"I just got very excited that I can do a Frank Zappa cover!" said Csupo. "I asked Frank if he had any specific idea for it, and he said 'absolutely not—do what you like.' So I gave him three different designs, done on my Macintosh computer. The first one was the big face [Zappa's]—with the big moustache staring into the camera. The next one was kind of expermiental half computer graphic—kind of a green half-negative of Frank playing guitar. And the third one was a very cartoony, claustrophobic drawing there he is sort of lost in his basement where he piled up all his tapes. King of tearing his hair out."
Csupo presented all three to Zappa one afternoon in 1993, when the composer was working quietly at his Synclavier, "tweezing" passages of Civilization Phaze III. FZ swiveled his chair sideways, smiled at the three pieces of art through rather professorial black-rimmed glasses, and instantly pointed at the very cartoony, claustrophobic, lost-in-the-basement version.
"That's the one," he said.
I left Europe to follow a young American lady I met in Stockholm; her name was Arlene Klasky, and she lived in Los Angeles. [...] When I arrived in LA I wrote letters to my friends back in Europe that now I was finally living in the same city as Frank Zappa. Arlene and I started a small animation company called Klasky-Csupo Inc. The studio became very successful, and we started to animate The Simpsons. Matt Groening, the creator, and I were talking about our love for Frank Zappa's music and we both fantasized how great it would be if we could get Frank to do the scoring. We couldn't convince the producers of the show, and they went with Danny Elfman instead. After The Simpsons got on the air, our talent agency informed us that one of their clients, Frank Zappa, was a really big fan of the show. I told the agent that we were at least as much fans of his music, and if Frank would like to meet with us and visit the studio we would be honored.
A few hours later, Frank Zappa with his whole family arrived at my office in Hollywood. My heart was pounding so hard, like one of his drum solos. I told him about my admiration for his work, and after he shook hands with over a hundred artists in the studio, he invited me up to his house. I knew he was living somewhere up in the Hollywood Hills, but I did not realize until he give me his address that he lived only a few blocks away from my house. Not only did I live In the same city as Frank Zappa, but almost on the same street, two minutes away. Pretty spooky, isn't it? So our friendship began. [...] My dream came true when Frank agreed to supply music to our new animated show, Duckman. Me and Frank Zappa on the some project! We even convinced his son Dweezel to be one of the voices on the show. Frank also made me very happy when he asked me to design an album cover for his Lost Episodes CD. It's still not out yet, and it won't be in the stores until early '96 as a Rykodisc release.
"He laughed when he saw it and asked 'Do I really have eyes like that?'," Csupo remembers. "I said, 'No . . . but the nose is right.'"
Also being compiled is The Lost Episodes, comprised of studio outtake material daring back to 1969. "There's a thing I did with Captain Beefheart here at the house, a little jam session in the basement, called 'Alley Cat,'" Zappa says. "There's also the original version of 'Redunzl' with George Duke and Jean-Luc Ponty, and a bunch of stuff with Sugarcane Harris like the original version of 'Sharleena' which was ten minutes long, with a fabulous blues violin solo. I also have the original demos we presented to United Artists to get the 200 Motels deal. There's probably enough for two or three CDs of really interesting material. I've built three versions of it, but I haven't settled on which one to put out yet."
Date: 1958 or '59
Location: Best guess comes from James "Motorhead" Sherwood, who [...] has a vague memory of FZ recording this "in a garage off an alley—not his home."
Musicians:* WAYNE LYLES (vocal); TERRY WIMBERLY (piano); ELWOOD JR. MADEO (guitar); FZ (drums)
[...] Here, members of The Blackouts [...] briefly discuss recent participation in an NAACP benefit concert starring Earl Bostic and Louis Armstrong at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles, sometime in 1958 or '59. [...]
* It should be noted that Elwood Jr. Madeo was mentioned in The Real Frank Zappa Book as the leader of The Ramblers—not The Blackouts [...]. It can only be assumed that Madeo's inclusion is either an error by FZ, or that this is yet another version of The Blackouts.
I'd just like to tell you about a little incident at Shrine Auditorium. [...] Louis Armstrong and his boys were gonna be there, an' the Titans, and the Velvetones, and the Blackouts.
The Velvetones think they're Lawrence Welk.
ABC: Do you still stick to your description of Zappa as the Lawrence Welk of Rock and Roll?
Lowell: That's only in terms of the business arrangements that are involved around the band. Musically he's far and away—exceeds all limits in terms of . . . I would say he's the Lawrence of Zany Rock and Roll in terms of the way the band's organized.
Three musicians who played with both Lawrence Welk and FZ:
Neil LeVang. Played guitar with Welk, 1959-1982. Played on Freak Out! (guitar solo on Any Way The Wind Blows, fuzztone Strat on Who Are The Brain Police?, and 12-string on Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder, Motherly Love, Wowie Zowie, and You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here).
Harry Hyams. Played viola with Welk, 1961-1982. Played on Lumpy Gravy.
Paul Humphrey. Played drums with Welk, 1976-1982. Played on Hot Rats (Son Of Mr. Green Genes and Gumbo Variations).
Also, Charlie Parlato played trumpet with Welk, 1962-?, and his son Dave Parlato played bass with FZ (both 1972 tours, Orchestral Favorites, Zoot Allures, Sleep Dirt).
Violinist Jimmy Getzoff also belongs on the list (Lumpy Gravy).
Looks like they misspelled his last name Getzhoff on the Welk website I found.
And, but, also: Del Casher.
Also dating from 1958 or '59, this spectacular item, according to FZ, probably marks the recorded blues-singing debut of the teenaged, yet-to-be-christened Captain Beefheart, Don Van Vliet. It was taped in an empty classroom at Antelope Valley Jr. College in Lancaster, California, with FZ on lead guitar (an instrument with which he had been acquainted for only about six months), and Frank's former guitar teacher, brother Bobby, on rhythm guitar. (Bobby, FZ noted, later abandoned music and entered the Marines "in order to not be anything like his brother.") It was recorded on an old Webcor reel-to-reel that, FZ fondly remembered, "just happened to be sitting there waiting to be plundered—maroon, with the green blinking eye." The tale of a lover spurned in rather surreal fashion, "Whirlpool's" lyrics were improvised by Vliet, who begins with an arresting parody of a (female?) blues singer. After a few lines, the essential vocal personality of incipient Beefheart becomes apparent. Listeners with an ear for metaphor and a penchant for "interpreting" lyrics might be advised not to burrow too deeply here. The whirlpool in question is one that is commonly found, and regularly employed, in modern households. Said Vliet: "Frank and I had a good time. We were just fooling around."
Den Simms: What are the origins of that? Was it a demo tape or something?
FZ: No, it was the very first . . . it's the earliest tape that I have a copy of, from when I first started taping stuff.
Den Simms: From the Cucamonga period?
FZ: No, that was 1957!
Den Simms: Really? That's the date on that?
FZ: That's right, and "Lost in a Whirlpool" was taped on one of those tape recorders that you have in a school in the audio/visual department. We went into this room, this empty room at the junior college in Lancaster, after school, and got this tape recorded, and just turned it on. The guitars are me and my brother and the vocal is Don Vliet.
Eric Buxton: Reel-to-reel?
FZ: Reel-to-reel. 1957.
Eric Buxton: And you composed the, uh . . . you wrote the words?
FZ: Well, the story of "Lost in a Whirlpool" goes back even farther. When I was in high school in San Diego in '55, there was a guy who grew up to be a sports writer named Larry Littlefield. He, and another guy named Jeff Harris, and I used to hang out, and we used to make up stories, little skits and stuff, you know, dumb little teenage things. One of the plots that we cooked up was about a person who was skindiving—San Diego's a surfer kind of an area—skindiving in the San Diego sewer system, and talking about encountering brown, blind fish. It was kind of like the Cousteau expedition of its era. So, when I moved to Lancaster from San Diego, I had discussed this scenario with Vliet, and that's where the lyrics come from. It's like a musical manifestation of this other skindiving scenario.
Pour some Drano down,
And get the plunger right after me
Drano is a drain cleaner product manufactured by S. C. Johnson & Son.
Here is Kenny's remembrance of an experiment undertaken by Ronnie and pal Dwight Bement (later tenor sax player for Gary Puckett and the Union Gap), with guitar accompaniment by FZ. The experiment, which involved the pair smearing the bounty of their nasal passages on a single window over a period of seven months (perhaps to determine if dried mucous could block light?), later attained mythical proportion in the line "Ronnie saves his numies on a window in his room/(a marvel to be seen: dysentery green . . . )" from "Let's Make The Water Turn Black." The enterprise arguably merited artistic consideration as well, at least in an abstract sense. The "canvas," after all, ultimately acquired what FZ described as a "frosting," with chance arrangements of darker, solid sinus matter, suggesting whatever one's id might detect. To paraphrase Victor Coussin's famous remark from his 1818 lecture at the Sorbone ("L'art pour l'art"—"Art for art's sake"), one might say of this undertaking, "La snot pour la snot." Kenny finally admits to having possibly contributed to the project in some small way.
Ronnie's less apologetic, more blunt recounting of the same events.* We learn that the work was ignobly destroyed with the aid of a putty knife, under orders from the Williams boys' mother.
*After having no contact with Frank for many years, Ronnie reportedly showed up in the front row of a 1975 MOI concert in Pomona, California, yelling, "Do the song about the boogers," and was subsequently invited on stage as a special guest.
This music, as FZ told Don Menn in the 1992 "Zappa!" tribute magazine (published by Keyboard and Guitar Player magazines) is part of the very first Zappa-led performance of the composer's so-called "serious," or orchestral music. It took place in 1963 at, of all pastoral places, lovely Mount St. Mary's College, a private Catholic institution perched in the lush Santa Monica Mountains above West Los Angeles. Zappa spent $300 from his own pocket, organized a "college orchestra," and "put on this little concert." It was taped and broadcast by Los Angeles public radio station KPFK, but FZ did not hear the tape until 1991, after a fan in England mailed him a cassette. Although the concert was much longer than this fragment, this excerpt of what FZ described as "oddball, textured weirdo stuff" is still a minor treasure. [...] The program included a piece called "Opus 5," aleatoric works that required some improvisation, a piece for orchestra and taped electronic music, with accompanying visuals in the form of FZ's own experimental 8mm films (Motorhead Sherwood described one such film depicting the Los Angeles County Fair carnival, double exposed with passing telephone poles).
|Carlos Hagen's KPFK Broadcast (1974)||WATMATIWWSL||The Lost Episodes (1996)|
7. Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance
Location: Studio Z, Cucamonga, Calif.
Engineer: Paul Buff
Musicians: CHUCK GROVE (drums); CARONGA WARD (bass);
TONY RODRIGUEZ (alto sax); CHUCK FOSTER (trumpet);
DANNY HELFERIN (piano); FZ (guitar)
[...] "[FZ] just came in one day in 1960, when he was around 20, as a person who wanted to record some jazz," [Paul] Buff remembered. "He had some musicians, and wanted to rent a studio. Probably for the first year or so I was associated with him was doing a combination of recording jazz, producing some jazz records, and was also writing some symphonic material for a local orchestra that was supposed to record some of it. [Possibly the 1960 soundtrack for The World's Greatest Sinner, recorded by a pick-up orchestra.] he was very jazz-oriented . . . He played clubs, and played all the jazz standards . . . He did a lot of original compositions, and he'd play things like 'Satin Doll' for a few dollars and a few beers."
In January 1961 Chuck got out of the service and was in Los Angeles, and he received a call from someone associated with Frank Zappa to do a recording session. This turned out to be for "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance." He can only remember recording this one track at the Pal Studio session, but he said that they rehearsed tunes for a couple of weeks—"It was real loose, we had a lot of laughs, a very relaxed atmosphere." Interestingly, Chuck also said, "Oh yes, Frank always liked jazz—he was always a fan."
Of the other musicians on the session, Chuck was only acquainted with the alto sax player, whose name was Tony Rodriquenz, not Rodriguez as stated on the Lost Episodes CD. "He was a monster—sounded like Cannonball Adderley," said Chuck, "But he gravitated away from music and became a teacher (not music) and played at weekends." Sadly, Tony Rodriquenz died as a result of cancer in 2007. Chuck also believes that the name of the drummer on the session was Chuck Glave, not Chuck Grove, again as stated on the Lost Episodes CD.
Chuck Foster remembers Chuck Glave as playing drums on Frank Zappa's 1961 version of Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance. I recently spoke on the 'phone with Chuck Glave, and he did not remember being on the recording, but he said that he played a number of gigs with Zappa in the early 1960s. He remembered playing at Zappa's father's restaurant, when Zappa was trying to play jazz on vibraphone (this was probably 1963), and also doing some rock gigs with Zappa as well. He said that Zappa was definitely a jazz fan at this time.
My cousin Anthony [Rodriquenz] was from our common hometown, Leominster, Massachusetts. My father named Willie (Tony's uncle) was a great saxophone player in New England in the 40's and 50's and played with Tony Bennett in Europe while in the military after WWII. Tony admired my Dad and became a saxophone player also, moving to California after being in the military in the early 1960's. Both learned to play the saxophone under the tutelage of an old school music teacher from Leominster named Mr. Sutcliffe, who hung around long enough to teach me the instrument though I never took it as seriously as my Dad or my cousin Tony. Tony lived in Fountain Valley, CA as did his parents until their deaths in the 1980's. He was a quiet, first rate musician who never talked much about himself or his life, but lived for his music. I still discover more about his musical connections yearly as memories of his musical interactions keep surfacing occasionally on the web as with this website. My Dad passed away a few years ago and nothing remains but the memories of their music.
The January 1961 Pal Studio Band version of Frank Zappa's "Never On Sunday" (later: "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance") is up next.
Date: 1962 or '63*
Location: Studio Z, Cucamonga, Calif. [...]
Musicians: DON VAN VLIET (vocals); FZ (guitar); JANSCHI (bass); VIC MORTENSON (drums)
[...] Said Frank: "The way that was done was a proto five-track machine mixed to mono. But finally I had a stereo mix. It was my first attempt at stereo. The band was in the studio mixed down to one track, and Don was in the hallway with just the leakage coming through the door, perusing an X-Man comic book pinned on the wall, riffling through it as we did it. There are three or four more Beefheart masters from this perios, including a Holin' Wolf-like version of 'Slippin' and Slidin',' and instrumental called 'I'm Your Nasty Shadow,' and 'Metal Man Has Won His Wings.'" [...] (Frank tried to interest Dot Records in "Slippin' and Slidin'," the aforementioned version of "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance," and the first version of "Any Way The Wind Blows"—see notes for track 12—all under the name, "The Soots," published by FZ's Aleatory Music—but Dot's A&R man, Milt Rogers, wrote in a December 13, 1963 letter that while "the material does have merit, we do not feel strongly enough about its commercial potential . . ." [...]
*FZ listed the recording date as 1962 or '63, although Buff, who was not present for this session, suggests it was most likely 1963. Mortenson's presence also suggests 1963, as he was involved in several other unreleased 1963 sessions. Finally, the Dot rejection letter is from 1963, and "Slippin' and Slidin'," FZ said, was from the same period as "Tiger Roach."
I had a recording studio in a small town called Cucamonga in California. I talked [Don Van Vliet] into becoming a singer. Tthe earliest things he recorded were "Slippin' And Slidin'" completely in Jimi Hendrix style with a slow rhythm, the Howlin' Wolf piece "Evil," "The Grund," "Tiger Roach," and "Vicious Intentions," a slow blues.
I was browsing some old comics and, with the help of my friend Kibe De Large, I came across "Green Lantern #34", January 1965.
As you can check in the link below, this comic could be the source of some of the "Tiger Roach" lyrics, specifically "Green Lantern! Funny lizard! Three-way!" (and eventually: "Looks like greeny! Maybe it's purple").
I don't [know] exactly when it was on sale, but according to the ads in this issue, it was on sale before December 3rd, 1964, probably about November 1964. [...] So, my theory is that "Tiger Roach" was recorded in late 1964, probably in the same sessions of "Malt Shop", that also featured Don Van Vliet and Vic Mortenson, as "Tiger Roach" did.
I happen to have this comic, and on seeing this message, I immediately dug it up. There's another "Tiger Roach" phrase on the back cover: "Buddy learns" turns out to be from an ad for Aurora slot cars, with the headline "Buddy Learns the Secret."
For those who don't have the comic, this is the Aurora Model Motoring ad:
After several years of setbacks, Run Home Slow was eventually shot (starring Mercedes McCambridge, released in 1965), and Frank's score was finally recorded by a small pick-up orchestra in 1963 at Art Laboe's Original Sound in Hollywood, with Paul Buff engineering
SH-BOOM: When did you first compose a doo-wop song?
ZAPPA: Probably it would be "Fountain of Love" or "Love of My Life" [both from the Cruising With Ruben & the Jets LP]. At that time I was working with Ray Collins, who could sing all this kind of stuff. If you're a composer, you need a vehicle to bring your music to life. If you write for instruments, you need somebody who can play it, and if you write vocals, you need somebody who can sing it. It's fortunate that I had Ray Collins, because if I hadn't met him, I wouldn't have had any way to move into that kind of songwriting.
Charva' is a mispronunciation of a girl's name, Sharva, who was a friend of Motorhead's.
I've known about the 'Charva' song for some time. Jim Sherwood and I were good friends then and I WAS a girl so I guess I was his girl-friend . . . kind of funny how people remember you.
Over on 53rd or 55th Street (somewhere around there) in New York City, there was a studio called Mayfair—maybe still is. In the bowels of this studio the Mothers of Invention had been holding forth for quite a while. Frank Zappa was using their eight-track to create We're Only In It For The Money and Lumpy Gravy. He was always working on at least two albums at the same time. He'd heard about Apostolic and our twelve-track machine. He'd also heard that you could take a one-inch tape with eight tracks recorded on it by an 8-track machine, put it on our 12-track machine, and add four more tracks.
[...] Being a cutting edge kind of guy, Frank decide to book some time with us. He said, "I wanna come over and make some noise." He brough some of the tapes he'd been working on at Mayfair. I guess he thought, "I'll just see what it's all about—it probably won't be anything, and I'll go back to Mayfair and continue where I left off." For reasons I can't recall, Tony (Bongiovi—older brother to Jon Bon Jovi and engineer at Apostolic) chose not to work with Frank, which fatefully put me in the proverbial right place at the right time—it must have been early 1967.
[...] Pretty soon he was booking the studio by the week, and then by the month. He liked to work at night, and we had a wonderful time. The enggineer at Mayfair, who may still be there for all I know, was Gary Kellgren, a hell of a nice guy and damn good engineer. [...] You'd think he'd be bent out of shape, watching Frank transfer his flag, so to speak. On the contrary, he was most helpful and very nice to me.
On the Lost Episodes and Mystery Disc there is an adaptation of an Appalachian folk song titled "Wedding Dress," it is paired with the Sea Shanty "Handsome Cabin Boy." By reading the liner notes you could infer that "Wedding Dress" may have been performed by AL Lloyd or Ewan MacColl. I have tracked down the likely original version of the "Wedding Dress Song," on Peggy Seeger The Folkway Years 1955-1992 Smithsonian/Folkways CD SF 40048. In the liner notes Peggy refers to Ewan MacColl as her "most constant musical companion." The "Wedding Dress Song" originally was released on American Folk Songs Folkways 2005 in 1957, Peggy Seeger does the vocals and banjo on this track. No one else is credited or can be heard on this track. It does appear that Ewan MacColl has collaborated with her on over ten albums.
"I love sea shanties," said Frank. "I thought they were really good melodies, so I arranged them for a rock and roll band. We used to play 'em all the time. I used to really love to listen to sea shanties and folk music. When everyone else was listening to Cream, I was listening to A. L. Lloyd and Ewan McColl. These were two old guys who used to record together, trying to replicate the original instrumentation of sea shanties. Some of the words were absolutely unbelievable. 'Handsome Cabin Boy' is a song about the bogus certification of sailors. A girl goes on a boat dressed as a boy, and gets pregnant. The lyrics are all about who done it. I loaned the LP to Beefheart, and he probably still has it." (Countered Vliet, in a 1994 conversation, "He gave it to me!")
[Roy Estrada] confirmed that it was FZ playing bass on Handsome Cabin Boy.
The [Apostolic] studio was in a loft on 10th St. [and Broadway] in New York. The woman downstairs was an actress in commercials, and she was constantly calling the police because she was not getting enough sleep so she could be fresh for those commercials. All-Night John (one of the inside-the-piano voices on Lumpy Gravy, and Civilization Phaze III) is one of the voices.
The officer's name is actually LaFamine [...]. The reason I know this is because it was my wife's father.
I asked John Kilgore to listen to an excerpt of "Cops & Buns." He identified another speaker: Dick Kunc.
This is the actual track for a Luden's Cough Drop commercial that won a Clio Award in 1967 for Best Music for a Commercial. A freak in an ad agency who was an animator, Ed Seeman, who came to the Garrick Shows, did the pictures and recruited me to do the music. I went along with it. The commercial shows a squiggly white thing that's supposed to be the cough wriggling around. A box of Luden's appears on the left side of the screen, like a monolith, and squashes it.
[...] Said FZ: "That's me, Don [Van Vliet], Elliot Ingber, and Drumbo recorded downstairs in the basement in 1969. On a Scully 2-track with a couple of mikes [...]."
I remember very little about that particular jam (Alley Cat). I do recall jamming in the basement studio and doing a thing in 3/4 time. I was the only drummer around at the time and there were quite a few musicians there. It was just before Trout Mask Replica was recorded. Frank had a little chord change/ melody written out and I just played by ear. I think Eliot Ingber was there.
The only thing which doesn't fit in here is that he says it's in 3/4. Alley cat is in 4/4 and he's playin drums in 4/4.
After the [Lick My Decals Off] Sessions were over, Elliot Ingber began to rehearse with us.
My theory: FZ is playing bass and overdubbed his guitar track (like on Wedding Dress Song/Cabin Boy) as the guitar on left channel and the vocal overdubs [at 2:11] have much more reverb than the rest.
Who is the Grand Wazoo? "Anybody in any one of those lodge organizations with a stupid hat on," said Frank, adding "actually, the guy with the biggest, dumbest hat is the Grand Wazoo."
A stalwart little polymetric piece composed in the late '60s, with acrobatic percussion passages [...]. Possibly named because of the martial arts-like moves required to play it, is a fine illustration of FZ's lifelong penchant for percussion, and rhythm-driven compositions.
I was just listening to 'The Lost Episodes' and that's pretty funny. We just worked very hard. Tom and I worked really hard and set up games for ourselves. We had to get the parts right or we couldn't smoke or something . . . We would just play it over and over again until we were exhausted but we had it down. Then we'd walk in and Jean-Luc (Ponty, natch) couldn't play it and then George and Jean-Luc would say, 'Wow, how come you guys can play it?' but we practised, you know.
|Unreleased original take (1973)||The Lost Episodes (1996)|
|0:48-0:58 (guitar solo)||0:49-0:59 (guitar solo mixed out)|
|0:58-1:27 (guitar solo)||(guitar solo edited out)|
Additional informant: slimey.oofytv.setSite maintained by Román García Albertos