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Re-Discovering Frank Zappa

April 26, 2017

Last week I did a blog entry entitled Top 10 Strange Stories set to Song. One of the songs on that list was Billy the Mountain by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.  I was never the biggest Frank Zappa fan, I liked some of his novelty music, but songs like Valley Girl and Dancin' Fool sound dated today.  But for some reason, I really liked the depth and breadth of Billy's musical landscapes and when re-listening to Zappa, I decided to re-visit more of Zappa's music with my 2017 ears on.

Frank Zappa - Friend of Free Speech

Sadly Frank's been dead since 1993, so I can't thank him personally for the musical journey that I've taken in the past week, and his 4 kids are duking it out in multiple courts as we speak, so they're too busy to hear my praise.  (I'm not buying any Zappa albums so those kids can fight over that money, too,) so through the magic of YouTube I've been re-acquainting myself with Zappa's discography.  So before all the members of the Mothers of Invention die, I bring you the Top 10 Zappa Songs Through a 2017 Prism.

 

10. Camarillo Brillo (1973) - A real smooth Classic Rock sound that should have been a radio staple. Straight from 1973's Over-Nite Sensation album.

9.  Joe's Garage (1979) - I hate country music.  Let me rephrase that.  I hate ALMOST all country music. The only two country artists I would consider good are Johnny Cash and Slim Cessna's Auto Club.  Joe's Garage is a good country song.  I have absolutely no idea if it's popular or not.

8.  King Kong Parts I - VI (1969) - From the album Uncle Meat, as soon as I figure out what's going on for nearly 20 minutes, I'll let you know.  I speculate that King Kong is the sound of the musical universe expanding.

7.  Stairway to Heaven (Live 1988) - The classic Led Zeppelin tune is masterfully covered by Frank Zappa, with a few annoying sounds added by his background musicians. Frank gives the song a slightly sadder interpretation than the original. 

6. Cocaine Decisions live in Palermo, Italy. (1982)

Around the 40 minute mark, Frank starts playing the song Cocaine Decisions.  At around the 42/43 minute mark you start hearing gunshots.  That's the sound of police firing tear gas canisters into the crowd due to a riot.  Whoever was recording the concert backed away from the stage, the music sounds like it's in the background.  After a short pause, Zappa and his band continue to play. By the 45 minute mark, all you can hear is guitar, riot, and screaming in Italian.  Imagine the degree of difficulty level for Frank Zappa playing in front of rioting Italians in a cloud of tear gas.

5. Waka Jawaka (1972)

The single on the album of the same name, Zappa takes the listener on a 10+ minute journey.

If I didn't know better, I'd ask - Is that Frank Zappa?  Or is it Chicago?  Or is it Yes?

(Hint: It's Epic Prog)

4. G Spot Tornado (1986) - Every radio show in the known universe uses the

Benny Hill Theme Song to signify wild hijinks.  When Beacon of Speech becomes popular, I plan on stealing G Spot Tornado for that same purpose. (I'm sorry, is that Frank Zappa conducting an orchestra?) From the album Jazz from Hell, it was the last studio album Zappa would release in his lifetime, which also won him a Grammy Award.

3. Don't Eat the Yellow Snow / Nanook Rubs It In (1974) - The funky story of Nanook the Eskimo. From 1974's Apostrophe (*) album, it should be noted the Apostrophe (*) was Zappa's highest charting album in America, it reached #10 and eventually went Gold.

Technically the Video is from the Don't Eat the Yellow Snow Suite

2. Willie the Pimp (1969) - From the album Hot Rats, Willie the Pimp produces searing and spectacular guitar work for about 5 minutes straight at the middle of the song.  Down and dirty blues that is absolutely timeless.

1. Muffin Man (1978) - Recorded live in 1978, this version wasn't released until 2010's posthumous triple album Hammersmith Odeon. Right from the start, a catchy monster riff that hooks you for 6 minutes of pure guitar driven rapture.

I didn't want to give the impression that I don't like Dweezil.

I do.  

I hope he continues to play his Dad's music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Message from the Grave:

Believe it or not, Beacon of Speech's most popular articles were around the 2016 election.  Everyone had something to say about Trump v Clinton. When I say everyone, I mean everyone.  Again, Zappa died in 1993, but the Zappa Family Trust released the album Frank Zappa for President in 2016.  One of the tracks on that album was "If I was President..." and it sounded like he was speaking from the great beyond about the current political situation. 

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