in zappa.

  8. Al Stone says:

    And just to show I’m still paying attention . . .
    I have to add my enthusiatic recommendation of Andrew’s book. It’s a mark of respect to his standing amongst the alumni that so many of them talked to him about the tour, allowing views on what went on and what went wrong to emerge from a variety of positions within the band. FZ’s view is also convincingly represented thanks to Andrew’s meticulous research of the available sources. It’s a great read which kept me turning pages late into the night, and best of all it inspired me to revisit the tour recordings and (re)discover some gems I’d forgotten or overlooked.

  9. Barry's Imaginary Publisher says:

    A quote from Al Stone:

    And just to show I’m still paying attention . . .

    Good to see you’re still around these parts Al!

  10. Barry's Imaginary Publisher says:

    A quote from Magic Fingers:

    As a matter of interest Barry, Andrew, anybody, is there any mention of anything occurring during the show in Bilbao? It’s a show that rarely gets mentioned as I don’t think we have a tape from it (just a few minutes on video only) and I am led to believe, on good authority, that it could have turned ugly.

    I shall have a look in the evening and will let you know, good Sir.

  11. Andrew says:

    A quote from Magic Fingers:

    A Must Have book, absolutely no doubt. As a matter of interest Barry, Andrew, anybody, is there any mention of anything occurring during the show in Bilbao? It’s a show that rarely gets mentioned as I don’t think we have a tape from it (just a few minutes on video only) and I am led to believe, on good authority, that it could have turned ugly.

    Only Keneally’s comment that “band morale was extremely low” at this point. Since publication, I’ve discovered other ‘newsworthy’ incidents that happened along the way, so maybe a redux version in a few years…?

  12. Andrew says:

    …oh, and by the way, thanks to all for the positive comments: this really was a labour of love – a book by a fan for the fans.

  13. Dave McMann says:

    I believe you can win a copy of this book, this Saturday if you DO NOT go to the Barfly in Chalk Farm Road, practically opposite the Roundhouse and certainly NOT between 12-2PM.

    Trust me!

    Right, that’s me winning the quiz then as the only constestant:-)

  14. Balint says:

    Andrew – huge thanks for this work – though (of course) I haven’t read it yet, but surely will. After all these comments, seems to be really interesting. Hm, I’ll have to wait for the paperbeck edition, unfortunately…

  15. Magic Fingers says:

    Thanks Andrew…should a redux happen I shall pass on the tale of the “Curious Incident of the Basque Flag”, as it has become known….. well, to me, anyway. ;o)

  16. Andrew says:

    Magiv

    A quote from Magic Fingers:

    Thanks Andrew…should a redux happen I shall pass on the tale of the “Curious Incident of the Basque Flag”, as it has become known….. well, to me, anyway. ;o)

    Wanna pass it on to me anyway? I’ll keep it filed away with the ‘Philadelphia story’…

  17. Al Fresco says:

    A quote from Magic Fingers:

    Thanks Andrew…should a redux happen I shall pass on the tale of the “Curious Incident of the Basque Flag”, as it has become known….. well, to me, anyway. ;o)

    Hi Magic Fingers,

    Could you say what incident was that?
    AFIK Zappa dressed with Atletic de Bilbao flag football team…like many other bands.
    Thank you.

    BTW: Nice book, Andrew.

  18. Magic Fingers says:

    A good few years back I was sent a ring-bound copy of the ’88 Tour Itinerary given to all the crew members before the European leg of the tour. The guy who sent it to me attached a letter which included this brief anecdote from the Bilbao show:

    “I was on this tour only as a driver/lighting man and I remember that at Bilbao Zap was on stage and some guy tried to hand him a Basque flag (a pretty emotional thing at the time!) and Zap picked it up and chucked it off the stage!! That caused a riot and the police produced machine guns etc. We all hid up. He was always somewhat political..”

    Indeed.

    Anyway, I have no reason whatsoever to doubt this guy, but I’d love to find someone who can corroborate the story (and what exactly constitutes a riot?), because it would certainly appear that something unexpected happened that night.

    Btw, if anyone ever comes to the conclusion that they cannot live without such crucial information as where the band stayed each night, where Frank stayed (Frank and the band shared the same hotel only once, in Stockholm, during the whole European leg. Bet you didn’t know that.), distance to venue, flight details around Europe etc etc etc, I’m yer man! Lol!

  19. jonnybutter2 says:

    A quote from jonnybutter2:

    Zap was on stage and some guy tried to hand him a Basque flag (a pretty emotional thing at the time!) and Zap picked it up and chucked it off the stage!! That caused a riot and the police produced machine guns etc.

    Yeah, I was in Barcelona not too long ago, and made the grievous and careless error of indirectly referring to where we were as ‘Spain’. If looks could kill, I’d be dead. At least Catalans don’t generally kill people over it.

  20. Al Fresco says:

    A quote from Magic Fingers:

    A good few years back I was sent a ring-bound copy of the ’88 Tour Itinerary given to all the crew members before the European leg of the tour. The guy who sent it to me attached a letter which included this brief anecdote from the Bilbao show:

    “I was on this tour only as a driver/lighting man and I remember that at Bilbao Zap was on stage and some guy tried to hand him a Basque flag (a pretty emotional thing at the time!) and Zap picked it up and chucked it off the stage!! That caused a riot and the police produced machine guns etc. We all hid up. He was always somewhat political..”

    Indeed.

    Anyway, I have no reason whatsoever to doubt this guy, but I’d love to find someone who can corroborate the story (and what exactly constitutes a riot?), because it would certainly appear that something unexpected happened that night.
    l!

    Well, I know someone who was there and never told me something similiar a riot ?.
    Never read something related in any newspaper or mag about that supposed incident.
    Also you may see here the Atletic de Bilbao flag I mentioned: http://www.afka.net/Mags/El_Tubo.htm

  21. Al Fresco says:

    Of course I´ll ask him if he remembers something

  22. Magic Fingers says:

    Please do Al, I’d be interested, ‘though as I say, there’s absolutely no reason for the story to be made up. When he sent me the Itinerary he simply said, “Here it is. As things go, it isn’t much – but it is HISTORY!” (his caps). And then he told me his Bilbao story. Why on earth would he make it up?

  23. Al Fresco says:

    Hi,

    I received reply from LR who was at Bilbao ´88 show & he confirms that there wasn´t any incident at the show. This is his story and translation:

    “That’s not true. They ( audience) thrown on stage a lot. Underwear and a flag of Athletic Club. You can see the pictures of El Tubo
    and how Zappa almost wrapped himself up with it.

    If what you say happened in the backestage or the end of the concert and off venue, do not know.

    The concert was quite a crowd. We were at 4 or 5 feet from the stage in front of Ike Willis. We did not feel overwhelmed by the rest of the public. And the feeling was that at that point you could hear better. We could put us on the railing in front of the stage without problems. If there had been incidents would have had 10 years ago when we talked about the concert in Bilbao in the old list. I had to clarify where the concert was. Because the data was wrong. And this figure is also wrong.

    The only two concerts in the Municipal Sports Pavilion La Casilla in which there have been problems in 79 were at a concert Stranglers, Eddie and the Hot Rods and other punk bands (there was a fight in the Backstage which led to the suspension of the performance of the last group called Crater). In this, I was in the front row. And, years later, when he came Motorhead. The crowd broke the doors, the concert was suspended (due to the Heavy-punks fighting) and closed the concert hall for years. This I did not go.

    I just called the guitarist who has played with me a lifetime. At the concert we were in different places, and he has confirmed that nothing happened.

    Hope that helps. Pity we did not take a tape that day to have the recording of that memorable event.”

    Cheers.

  24. Danny says:

    Is the book shipping yet? I got a notice yesterday of a registered package from the UK, but I can’t pick it up today — Veterans’ Day, ya know….
    I’ve got other stuff ordered as well, so who knows what it could be.

  25. Danny says:

    got it. :D
    Reading it…

  26. Magic Fingers says:

    Thanks Al. Information much appreciated.

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