EB: The picture of Baby Snakes, with the girl with the tongue. Is that just a model, or is that someones . . .
FZ: That was the make-up girl. [...] It was a candid shot, y'know. She just happened to have her tongue stickin' out when she was touchin' up my make-up on the thing.
|Läther Era Outtakes||Baby Snakes (1979) [Eagle Rock 2003]|
|1. NYC Backstage Dialog|
|3. NYC Backstage Dialog II|
FZ: You wanna be in the band?
Warren: No! . . . Well . . . I, I wouldn't do that, man, I would try out for your band . . . but I wouldn't . . .
FZ: I'll try ya out
Warren: I don't sing . . . I'd do anything, you see . . .
I was first exposed to Frank Zappa with the Hot Rats album. I liked his style of playing, the way he would go from blues type stuff to very complex fusion-like pieces. When I heard Overnite Sensation I decided I had to see this guy live. I finally saw him at Brooklyn College in 1975, and I couldn't believe that anyone playing guitar in an ensemble could sound like that. It was phenomenal.
For about two years I was going to his shows, and at one of them I met his sound guy. I would hang around talking to the sound guy after the shows. One night we were talking and he was saying stuff like, "You know how Frank is." And I said, "No, I don't. I've never met him." He was really shocked—I'd been hanging around enough that the sound guy naturally assumed I knew Frank. So he introduced me to him at Frank's next New York City show. We talked for a while and Frank told me to stop by at some of his other New York Stage gigs. So over the next year I kind of followed him around, taping shows so that I would hear stuff that he hadn't released yet.
In the meantime, I was trying to learn his stuff on the guitar. I never even thought of playing in his band though, because a lot of his guitarists were singers and I didn't sing. One day, Frank approached me about working for him—as a radio promotions guy. He knew how enthusiastic I was about his music, and he thought I'd do a good job of talking him up to New York radio people. The turning point for me as a guitar player was when I was out to dinner one night with Frank in New York. We were sitting in this little place and William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg were at the next table, and Frank starts making introductions. He introduced my friend as "This is Malcom, he's a taxi driver," and then he said, "This is Warren, he's a guitar player." I just went, "Wow." I mean, I was a truck driver, and Frank was introducing me as a guitar player.
The toughest chart I ever had to play with Frank was the straight version of "The Black Page." It's mainly difficult for the drum chair, but it's a tough chart all around. We actually worked up two arrangements of it: the straight one and the disco arrangement, which was hilarious. Terry would slip into sort of a Latin hustle beat, and I did the ubiquitous bass octaves that had been made popular by God knows how many groups of the era. We'd hold a dance contest onstage; some of that is in the concert film, Baby Snakes. He would bring up members of the audience and have them dance to this arrangement. Peter Wolf and Tommy Mars would play the keyboard chart as written, but Adrian Belew, Terry, and I would slip back and forth between the disco and straight arrangements, causing these hiccups.
As the BS version of The Black Page #2 is from 10/31, there's an edit from 10/31 to 10/29 in Jones Crusher.
[...] I think the edit on the movie is at the first bass note (13 seconds into the chapter), since the 10/31 dance contest participants are still visible during FZ's guitar intro.
On the CD, however, the edit seems to be at the beginning of the track.
this one is more serendipitous.
to begin with your first road manager
has to kill himself
(see Anecdote # 37 blog from August 15.)
then, he has to be replaced by a road manager
of a different stripe: the "Road Mangler"
which is the title Phil Kaufman goes by.
Phil is an extraordinary person with a colorful past.
friends with Charlie Manson, before the massacre.
friends with the legendary Gram Parsons.
at Gram's insistence Phil agreed
to burn Gram's body out in the desert
if he were to die.
they made a pact.
a few years later
Gram Parsons died,
Phil stole his body,
drove it into the desert,
and promptly burned it.
you meet Phil after his prison tenure
and find him to be one hilarious fellow.
dressed in his best Harley garb,
he has (at that time) a knack for staying
completely smashed on booze
and yet doing his job very thoroughly.
one morning at breakfast with Phil
the waitress asks for his order.
he replies, "I'll have a Turkey Club."
the waitress says,
"I'm sorry sir, we're only serving breakfast,
no sandwiches until lunch."
"it's a type of whiskey, dear", he informs her.
next, you have to be fortunate enough
to take part in one of frank's annual rituals:
the Halloween concert in New York City
at the ancient Palladium Theatre.
since it is halloween
Phil will look after the costuming
for willing band members.
and since you are already in a costume of sorts
(a paratroopers jumpsuit bought
at an Army/Navy store on Melrose Ave.)
you're happy to oblige.
as it happens the entire concert is being filmed
to be released as a live concert film called baby snakes.
so when Phil shows up late in the afternoon
with your costume you try to put on a brave face.
the costume he's chosen is a WAC uniform
(a female military outfit from the 40's)
which matches your paratrooper jumpsuit
and just so happens to fit you perfectly.
at some point during the evening's concert
you find yourself offstage
changing into the WAC uniform.
the film crew surrounds you as you don
the now-infamous $500,000 Jimi Hendrix strat
and step back onto the busy stage
in front of 2,000 people
and a host of lights and cameras.
it's at this precise moment you realize:
you're wearing a dress.
ps: the Stratocaster I'm playing in the photo above was owned by Jimi Hendrix.
he burnt it up at the miami pop festival in 1967.
somehow frank inherited the guitar which was in 3 pieces,
had it put back together, and set up for slide playing.
I played it in the song jones crusher.
recently dweezil zappa auctioned off the guitar at Sotheby's in London.
it sold for 350 thousand pounds or a whopping $500,000!
I should have carved my name and number on the back.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos