Posts Tagged ‘Frank Zappa’

Frank Zappa typically performed one-of-a-kind Halloween shows starting in the ’70s. In 1974, the concerts found a home in New York City, where they remained until 1984, when Zappa staged the last Halloween show. This 1973 date — one of the few Halloween concerts to be recorded, though the 1977 one was released in 2017 — featured a new band onstage at Chicago’s Auditorium Theater.

The limited-edition box includes previously unreleased performances that total more than four and a half hours, including songs from his most recent album, Over-Nite Sensation, like “Montana,” plus cuts from 1974’s Apostrophe(‘) (“Cosmik Debris”) and older favorites (“Uncle Meat,” “The Idiot Bastard Son”).

The fourth disc includes rehearsals for the shows. There’s also a single-disc version of the set available containing 16 tracks from the box.

This is our second glimpse into Frank’s Halloween archive and this one, thankfully, does not seal away its goodies on a USB stick. Rather, four CDs and a booklet join the expected seasonal goodies (a Frankenstein mask and a pair of monster gloves) in a similarly sized mega-toy box, and the whole thing is utterly fabulous. Assuming, of course, you agree that 1973 really did mark one of Zappa’s purplest patches.  

Two full shows sprawl across the first three discs, and while there’s definitely some duplication… a little more than half the set list is revisited on both nights…  the performances themselves are utterly unique, and the between song announcements as well. Which itself isn’t as easy as it sounds… how many different ways, after all, can you find to say “thank you Cleveland, you rock.”  Especially when you’re in Chicago.

The repertoire, as usual, wanders across Zappa’s catalog, leaning away from the earliest days of Motherhood (“The Idiot Bastard Son” is the oldest song on display), but hitting most of what period scholars would say are the expected highlights – “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing,” “Dickie’s Such an Asshole,” “Penguin in Bondage,” and a great “I’m the Slime” towards the end of disc two.

The booklet, meanwhile, stuffs forty pages with photographs, commentary and memory,  with contributions from band members Ruth Underwood and Ralph Humphrey, plus archive master Joe Travers’ customary explanation of how the album came together. A  glorious package then.

Fans can also look forward to another Zappa release before 2019 ends. The Hot Rats Sessions, due on December. 20th, includes six discs documenting one of Zappa’s best and most popular albums.

That box includes unreleased basic tracks from the recording sessions, as well as rare and unedited mixes, work mixes and other songs from Zappa’s vault.

Cruising with Ruben & the Jets is the fourth studio album by the Mothers of Invention. Released on December 2nd, 1968, on Bizarre and Verve Records with distribution by MGM Records, it was subsequently remixed by Frank Zappa and reissued independently.

As with the band’s previous three albums, it is a concept album, influenced by 1950s doo wop and rock and roll. The album’s concept deals with a fictitious Chicano doo wop band called Ruben & the Jets, the cover illustration depicts the Mothers of Invention as anthropomorphic dogs. Zappa described the album as an homage to the 1950s vocal music that he was “crazy” about. Mothers member Collins later left the Mothers of Invention, and Zappa began working on a project entitled No Commercial Potential, which included sessions that produced Cruising with Ruben & the Jets,which later produced three other albums: Lumpy Gravy, We’re Only in It for the Money and Uncle Meat.

Zappa later stated, regarding the releases Lumpy Gravy, We’re Only in It for the Money, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets andUncle Meat, “It’s all one album. All the material in the albums is organically related and if I had all the master tapes and I could take a razor blade and cut them apart and put it together again in a different order it still would make one piece of music you can listen to. Then I could take that razor blade and cut it apart and reassemble it a different way, and it still would make sense. I could do this twenty ways. The material is definitely related.

The album and its singles received some radio success, due to its doo wop sound.

Ray Collins rejoined the Mothers of Invention for the recording of the album, as his high falsetto was really suited for the recordings. According to Collins, “I brought the style of being raised in Pomona, California, being raised on the Four Aces, the Four Freshmen, Frankie Lane, Frank Sinatra and Jesse Baldwin. The early influences of R&B came into the Southern California area when I was probably in the tenth grade in high school. And I remember Peter Potter’s show, and I think I recall the first R&B tune on there was ‘Oop-Shoop’. Frank actually had more influences from the ‘real blues’, you know, like Muddy Waters, those kind of people. But I wasn’t into that in my early life. I was more of the pop culture, pop radio things, and it’s always been more of a favourite of mine than the early blues stuff

The range of material includes originals as well as standards like Chuck Berry’s “Almost Grown,” and there’s not a weak moment anywhere on the album. And as good as all of For Real! is — without a false note sounded anywhere — they save the best for last, a stomping, killer version of “All Nite Long” that definitely leaves the listener wanting more

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It’s the 40th Anniversary of “Joe’s Garage Acts II & III” – released On this day in 1979!, The album features the incredible “Watermelon In Easter Hay” -a song that Zappa identified as one of his 3 signature tunes. It’s the official FZ Release No#29. What’s your favorite track from Joe’s Garage Acts II & III?.

Two months after the release of Act I, Frank Zappa completed Joe’s Garage with the two-LP set Joe’s Garage: Acts II & III, meaning that, counting the two contractual albums Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites, he released seven LPs’ worth of new material in 1979. Maybe that’s why Joe’s Garage seems so thin and thrown together, musically and dramatically, especially on its second and third sides.

“Joe’s Garage is a stupid story about how the government is going to do away with music (a prime cause of unwanted mass behavior). The album features Ike Willis as the voice of “Joe”, a stereotypical garage band youth who unwittingly journeys through the miasma of the music business. Zappa provides the voice of the “Central Scrutinizer” character—a mechanical voice that narrates the story and haunts Joe’s psyche

It’s sort of like a really cheap kind of high school play . . . the way it might have been done 20 years ago, with all the sets made out of cardboard boxes and poster paint. It’s also like those lectures that local narks used to give (where they show the pills leading to the weed leading to the needle, etc., etc.). If the plot of the story seems just a little bit preposterous, and if the idea of The Central Scruntinizer enforcing laws that haven’t been passed yet makes you giggle, just be glad you don’t live in one of the cheerful little countries where, at this very moment, music is either severely restricted . . . or, as it is in Iran, totally illegal.”. 

“Them Or Us” released in October 1984. This is official FZ Release Number 40. Featuring The Planet of My Dreams, and awesome title track instrumental!

Its opening and closing songs were not written by Zappa: “The Closer You Are”, one of those ’50s R&B tunes the man loved so much was written by Earl Lewis and Morgan Robinson and originally released by The Channels; and “Whippin’ Post”, originally performed by The Allman Brothers Band.

Crunchy guitars are found in “Ya Hozna” includes backward vocals taken from “Sofa No. 2” (from “One Size Fits All”, 1975), “Lonely Little Girl” (from We’re Only in It for the Money, 1968) and unreleased outtakes of “Valley Girl” (vocals by Moon Zappa). “Planet of My Dreams” (featuring Bob Harris on vocals) is a 1981 studio recording taken from the score of Zappa’s unrealized 1972 stage musical “Hunchentoot”, (the scenario of which was incidentally published in a book titled Them or Us released at the same time). “Be In My Video”, described as the best song on the album, pokes fun at the cliches in music videos, particularly David Bowie’s hit single “Let’s Dance”, and the MTV generation, still in its infancy stage at the time.

In between one finds the usual offensive lyrics — the cliché-ridden “In France,” the sexually explicit “Baby, Take Your Teeth Out.” “Stevie’s Spanking” (named after Steve Vai, playing guitar in it, too), arguably one of Zappa’s best straightforward rock songs from that period. “Sinister Footwear II” and “Marqueson’s Chicken” represent an ’80s update of complex instrumental pieces. (the scenario of which was incidentally published in a book titled Them or Us released at the same time).

As with other Zappa rock albums of this era, many of the tracks are sourced from live recordings. Later studio overdubs were liberally applied, although there is no mention of this on the album notes

Not only is Ya Hozna one of my favorite tracks on this album it might be among my all time favorite FZ tracks. To me it is the quintessential Zappa tune. This is one of my favorite Zappa albums . Sinister Footwear pt.2 has always been my favorite track, usually followed by Marqueson’s Chicken.

This is the first appearance of Steve Vai on album, having impressed Frank with his outstanding ability at transcribing all of the Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar albums for him, then further impressing him with his ability on guitar, leading to his description of stunt guitar player on a couple of Zappa’s albums. So lovers of guitar work will find plenty herein, the album having a copious amount of mighty lead work strewn throughout,

Very high energy. Interesting instrumental harmonies working around classic rock guitar viruosity. Amusing Zappa lyrics.

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Hot Rats was released 10th October in 1969!

“The Hot Rats Sessions” box set celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest albums in the history of recorded music, and will be released on December 20th .

The original 1969 Frank Zappa album was the first to be recorded on a prototype 16-Track Tape Machine. Self described as a “Movie For Your Ears,” it was the first solo outing for the composer and the album that put Frank Zappa on the map as a guitar player. The recording sessions produced a wealth of material that ended up being sprinkled among multiple releases during FZ’s lifetime.

The mostly-instrumental LP came on the heels of the breakup of the original Mothers of Invention, making it clear that Zappa was a force with which to be reckoned as a composer. Described by the artist as “a movie for your ears,” Hot Rats was a fusion of jazz and rock as only Zappa could create. Recorded on 16 tracks (a first for a Zappa album), it featured the producer/arranger/guitar virtuoso (who also played bass and percussion) joined by The Mothers’ Ian Underwood as well as Max Bennett, Johnny Otis, Shuggie Otis, John Guerin, Paul Humphrey, Ron Selico, Don “Sugarcane” Harris, and Jean-Luc Ponty. Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, provided the vocals on the lone non-instrumental, “Willie The Pimp.”

The “Hot Rats” album, the 2nd solo album by American musician Frank Zappa, released on October 10th, 1969. Five of the six songs are instrumental; the other, “Willie the Pimp”, features vocals by Captain Beefheart. It was Zappa’s first recording project after the dissolution of the original Mothers of Invention. In his original sleeve notes, Zappa described the album as “a movie for your ears”. Zappa composed, arranged and produced the album himself, his primary instrument being lead guitar. The song “Peaches en Regalia” is widely recognized as a modern jazz fusion standard and is one of Zappa’s best-known songs. The colourful, psychedelic aura of the late sixties is apparent in the graphic design and photography of Hot Rats, though Zappa himself disdained the psychedelic movement. The front and back cover photos by Andee Nathanson use infrared photography and reflects Zappa’s taste for striking visual images, combined with the absurdly humorous. ecause Hot Rats largely consists of instrumental jazz-influenced compositions with extensive soloing, the music sounds very different from earlier Zappa albums, which featured satirical vocal performances with extensive use of musique concrète and editing.

This new Anniversary mammoth six disc collection documents and compiles every composition recorded during those days in July 1969, along with an abundance of rare mixes, Vault nuggets and complete basic tracks mixed from the original multi-track masters by Craig Parker Adams, and mastered by Bob Ludwig in 2019. Additional gems include images by original Hot Rats cover photographer, Andee Nathanson, session photos taken by Bill Gubbins, liner notes by Matt Groening and essays by Ian Underwood, Andee Nathanson and Vaultmeister Joe Travers. The box set also includes a Zappa Land board game in celebration of this release.

Track listing and more info here:

Zappa In New York – Deluxe consists of five CDs from the Vault celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the album’s release in 1978. Featured is the main album in its original mix, remastered by Bob Ludwig and available for the first time digitally. Also included is a disc of relevant Vault nuggets and over 3 hours of unreleased live performances from the NYC Palladium concerts, representing every composition played during the post-Christmas 4 show engagement of 1976 and newly mixed in 2018. Extensive Liner Notes by Ruth Underwood, Ray White & Joe Travers with Jen Jewel Brown.  Limited edition metal tin mimicking a New York street manhole houses the 5CD collection.


Zappa In New York Deluxe CD Set Preorder


In 1976, Frank Zappa played four historic sold-out concerts at The Palladium in New York City the week between Christmas and New Year’s. These were thrilling shows – described by band member Ruth Underwood as “theatrical, outrageous and raucously funny, but also filled with startling and gorgeous music, dating from Frank’s 1960s output to literally the moment the curtain went up”— served as the source material for the live double album “Zappa In New York”which was constructed from the best-played performances with overdubs later recorded in the studio. Originally slated for release in 1977, the album was delayed for a year due to record label censorship issues, mostly over the controversial song “Punky’s Whips,” and finally released in 1978. One of Zappa’s most beloved collections of songs, the now classic album included a sensational live version of “Sofa” alongside nine new compositions, including the complex percussion-based piece “The Black Page,” which has become infamous in the drum community as the ultimate challenge, the Devilish comedic sendup “Titties & Beer,” and the notorious aforementioned “Punky’s Whips” about Punky Meadows, the flamboyant guitarist for the band Angel.

In celebration of its eventual release in 1978, Zappa In New York will be released on March 29th via Zappa Records/UMeas a suite of expanded anniversary editions to commemorate the album’s recent 40th anniversary. Overseen by the Zappa Family Trust and produced by Ahmet Zappa and Vaultmeister Joe Travers, the expanded versions will be available as a 5CD box set, 3LP on 180-gram audiophile grade vinyl and digitally. The 5-disc collection, which will be housed in a limited-edition metal tin shaped like a NYC street manhole cover and includes a replica ticket from one of the shows, consists of the main album in its original mix, newly remastered by Bob Ludwig in 2018 and available for the first time since its debut. The four additional discs are loaded with relevant Vault nuggets and more than three hours of unreleased live performances from the NYC Palladium concerts, representing every composition played during the concerts and the best alternate performances of every tune Zappa picked for the original album, all newly mixed in 2018. To achieve the highest-level sound quality, the audio team went back to the original two-inch 24-track multi-track master tapes and transferred every reel at 96kHz 24-bit wavs.

The Zappa In New York 40th Anniversary Editions are available for pre-order now and all digital pre-orders will receive an instant download of the unreleased rarity “The Purple Lagoon/Any Kind of Pain.” Recorded on the first night of the four-night stand, the track features Zappa performing the chorus of the song “Any Kind of Pain” in the middle of “The Purple Lagoon.” What makes this so significant is that nobody knew this existed or that Zappa had the idea for this song more than a decade before it was released in 1988 on the live album Broadway The Hard Way until the Zappa Family Trust archived the tapes and made the fascinating discovery. More proof that Zappa was creating at an unmatched pace and always thinking years ahead.

“We are excited to bring you this new Deluxe version of Zappa in New York: an opportunity to re-examine and celebrate the source material of a great album while exploring the events of Frank’s life in late December 1976, Collections like these really show of the work ethic of a musical genius,” exclaims the Zappa Family Trust in the album notes.

Zappa In New York includes expanded packaging which features previously unseen live photos by Gail Zappa alongside extensive liner notes by band members Ruth Underwood and Ray White (who were part of Zappa’s band for these shows) as well as an insightful essay by Joe Travers with Australian writer Jen Jewel Brown. Underwood also contributes a solo piano version of “The Black Page” that has been newly recorded for this special edition. “‘The Black Page’ has proven to be one of Frank Zappa’s most intriguing and enduring compositions. It is performed in many kinds of venues all over the world. It is taught and studied in schools. Perhaps most exciting is that it is adaptable and lends itself to a variety of orchestrations and re-workings, as FZ himself demonstrated. I am proud that after forty years, mine is finally among them. It is my love letter to Frank and Gail,” Underwood writes in the liners.

The 3LP set, pressed at Pallas in Germany, features all-analog mastering of the original album mix, unavailable since first issued. Plus, an additional LP of select bonus content from The Vault. The digital release marks the debut of the original mix.

Photo by Gail Zappa

Zappa In New York capped off a terrific year for the ever-prolific and always-moving musician which included shows around the globe including his second Australian tour and one and only Japanese jaunt, the release of his album Zoot Allures and Grand Funk Railroad’s record Good Singin’ Good Playin, which he produced, a string of Halloween shows and a performance on “Saturday Night Live” which ended up having a profound impact on the Palladium shows. Following an on-air collaboration with SNL’s announcer Don Pardo and the show’s house band, Zappa invited them to be a part of the shows after three of the horn players so loved playing with Zappa that they asked if they could be involved. As Travers and Brown write in the illuminating liner notes: “Out of nowhere, the concept of adapting horns to the scheduled concerts became a reality. Frank was immediately swept up in the pleasure and challenge of writing and arranging parts for the existing material.”

The collection showcases some of Zappa’s most masterful guitar playing and electrifying arrangements as he leads an exceptional band featuring Ray White on vocals and guitar, Terry Bozzio on drums and vocals, Eddie Jobson on keyboard, Ruth Underwood on percussion and synthesizer, Patrick O’Hearn on bass and vocals and David Samuels on timpani and vibes. Don Pardo provided “sophisticated narration” and the brass section, featuring jazz duo the Brecker Brothers with Randy Brecker on trumpet and Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone, was rounded out by the SNL players: Lou Marini on alto sax, Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax and Tom Malone on trombone.


Anyone who is a fan of the Uncle Meat period of Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention will get a kick out of this one. It explains, in a little over 50 minutes why Zappa was so influential among the fledgling Progressive Rock community. Frank really never made music to dance to, even though some could argue that parts of Freak Out and Cruisin’ With Ruben And The Jets were finger-poppers, and the first number on this tape is a jumping improv, he mostly appealed directly to an audience who liked their music brainy and challenging. He was responsible for freeing up much of Rock’s inherent restrictions, and in doing so forged a new direction during a period of time where musicians and listeners were looking for a bit more substance and meaning.

And even though it became a very public joke that none of Frank’s music would ever make it on Top-40 radio, he achieved worldwide recognition without it. Popular Music was exploding in directions that hadn’t happened before the 1960s. By 1968 the revolution was in full bloom.

And when you consider this concert from Paris, five months after the great French Strike of May and the monumental changes that occurred during that time, it’s only fitting and natural that Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention play to a sold out and enthusiastic audience at the Olympia.

Fortunately, this concert sounds great and completely belies its age (almost 50 years ago . . .seriously?). Further evidence that history doesn’t need to sound dim and distant in order to be profound. Unfortunately, it’s just the first half of the concert.


The Mothers Of Invention: 
Frank Zappa—guitar and vocals
Don Preston—keyboards
Ian Underwood—keyboards and woodwinds
Bunk Gardner—woodwinds
Motorhead—baritone sax
Roy Estrada—bass and vocals
Jimmy Carl Black—drums and vocals
Art Tripp—drums and percussion

Recorded 26th October 1968, Olympia, Paris, France


Halloween was Frank Zappa’s favorite holiday & by 1977 his Halloween shows had become legendary. The part set Recorded “Live at The Palladium in NYC” ,  where Zappa performed over 6 shows 28th – 31st October. Four shows were filmed & resulted in Zappa’s movie “Baby Snakes.” The recorded version includes the Halloween night show in its entirety, mixed in 2016 from original Vault masters, plus select tracks from the other 5 shows.

On another Halloween night in 1978 Frank Zappa closed his band’s North American tour with a four-hour marathon show at the Palladium in New York City. The now legendary show is fondly known to his fans as “the big one”, after Zappa decided to combine the early and late shows into one and introduced the show with: “All right this is the big one. Since this is the big one, we’re gonna do an extra long show. I hope you don’t have to leave early”. Many put this show on their top live Zappa performances and considering the mammoth amount of shows that had been taped and bootlegged during his prolific career, this is no minor achievement. The evening was even more special, as the band was joined by guest L Shankar, the great Indian violinist who became known to western audiences a few years earlier with Shakti, the band he formed with John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain.

On stage that night was a similar personnel to the one that would record a few months later the triple-LP rock opera “Joe’s Garage”, an album that is an acquired taste for many, and not considered one of his best. But it includes one of my favorite in all of Zappa’s large catalog of amazing performances: “Watermelon in Easter Hay”. What makes the 1978 Halloween show special for me is a great rendition of that song, perhaps the best live performance of that song that I’ve heard. The solo exchanges between Zappa and Shankar on that song are nothing short of spectacular. On the album Joe’s Garage, Watermelon in Easter Hay is played towards the end of the record, and it opens side six on the triple LP. The Central Scrutinizer, the narrating voice that comes whispering though a megaphone and glues the album songs with his tale of Joe and his entanglements in a dystopian society while trying to form a garage band, utters the following: “This is the CENTRAL SCRUTINIZER. Joe has just worked himself into an imaginary frenzy during the fade-out of his imaginary song. He begins to feel depressed now. He knows the end is near. He has realized at last that imaginary guitar notes and imaginary vocals exist only in the imagination of the imaginer. And ultimately, who gives a fuck anyway?! Excuse me. Who gives a fuck anyway? So he goes back to his ugly little room and quietly dreams his last imaginary guitar solo.”

Towards the end of the narration the band comes in with a riff that is played throughout the nine-minute song, a hypnotic slow arpeggiated pattern in a 9/4 time signature, The snare accents have tons of reverb and delay, creating a swooosh sound that sometimes sounds like wind. That effect alone adds another dimension to the song. As the song unfolds, the 9/4 cycle becomes a sort of a mantra that you cannot get out of your head after the song ends. But the best part comes right after the narration ends, with one of the best guitar solos in the history of music. There is really no song form here, no A, B or C parts, no verse, bridge or chorus. Its that pattern and the guitar on top of it, repeating endlessly with slight variation from one cycle to the next. The solo is uniquely emotional in Zappa’s catalog, and he considered it one of the top performances of his career.

Whether you like Joe’s Garage or not, you cannot argue with its sound quality. It was recorded at Village Recorders studios in Los Angeles where some other amazingly sounding albums were recorded in the late 70s including Steely Dan’s Aja, Supertramp’s Breakfast in America and Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. The studio personnel was very accommodating and tried to provide everything the artists needed to get their creative juices going. Studio D was constructed especially for the production of Tusk, and Stevie Nicks asked for and got a vocal booth looking like a sunset in Tahiti. One of the things that stands out immediately when you hear the guitar on watermelon in Easter Hay is its tone, a clear spacey sound that works so well for the emotional mood of the piece and is very different from any other guitar sound I know. It was achieved by using the Space Station reverb unit in the days when sound engineers had to tinker with all of the equipment’s intricate options to get a unique sound. Today’s sameness of sound is a result of using factory presets in a digital age that encourages laziness when it comes to the sound and tone of an instrument.

The role of the other musicians on Watermelon in Easter Hay is much more restrained than usually on a Zappa composition, because they keep playing that 9/4 cycle over and over. But they are high enough in the mix that you can hear various nuances, especially by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and percussionist Ed Mann on Marimba and Glockenspiel. In a long list of extraordinary drummers that worked with Frank Zappa over the years, including Ralph Humphrey, Chester Thompson, Chad Wakerman and Terry Bozzio, Colaiuta stands out as the one most able to cope up with Zappa’s polyrhythmical sense of phrasing. In an interview he explained: “I had a pretty fair knowledge of polyrhythms and stuff like that before I got in the band, but nowhere near what it became. I mean, I knew what they were theoretically, but in terms of approaching them the same way he did and using them on the drumset, no way. I got all that from him. In the two and a half years I was with him, it was incredible what I learned. If he sees you have it to begin with, you have to keep up with him. There’s so much information and knowledge coming out of him so fast that you have to be on your toes every second. I would play behind his guitar solos. He said, “I want you to listen to what I’m playing because I’m playing all those rhythms. When you accompany me, I don’t want you to just try to guess what they are and play some standard rhythmic fill. I want you to understand exactly where I’m at and communicate with me on that level.”

Many consider Vinnie Colaiuta the most advanced drummer who played with Zappa. Here is Steve Vai: “He’s one of the most amazing sight-readers that ever existed on the instrument. One day we were in a Frank rehearsal, this was early ’80s, and Frank brought in this piece of music called “Mo ‘N Herb’s Vacation.” Just unbelievably complex. All the drums were written out, just like “The Black Page” except even more complex. There were these runs of like 17 over 3 and every drumhead is notated differently. And there were a whole bunch of people there, I think Bozzio was there. Vinnie had this piece of music on the stand to his right. To his left he had another music stand with a plate of sushi on it, okay? Now the tempo of the piece was very slow, like “The Black Page.” And then the first riff came in, [mimics bizarre Zappa-esque drum rhythm patterns] with all these choking of cymbals, and hi-hat, riffs, spinning of rototoms and all this crazy stuff. And I saw Vinnie reading this thing. Now, Vinnie has this habit of pushing his glasses up with the middle finger of his right hand. Well I saw him look at this one bar of music, it was the last bar of music on the page. He started to play it as he was turning the page with one hand, and then once the page was turned he continued playing the riff with his right hand, as he reached over with his left hand, grabbed a piece of sushi and put it in his mouth, continued the riff with his left hand and feet, pushed his glasses up, and then played the remaining part of the bar. It was the slickest thing I have ever seen. Frank threw his music up in the air. Bozzio turned around and walked away. I just started laughing.”

Frank Zappa studio 1979

Frank Zappa developed the song during his live performances in 1978. The first recorded instance of Watermelon in Easter Hay was at at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on January 27, 1978. Another version was recorded a month later in Germany and is available on Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa. A Memorial Tribute, an album released in 1996 by Dweezil Zappa that captures a few versions of pieces Zappa the father considered the best of his career . It is interesting to hear the development of the guitar solo from the early shows in 1978 to the ones on Halloween in New York and the studio version that appears on Joe’s Garage, recorded in 1979. The solo becomes more structured and mature in the last two and performances and projects a deeper emotion in my opinion. I believe the improvement is mainly due to the change of drummers from Terry Bozzio to Vinnie Colaiuta before the Halloween show .

On Joe’s Garage Zappa continued to use his technique of xenochrony, the placement of previously recorded material on top of studio tracks. Almost all his guitar solos on the album were recoded during live performances from his 1978 tours, and he let band members accompany these solos in the studio and improvise on top of them. He recorded only one new solo for Joe’s Garage and that was Watermelon in Easter Hay. As for the name, Zappa told an interviewer: “If a drummer overplays, if the bass player overplays or the keyboard overplays . . . if they don’t have any sensitivity to what I’m doing or if they aren’t smart enough to track the direction that I am going in it’s like dragging an anchor. In fact, I’ll point out the way that song, “Watermelon in Easter Hay” got its name. It’s from the statement that playing a solo with this band is like trying to grow a watermelon in Easter hay. And most of the bands that I’ve had it was like that. It’s been just recently where I’ve had rhythm sections that don’t get in my way and let me do what I am going to do.”


“Inca Roads” is one of Frank Zappa’s most cherished, covered, and appreciated pieces. It allied his ability to write a catchy song with his mastery of complex music forms, making it a favorite among progressive rock fans and virtuoso ensembles. The lyrics begin on a UFO theme: “Did a vehicle/Come from somewhere out there/Just to land in the Andes?,” referring to South American architectural structures some believed were landing sites for flying saucers. But quickly the song takes a dive into “life on the road.” The word “vehicle” is replaced by “booger-bear,” a title given to the band member who ended up with the ugliest groupie the previous night (which makes it the contrary of “Bwana Dik”). The name of drummer Chester Thompson comes up in regards to that, as it will again under similar circumstances in “Florentine Pogen.” The song ends with a tutti “On Ruth!,” a wink at percussionist Ruth Underwood’s .

“Inca Roads” was the opening track of the Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention 1975 album, “One Size Fits All”. The song features unusual time signatures, lyrics and vocals. The marimba-playing of Zappa’s percussionist Ruth Underwood is featured prominently. The song was played in concert from 1973 to 1976, 1979 and 1988. “Inca Roads” uses mixed meter time sequences.

The song starts with dominant vocals, drums, and marimba, but soon features a massive, iconic guitar solo performed by Zappa in late September 1974 at a live performance in Helsinki, Finland. An edited version of this solo recording (and part of the bass and drums accompaniment) was “grafted” onto the KCET track and forms the backbone of the One Size Fits All version . Later, George Duke plays an equally complex solo in . On the video, Zappa is seen smiling gleefully, as he plays the backup chords. After a short marimba solo, “Inca Roads” reprises its snappy intro. The song ends with the lyrics “On Ruth, on Ruth, that’s Ruth!” acknowledging Underwood for her leading on the marimba.

In an interview vocalist and keyboard player George Duke said that Zappa pushed for him to sing on “Inca Roads” and that beforehand Duke had no intentions of singing professionally and was only there to play keyboards. He went on to explain how Zappa had bought him a synthesizer (an instrument which Duke had disliked) and told him he could play around with it if he wanted. This led to Duke playing the synth part on “Inca Roads” as well

This re recorded version was featured on the Eagle Rock Entertainment Vdeo release in conjuction with the Zappa Family Trust first official release of A TOKEN OF HIS EXTREME, an original program created by Frank Zappa for TV. Recorded on August 27, 1974 at KCET in Hollywood.

“A Token of his Extreme” features Frank Zappa with five incredibly talented band members for this extravaganza of live music. The line-up exists of Frank Zappa—guitar, percussion, vocals; George Duke—keyboards, finger cymbals, tambourine, vocals; Napoleon Murphy Brock—sax, vocals; Ruth Underwood—percussion; Tom Fowler—bass; Chester Thompson—drums.

I always end up emotionally overwhelmed at the unparalleled majesty of this band’s musicianship. Ruth Underwood percussion is amazing, This is truly one of Frank Zappa’s greatest compositions. Not only is his solo jaw dropping but the band are just scorching hot too. All that knotty odd time, crazy harmony and difficult vocals just shows how great these guys were. George Duke just absolutely burns on this song.

The track was taken from the Program, as edited and thoroughly tweezed & produced by Frank Zappa for Honker Home Video includes these delights: The Dog Breath Variations/ Uncle Meat, Montana, Earl Of Duke (George Duke), Florentine Pogen, Stink-Foot, Pygmy Twylyte, Room Service, Inca Roads, Oh No, Son Of Orange County, More Trouble Every Day, A Token Of My Extreme. Stereo Mixes Produced by Frank Zappa with Kerry McNabb at Paramount Studios, 1974.

“This was put together with my own money and my own time and it’s been offered to television networks and to syndication and it has been steadfastly rejected by the American television industry. It has been shown in primetime in France and Switzerland, with marvelous results. It’s probably one of the finest pieces of video work that any human being has ever done. I did it myself. And the animation that you’re gonna see in this was done by a guy named Bruce Bickford, and I hope he is watching the show, because it’s probably the first time that a lot of people in America got a chance to see it.”- FZ appearing on the Mike Douglas Show, 1976 Because ‘Token’ has never been commercially released until now, it is one of the most sought after Frank Zappa programs.

The Band

  • Frank Zappa – guitar, vocals
  • George Duke – keyboards, synthesizer, lead vocals
  • Napoleon Murphy Brock – flute, tenor saxophone, vocals
  • Chester Thompson – drums
  • Tom Fowler – bass
  • Ruth Underwood – vibes, marimba, percussion