The tune dates from 1957 or '58. It was originally a string quartet I wrote right about the time I graduated (from high school). It's one of the oldest pieces, and it's been played by just about every one of the touring bands, in one version or another. The title, "Pound for a Brown", was based on a bet. On our first trip to Europe, when we got to England, one of the guys in the band bet another guy in the band a pound that he wouldn't "brown-out" on the bus on the way into London.
We have these surfers and they have this curious thing called the Brown Out, which is part of their culture. Now, the Brown Out is the thing that you do to impress your surfer friends and to make other people's eyebrows go up and down. And what you do is you get the other person's attention—you wave at them or you say something amusing—and they turn around and look at you and then suddenly you reverse your position, drop your pants, and stick your buns out at them. That is a Brown Out. Also known as a Brown. And also known as Mooning on the East Coast. There are a number of variations on this procedure. If you Brown Out against a wire screen, its called a chipped beef. And if you do it against a plate glass window at a delicatessen, its called a pressed ham.
Last year, before we did our Festival Hall show, we arrived at the airport and were provided with a touring bus with nice big windows so that everybody on the outside could see in and we could see out. The lovely ride from the airport to the Winton Hotel. During this trip, a wager was made between Jimmy Carl Black, the Indian of the group, and Bunk Gardner, our silver-haired tenor saxophone virtuoso. Jimmy Carl Black turned to Bunk Gardner and said "I'll bet you a pound you won't Brown Out on this here bus." Bunk Gardner, being the crafty silver-haired devil that he is, quickly computed the difference between a pound and a dollar and had his pants off before anybody knew what was happening.
1968: Essentially performed as on Ahead Of Their Time (1993), with the standard deviation coming in Frank's guitar solo.
STRING QUARTET—The original stage name for the unbeatable one-two combination of "Pound for a Brown" and "Sleeping in a Jar."
Winter 1970: This is your typical "Pound for a Brown", performed as it is essentially performed from the '60's up through the Fall '71 tour. We get the head—the two thematic sections surrounding the "avant-garde" middle—before heading off into Frank's solo. This is also your typical "Pound for a Brown" solo, lyrical and calm, with occasional flourishes of aggression. And, as is always the highly enjoyable case with the shows of this era, Frank leads us into "Sleeping in a Jar."
Summer/Fall 1970: Essentially performed as on Tengo Na Minchia Tanta from Beat the Boots Volume II, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. As a bonus treat, Frank's solo segues into "Sleeping in a Jar," providing an even longer break from the vocal inanities of the Flo 'n' Eddie experience.
Fall '71: Essentially performed as on Fire from Beat the Boots Volume II, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Another welcome relief from the vaudevillian antics of the majority of the repertoire. Here we get just simple music—the perfectly composed theme, followed by a sinewy Frank guitar solo and some awesome Dunbar accompaniment. As a bonus treat, we still get the "Sleeping in a Jar" segue, which allows Frank to smoothly bail out when he is done soloing. A little slice of instrumental heaven.
Spring '75: Essentially performed as always, with the parade of solos following in the wake of the perfectly written head. Fowler goes first on trombone, once again proving his godliness to all with ears. Duke follows, we get an occasional Fowler on bass and short Bozzio, with FZ closing the affair with some nasty solos. Not bad solos, mind you, just some of the most ugly and intensely biting affairs that Frank has played in a while. It is in this tune where Frank starts toying with the dissonant and metal tinged playing that he would exploit to its fullest in the Fall '75 and Winter '76 tours. Being the composer that he is, Frank made sure that he balanced these solos, mixing quiter, reflective passages with the six string ugliness. As in the good ol' days, we occasionally get the awesome segue into "Sleeping in a Jar" as the climax to these affairs.
Fall '76: Essentially performed as on ZINY, accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. This does not appear as its normal Monster self this time out, but only serves as a Frank guitar solo vehicle. It does a good job at this, however, with Frank producing some interesting solos in the handful of performances that we get.
Winter '77: Essentially performed as on ZINY, accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. While this is not the Monster "Pound" found on other tours, this version is rather endearing simply because it harkens back to the days of Flo 'n' Eddie, when all this tune contained was a simple yet impressive guitar solo. While Frank's style, and the rhythmic accompianment, is quite different this time around, there is still a strightforward honesty about these solos that makes them all the more powerful. We get the short theme, and then Frank just doing what he does best. What more could you ask for? My only complaint: other than endly his solo coldly, and then letting Terry fool around for several minutes before the next song, I wish Frank could have found a better way to segue into the typically next-up "Jones Crusher." But hey, there's no need to be picky, right?
Fall '77: An excellent outing for this perennial Monster Song. The main theme is played as always, with some Tommy vocal accompaniment throughout. The solo section starts off with some very uncommon and well-played rhythm guitar, setting the scene for the keyboard freak-out that follows. Wolf uses quite a funky sound, Mars scats for much of his solo, and the rhythm section—particularly O'Hearn—is outright insane. Early in the tour, an instrumental version of "Conehead" essentially serves as the vamp for a Frank Zappa guitar solo, though this situation would only last about a week. Once "Conehead" became its own tune, the Zappa solo is dropped from this tune, and it becomes a keyboard/bass fest only.
Winter '78: One of several Monster Tunes on this tour. The head of the tune was essentially performed as on ZINY, with obvious adjustments made for different instrumentation. Once the main theme was complete, it was keyboard time, with Wolf taking the heavier load of soloing (Mars would get his turn in "Little House"). While these "Pounds" were nowhere near as chaotic and improvisational as the '88 "Pounds", our two keyboardists had quite a bit of room to maneuver in, and occasionally cooked up quite a tasty musical treat. Once they had finished their bit, Frank would conduct the band into a somewhat frenzied meltdown that would eventually segue into the next song.
Fall '78: Essentially performed as on Saarbrucken from Beat the Boots Volume I. What we get here is the main theme followed by keyboard solos, first Petey, then Tommy, with an occasional Mann percussion display to stir things up. Tommy would occasionally throw in some scat, and would frequently call out to Vinnie and try to get him worked into a frenzy. The 10/15 performance of this tune is a MONSTER, thanks to special guest for the night, Patrick O'Hearn. Lots of improvisation, including the infamous Emperor of Ohio and Heil Caeaser variations. Patrick and Tommy even doing a mini drug routine, similar but not as preachy as the "Dummy Up's" from '74. Then, all of a sudden in the waning days of October, the song starts to stretch a little. Wilder keyboards, extended drum workouts, and top-of-the-line Frank guitar solos start rearing there "Pound for a Brown" heads. By the time the Halloween shows roll around, the tune includes "Thirteen," and thus, Shankar, and thus things get even better. The song may have entered the scene rather meekly, but it goes out with a terrific BANG!
1979: Unfortunately, no official versions of this song were released from this or the previous tour (apart from THE SOLOS). Essentially, the head of this song was performed as it was always performed, making adjustments for the particular band's instrumentation (read "lots of keyboards"). Once the head concluded, we were off into solo Never-never land, with Eddie, Petie, Tommy, Frankie, Artie, and yes, even Vinnie, all getting their respective shots at the "it's my turn in the spotlight" game. Oddly enough, this was only performed as an encore, and usually the last one at that.
Spring/Summer '80: I'm not sure if this tour's version of this tune qualifies as a Monster Song. Yes, we get solos, but only from Tommy and Frankie, and rather restrained ones at that. The tune begins as always, with Tommy immediately beginning his solo upon completion of the main theme. Tommy solos for awhile, and when he is done, Frank starts soloing. The unfortunate part about these performances is that for the duration of the solos, the rhythm section plays the same vamp. Barrow locks into this reptitive groove, and Logeman essentially follows suit. There is slight deviation as the solo calls for it, with Logeman being a lot more active than Barrow, but the two always shortly return to the same groove. While the groove itself is not bad (it is actually quite enjoyable), it severely limits the directions and extremes that Tommy and Frank can go with their respective solos. Depending on how one views this song, thus determines the success of each performance. As a straightforward solo vehicle, the song is quite good, with an upbeat vamp and some top notch solos. As a Monster Song, however, the tune fails, with little experimentation and a limited range of musical flavors. We do get two special performances of this tune during the tour. On 4/11, Craig "Twister" Stewart sits in for an encore performance of this number, dueling it out with Frank on his harmonica. Two months later, in Paris, Frank decides to demonstrate Tommy's various keyboards for an unnamed special guest in the audience, and thus after Tommy's solo- with Barrow and Logeman keeping the same beat- Tommy and Frank fool around for several minutes. [More info from Patrick Buzby—"Also, I would agree that "Pound" rarely reached Monster status on this tour, but the 4/18 version is interesting if you haven't heard it. It has FZ and Logeman trading solos at one point (I was dumbfounded when I first heard this), and then FZ shifts the vamp and eventually it ends up with Louie Louie. Bizarre."]
1981/1982: Once a Monster, always a Monster—at least as far as this song goes. Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume V, with the standard deviations coming in the solos. Ray White usually got his chance to shine in this tune, displaying both his guitar and scat skills. Ed Mann did his percussion thing, which was usually more interesting for the band accompaniment than for the actual solo itself (is this why Ruth hated to solo?). The keyboardists occasionally got a stab at the gold, and, of course, Frank brought the party to a hearty climax with a typically smokin' solo. 1981: Like all good Monsters, this tune has an anything goes feel to it, and thus, during the course of the tour, we get Lisa's Life Story, the revered Nicholas Slonimsky whipping it out (for an unforgivably short duration), and "Zappa the Pimp", where Frank attempts to make a Love Connection between a crew member and a girl from the audience. 1982: "It Ain't Necessarily the Saint James Infirmary" on Guitar (1988) is a "Pound for a Brown" extract.
1988: This is the most frequently performed of the Big Three Monster Songs, and arguably the most successful of the lot. For some reason, the extended improvisations found in this instrumental classic are typically the most outrageous and intense of any given show (in fact, the majority of the improv from "When Yuppies Go To Hell" comes from this song, as does the last seven minutes of the MAJNH version of "King Kong"). We get all the typical Monster madness—horn solos, percussion solos, Keneally's patented keyboard-and-guitar-at-the-same-time solos, keyboard solos, bass and drum solos, and Frank guitar workouts. But we also get the lion's share of the sampled madness during these jams, plus a couple sex noise contests, and a couple visits from Brother A. West. After 20 plus years of lingering on the edge of full-blown greatness, this tune finally reaches maturity during this four month outing, and provides Frank's final tour with some of its greatest moments. FIRE AND CHAINS—This guitar solo on MAJNH is from the 2/9 performance of "Pound for a Brown." The final portion of "When Yuppies Go To Hell" is from that same performance of "Pound for a Brown", and the edit from one track to the other is a real time segue.
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