A Collector's 10 Favourite Boots

This first appeared here as an article by Rene De La Salle from Hot Wacks Magazine that Miguel Amorim "bootlegged" to alt.fan.frank-zappa (under the guise of "a collector's 10 favourite boots"), perhaps in November 1997 or 1998, slightly edited for readability by Bossk (R). In January 2000, the author himself was in touch with comments and corrections:

A bit of background on the article: I self-published a low-budget hi-info bootleg discography in 1990 & sold it through Goldmine magazine that year. It detailed 225 vinyl boot titles including some CDs. The folks at Hot Wacks liked it & asked me if I wanted to write a 10 favorite, or best, rarest, whatever ... & would plug the book as well. At the time, Hot Wacks was still publishing Bob Godwin's Led Zep Boot Discography (vinyl LPs) & offered to publish my book. I wrote the article in 1991 & it was published in Hot Wacks' The Last Wacks book in 1992.

My "Top Ten" were in chronological order & chosen simply as cross section of the wealth of unreleased material.

You have to understand that was 10 years ago & the quantity & quality of boots were mediocre compared to what's out there now. Although some of the material has turned up in FZ's packages, that list is old & obsolete. You guys should put together a survey of collectors' favorite material, perhaps breaking it down into categories or eras. A more current & statistical list ... cuz dat oldum one stinks!!!

Anyway, hope this minutia helps. Projects like this take on a life of their own after awhile, don't they?

Rene De La Salle

Certainly! Article follows:

Frank Zappa

By Rene De La Salle

Frank Zappa doesn't have a fistful of hit records, rarely gets television and radio airplay, and his popularity pales by comparison to Madonna or Bruce Springsteen. So why does this guy have so many bootlegs worldwide? Well, one reason is that his career spans over 25 years. There have been dozens of personnel changes in the 20 or so different band lineups which, as a result, have produced a variety of styles such as classical, jazz and rock. He himself continues to release old and new material from his massive archive of live recordings, adding to his 50+ commercial titles. Another reason there are so many bootlegs is that FZ rehearses his bands vigorously, sometimes for months, before touring. Their repertoire may be as large as 75 songs by the time they get out on the road, giving bootleggers an abundance of material to produce.

Capturing all the stages of FZ's career in a few selections is obviously impossible nor would it be feasible to say taht any particular set of material is better than another. I've decided instead to sample a cross-section of a quarter of a century of material from over 250 bootlegs.

  1. My first selection is a 7" single in red vinyl called "My Name is Fritz". It's a 1968 studio recording with the MOI supposedly going through customs, with special guest Lowell George as a German official. No music, but very comical. This 1983 issue is the only complete version of the unreleased track that's available. There are only 450 copies pressed, making it a nice little gem to add to your collection.
  2. My next pick was released as 2 singles, from the December 4, 1971 Montreux Casino concert in Switzerland. Their individual titles are Fire! and Swiss Cheese. These are a good example of Flo and Eddie (Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan) ad-libs that would change from show to show. This set is a great alternative to your Fillmore East, June 1971 [official] LP. These European imports were released in 1985 and are also available as picture discs, black, multi colored LPs, as well as on CDs. The source for the show was a stereo soundboard [1] and runs about 90 minutes.
  3. In 1973 Zappa spent 10 months on the road, and was riding a wave of popularity with the release of the classic [official] Over-Nite Sensation LP. There was a lot of material put out for that year, but one boot that comes to mind is The Rondo Hatton Band, which is part of the 10-LP box set titled Mystery Box. Side 1 is from New Jersey and features all unreleased material. Disc 2 contains more of the Sydney, Australia show that's available as Piquantique, Stockholm 1973, which is now part of Zappa's [official] Beat the Boots #1 set. The sound on this one is excellent and runs about 48 minutes.
  4. Skipping ahead a couple of tours brings us to the April 27, 1975 concert in Boston. It's a 1985 European double-LP release titled No Bacon for Breakfast volumes 1 and 2. I chose this one because it contains material from the Bongo Fury period. The sound is mediocre and could have been a lot better considering the tapes that are circulating. There are a few special moments and some rare tracks, along with some vocals by Captain Beefheart. This set is also available as 2 single LPs with the same covers. The total running time is 105 minutes. The set is sought after mostly by collectors.
  5. My next pick is from the 1976 tour. It's an acceptable audience recording from the February 15, 1976 Ludwigshafen, West Germany concert titled Pappa Zappa. Included are some new songs and some from the Fall 1975 tour not contained on the last selection. Only 2 of these songs made it on Zappa's [official] Live in New York double set, which was from the Fall. Nice versions of "Filthy Habits" and "Black Napkins", there were probably not too many of these 1982 double European sets pressed, as they're on either yellow, orange or red vinyl. The total running time is just over 90 minutes.
  6. Another worthwhile addition would be a single LP of the September 21 1978 Poughkeepsie, NY concert titled Project-Object on the famous Mudshark label. It's on stereo soundboard, featuring new nice versions of "Conehead", "Little House I Used to Live in" and "Yo' Mama". This LP was released in 1980 and re-issued on CD in 1991. It's also available as a European picture disc LP titled Moe's Vacation. The total running time is about 41 minutes.
  7. This brings us to the FM stereo broadcast that bootleggers always cash-in on. Well, actually there are a few of them, but this one is nice. It's titled Personality and is the May 24, 1980 Rotterdam concert. It's in excellent stereo of course, and includes material mostly from the Joe's Garage Acts I, II & III, Tinsel-Town Rebellion and You Are What You Is LPs [2]. This is a European double LP set that was also re-issued as Rotterdam 1980 with a different cover. The running time on this one is 85 minutes.
  8. Next on the list is another double LP set titled Charlie's Favourite. This is the May 15, 1982 show in Rotterdam. The performance and sound are very good, except side 4 where the sound quality drops. It also contains a nice blend of material from his '81 and '82 tours. Since some of the 1981 shows are available on HIFI videotapes (TORTURE NEVER STOPS, DUMB ALL OVER NEW YORK) and most of the bootlegs from the 1982 tour are sloppy or terrible sounding, this set would complement any collection. This is also a lengthy package, running about 115 minutes. The show is also available as Pink Elephants Never Cry (But They Sure Screw Like Hell), which is much shorter and a very bad recording.
  9. Choosing a selection from the 1984 tour is not easy, with over 75 songs. It was to be Zappa's final and Greatest Hits tour. [3] There is, however, one popular double-LP set titled Z: All You Need Is Glove. It uses several different sources, all of which are soundboard, and includes many classics and special guests. Overall, it's a nice package and probably not too hard to find, as it was a domestic issue. The total running time is about 80 minutes.
  10. Well, never say never. In 1988, Zappa put together the biggest band since the Grand Wazoo Orchestra of back in 1972. This time the 12-man band played over 80 songs and still counting, as many of them were played only once or twice. Surprisingly, there are only a handful of bootlegs of this tour, compared to the dozens of the 1984 tour. This may be due to the fact that Zappa had already released one single and 2 double CD sets of live material from the tour (Broadway the Hard Way, Make a Jazz Noise Here & The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life), which are equivalent to about 7 albums. I'm going to cheat a little for this selection, and recommend any one or all of the Showtime Records series, as they contain material not issued by Zappa. The titles are: I) The Untouchables, 2 LPs; II) The Godfather Meets the Untouchables, 4 LPs; and III) The Godfather in Full Metal Jacket, 2 LPs. They were all available domestically.

There you have it, just a slice of life on the road with FZ. Collect'em all, play'em loud and get Zapped.

(Rene De La Salle is the author and publisher of the book - On Tour with the Evil Prince.)

Footnotes by Bossk (R)

[1] Questionable.

[2] Of course, this refers to live versions of songs from those albums, not the album versions.

[3] Yes, Zappa meant the 1984 tour to be his last, but changed his mind later.

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