Frank Zappa

TrackAlbum
Cletus Awreetus-AwrightusThe Grand Wazoo
Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague Uncle Meat
Eat That QuestionThe Grand Wazoo
Get WhiteyThe Yellow Shark
Help, I'm A Rock (Suite In Three Movements) Freak Out!
King KongUncle Meat
The Little House I Used To Live InBurnt Weeny Sandwich
Little UmbrellasHot Rats
Peaches En RegaliaHot Rats
Pound For A BrownThe Yellow Shark
The Uncle Meat VariationsUncle Meat

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Contributor: David Walsham

With over 60 studio albums in a long 30 year career – but in a short life – a top 100 would have been possible, a top 10 merely impractical. The choices above come from just a few very fine records and it’s a selection which should appeal to anyone coming across the music of Frank Zappa for the first time.

Yes! A genius who has recorded some utter crap. Brown Shoes Don’t Make It is well crafted but its subject matter is apalling. Zappa was deliberately provocative and offensive and many of his lyrics are sexist, trite, meaningless and sneering but most of his music is both sublime and groundbreaking.

I’m counting the whole of King Kong on Side 4 of Uncle Meat as one selection. The Little House I Used To Live In occupies most of the second side of the excellent Burnt Weeny Sandwich and features the sublime piano of Ian Underwood and a soaring violin solo from Don “Sugarcane” Harris. It’s a great piece of work and you can also find a much shorter live version on Fillmore East – June 1971. The Yellow Shark is an album of orchestral music and was the last recording released before Frank’s death. It contains Pound For A Brown (don’t ask) which we first met on Uncle Meat, and which has appeared on several FZ albums – see the wonderful Zappa Wiki Jawaka website (highlighted below) for more info on track listings across the whole FZ oeuvre. The three movements in Help, I’m a Rock (Suite in Three Movements) are I. Okay to Tap Dance; II. In Memoriam, Edgar Varèse; III. It Can’t Happen Here.

Of the six Zappa albums featured here, Freak Out (1966), Uncle Meat (1969), Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970) are recorded by The Mothers Of Invention, while Hot Rats (1969), The Grand Wazoo (1972), The Yellow Shark (1993) are credited to Frank Zappa.

And remember, “Rock journalism is people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, in order to provide articles for people who can’t read.”

 

The official Frank Zappa website

Frank Zappa’s Musical Language

Zappa Wiki Jawaka!

Frank Zappa biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #32

5 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Jul 29, 2013

    If I had to get someone interested in Frank Zappa, I’d start with Peaches en Regalia (as featured on the listing above), as does Strictly Commercial: The Best of Frank Zappa an album which is pretty much what it says on the packet: the more accessible end of the later, post-Mothers stuff. I’d choose a lot of that stuff … Joe’s Garage (single version, From Joe’s Garage Act 1), Bobby Brown Goes Down and Dancin’ Fool (Sheik Yerbouti), Valley Girl (Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch), Montana (Over-Nite Sensation). As it says on Cruising With Ruben & The Jets, “Is this the Mothers of Invention recording under a different name in a last ditch attempt to get their cruddy music on the radio?” I’d list at least Cheap Thrills from that album and I’d want to squeeze in Jelly Roll Gum Drop. I think Willie The Pimp from Hot Rats too. Maybe Son Of Mr Green Genes. The question on Chunga’s Revenge? Yes, Sharleena. I haven’t got more than a dozen of the 60 albums, and some of it is totally inaccessible, like The Perfect Stranger with an orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez, which I bought flush with enthusiasm over the newish CD format in 1984 hoping it would reveal new qualities of the medium. I played it to two friends. Silence. ‘You bought that?’

    So much of Zappa (as indicated above) is in lines that stick with you. The narrative from Uncle Meat If We’d All Been Living In California … is one I’ve been quoting for years, as is Zappa’s comment when everyone booed the police at the Albert Hall, ‘Everyone here tonight is wearing a uniform.’ I’d count The GTOs – Girls Together Outrageously as a Frank Zappa album, and they describe the pervert who picks up hitchhikers so he can ‘beat his meat’. They end, ‘and you know, there’s more of those than there are normal people’ which I’ve been re-using for years.

  2. Merric Davidson
    Jul 29, 2013

    I’m going to dwell on the humour of Uncle Frank and offer up this alternative FZ Top 12 for your delectation.

    Starting with six indispensable tracks from the genius album with the brilliant “Sgt Pepper” cover We’re Only In It For The Money : Mom & Dad, What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?, Let’s Make The Water Turn Black (hilarious – see below), The Idiot Bastard Son and Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance.

    I’d choose two other tracks from that very first album, Freak Out!You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here and Trouble Every Day.

    Then from the under-valued live album, Just Another Band From L.A., but only from Side 2, I’d take the lot but particularly Magdalena with exceptional Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan vocals. Okay the lyrics are, as our contributor here infers, occasionally questionable but the performance is magnificent.

    To illustrate the guitar-playing genius of FZ I’d mebbe go for Watermelon In Easter Hay from Joe’s Garage Acst II & III but there are many other possibilities.

    Lastly I’m going back to the humour with two tracks from a great album, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, with My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama and Oh No.

    Ronnie saves his numies on a window in his room
    A marvel to be seen: dysentery green,
    While Kenny and his buddies had a game out in the back:
    Let’s make the water turn black.

    Whizzing and pasting and pooting through the day,
    Ronnie helping Kenny helping burn his poots away,
    And all the while on a shelf in the shed:
    Kenny’s little creatures on display!

    Ronnie’s in the Army now and Kenny’s taking pills
    Oh how they yearn to see a bomber burn,
    Color flashing, thunder crashing, dynamite machine
    Wait till the fire turns green … wait till the fire turns green.

  3. Rob Millis
    Aug 3, 2013

    No, you can’t do Zappa in 10 tracks. Bits of the first three Mothers LPs, most of Weasels Ripped My Flesh and Hot Rats, some of the guitar playing on Chunga’s Revenge … a whole LPs worth culled from Overnite Sensation and Apostrophe … oh, and bits of Roxy and Elsewhere. Did I forget Black Napkins and Wind Up Working at a Gas Station?

    I give up: I’ll just take the main opening theme from The Orange County Lumber Truck on repeat, as it is, and likely always will be, my favourite piece of instrumental music, bar none.

  4. Alex Lifson
    Aug 6, 2013

    Surprisingly, I’ve had a rebirth of interest in Zappa after downloading a bunch of stuff in my Ipod. After all this time, I’ve rediscovered the “forgotten” 70’s albums Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo. Surprisingly good for gym workouts. He may be spinning in his grave after reading the above. Then again, he may be laughing his head off.

  5. Merric Davidson
    Oct 30, 2013

    The first orchestral performance of Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels” was due to take place at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 8th February 1971 but was pulled at the last minute on grounds of obscenity. Ah, the enlightened era! Now, 42 years on, “200 Motels” was premiered in London on 29th October 2013, at the Royal Festival Hall as part of The Rest Is Noise festival. And what a night it was! On stage: the BBC Concert Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia, London Voices and a rock band which included Scott Thunes on bass and the “vaultmeister” Joe Travers on drums. Add to that a troupe of opera singers and actors playing FZ and the other roles and not a single floorboard on the RFH stage could be seen. Something like 120 musicians and voices rendering Uncle Frank’s magnum opus without a break for close to two hours. It was truly sensational and a privilege to be there remembering the man himself, applauding Gail and Diva Zappa, the brilliant conductor Jurjen Hempel, and the entire ensemble to the rafters in a prolonged standing ovation. “200 Motels” grows in stature and appeal over the years and last night’s unique production will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Saturday 9th November at 10pm.

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