Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch

Released: May 1982


  1. No Not Now
  2. Valley Girl
  3. I Come From Nowhere
  4. Drowning Witch
  5. Envelopes
  6. Teen-age Prostitute

Frank Zappa (lead guitar, vocals), Steve Vai (impossible guitar parts), Ray White (rhythm guitar, vocals), Tommy Mars (keyboards), Bobby Martin (keyboards, sax, vocals), Ed Mann (percussion), Scott Thunes (bass), Arthur Barrow (bass), Patrick O’Hearn (bass), Chad Wackerman (drums), Roy Estrada (vocals), Ike Willis (vocals), Bob Harris (vocals), Lisa Popeil (vocal on “Teen-age Prostitute”), Moon Zappa (vocal on “Valley Girl”)

20 thoughts on “Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch”

  1. A short, yet funny and brilliant album from 1981, containing “Valley Girl,” one of Zappa’s best comedy songs, featuring his then-teenage daughter Moon Unit making fun of her Junior High class-mates “…Anyway, he goes are you into S and M? I go, oh RIGHT . . . Could you like just picture me in like a LEATHER TEDDY? Yeah right, HURT ME, HURT ME . . . I’m sure! NO WAY! He was like freaking me out . . . He called me a BEASTIE . . . That’s cuz like he was totally BLITZED … He goes like BAG YOUR FACE! I’m sure!” There is also NO NOT NOW (which doesen’t really work well on this album. On THING-FISH, added to the story of Harry-As-A-Boy and Artifical Rhonda makes it more interesting to listen to … here, it just takes up space), I COME FROM NOWHERE (quite scary to listen to. The guitar solo sounds like a squealing pig.), DROWNING WITCH, TEEN-AGE PROSTITUTE, and the instrumental ENVELOPES, making this album a great listen.

  2. When this album came out in 1981 I was thrilled. The Band was hot. F.Z. , Steve Vai,etc. Killer guiar music from I come from nowhere & The drowning witch-envelopes suite. It holds up today. Whoever doesn’t like this doesn’t like chicken on Sundays!

  3. 3 thoughts:
    rubbish, rubbish and …. rubbish.
    Sorry, Frank did so many fantastic songs, he was a great composer and guitar player,…
    but this album is not worth the money.
    Very poor.

  4. I really dig this album, even the novelty “hit” “Valley Girl”. The other material is really sort of leftovers from the “You Are What You Is,” and “Tinseltown Rebellion” period. In truth, those three albums could all be considered a set,IMHO. When I say leftovers, I don’t mean they aren’t as good, just that they wouldn’t all fit on the same album. I remember seeing concerts in the early 1980’s where all this material was played.

  5. The problem I have with this album is the first couple of songs. As mentioned above ‘No not Now’ is a filler, and Valley Girl OK novelty but not something I wanna hear everyday. Deliberately OOT vocals don’t detract from the instrumental part of ‘Nowhere’, and Witch, Envelopes and Prostitute are well worth the effort. For anyone who doesn’t like this album – try it on random play or program out the first two songs

  6. Underated album. Drowning witch (the track) is one of Zappa’s best. Smile at No not Now and Valley girl.

  7. This was the first Zappa record I ever heard, at the age of 13, and I immediately became a fan and started checking out his works. Even today, 17 years later, I can’t get the beautiful melody of the short masterpiece Envelopes out of my head. To me, this tune represents something that is so incredibly characteristic of Zappa (and much more in this version than in the too slow version for strings in LSO vol I): In between all the cursing and swearing of his satirical text-based rock songs he takes the time to “silently” (that is, instrumentally) carve out a jewel so completely and beautifully shaped as this.
    Maybe I’m exaggerating (this is LOVE!) but this tune says more about THE WORLD than many other CAPITAL LETTERS tough guy songs of his. This tune is bringing together the best of atonal modernistic virtuosity in such a moving, and even hummable way, that all we can do is spit out our cigarettes and hum along. Thank you Frank for giving us this one.

  8. I `m a old genneration metal guy from the small country in Europe.But I like also nu metal,alternative rock and bands like Mr. Bungle,Fantomas etc.I have never heard Zappa.I thought it is too old music for me.But few months ago I `ve visit Hippie-like party in the student house and I was supprised from one of the playing-artist.I said:Oh my god what kind of music is it?:-)After that I found “man from utopia” and I became Zappa`s great fun.It`s sure that I`ll find some more…..Regards

  9. This album gets heavily rapped by fans but I think it is a great album, if not one of Frank’s best. Envelopes is great, Teenage Prostitute is an interesting experiment, Drowning Witch is highly underrated, and Valley Girl deserves props if for no other reason than the number of people that were turned on to Zappa by the “hit single.” Any other artist releases this and it is called a masterpiece. It just shows the depth of Zappa and his work that this is one of his least-thought-of albums. Still a classic.

  10. Excellent album – No Not Now is funny as hell with a great bass line – Valley girl is again funny and again contains a monster bass riff , plus great drumming from Chad . I Come from Nowhere is one of the great underated FZ tracks and one of his wildest solo’s – Estrada’s vocals are incredible too – I just love that song ! Drowning Witch suite is fantastic – brilliant ensemble playing , amazing guitar solo’s – I cant believe some fans dont rate this album – its vibrant , fresh , challenging ,funny and completely original – just like all great Zappa albums .

  11. Too funny. It seems most people prefer the remainder of the record to the first two songs. Actually, I think “No Not Now” and “Valley Girl” are the best. Both have excellent heavy bass lines and are incredibly catchy. But perhaps therein lies the problem – Zappa’s music isn’t *supposed* to be catchy? Either way, I wished the entire album sounded like those two tracks.

  12. Worth the price of admission for ‘Envelopes’ alone, a lovely little number. ‘Drowning Witch’ is epic, ‘Teenage Prostitute’ sounds like Duane Eddy gone mad, ‘I Come From Nowhere’ is absolutely superb and the first two tracks (‘No Not Now’ & ‘Valley Girl’) rock along to themselves quite nicely. The sound on the Ryko CD is crystal clear.

    A pleasant way to waste half an hour or so.

  13. agree w/toem fentusem–
    at any rate, taste is a fickle thing, so what’s the use of big statements? frank had fun being creative, the rest is hogwash

  14. I own this CD for quite a while now. I find “No Not Now” and “Valley Girl” hard to listen but “Drowning Witch” and “Envelopes” are my KILLER favourites and give me goose bumps each time i listen to this CD, those two alone are worth the $$$ (or, in my case, the euros) i spent for it some years ago.

  15. If this were edited with “Utopia” where you just kept the guitar solos and instrumentals, your would have one killer album, instead of two albums of filler and not-so-great songs.

    I think Frank worked out the production problems of YAWYI on this album, but was still feeling experimental, and was still feeling the excitement of recording in his own studio, … so there’s still some serious editing needed. Could have been great, but is only so-so.

    That said, Drowning Witch contains one of my favorite guitar solos ever, and segues into another great instrumental where Steve Vai’s transcription skills obviously came into play.

  16. This album is too short! You do get ‘Valley Girl’ and the amazing title track, but i would have liked a Ray White lead vocal..

  17. Hey, I’m back! I am truly touched that after four years, Kill Ugly Radio STILL has my original reviews of Zappa albums available for reading! You guys are the best!

    “Ship Arriving…” is one I just revisted in my car on CD a few days ago. It’s a really interesting hodge-podge kind of Zappa release. If Zappa ever had a weak period (which is almost never) it seems to be, for me on releases like this, if only because of the incongruity of selections. “No Not Now” does kick things off with a crunch, but too many of the songs on this album end up like 3rd rate re-writes of masterpieces such as “Doreen” (from “You Are What You Is”), in terms of the endless refrain vamp with Frank and Roy Estrada doing inside-joke sounds and phrases. Of course, we have “Valley Girl”, which for me is downright touching because it proved to be a source of artistic connection between a father and his teen daughter (not to mention brought a very worthy musician a long deserved hit record), so that ain’t bad. I do marvel at “Drowning Witch”, because it is pretty much musically impossible to play by human beings, and “Teenage Prostitute” is a scream, if only when one realizes that the lead vocal is done by none other than the daughter of the Pocket Fisherman creator himself–Ron Popeil!!

    I guess I have to say I wouldn’t suggest this album as a good starting point for appreciating Zappa. This is about the closest thing to a pan review you will ever get from me concerning this man!!

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