Q: You might consider what Warner Brothers was releasing at the time bootlegs.
Zappa: That was because Warner Brothers wanted to saturate the market with those things that they had no right to release and capitalize on the fact that another record company had been trying to put out new releases.
Q: Even though you're in disagreement with Warner . . . that doesn't color your response to the music, does it?
Zappa: Oh no, it's good music.
Q: They didn't tamper with the music?
Zappa: They did tamper with it. They changed the name of one song, and when the stuff was mastered, it was mastered without my supervision so that things have no top-end, so they're really bad sounding records. The music on it is good music, but if you could hear what the stuff is really supposed to sound like, you'd be amazed.
When I moved to LA in '76, I was desperate to get work, and I started to do little spot illustrations for some record companies and magazines, or just showing my weird paintings. I didn't know it, but Frank Zappa was on tour, and Warner Brothers decided to get him off the label. The way they were doing it was issuing a breaking-up four-album set called "Ladder." So they issued (while he was on tour) albums in very rapid succession. I just got a call from an art director that I knew, asking me if I wanted to do a Zappa cover, and I said, "YES!" But I didn't hear anything from Frank Zappa; I never met him. Then the art director called me a month later, and asked if I wanted to do another Zappa cover, and I did it, and I still didn't meet Zappa. I was thinking, "What is going on? Is he control freak, where is he?" And when they called me for a third one, I said that I don't know what the deal was, and they explained. So I did the cover, and I think that he ended up liking them. OK, years later. Matt Groening became friends with Zappa, and Zappa told him he liked the covers. I never met Zappa, which was too bad.
Those were unauthorized and it was really a strange moral dilemma with some guilt attached. Maybe I'm dramatizing the thing but Zappa wanted to put out a three-record set called Lather and Warner Bros. wanted to dump these records on the market, and I didn't know that. They hired me to do covers and I was wondering why I wasn't meeting Zappa because I know he's a total control freak. Then I found out while I was doing the third one that they were unauthorized, and that's why I wasn't meeting him. He was going to sue Warners. I'd written him fan letters and I'd met Cal Schenkel when I first went to California. I wrote him after I did those covers but I never heard from him. Matt said he liked the images okay and Gail used them again in reissuing the records so I guess it's okay. I liked the music a lot and I'm a total Zappa fan since high school.
(This was written in 1972)
Frank Zappa guitar, vocals
George Duke keyboards, vocals
Bruce Fowler trombone
Tom Fowler bass
Chester Thompson drums
Big sheets of music composition paper are on Zappa's desk as we walk into the room; he is working on music for two albums he'll begin recording in December. One piece, in several sections, will tell the story of "a pig who invents something that makes life miserable for everybody. He invents the calendar. This makes it possible for people to collect rent and everybody to find out how old they are. At first it's okay; they can have birthday parties at the office. But kids don't like it when they find out how old they're getting. Gregory is chased into the woods by psychedelic buses and daisy-covered cars driven by aging hippies. He has a narrow escape with the youth of America and in the end is driven to consult a philosopher who charges him a lot of money for very little information."
This recording, Zappa says, is going to use "an orchestra, recorded in the rock 'n' roll way. Every note that's in the score will be there." Zappa says there probably never has been a perfect symphony recording—one instrument covered the sound of another more than the composer intended or something else went wrong.
The rhythm section will be recorded—electric bassist, drummer, two percussionists, keyboard player with four instruments. "Then the guitars will go on. All instrumental parts that might be hard to get perfectly will be done on a synthesizer. You can slow the tape down and get rhythmic and pitch accuracy."
Then at the end of 21 days for that, he'll get a copyist to make parts from the rest of the score. "Then we'll put the string section on two tracks one day, the next day the brass on two tracks, then the woodwinds on two tracks, then the narration and vocals, then mix it. I expect it to have combinations and tone qualities that haven't been heard ever before."
Some of you might have seen a performance at the Felt Forum in 1972, when I was in there with a 20-piece group and we played a piece called "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary," played a couple of movements from that, and I finally have recorded that, like last December, went in and got a 20-piece group together, and laid that down, did a complete version of it, it's possible that that may be released in November.
[FZ] is now finishing what he calls "probably one of the great pieces of music of our time"—''Greggery Peccary"—a mysterious work under construction for several years.
I remember going through the folders (leatherette with gold lettering) which held the parts for the Abnuceals Emulkha Electric Orchestra (I never knew what that title meant—I'm probably not spelling it correctly) which played the famous Royce Hall concert. That was before my time. It was a very large big band, essentially—4 or 5 winds (all multi-doublers), 4 or 5 each of trumpets and trombones, horns & tuba (maybe), 3 keyboards, an amplified string quartet, loads of percussion, plus guitar, bass and drums (of course). I used those parts when I reorchestrated Bogus Pomp for large orchestra. Also in the folders were the parts to Greggary Peccary—actually the G.P. music was in sections, a few of the titles were Big Swifty, Brown Clouds, something about Billy the Mountain.
Anyway, in one of the folders was a list of the players—all studio people, good ones. I remember only a few of the names—Pam Goldsmith was the violist (she had to play the fiendish viola solos in Bogus Pomp). Her part to that piece had been run over by a tire of some sort—like a car or motorcycle tire. I met her once and asked if the part had been run over intentionally. She denied it. Other names that I remember are Earle Dumler (an oboist who was also the contractor), Emil Richards (percussionist) and Malcomb McNabb (trumpet).
This track I only play on the end of, Chester Thompson is the master who played on most of it in the studio. You can kind of hear where I come in at the end where the trumpets play a Varese-like "scary movie" type of motif, and the ambience is distinctly different from the rest of the studio recorded track. This is because it was recorded at Royce Hall with the 40 piece orchestra ( see Orchestral Favorites ). We played a large section of this hard piece live and the section used was edited in by Zappa. ( I remember recording this in the afternoon at the hall and being only 4 bars from the end of this 15 minute long, difficult composition, and the Union guy stood up and stopped everyone telling us we HAD to take a 10 minute coffee break—Union Rules! Frank and a lot of us musicians were furious!! ).
Frank originally played this piece to me at The Record Plant, after taking me to a Chinese food meal, on the evening of the afternoon that I auditioned for him and got the gig with his band! I had only heard 2 of his records for the first time 3 days before the audition and it scared me sleepless! When he played me this it impressed me beyond words!
At one point [FZ] had Steve Vai do some transcriptions of the bits of Greggery Peccary which had never been written down—so that a full orchestra live performance version could be made. Steve did the transcriptions—I saw them, he labeled it "The Peccary Project"—but it never went any farther.
I recently got the Cameo-Parkway 1957-1967 box set, and my ears perked up at the song "Bad Motorcycle" by the Storey Sisters from 1957 (same recording originally released as by the Twinkles). The chorus goes:
And I knew by the way he spoke
He was a bad motorcycle, voodn voodn voodn!
I was wondering if anyone else around here knew of the particular origin of this mysterious verb. [An Andre Williams' record] (Fortune 851) is a Two sided ode to a Pontiac. One side of it is "Mmm Andre Williams is Mmmovin'." It deals with a man who is very proud of his car.
"Bad Motorcycle" was released by The Twinkles (Ann & Lillian Storey) on the Peak label in 1957 and re-released by the Storey Sisters on the Cameo label in 1958.
The guitarist was Wild Jimmy Spruill who also played on such songs as "Deserie" by The Charts, "Kansas City" by Wilbert Harrison, "Dedicated To The One I Love" by The Shirelles, "Fannie Mae" by Buster Brown, "There's Something On Your Mind" by Bobby Marchan, "Tossin' & Turnin'" by Bobby Lewis, and "Ya Ya" by Lee Dorsey. (Admittedly, the guitar is not very prominent on some of these songs. But still . . . wow!)
The original release of "Bad Motorcycle" on Peak was credited to Storey/Williams. I don't know if the first author was Ann or Lillian.
Subsequent releases (on Cameo in the US, London in the UK) were credited to Williams/Browne. The label of a 1964 cover version by The Angelos gives their initials: F. Williams/A. Browne. The sheet music gives their full names: Frederick Williams and Al Browne. I don't know who Frederick Williams was, but Al Browne was the head of Peak Records and was credited as band leader on the record.
"(M m m m—Andre Williams Is) Movin'" was released on the Fortune label in 1960. (I've also seen 1958 and 1959, but serious-looking discographies seem to agree on 1960. By any account, it was later than "Bad Motorcycle".)
Like "Bad Motorcycle", "Movin'" was credited to Williams/Brown. But it was a different Williams and a different Brown! Namely Andre Williams and Dev [Devora] Brown, co-founder (with her husband Jack) of Fortune Records.
Well, a TREND MONGER is a person who dreams up a TREND (like 'The Twist'—or 'Flower Power')
Highly efficient, Miss Snodgrass!
they decide to park their steaming vehicles in a circular pseudo-Wagon Train formation . . . and have a LOVE-IN!
TIME IS OF AFFLICTION!
You see, one of the problems is that people have the wrong idea about time itself. Now let's start with the basics, alright? Time is nothing more and nothing less than fractional divisions of eternity. And they're irrational divisions at best; stupid mechanical divisions of a continuum that is gonna be there and is gonna be there. Even if there isn't a "there" at all, it's gonna be there. Now, people presume that it's got a direction, that it goes from here to there, and sometimes—if they have to think of it at all—have to think of it in terms of a line or band, or a continuum that is progressing in a direction. But it doesn't work that way at all. It's spherical.
I think, that the two components of the universe are actually one—wave and time. The time determines the shape of—the length of—the wave. If a wave equals a wave, all time equals all other time, so you ain't goin' nowhere, 'cause you already been there. And if you could view this whole mechanism from a distance, it would just be a solid object. Sooner or later, everyone's going to have to dump the idea of atoms and all the rest of that shit and get down to business. I'm interested in the synthesis of solid objects that are unknowable. Solid objects as foreign to your senses as the output of a synthesizer the first time you heard a new wave shape. What you hear through your ears is a manifestation of waves pulsing between 20 cycles per second and 20,000 cycles per second. What your eyes receive is light at a frequency response far higher—vibrating at a different range. These are all small waves, but conceive of waves that might take 20 billion years to execute one pulse. The shape of the waves in terms of sound determines the color of the sound, and I have the feeling that below what you can hear and above what you can see is where it's really happening. A synthesizer spews out sound that you and I have never heard before—an unknown wave shape emerges. If you subject the frequencies in the range of light to the same alterations that sonic material is subjected to on a synthesizer, it's conceivable you could produce colors never seen before. Consider the possibility of extending that into the radiation frequency range—you might be able to produce other things that are unknown, unimagined. If you take a tape with sound vibrations on it and slow it down a great deal, it becomes a completely different sound object. You can convert a piccolo into a tuba if you slow it down enough. So if we could take you and slow you down enough, your wave shape, whatever represents your solidity, could be disengaged to a certain extent
Frank Zappa guitar, percussion
George Duke keyboards
Bruce Fowler trombone
Tom Fowler bass
Chester Thompson drums
1975 originally released without permission on another one of those law-suit albums
recorded at The Record Plant, Los Angeles, California
engineer: Kerry McNab
original recording medium: 24-track analog tape
musicians: Frank Zappa, guitar & percussion / Bruce Fowler, all brass / George Duke, piano / Tom Fowler, bass / Chad Wackerman, drums
guitar: Ovation nylon-string acoustic-electric, d.i. into the recording console
This is an excerpt from a short chamber orchestra piece originally composed as a vehicle for violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, re-orchestrated here as a solo vehicle for guitar. The original recording featured Chester Thompson on drums. Chad's part has been over-dubbed as part of the ongoing U.M.R.K. digital refurbishment project. The segment began as an improvised solo, played in the studio to the existing track. Bruce Fowler transcribed it and quadrupled it with trombone parts recorded at various speeds. Other examples of transcribed doubling can be found on the "WAKAJAWAKA" and "MAN FROM UTOPIA" albums.
I improvised the solo on the Ovation and then had it transcribed and had guys play it.
[...] I like the idea of several instruments all trying desperately to play the same line. There's a transcription of that solo too, which is available. I'm going to have a lot of this stuff in print this year.
I played the solo. It's an Ovation gut string acoustic plugged directly into the board, and it was transcribed by Bruce Fowler, and he wrote it down, and he doubled it with four trombones.
|Studio Tan (Zappa Records, 1991)||TGWATFZ (1987)|
Davey Moire vocals
Frank Zappa guitar, vocals
Eddie Jobson keyboards, yodeling
Max Bennett bass
Paul Humphrey drums
Don Brewer bongos
The first week I went to L.A. Frank was producing an album with Mark Farner, lead singer of Grand Funk Railroad. I went to visit Frank in the studio, Record Plant, L.A. And Frank said, "Oh, let's go do a vocal. I want to record some voices for this track." So he took me and Mark Farner and himself in the studio. I'd never sung in a studio before. And next thing you know, I'm in the studio doing a vocal with Mark Farner of GFR and Frank Zappa, which was called "Let Me Take You To The Beach." And that goes on tape somewhere . . . and some future point Frank would take that tape and do something else to it, put somebody else on it, and cut it off and edit it. God knows what he will do with it! And it will show up on an album! You may be in the group when it comes out, or maybe you left the band 5 years before the album comes out. That's how he makes records.
Matti Laipio visited Los Angeles in 1976. [...] At that time Zappa was working in Record Plant studios to complete his assignment with Warner. According to Matti Laipio he was mostly playing guitar solos on basic tracks, but in the studio there were on call also some of his musicians. Laipio met there at least Eddie Jobson and Patrick O'Hearn. During his stay in the studio Laipio remembers that at least "Lemme Take You To The beach" with Davey Moire's vocals was recorded. Zappa defined it to be his summer hit single.
Frank Zappa guitar
George Duke keyboards
James "Bird Legs" Youman bass
Ruth Underwood percussion, synthesizer
Chester Thompson drums
Dweezil [explained] song titles like "RDNZL," pronounced Redunzel a contraction of redundant and Repunzel.
TOPIC: zpz in Austin tonight nov 19 09
Dweezil finally explained RDNZL. It's a word of Frank's creation that marries "redundant" with "Rapunzel". Apparently, Gail has this way of speaking repetatively about things that Frank found amusing. So, he dubbed this speech (or Gail herself) Redunzel.
Dweezil says [in Austin] that this was on the family car license plate in the 70's, and that it was a reference to Gail's tendency to "circumlocute" things she was trying to say (something many Zappa fans have noticed in recent years). He concludes by saying that it was a combination of "redundant" and "Rapunzel."
I was talking to Napoleon Murphy Brock and I asked him what "RDNZL" means. He said, "It means Rediculous. I guess you can figure the rest out for yourself!"
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos