When I went up to see him at the Weymouth Street Clinic, just off Harley Street, he lay on his back, arm in a sling, one leg in the air in a cast. His head was bandaged like a mummy.
[...] By Christmas, Frank had improved. They had removed the bandages from his head.
I spent a month in the hospital at the Harley Street clinic, which wasn't too bad. The first hospital I went to was the absolute pits. It was a regular public hospital. It was just . . . eughhhh . . . I can still remember how it smelled, folks.
On 7 January, Frank and Gail left England, Frank in a wheelchair.
He got back to rapping about the bum who jumped him on stage. The guy got a year's sentence and Zappa thought it was light. Understandable, since, although it was a clean break, Frank was in a wheel chair for nine months.
"It didn't heal. It refused to heal and they wanted to operate on it but I said 'No, just leave the cast on. It'll grow back'. And it grew back."
I was a month in the Haley Street Clinic, and then I had about another three months in Los Angeles pretty much incapacitated, and I then gradually started improving from there. I've had this brace on my leg for about two months, and before that I had a cast on, sitting in a wheelchair. The leg's not healing very fast, but it is healing now at last. I had a whole assortment of injuries, and it bugged me a little bit to see the way it was handled in the press, a kind of semi-humorous treatment, here and also in the States, yeah. Yo ho ho, he fell in the orchestra pit.
Maybe, maybe I was feeling a little crazy and over sensitive in that hospital. I had a broken rib, I got a broken shin tibia, I had a giant hole in the back of my head, the side of my face got mashed in, and for the first two-and-a-half or three weeks in the hospital I couldn't move my hands, and I didn't know whether I had any brain damage or what. I couldn't even hold a guitar up by the time I left the place, it was too heavy for me.
The first post-wheelchair appearance [in 1972] was as a reciter, in a performance of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du soldat at the Hollywood Bowl, conducted by Lukas Foss.
In early September 1972, Tim [Buckley] participated in a Stravinsky Marathon with Frank Zappa at the Hollywood Bowl. Zappa narrated The Soldiers Tale, about a soldier, a girl, a violin, and a devil that tries to separate the soldier from the other two. The L.A. Times said Tim was to read the part of the devil, but (according to a friend who saw the production) he read the part of the soldier, while Ernest Fleischmann played the role of the devil. Lukas Foss directed the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra.
Well, first of all, I was offered the job of being the devil. And I like the music, and so I said, "Well okay, I'll be the devil." And then I decided, no, I don't want to be the devil. And I called 'em back and I said, "No, I decided not to be the devil. I can't do it." And they said, "Well, how about being the narrator?" And I said, "Okay." So I'm gonna be the narrator.
Informant: Charles Ulrich.
[The new band] is called The Mothers of Invention Hot Rats Grand Wazoo or Grand Wazoo for short. It's a 20-piece electric orchestra, and the group is only going to be together for a total of eight concerts. The Hollywood Bowl, the Oval, the Hague, Berlin, two days in New York, Boston, and back home.
[...] As soon as I get off the road after this tour [I'll] put together another group. We have a tour lined up for the
United Statesand Canadaat the end of October.
How long did it take to assemble the Wazoo?
"About three or four months. It was very hard to get together, because they're all studio players, and they were all busy. It came as a considerable surprise to them to learn that they were going on the road. They'd never experienced it before, and I'd never been out on the road with a group that large trying to perform electric music. It was a worthwhile experience. It only cost me $2,000. That's how much I lost on the tour. The tour grossed $97,000, and the expenses exceeded that by $2,000."
[...] Returning momentarily to the subject of that worthwhile $2,000 experience with the Wazoo, to what extent are the Mothers economically viable?
"Well, a group that size, earning that amount of money, carrying that much equipment, going to Europe, playing that few jobs in that amount of time cannot make money at all," he replied with his best creepy leer. "It just does not work. You gotta four piece band? You're gonna make money. You just get out there and play blues."
In 1972, [FZ] created the Grand Wazoo [...]. The instrumentation included electric guitar, keyboard, electric bass, percussion, trap set, woodwinds, trumpets, trombones and cello. Each instrument was to be fitted with a Barcus-Berry transducer microphone, fed through an amp, balanced so that each instrument could be heard with each other member of the ensemble. [...]
I was invited to conduct rehearsals of the ensemble, and then to play electric cello on the tour. Clearly, this would require a very special instrument. I visited Westwood Music, near UCLA. The genial proprietors, Herman Walecki and his son, Fred, had just the right cello: an old, German instrument with a dark brown finish and the right number of significant cracks, many of which were repaired. I bought it, on the spot, and arranged to have the Barcus-Berry bridge (with the transducer mic embedded in it) cut to fit the cello. I also acquired a large Benson tube amp with reverb and fuzz-tone, a phase wah-wah device and a ring modulator. Thus, an electric cello!
A friend of mine, Sal Marquez, was playing in the band and I called him when I came to town. He said 'Hey I'm playing with Zappa. Why don't you come down and play for him?' So I went down and I don't know if he was actually holding auditions per se, but he was looking for some guys to do that Big Wazoo (sic) orchestra, twenty piece. I'm not sure if it's the first piece we did, but he pulled out 'Approximate' and we played that.
Now the thing was that my father taught us before; he taught us about those rhythms, so we knew. By the time I was out of high school, I already knew about seven over three and all that stuff. I practised it in history class, tapping it out. I could just do it and since I was interested in math, those rhythms were really intriguing. Suddenly here was Frank writing music like that. I'd never played it before, but on the other hand, I could look at it and figure it out. It made sense, so it was fortunate that our dad taught us that. The same was true for Tom and Walt.
I'd liked Zappa very much when I was a hippie, so it was an easy transition to playing in his group. I played a few tunes with him and then I went back home. I went back to college and he called me a couple of weeks later and said 'Well, do you want to play in this group? I've got some concerts coming up' and I said 'Yeah, that'd be great'. So I came down and I stayed with Sal, played in that big group and I really practised hard. He wrote me a special part. It was different to all the other trombone parts and it was really hard. I still have some of it but it actually got lost. It was probably the hardest stuff ever written for trombone and actually played. It was only done on tour and not recorded except at those concerts.
I believe Dave [Parlato] met Zappa thru some of the other musicians like Ian Underwood and wife, Ruth. He went on the road a number of times with Zappa—once to London where he roomed with Sal Marquez, a wild-man, and a story in itself. Very interesting years. We went to a number of strange parties at Frank's house.
On March 7th 1972 I was invited to a rehearsal at 144 south La Brea in mid town Los Angeles. These turned out to be the beginning of rehearsals of the Grand Wazoo. The rehearsals continued, mostly on Friday afternoons until on April 14th when we went to record at Paramount Records on Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood from 1-4pm and 5-8pm. The rehearsals continued through September 10th when we played the Hollywood Bowl. My wife at the time was bassoonist Jo Ann Caldwell and in September we both joined Frank leaving on the tour September 13th 1972.
I tell you about a guy I know that was working with Blood, Sweat and Tears . . . I can't remember who he's working with now, who's that drummer? He's working with Billy Cobham now. His name was Tom Malone, and he was in my group at one time, he has the weirdest assortment of doubles I have ever heard of. Piccolo trumpet, tuba, tenor saxophone, alto flute, electric bass, and normal trumpet. So if you stop and think what you have to do embouchure-wise to switch from playing a tuba to an alto flute to a piccolo trumpet and he was good on all those instruments, he was just an absolute freak.
The 21st-century cartoon music of "The New Brown Clouds" was an engaging opener; "Big Swifty" featured some modestly successful jazz solos, while "Approximate," a finely wrought collection of controlled randomness, was the most blatantly avant-garde selection.
The highlight of the program was by far "The Adventures of Gregory Peccary," and while one might wish that it could be presented full-scale—with narrator, chorus and dancers—its pictorial quality and adventurous textures (especially the jarring dissonances of the third movement) indicate that while Zappa is moving toward a synthesis whose chance for success is uncertain, he, if anyone, will be able to pull it off.
The spectre of Jim Morrison still hangs heavy over the Doors, and they have yet to come up with any music with enough personality to dispel it. Their set was most innocuous, until Ray Manzarek, displaying a rather odd sense of humor, dedicated "Light My Fire" to Jimbo and promised that he'll be back with the group the next time they're at the Bowl. Don't miss it.
Tim Buckley opened the show.
When the Grand Wazoo played in a sports arena in Berlin there was a moment of spontaneity on the stage during the concert. Frank had definitely picked up on the fact that two of his musicians had been arguing quite a bit on the tour. I was shocked when Frank announced "Now we are going to feature the Fighting McNabs'" and then he proceeded to conduct me and my then wife, bassoonist Jo Ann Caldwell McNab, in a musical dialogue. He conducted us in his unique way in this exchange which became more and more heated. As Frank made his specific indications to us and as the opus rose to a big crescendo, I really did feel that we were in therapy.
In the Hague, we did an improvised piece, directed by Frank. The work began as a duet between the cello and the contrabass sarrusophone.
Frank, not surprisingly, is still anti-British; more so since his gig at the Oval last autumn—which he thought was an appalling venue with everybody lighting fires to keep warm when they should have been concentrating on him.
He was also disgusted at the "publicity stunt," which was staged when the girlfriend of the man who pushed him off-stage at the Rainbow was produced in front of a barrage of cameras to give him some flowers and apologise. As a result, he has decided not to play England for at least another two years.
Frank Zappa brought his new band to the Felt Forum last Friday. [...]
Tim Buckley was onstage doing a lot of his old songs like "Gypsy Woman" and "Pleasant Street." His voice still soars and swoops from a most sensual moan to a full-out wail down a no-city street, but he is now back from a three-year flirtation with jazz and calls his new album, "Greetings from L.A," "barrelhouse rock 'n' roll." [...]
Zappa and the band finally came on to a standing ovation. [...] He then introduced the musicians (several of the people who played on his latest album, "Waka/Jawaka"), while running a plausibility check, using the audience as indicators. Bassoonist Joanne Mc[Nabb] earned a burst of applause as she ran through a bit of the evidently familiar strains of "Peter and the Wolf." Jim "direct from Derek and the Dominos" Gordon earned a hand too, as did Ian Underwood, an alumnus of the original Mothers and the Hamilton Face Band. It was clever but finally rather tedious. There were scattered yells for "Freak Out!"-vintage numbers like "Monster Magnet" and "Hungry Freaks Daddy" as Zappa announced, "We're not going to eat or burn any guitars live onstage tonight, but we do have two kinds of weirdness—random and organized. I think we've got something for everyone from eight to 13 tonight."
[...] Zappa's partner in his Straight/Bizarre Records, Herb Cohen, was also outside taking the air. As it turned out, he had known the friend I was with for several years. While we watched the cops watch little groups of people eddying along the street, I asked him how the tour had been going down. "We've already played in London, at the Oval, and in Berlin and the Hague, and everything's gone well so far. [...] Frank formed this band just for this tour. We're only playing eight cities, but we're doing some live recording and some of it will be on an album around November. It's going to be called 'Grand Wazoo.' This music will be on it, but not all played by the full band."
The Felt Forum show was, to me, the most memorable Zappa concert I've seen—and I've attended shows in just about every tour following '72. This was the show with the "Comic Book Extravaganza" and "Dog Meat"—"Uncle Meat" and "Dog Breath" performed together. The Felt Forum was a very dignified place for a Zappa concert. It was small like a TV studio, with impeccable sound. Before the show, following Tim Buckley's awesome performance, I ventured over to the stage to get a closer look at the sheet music on the stands. The music books were titled "Hot Rats Ensemble."
I've heard a bootleg cassette of the show and the sound is so awful it almost ruined the memory of this truly original and stratospheric concert event.
Rehearsals started October 3rd, 4th and 5th at Frank's house and then on La Brea October 6th, 9th, 12th, 13th, 16th, 18th, 19th, leaving on tour with the 10 piece Petite Wazoo on the 26th and returning November 12th. Petite Wazoo leaves on another tour November 30th returning on December 4th. Petite leaves again December 8th returning the 11th. San Francisco December 15th one-nighter. Also, in Columbia, South Carolina, because of an unfortunate event where the drummer and one of the trumpet players had to leave, we improvised the entire concert as we were unable to perform any of the rehearsed material.
Two members of Frank Zappa's "Mothers of Invention" band were arrested last night at Township Auditorium for possession of cocaine.
Horn player Gary Barone and drummer James B. Gordon were arrested during an intermission in the show between 10:45 and 10:55 according to Sgt. Galvin of the Columbia Police Department narcotice squad.
Both musicians posted $5,000 bond and were released to their attorney.
When the mothers appeared on stage Frank Zappa prefaced the performance with "Our regular drummer couldn't be here tonight because he has a peculiar malady."
At the end of the performance the crowd at the auditorium began screaming more, more as is the custom for requesting an encore. Zappa, however, cut the show short saying that circumstances beyond his control prevented extending the performance for another number.
Gordon was a member of "Derek and the Dominoes."
My second Zappa show was in early December 1972 in Wichita, Ks at Century II convention center. Steely Dan was the opener.
FZ was walking with a serious limp after being in the hospital for many months—he was pushed from a stage in London to a concrete floor by a demented fan.
I got in free to the show because a trumpet player friend of mine knew Earl Dumler, the woodwind player in the Grand Wazoo band that night. Earl is originally from Russell, KS—home of Bob Dole.
After the show, FZ, my friend, me and a bunch of folks went out to a club where an all black band was funking out. I remember seeing FZ walking up to the band and talking to the lead singer.
Later, FZ slow danced with this really tall "hooker" looking lass.
After we left there, we all ended up at a small club called Ceaser's Palace—where all the Wazoo band members, including guitarist Tony Duran, were onstage. All the horn players were there jamming with the house band.
That's the night FZ met Wichita harmonica player, Craig Twister Steward, who FZ later hired to play on several CDs.
I got to witness the whole evening and FZ finally got up and sat in, sitting on a stool to play guitar. They played a long shuffle.
I remember hanging out with Zappa and band after a Grand Wazoo show at Century II in Wichita, KS (Steely Dan was the opener) in late 1972. Frank was wearing red bell bottoms with his flannel shirt tail out.
We went to an all black club and FZ slow danced with this very tall chick. He was still doing kind of a limp after the Rainbow stage dive, so it was odd watching him slow dancing with a limp.
After that, we ended up at a club called Ceaser's Palace and all the Wazoo guys were jamming. Tony Duran sounded great, as did the horn players. That's the night Frank first heard Craig Steward get up and jam on harmonica. FZ got up and sat on a stool and played guitar. I had just turned 18, so it was a thrill to be in a private club where you had to be 21. Especially with FZ & the Wazoo.
Frank played a concert in Wichita around 72 or 73. He went to a few popular clubs that played good cover tunes and asked if anyone knew of a club playing more progressive music. I was sitting in with guitarist David Carie, a long time best friend, whose group called Bliss was more what Frank was looking for. Bliss played early George Benson, other jazz, Mahavishnu, etc. The club was called Caesar's Palace. Tony Duran, guitarist of Ruben And The Jets, and drummer Jim Gordon had gotten to this club and were sitting in playing a shuffle in the key of A. I only had one harmonica with me, a key of D, which is used most often in the key of A in what is called 2nd position. After we finished, Frank stood up from a table and yelled out my name, "Craig!" I went over and he was with a girl my older brother Marty used to date called Glenda. Frank stuck out his hand, which I promptly shook. He asked if I would go up and sit in on a slow blues with him. It was a lot of fun. After we played, he asked me if I would come out to LA and audition. Later on, many Zappa players shared that they never knew of Frank sitting in like that.
Found him in a bar in Wichita Kansas, about six years ago. He sounds like Coltrane on a harmonica. And I mean fast like you won't believe. This guy is like the Al Di Meola of the harmonica. I brought him out to California to audition when we were putting together the Roxy & Elsewhere album. But he was kind of a primitive musician; he'd never worked in a band before, and he didn't know how to learn parts. We were doing a lot of written stuff, and he couldn't read, and he had some difficulty manipulating the instrument in order to play some chromatic passages—because he only plays regular diatonic harp. I told him to go back home and develop his ear to the point where somebody could say, "It goes like this," and he could hear it and play it. Five years later I got a letter from him; he said, " I've been practicing and I want to try it again." I got on the phone to him right away and got him out here.
BG: What did you think of David Walley's biography of you, "No Commercial Potential?
FZ: I think it's a piece of shit and I think he's a piece of shit.
BG: What happened?
FZ: Well, first of all I didn't want him to write a book about me, but he insisted that he was going to do it anyway.
Walley told me before the thing came out that he'd worked out this way of laying out the book that was real graphic with a little visual symbol for each of the characters that he'd imagined in this intense mosaic he'd stumbled across. It was so juvenile.
BG: Why didn't you want a book written about you?
FZ: Well, you know I hate to call somebody a Groupie, but he's a Groupie. And I didn't think that he was the kind of a person that could really write something about me, especially something personal. If he's going to write a review of an album or something like that, he's got enough musical sense where he might be able to talk about it. I'd seen some of the things that he'd said about albums before and I thought it was O.K., and that's how I got to know him.
I told him, 'Don't write this book.' But he said, 'I've already got a deal with the publisher and blah, blah blah, and I'm going to go ahead and do it!' So it put me on the spot where either I had to cooperate with him and give him some interviews that he could use for the book or otherwise he'd have to go out and fictionalize the whole fuckin' thing. Either way I was stuck.
So, I consented to do some interviews at the house, and they were really tragic. He'd start off and ask me some questions and then he'd start talking about his father! And he'd start talking about his relationship with his father, you know, and I'd spend four hours with him sitting there trying to answer questions; and the minute I'd say something he'd constantly be comparing me with his relationship with his father. I was goin', 'Oh no, what's going to happen when this fucker gets in print.' It was just too grotesque.
But the thing that pisses me off most about the book was him going around talking to people and asking them questions about me, and never coming back and cross-referencing it with me to find out if so and so said this—is it fact or can this be supported by anything like that.
Biography must have certain kinds of scruples about it if you're going to do it with any class, you know. Some research, and he just didn't do any.
He never even talked with Gail. If there's anybody who knows something about me, it's got to be my wife! And he wouldn't talk with her because she thought he was full of shit all along. He used to stay away from her.
When the thing finally came out, he sent me a galley at a point where there was already 10,000 copies of the book printed and in the warehouse. And when I saw that fuckin' thing I was really pissed off.
BG: What were some of the grosser inaccuracies of the book?
FZ: Well, calling Herb Cohen a criminal through somebody else's words without being able to support it is libelous. He's got quotes in there from Pamela Zarubica, who he was fucking at the time, and wouldn't bother to check up on anything she said. And she's so coked out and full of shit, you know. She's not a reliable anything. The stuff that Lowell George said, Art Tripp said, Beefheart said and various people in the group critical of me and of Herbie; the things that they said were insubstantial. Just jive. And it really puts me off.
Do you still have any animosity towards David Walley and his biography?
I wouldn't say that it's animosity, but I wouldn't say that it's too enthralling either, because I think that it's a bad piece of work, and I hate to see my name connected with it. I asked him not to write the book, because I didn't think that he could do a good job on it, and he said that he already had a contract to do the book and that he was going to go ahead on it whether I cooperated or not. And so it puts you in a position where somebody is going to write the story of your life, you don't think that they can do it and there's no way you can stop him from doing it. So you have a choice: you can either not talk to him anymore, or you can give him some interviews, and try to give him some information he can use. But what happened at the time Walley interviewed me, is he'd come over to my house, he'd ask me a question and I got to answer it, and then he'd start talking about his father. I mean I spent two or three nights listening him telling how his father sent him to military school, and him comparing me to his father, and I'm going, "Jeeesus!"
And then he would do numbers like he'd bring his girlfriend over to my house, with licks like, "Yeah, you know, I'm going up to interview Frank Zappa, you wanna come along?" And all that kind of shit. And I'd sit there like, "Ngngng . . . " And then, when he had finally finished the book, he sent me the galley proofs, you know the galley proof is the book before it's a book, except that it wasn't. He sent me some printed pages, but there was already 10,000 finished books sitting in a warehouse some place, and there was no way that I could have corrected any of his errors. So it was just an unfortunate thing that happens to someone in show business. And when you're in showbusiness, and somebody comes up to you and says, "Hey, I'm gonna do a book about your life," you just tell him, "GO FUCK YOURSELF!"
Well, let me tell you the story of that book. First of all, it was written by a guy who I feel is probably not a very good person. He came to me and said he wanted to do a biography and I said I don't want one and he said, well, I've already made a deal with a publisher and I'm gonna do it whether you help me or not. So on the advice of my manager and my lawyer at the time, they said the best thing to do is to give him an interview because if he's going to write a book, you should give him some information. So he come to my house a couple of times and he would ask me a question and as soon as I'd start to answer, he'd tell me about his father and tell me about the military school that his father sent him to and it was like I was a psychiatrist and he'd bring his girlfriend to the house, you know, like, "Hey baby, go with me—I'm gonna go interview Zappa." And then, the next thing you know the guy disappears, goes away for a while and sends me some proofs of some scripts of a book that is full of shit. It's just got so much wrong stuff, misquotes, his own fantasies, uncorroborated garbage . . . He sends me the proofs. Well, it wasn't really the proofs. They had already printed 10,000 copies that were sitting in a warehouse and there was no way they could change any of the inaccuracies in the book. To me, it's the worst kind of journalism and it turned me off to all form of media, all forms of writers, I mean they're just scum.
Additional informant: Javier MarcoteResearch, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos