The Perfect Stranger

The Cover Art

The full title of the painting (from Ben Watson, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics Of Poodle Play, 1996, p. 430)

PATRICIA'S LATE-NIGHT COMPLEMENTARY SNACK AT MONTE'S
AND RICHARD YOAKUM'S BOULEVARD HOUSTON TOWNHOUSE
WHERE (THE NIGHT BEFORE) DON HAD GONE UP IN SMOKE.

PATRICIA'S THICK GREEN LENSES FILTERED OUT THE SHADES OF RED
REFLECTED FROM THE HEINZ-SIGHT OF HER BOTTLE—
(THAT BRAND OF KETCHUP WE ALL LOVE SO WELL)

BUT MRS JENKINS' GLASSES LENSES WERE A ROSY RED
AND WHEN SHE SHOOK THE CONTENTS OF THAT BOTTLE—
(THAT KIND OF KETCHUP WE ALL LOVE SO WELL)

SHE DIDN'T THINK TO SHIELD HER EYES TO NULLIFY THE RED
AND THE HOT BRIGHT LIGHT HAD LEFT HER BLIND; BUDWEISER
(THAT TYPE OF BEER WE ALL LOVE SO WELL)

SO, WHILE PATRICIA WATCHED THAT NIGHT, HER FRIEND WENT UP IN SMOKE
LIKE DON HAD DONE; HER FLAMES LEAPED HIGHER AND HIGHER
(PAT FEARED THAT JENKINS SURELY WENT TO HELL)

BUT PATRICIA WAITED YEARS AND YEARS TO SEE IF SHE'D COME BACK
SHE WAITED BY THE TABLE WITH HER BOTTLE
(ENGAGED AND FAITHFUL IN HER SENTINEL)

The Paintings of Donald Roller Wilson, Introduction by Peter Frank, 1988, p. 89.

FZ, interviewed by Michael Heinze, July 30, 1990

In the case of Donald Roller Wilson, I saw his catalogue and asked to license some of the paintings to use in the album covers.

 

Release History

CD-R on demand (Amazon.com/Zappa Records, January 25, 2010)

Amazon.com

CD-R Note: This product is manufactured on demand when ordered from Amazon.com. [...]

Audio CD (January 25, 2010)
Original Release Date: 1984
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Zappa Records
ASIN: B0000009T9 [...]

1. Perfect Stranger
2. Naval Aviation in Art?
3. Girl in the Magnesium Dress
4. Dupree's Paradise
5. Love Story
6. Outside Now Again
7. Jonestown

 

Zappa & Boulez

FZ, interviewed in Rock et Folk, June, 1980 (translation by A. Murkin)

RF: When you sent the scores to IRCAM, weren't you looking for acceptance by the contemporary cultural intelligentsia?

FZ: No. If I send scores to Pierre Boulez it's because he's more qualified than me to conduct them. It's not to get a good report for a schoolboy exercise, but because they're difficult scores, and he's an excellent technician in conducting an orchestra.

FZ interviewed by John Swenson, Guitar World, March, 1982

I am almost finished with a piece that I was writing for Boulez's group because he wanted me to write something for his Ensemble Intercontemporaine in Paris.

FZ with Peter Occhiogrosso, The Real Frank Zappa Book, 1989, p. 194-195

I met Boulez after sending him some orchestral scores, hoping that he would be interested in conducting them. He wrote back saying that he couldn't because, although he did have a chamber orchestra of twenty-eight pieces, he did not have a full-size symphony orchestra at his disposal in France (and even if he did, he probably wouldn't have used it, as he later stated that he didn't care for 'The French Orchestral Tone,' preferring the BBC Symphony).

[...] Boulez is, to use one of Thomas Nordegg's favorite phrases, "serious as cancer," but he can be funny too. He reminds me a little of the character that Herbert Lorn plays in the Pink Panther movies. He doesn't have the 'psychotic wink,' but he has some of that nervous quality about him, as if he might—given the proper excuse—start laughing uncontrollably.

I went to lunch with him in Paris, prior to the Perfect Stranger recording. He ordered something called brebis du [fill in the blank]—I didn't know what it was. It was some kind of meatlike material on weird lettuce with a translucent dressing. He looked like he was really enjoying it. He offered some to me. I asked him what it was. He said, "The sliced nose of the cow." I thanked him and went back to my pepper steak.

I saw him conduct the New York Philharmonic with Phyllis Bryn-Julson as soloist at Lincoln Center in '86 or '87. The audience was extremely rude. The first half of the program had pieces by Stravinsky and Debussy; the second half was a piece by Boulez. After the intermission, the audience came back in and waited for him to begin his piece—which was very quiet compared to the first two—and then about half the audience got up—noisily—and walked out. He kept on conducting.

I would have enjoyed the opportunity to grab a microphone and scream, "Sit down, assholes! This is one of 'The Real Guys'!"

Pierre Boulez, interviewed by Jed Distler, Andante, c. August, 2000

JD: There are only two American composers to whom you've devoted a complete CD. One is Elliott Carter. The other is Frank Zappa. Tell me about the Boulez/Zappa connection.

PB: It came in a very simple way. Zappa asked me to meet him. I had heard of him of course, especially in '68, '70, with the scandals about the cover for his recordings and so on and so forth. And I thought, if he asked me to meet him, it could be interesting. You never know. I met him, and found the man extremely sympathetic and interesting. Zappa wanted to break out of the kind of milieu for which he was known. I didn't know it then, but [he had] very much admiration for Varèse. Varèse was the first composer Zappa discovered who struck him so much that he became Zappa's icon. Zappa told me, "I've written some scores for orchestra, and would you consider to look at them?" I was just finished with the New York Philharmonic, and beginning with IRCAM and the Ensemble InterContemporain. So I told him, "You know I don't really conduct orchestras for the time being. If you want me to conduct a work for orchestra, you have to wait for quite a long time. But if you want to write something for the Ensemble InterContemporain, then I will perform it immediately." And so he said, "Well, I will compose for the Ensemble!" About a month later he sent me scores. I then organized an American program with a work by Carter, a work by Zappa and one by Ruggles. There may have been a work by Varèse, I don't remember exactly. It was a hard program from the point of view that I wanted the audience to take Zappa seriously, and not just as a joke. The reaction was interesting, as I expected. People who came for Carter said, "Why Zappa?" and people who came for Zappa said "Why Carter?" After that we recorded Zappa's music, in his presence. He was really a very interesting character.

JD: Did his music fascinate you?

PB: Yes. It was a beginning, what he gave to us. That was the first thing he'd composed like that. Then he had a project with the Ensemble Modern, and everybody was surprised, and they tried to catch up with him. Unfortunately he died very soon afterwards.

Richard Dyer, "A Towering Figure Whose Words Remain As Forceful As His Work," The Boston Globe, May 18, 2003

One of Boulez's unexpected enthusiasms was for the work of Frank Zappa; he conducted a recording of Zappa's "The Perfect Stranger." Asked about Zappa, Boulez says, "He was aware of the existence of another side of music. He wanted to invent something of his own, away from the road of commercial rock music, and I believe he would have had a very interesting artistic development."

 

January 9-11, 1984—Ensemble InterContemporain, IRCAM, Paris, France

FZ, interviewed by Barbara Zuck, Capitol, April 1, 1984

Boulez had a number of problems conducting my music which he didn't expect. His musicians are highly trained virtuosos specializing in playing contemporary music. But my music is vastly different from most music they play. Several people or more are asked to play difficult rhythms together.

FZ with Peter Occhiogrosso, The Real Frank Zappa Book, 1989, p. 196-197

These commissions are offered in a way that requires my presence at the premiere performance—during which I would be expected to sit there and pretend it was terrific.

That's what happened to me when Boulez conducted the live premiere of "Dupree's Paradise," "The Perfect Stranger" and "Naval Aviation in Art?" It was underrehearsed.

I hated that premiere. Boulez virtually had to drag me onto the stage to take a bow. I was sitting on a chair off to the side of the stage during the concert, and I could see the sweat squirting out of the musicians' foreheads. Then they had to go into the IRCAM studio the next day and record it.

[...] There's no such thing as a 'second chance' in this situation—the audience gets only one chance to hear it because, even though the program says "World Premiere," that usually means "Last Performance."

Dominique Chevalier, Viva Zappa, p. 26

It was a strange turn of events, helped by support from Charles Amirkhanian and Cage, as well as Zappa's frequent references to him (Conlon Nancarrow) in interviews in relation to "Uncle Meat" or "Envelopes". He also mentions him on stage (Peaches III). Nancarrow was also present at the Pierre Boulez IRCAM concert.

 

Synclavier

FZ, quoted by Paul Gilby, Sound On Sound, February, 1987

You see, the thing that got me hooked on the Synclavier was the music-printing aspect of it. Before getting that, I would carry manuscript paper around with me in my briefcase and write music on the road, in a hotel or on an aeroplane. It was a very manual procedure where, having come off the road, I would collate my ideas and then write out the new arrangement and that would go to a copyist, and so on. It was really expensive, very time-consuming, and at the end you really didn't know what you were going to get till you heard it played.

With the Synclavier you can type the stuff in and, if you do ever have to show it to another musician, you just push the button and it prints out a perfect copy. Before the sampling unit was installed in the Synclavier that I have, my main interest was just to be able to put the music together in a neat, secretarial way. So you see, I wasn't really attracted to it for its sound creating abilities. But when sampling came along, not only could I organise my compositions, I could also get a really great performance out of the system, instantly!

[...]

A guitar player I may be, but when I first went to one of those music equipment conventions in New York City and saw the Synclavier system, I tried out the guitar interface and it wasn't really for me. But I know there are other good guitarists out there, like Pat Metheny, who play the Synclavier with the guitar very well.

 

1. The Perfect Stranger

Liner notes by FZ, 1984

A door-to-door salesman, accompanied by his faithful gypsy-mutant industrial vacuum cleaner (as per the interior illustration on the "CHUNGA'S REVENGE" album cover), cavorts licentiously with a slovenly housewife.

We hear the door bell, the housewife's eyebrows going up and down as she spies the nozzle through the ruffled curtain, the sound of the little bag of 'demonstration dirt' being sprinkled on the rug, and assorted bombastic interjections representing the spiritual qualities of chrome, rubber, electricity, and household tidiness. The entire transaction is being viewed from a safe distance by Patricia, the dog in the highchair.

Mike Genovese, June 14, 2010

Pedro's dowry has the doorbell from perfect stranger. [...] The doorbell on Pedros is at the very end played by the piano. I would never have noticed it but frank told me himself.

 

4. Dupree's Paradise

Liner notes by FZ

Is about a bar on Avalon Boulevard in Watts at 6:00 AM on a Sunday in 1964, during the early morning jam session. For about seven minutes, the customers (winos, musicians, degenerates & policemen) do the things that set them apart from the rest of society.

 

 

Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos
http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/
This page updated: 2018-08-01