You Are What You Is

Released: September 1981


  1. Teenage Wind
  2. Harder Than Your Husband
  3. Doreen
  4. Goblin Girl
  5. Theme From The 3rd Movement Of Sinister Footwear
  6. Society Pages
  7. I’m A Beautiful Guy
  8. Beauty Knows No Pain
  9. Charlie’s Enourmous Mouth
  10. Any Downers?
  11. Conehead
  12. You Are What You Is
  13. Mudd Club
  14. The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing
  15. Dumb All Over
  16. Heavenly Bank Account
  17. Suicide Chump
  18. Jumbo Go Away
  19. If Only She Woulda
  20. Drafted Again

Frank Zappa (lead guitar, vocals), Ike Willis (rhythm guitar, vocals), Ray White (rhythm guitar, vocals), Bob Harris (boy soprano, trumpet), Steve Vai (strat abuse), Tommy Mars (keyboards), Arthur Barrow (bass), Ed Mann (percussion), David Ocker (clarinet, bass clarinet), Motorhead Sherwood (tenor sax), Denny Walley (slide guitar), David Logeman (drums), Craig “Twister” Stewart (harmonica), guest vocalists: Jimmy Carl Black, Motorhead Sherwood, Ahmet, Moon, Denny Walley

16 thoughts on “You Are What You Is”

  1. “You Are What You Is” is a masterpiece. ’nuff said. It stands head and shoulders above almost everything Frank released in the 80’s in the same way that “One Size Fits All” shone out above all else in the mid-70’s. It shows such a loving nod to his past, one can almost get misty-eyed about it (Jimmy Carl Black cameos, quotes from “Wowie Zowie”, etc…), yet features such intricate and mind/ear boggling arranging (ESPECIALLY the background vocal arranging), one can just listen and listen forever without getting bored or annoyed. Frank’s use of creative editing, segueing, and compiling of medleys that make perfect musical sense and really “go somewhere” is staggering. Many have criticized Zappa for suddenly retreating to short, simple songs and obvious, topical political stuff on this album, while avoiding his “Uncle Meat”-style “music music” (represented here by “Sinister Footwear”. I would point out that Frank basically INVENTED satirical, political rock with “Absolutely Free” and “We’re Only In It For the Money” way back when, so SHUT UP!! All of Frank’s satirical targets are so spot on (phony televangelists, etc…), making “Broadway the Hard Way” seven years later must have felt like a real “told ya so”, it so perfectly was predicted in this work. This is a monumental, ESSENTIAL album from Frank, meant to be listened to and soaked in time and time and time again. GET IT NOW, it CLEANS YOU and THRILLS YOU!!!!!

  2. “You Are What You Is,” is indeed a masterpiece of social commentary songwriting and studio editing. Each Side (of the original vinyl) was a suite of conceptually link songs. (Well, sides 3 & 4 [cuts 12 through 20] are really one continuious suite). The social observations/satire were astute and funny, but not as heavy handed as some other albums. All of FZ’s favorite targets are touched upon; religious hypocracy, human vanity and stupidity to name a few. I saw this material performed in concert and was amazed at how precisely his band recreated everything on stage. (There were also alot of sections of improvisations that showed up as songs on later albums.)

  3. This is the first Zappa record I buyed. The first thing that knocked my mind was that part in “Teenage Wind” with complex time signatures that goes like: “free is when you don’t have to pay for nothing …” I rememeber I said “that’s what I always wanted to hear ! But the thing that made me think “I’m a zappa fan now” is when I heard “Mudd Club” and “Dumb All Over”. I didn’t like these tracks, but I was really impressed by the concept ! “How can a guy have the balls to speak for 5 minutes with so much flanger on his voice and neverending musical ostinatos ?”. It was so ugly and useless to me (as I’m french, I didn’t understand the lyrics yet)! I loved it !

  4. This one is not in my top 10 of FZ albms, “Charlie’s Enourmous Mouth” and “Theme From The 3rd Movement Of Sinister Footwear” are great and so are “Jimmy Carl Black” and ” Motorhead Sherwood” fot the rest mmmmm…..
    But the problem with a FZ review is “what is not fantastic?”
    I like them all ,exept Motels, that was a mistake!

  5. Note:
    I have recently (re)discovered the ’80 of Zappa. A year ago, I think I just was not ready to understand and love’em at all. They are GREAT! They are funny, they are strange, they are heavy, they are pop, they are musical(broadway)-oriented, they are a great patchwork of genres and styles (you say – as usual for FZ – yah, that’s right!). Now I truly understand why Zappa (in general) is so hard to be liked by a “common” listener: he is TOO MUCH. People do not understand :) They do not understand that FZ’s music is FUN! And I understand why a common listener cannot appreciate at once his ’80s. Take as an example I’M A BEAUTIFUL GUY. What’s that? (A little masterpiece!) Hard rock riff, complex time, sick melodic line, pauses, plastic sounds, music-hall cadence (etc): this tune is great. As for the latest Joyce (Finnegans Wake), WE ARE NOT READY FOR HIM! We are not completely able to interpretate this big interpreter of us and of our world. STOP!

    You Are What You Is.
    A very entertaining album, full of funny songs and beautiful-strange instrumentals interludes. And then, in every single tune, even in those ones i really do not love, there’s something precious: it can be something in the vocals, in the rhythm, in the riff, in the melodic develop of the piece, in its appeal…

    At this very moment I adore:
    I’m A Beautiful Guy, You Are What You Is, Mudd Club, Goblin Girl, Drafted Again, Teenage Wind. But I said: a n y s i n g l e t r a c k gives its magic moments!
    And there is plenty of FZ importantr songs: The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing & Dumb All Over, for example.
    !Ah! and David Logeman is a very funny drummer, too much under-rated – listen to some boots of 1980! He is funky, he is reggaey, he is very good.

    * the ocean is the ultimate solution *

  6. This is the first Zappa album I bought that was not a compilation. It’s almost as good as ‘Tinseltown Rebellion’. ‘Teenage Wind’ is one of my favourite Zappa songs, then it goes into a Country song (?!) sung by Jimmy Carl Black. There are so may musical styles going on it’s difficult to categorize. My only complaint on this album is the mix – it sounds muggy. Apparently the unreleased ‘Crush All Boxes’ has a better sound…

  7. I guess I just don’t like this album. I love “Sinister Footwear”, with its overdubbed marimba matching Frank’s incredible solo (thanx to Steve Vai’s transcription skills and Ed Mann’s sheer talent). But the songs just don’t “go anywhere” for me. The production (or maybe just the CD re-mastering) is really bad. Very squashed compression. The drumming is really dull (Logeman is NO Colaiuta), … too many vocal sections that just go on too long.

    Sorry folks. I love Frank, but I just can’t listen to this one.

  8. David Logeman drumming very dull? I disagree… David Logeman does a very fine drumming job on this album, i actually would like him to have stayed in the band longer; it’s just perfect for the vocal-oriented songs of YAWYI.

    I can’t think of a BAD zappa drummer… Aynsley Dunbar, Ralph Humprey, Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta… my favorites.

  9. frank zappa alwyas had great drummers
    as that is the foundation of rock music
    in the early days hea had to train the drummers
    because technically they were not quite so proficient
    as for one particular zappa album being better than another:
    everyone is entitled to their opinion
    but, as someone who was there from the beginning,
    each LP was a progression from the last LP
    and it was fascinating to watch it grow
    and to observe frank mutate
    from freak out to civilization

  10. Please, please, please ZFT, can we have ‘Crush All Boxes’ as a new release. Also ‘Chalk Pie’, if poss. Thanks.

  11. This one is somehow the WOIIFTM of the 80’s. Not necessarily in quality but for the function it has in the context of it’s time.


  12. It is related to WOIIFTM – if you listen to the end of YAWYI you can hear a voice say “leave my nose alone please” which was first heard on WOIIFTM.

  13. Folks, I’ve been listening to Frank since 1969 or so, kinda’ had a love/hate relationship with some of his material (starting with Broken Hearts Are For Assholes but resolved much of that over time starting with a Dallas band, ‘Felix’, who did an excellent cover of <Broken Hearts… in the early 80’s.
    I still have an issue with one song, however, and that song is Jumbo Go Away. While I know the point Frank was trying to make, my point is that song is offensive to large women and that I find inexcusable – not all large people have a fucking choice to be large, some of them just come that way dammit. Case in point, my wife, a fantastic hospice nurse and a very sweet loving woman as well, she is fit, in better shape then me, but the only shape she comes in is large and it’s by genetic disposition, not the choices she’s made. While I’m turning her on to Frank’s music (and she took me to ZPZ in Austin a week ago (a fantastic 3+ hour show, BTW, the local crew were pissed!)) I am keeping her from Jumbo Go Away and the fabulous Manzerak lifts in If Only She Woulda as I cannot find a decent framework in which to present Frank’s case. Yes, I’m thrilled that Frank was a ‘toothpick’ but not all of us are so blessed. We come in all sizes and receive enough ridicule in our day to day, we do not need it from our entertainment, let alone our heroes, ok?

  14. Darms, look, howzabout Fine Girl off Tinseltown Rebellion? His opinion is ambiguous at best, his wife now is big so… Had he lived… Anyways, My first Zappa album that I digested, along with We’re Only in it for the Money (His Angry Young Man Album). Doreen is a prime example of an album song not being better replicated in a live context of which there are so few examples in the catalogue of Frank Z – Easily one of my fave songs by anyone let alone on the album. The drumming is pretty good, what is known about that guy? It flows pretty good as an album too, probably the best album of the 80’s

  15. oh, and if the harmony’s on Doreen don’t put both a chill up the spine and a smile on your face then I suggest some kind of therapy

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