"I had left Frank's band by the time that he took the tapes into the studio," remembers [Adrian] Belew, "so I was only involved in what was done live." [...]
Belew reveals that much of Sheik Yerbouti actually came from soundcheck recordings.
"Frank was one of these people who really enjoyed the whole process of doing soundchecks. They could last for a couple of hours, and he'd record them as well. That's where a lot of what you hear on the album comes from. And this is where I got to do my parts."
produced by Frank Zappa [...]
engineers for basic tracks: Peter Henderson/Davey Moire/Claus Wiedemann/Kerry McNab remote recording facilities: The Basing Street Truck/The Manor Truck/The RCA Truck/The Ol' Four Track overdub engineer: Joe Chicarelli remix engineers: Joe Chicarelli/Frank Zappa; assistant: Barbara Issak studio facilities: The Village Recorders
Napoleon and I [...] did all the backup vocals together on 'Sheik Yerbouti'—that was about 1 week in the studio in 1978.
I just signed a contract with Phonogram—that's finally done. And our first release on Zappa Records, which will be distributed by Phonogram, is coming out in January. It's called Martian Love Secrets.
"I suppose you can say I'm whoopee, if you must," said stone-faced Frank Zappa. The cult hero of theater rock still won't smile ("Who wants to look at teeth?"), but he did light up like the Fourth of July to celebrate an independent new venture: a forthcoming movie and LP—working title "Martian Love Secrets"—due soon on his Zappa label. Expect more of his satiric hash of jazz and rock: a lyrical attack on unionized plumbers, a punk ditty dubbed "I'm So Cute," a spoof of Peter Frampton called "I Have Been in You" and "Dancing Fool," a toetapping disco parody. Frank is out to zap the Top 40 with his first hit single in four years—since "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow." "I'm mellow and groovy now," say Frank. "Just like Linda Ronstadt."
Although an "unofficial" album, Studio Tan, has just been released on Warner Bros., Zappa has switched to Phonogram in the US (for distribution) and is currently mixing his next album, Martian Love Secrets, in New York. He is also mired in a welter of litigation with his former label and desperately trying to raise a half a million to get his new film project (either "Martian Love Secrets" or "Baby Snakes GasMask") off the ground.
Frank Zappa's latest album is called Martian Love Secrets, it's on his new Zappa label, it's real good, and it's only phase one of a renovated master plan for world pop domination.
GENESIS: You also have a movie in the works.
Zappa: I have one that is near completion. I'm trying to raise the money to finish it. It's stuff that was shot at the Palladium last Halloween, plus animation.
GENESIS: What's it about?
Zappa: Well, there's not what you would call a story line. It has linear continuity; it goes from one place to another on a line, but that doesn't necessarily make it a story line. Stories work with good guys and bad guys with something triumphing later. It'll be called Gas Masks, Martian Love Secrets, or Baby Snakes.
GENESIS: When will it be finished?
Zappa: As soon as my manager can raise half a million bucks.
GENESIS: Your new album, Martian Love Secrets, came out in January. What else is on it?
Zappa: "I Have Been in You," "Jewish Princess," "Wild Love," "Yo Mamma," "Dancing Fool."
GENESIS: What are the love secrets of the Martians?
Zappa: The title derives from some graffiti in a recording studio where we were working. There's a toilet-paper dispenser in the upstairs bathroom, and a little white porcelain box where somebody had written the words, "Martian Love Secrets," with twinkle lines around the words, as if that's where it's all at.
OUI: Can you tell us about your new film, Baby Snakes?
ZAPPA: That's one possible title. The other possible ones are Gas Mask and Martian Love Secrets.
OUI: Why those titles?
ZAPPA: They're good titles. What's in a title? Wanna call it Number One?
The actual phrase was written on the wall of a toilet in the men's bathroom at the Record Plant in 1970 that Frank read.
Two years before the Sheik Yerbouti album cover was shot, Lynn Goldsmith spotted Frank Zappa walking into a New York hotel. She ran home and wrote him a letter telling him that if he would give her an hour to make pictures, she would make it worth his while. He agreed, and the resulting photos ran in Time, Newsweek and Rolling Stone. "He trusted me from then on," she says. When the time came for this shoot for the Sheik Yerbouti album, Zappa told Goldsmith exactly what he had in mind. "He wanted to look like a Hollywood film director with a megaphone, a girl prop, etc. Frank was more comfortable being a funny man rather than a handsome man, but I thought he was very handsome and I wanted other people to see that, too. The album was a play on disco sounds, so I thought he could call it Sheik Yer Bootie, and I could make him look as handsome as a sheik."
Goldsmith worked for hours doing the shot Zappa wanted. When it was done she asked him to put on the "head-dress." Patti Smith had given it to Goldsmith and she'd saved it as a prop. "He refused. He said, 'I will not put that schmata on my head.' I cried. I told him I always do what he asks me and why shouldn't he just let me make a few rolls of film with an idea I wanted to do." Eventually he did, and this was the result.
In 1979 my friend Frank Zappa came to me with an idea for the cover of his next record. He planned to appear as an old-time Hollywood director, complete with the megaphone, riding crop, beret, etc. I photographed him in this outfit (some of these photos appear in my book PhotoDiary), but I thought the idea did not really reflect the content of the music I heard for the new album. I had an Arab-style headdress in my prop collection (which had been given to me by Patti Smith), and I asked Frank to let me shoot a few frames of him wearing it. His response was that he 'wasn't going to put that schmatta on'. I pleaded with him, telling him it would only take a few minutes, and that if he didn't like the pictures he could destroy them. He finally relented, and let me make the photograph I had envisioned. Once he saw the final results he loved them, and since the LP was going to contain his disco parody 'Dancin' Fool', the photo provided the inspiration for the LP title: Sheik Yerbouti.
We got a letter from an organization addressed to Zappa Records; "It has been brought to our attention that the album covers of Zappa Records are offensive to women because they show women in humiliating situations." Bennet [Glotzer], my manager, was forced to send them a letter back saying, "Zappa Records has so far released one album. It's called Sheik Yerbouti, and it has a picture of Frank Zappa on the front with a sheet on his head. How this is offensive to women is beyond me. We welcome your comments [laughs]."
Before Sheik Yerbouti we were doing 50,000 to 70,000 units worldwide. Sheik Yerbouti sold 1.6 million worldwide. I don't know the figure for Hot Rats but it's nowhere near Yerbouti—maybe 400,000. It certainly didn't sell well at the time it came out. The only reason I know about Sheik Yerbouti is because somebody recited it to me one day, in kind of an astonished tone of voice, that a person such as myself should sell that many records of anything worldwide. The reason for that was "Bobby Brown." Somebody in Norway decided that they liked the song very much and kept playing it in discos, and it became a hit in Scandinavia, then it was a hit in Germany. It was a Top Ten record again in Germany just last year. I don't know why.
Pat Buzby has figured out that Bobby Brown comes from 1/27/78, and Baby Snakes is from 1/25/78 (not 2/28).
Also, "Tryin' To Grow A Chin" and "City Of Tiny Lites" are likely from 1/27/78, since all the other versions are circulating and do not match the LP. I would denote those with a (probably) or (not certain but likely).
In the case of Frampton, I thought that the very idea of such a clean-cut kind of person making a song called "I'm In You," and the sentiment hidden in that title, I thought, now this guy has really got quite an imagination. And since the song "I'm In You" and the album didn't really turn out to be quite as well known as it should have been, I thought that maybe we could direct people's attention toward it, so they don't forget that such things have occurred in the music business.
I don't see how having heard of an album called I'm In You that it never occurred to you that somebody would have the nerve to make fun of it by doing a song called "I Have Been In You." [...] It's pretty obvious. As a matter of fact, [Peter] Frampton even did some of the radio spots advertising the Sheik Yerbouti album, making comments about that, so it was not a top-secret operation. I won't say it was general information, but the word was out that that's what it was about.
["Bobby Brown"] is followed by the premiere of "I Have Been In You," inspired by FZ's visit to WCBN the night before. FZ tells the audience to imagine him as "an older, more sinister Lou Reed," and indeed this talked/sung version sounds more like Reed than Frampton, although it's not much different than the mature version otherwise.
(Take it away, Bob . . . )
The one I remember was "Flakes." When Frank showed it to me at home one night on a weekend, when he sat and played it on guitar, it sounded like a lousy folk song (laughs), so I started kidding about with it, singing it like Bob Dylan, and he said "That's in the show.You're going to do it that way."
I went home with Frank, and he was showing me an upcoming song called "Flakes." Now, a little known fact about Frank is that he really couldn't play and sing at the same time. One of the reasons he hired me, he told me, was because he liked the fact that I sang and played together so well. On a lot of the music, I would double what Frank was doing. I'd double his vocals for him exactly, or I'd be doubling his guitar parts so he could be free to do either one. When he played "Flakes" for me, he also had to sing it. It was kind of unusual. It sounded so bad it sounded like him doing a Bob Dylan impression to me. It sounded like a folk song, which it was anything but. So jokingly I started singing along with it in a Bob Dylan imitation, and he said, "That's it, that's in the show, you're gonna be doing that."
Um, there were a few times when I was in Franks company over the weekends that I would affect his thoughts on something. One time in particular I remember he was playing the song which would become "Flakes". He was singing this sort of folk song part in the middle. And when Frank sang and played he couldn't do that really. So when he sang and played guitar he couldn't do that at the same time. He had a real hard time to do that. It sounded like a bad Bob Dylan. hahaha... So I started singing it like a bad Bob Dylan immitation and it stuck and that became part of that song.
it begins in late 1977 in the basement of frank zappa's hollywood home. it's a saturday and as usual I'm learning the material for next week's rehearsals. being the only "non-reader" in the band this was a common way for me to prepare. today's lesson is a brand new song frank has just written called flakes.
frank did not play guitar and sing at the same time. if you watch footage of his concerts he's either playing the guitar or singing, never both. I found out why. he quietly played and sang the middle section of the song for me. it sounded terrible. like a bad folk song. I started making fun of him by singing it in a bob dylan voice; "I asked as nice as I coouuld".
"that's it," said frank, "that's in the show."
and that is how I ended up doing a bob dylan imitation on a frank zappa record.
I always wondered what bob dylan might think of it.
How did that whole Dylan impersonation come about?
Yeah‚ there's an interesting story behind that one. Like I said‚ we rehearsed all week for three months‚ and on the weekends I would usually go home with Frank and he would show me what was coming up the next week. And that's how I could learn what he wrote. So‚ he was showing a new song he was writing‚ "Flakes‚" and a lot of people don't know this about Frank‚ but he couldn't really play and sing at the same time. If you ever watch him you'll notice that. So‚ I found out why with this song. He played it for me and he sounded like a bad folk singer. [laughter] I just started singing it like Bob Dylan‚ and he thought that was great and wanted to put that in the song. It really just came about because Frank sounded like a bad folk singer. [laughs]
To my knowledge, [FZ] never played guitar and sang at the same time. He claimed to be incapable of it, which I found hard to believe, but that's what he said. I sure never saw him do it.
As for Dylan, I've never met him, I've never talked to him. Some of his earlier records I've enjoyed, but I don't really know his recent material.
She's frosting a cake
With a paper knife
"Frosting a cake with a paper knife", is from a frosting commercial, they don't actually say it rather show a woman doing it.
So you went to The Grape,
Just to give it a try
719 8th Avenue (at West 45th Street), New York City, NY, USA
Owner: Jerry Cohn
The Gilded Grape first opened in 1974 as a wild mixed disco (gay/straight/trans). Turns into G.G. Knickerbocker and then G.G. Barnum's in the late 1970s.
Well, now you been to The Grape, been to The Chest
In the seventies, The Pleasure Chest was the first erotic store to create a "boutique" atmosphere in some of the major cities in the country. [...] The Pleasure Chest started in 1971 in the West Village in NY and at the height of the sexual revolution when people were starting to express their sexuality much more openly.
The Pleasure Chest got its beginning in the gay community in NYC and quickly expanded into the gay communities of Chicago (1977) and Los Angeles (1975). As all-things-gay became popular in the mainstream community so did The Pleasure Chest. They became a couple's focused store, regardless of sexuality.
Let's Play Doctor by B. S. (Billy Star):
The inflection of "D-O-C-T-O-R" at the end inspired the coda of "I'm So Cute".
In the case of "I'm So Cute"—I had to shorten it just to get the whole album on one CD. Better that than something more interesting musically, like "Yo' Mama."
|"Jones Crusher" (October 31, 1977) Halloween 77 (2017)||"Jones Crusher" (Basic Track) Sheik Yerbouti (1979)|
A tomago is a stuffed omelette in a Japanese restaurant. You take an egg and beat it up, and I think it's got some sugar in it. Then they make a little brick out of it, make a slit in the side and stuff it with rice. That's a tomago. A Rat Tomago is different!
I'd be delighted to walk into a concert and hear a whole band playing Rat Tomago just as a unison riff over a basic chord change. I think it would sound fantastic, and that's one of the reasons I had it transcribed, so that other instruments, people who can read really good, can pick that up. It's possible on clarinet, it's about the same range. I'd love to have people play it. Another reason I had it written down is so that I can harmonize it. One day I'll write that thing out for a string orchestra. They may never play it, but at least I will have taken those lines which I made up on the spot, and harmonized it and made something else out of it.
"Rat Tomago" was 4th of July, or maybe it was New Year's. It was some night where there is going to be fireworks. And there was construction. I was six. Maybe five. There was construction in where my mother's and father's bedroom was. They're remodeling the house at one point. And where Frank had set up the studio and that become their temporary bedroom. So it's really exciting when you're like five maybe be able to go crash with your parents in a new place, right in front of the TV. It was a whole new kind of kick-ass set-up. You know, right in front of the fire place.
[...] And I drew these pictures I brought downstairs to share with my mom and dad, and they asked me what this one picture was, and I told them it's a "Rat Tomago." He fucking laughed so hard that my mother made my father and I matching "Rat Tomago" t-shirts, which I have framed, hung on the wall.
"Rat Tomago" was the 4th of July—or maybe it was New Year's—it was some night where there was going to be fireworks. I was five or six, and there was some construction work where my mother and father's bedroom was. They were remodelling the house at one point, and where Frank had set up the studio became a temporary bedroom. So it was really exciting to maybe go and crash with your parents in a new place—it was a whole new kick-ass set-up.
We were all upstairs drawing and I drew these pictures and brought them downstairs to share with my mom and dad. And they asked me what this one picture was. I told them it was a rat tomago, and he fucking laughed so hard that my mother made my father and I matching rat tomago t-shirts, which I have framed and hung on the wall. You can see how tiny Frank was and how huge I was because they basically look like the same size t-shirts.
live instrumental recorded at
the Deutschland Halle, Berlin
"Rat Tomago" (from Sheik Yerbouti, 1979)—23-fret Gibson SG guitar, 100watt Marshall amp.
"That song was never written down; it was a guitar solo recorded on a four-track. And it was nominated for a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition. Now, it's not a bad solo, but a Grammy nominee? That should tell you how fake the Grammys are."
Sounds like there is an alternate take of ["Chunga Basement"] playing in the background during the dialogue track after "Rat Tomago" on Sheik Yerbouti.
The largest selling single in CBS's history in Scandinavia was a song called "Bobby Brown Goes Down." The same song was a big hit in Germany. They don't have problems over there with what I say and what I do.
The Tower of Power is a [...] S&M device that they sell at a store in Los Angeles. It's a stool . . . small stool, you know to sit on, that has this spindle that comes up, that sticks up your asshole and it has straps on the legs of the stool where you supposed to put a persons ankle into the straps on the edge of the stool. And they actually sell this thing there and it's called the Tower of Power. [...]
Golden shower is a sexual abberation or sexual activity, where one person pisses on another person. So you get the idea that Bobby Brown in this song, as the result of following the advice of Womens Liberation, has wound up sitting on a stool with a thing up his ass while somebody pisses on him. And that's why I think that's unusual that the song is so popular here. I mean, when I go to a disco and see people dancing the Bobby Brown, I had to laugh.
I have to actually give myself credit for the bridge in that song. I wrote 'Oh god I am the American dream'. Before that, it was doo-wop. And 'Baby Snakes' . . . four songs. We came home from the American tour and that's where all of those songs came from. Just he and I were up at the house, just piano and Frank.
SPECIAL NOTE: The bass part is extracted from a four track master of a performance from Goteborg, Sweden 1974 which I had Patrick O'Hearn overdub on a medium tempo guitar solo track in 4/4. The notes chosen were more or less specified during the overdub session, and so it was not completely an improvised "bass solo." A year and a half later, the bass track was peeled off the Swedish master and transferred to one track of another studio 24 track master for a slow song in 11/4. The result of this experimental re-synchronization (the same technique was used on the Zoot Allures album in "Friendly Little Finger") is the piece you are listening to. All of the sensitive, interesting interplay between the bass and drums never actually happened . . . also note, the guitar solo section of the song "Yo' Mama" on side four was done the same way.
O'Hearn's bass track originated as an overdub on FZ's solo from "Inca Roads," 9/25/74.
I remember when Frank was working on Sheik Yerbouti and there's a tune called Rubber Shirt which is a combination of three solos—guitar, bass and drums (Frank, O'Hearn and Bozzio I believe) which Frank combined in the studio using tape transfers. He was really excited about this—and he played it for me, saying something like "The solos just seem to work so well together." I doubt it was an accident—my guess is that he tried a variety of different combinations of those tracks till he found the one way he liked the best.
basic track recorded live
at Deutschland Halle, Berlin
NOTE: This selection and "Rat Tomago" were recorded on a portable four track Scully. The sound quality is not as clear as other parts of the album, but what the fuck . . .
The Sheik Yerbouti Tango is kinda interesting. Here there are groups of septuplets but they're accented in five, culminating in this little chingus here which has ten in the space of a dotted quarter, with ornaments inside the ten (bar). A guy transcribed it, a job I would not like to have had. He did it from a tape that was shortened, so there are a few bars missing.
Out of curiosity, I listened to the final collage segment of The Sheik Yerbouti Tango at half speed. The first part, which consists of a few piano notes (3:54-3:55), turned out be from The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny (0:38-0:39, right channel).
Bill: Do you recall what you may have been quoted as saying about the time Frank played you one of his 45's that reminded you of the 'I'm a Mex-i-kin' part of "Tryin' to Grow A Chin"?
MK: I don't remember the name of the song, I'm sorry. [...] Great night, though. And it didn't just remind me of "Tryin'To Grow A Chin," it absolutely WAS the little melody which is played right after "He's a mexikin." When I heard it I stared open-mouthed at Frank and he raised his eyebrows, smiled and nodded.
"Dog Patch Creeper" was the A-side of [The Velveteens'] Emmy single [...]. The song's riff was copied by Frank Zappa for his later song "Tryin' To Grow A Chin."
You sang on my favorite song on the album‚ "City of Tiny Lights." How did that come about?
Well‚ there was already a version of "City Of Tiny Lights‚" and I'm going say that it was sung by [Ray White]. Frank played it for me and I said‚ "I can sing it in that style if you want." I didn't do it in a different way; he basically wanted me to recreate it. And that worked out well. It became a really good staple of his. That record‚ Sheik Yerbouti‚ is the most popular Zappa record—I can hardly believe it! [laughs]
|"Jewish Princess (Prototype)" (October 30, 1977) Halloween 77 (2017)||"Jewish Princess" (Basic Track) Sheik Yerbouti (1979)|
vocals: Zappa, Brock, Bozzio, Mars, [Randy] Thornton
basic track recorded live
at the Odeon Hammersmith, London
We had a joke about "The Darmans". (sp?) [...] Well, OK, Frank did some background vocals with me by myself, and he did them at a different speed, and . . . my friend Randy Thornton, who I brought over to do some vocals . . . I was producing him at the time at The Record Plant, and this was when I, I had actually left the group at that time, but I was doing Mandre at that time, and was producing some other people. And this guy Randy Thornton . . . [...] Anyway, we did this thing . . . I used to do it on the Mandre album too. I would sing all the parts, but we would speed-up to almost get this chipmunk sound, but it wouldn't be quite the chipmunk sound, something in between. And we actually had Randy sing, I said "yeah Randy . . . (unintelligible) . . . and they're brothers, and they're only about 4 foot tall . . . the Darman brothers.
basic track for vocal sections and middle of guitar solo were recorded live at the Odeon hammersmith, London; guitar solo is from a four track recording made in some little town outside of Nurnberg that I can't remember the name of.
With the E-mu, we just let it sit in one setting for the brass, and the CS-80 is all push-button. In the case of Sheik Yerbouti, we took the E-mu on the road and had it set up as what you call a dedicated system, where it was permanently set up to sound like a brass ensemble, a lot of trumpets and trombones. The Electrocomps were pretty much set up permanently to sound like French horns. That was the setup on "Yo' Mama" [from Sheik Yerbouti].
During the first months of '78, we began rehearsals at Sheperton Studios in preperation for a European tour. During those rehearsals, I noticed Frank write down and then discard the following lyrics. The first verse ultimately wound up on one of his songs, but the second was never used. I think it shows an interesting insight into how he compsed.
YOU SHOULD NEVER SMOKE
YOU COULD START A FIRE
'N BURN YER FACE
MAYBE YOU'LL RETURN TO
YOU COULD BE UNNOTICED
IN SUCH A PLACE
HEARD YOU GOT A TICKET TO
YOU WAS GONNA VISIT THEIR
YOU SHOULD REALLY STAY WITH
OTHERWISE THE RHYMING LINE
WOULD NOT BE CLEAN
Frank wrote that song at the very beginning of the '77 European tour, and it has a personal relevance to me. We were doing this rehearsal in London and Frank was getting very tense. He expected certain things to be there when we got to rehearsal, and certain things were not there. We were gonna do the song "Zoot Allures," and he started playing this 11th chord and got very angry at everybody because nothing was happening right. I got fined because I hadn't memorized this little piece called "Little House I Used to Live In." I hadn't realized he wanted it totally memorized. So this rehearsal ended in a total fiasco. The next day, he came in with these lyrics: "Maybe you should stay with yo' mama. . . " It was really autobiographic; that's how things evolve with Frank.
Yo Mama was (in my belief) written about 2 band members—1 active and 1 past—Tommy not one of them, won't say who the other one is—but I always thought the lyrics were unfair.....music beautiful though. Go figure.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos