BAND MEMBERS- FZ, Gary Barone (trumpet), Earl Dumler (oboe, sarrusophone), Malcolm McNab (trumpet), Tom Malone (trumpet, trombone, sax), Bruce Fowler (trombone, early signs of greatness), Glenn Ferris (trombone), Dave Parlato (bass), Tony Duran (slide guitar), Jim Gordon (drums)
DATES- October 27th through December 15th
COUNTRIES- 2 (US and Canada)
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS PLAYED- 19 (including improvisations and jams)
AVERAGE LENGTH OF SHOW- 75 minutes
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 5
SONGS FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Boogie, Chunga's Revenge, Cosmik Debris, Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?, Duke of Prunes, Farther O'Blivion, Imaginary Diseases, Little Dots, Montana, Son of Mr. Green Genes, Waka/Jawaka, Willie the Pimp
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- Frank's solos are consistently interesting throughout this tour. He varies his sound from song to song, sounding relaxed and laid back at times, vicious and nasty at other times (the "Cosmik Debris" solos are particularly dirty). The vehicles in which his solos come are quite diverse, ranging from the standard guitar solo vehicles such as "Montana" and "Cosmik Debris", to the more straightforward blues jams as found in the created-on-the-spot "KC Blues" and "'A' Minor Blues", to some more jazz infected tunes, such as "Imaginary Diseases". Whatever the vehicle though, Frank frequently takes his time in creating his solo, exploring a variety of ideas and seeming to pay close attention to the colorings of the rhythm section. His guitar playing does not, in and of itself, rank as some of his best over the years, but combining the above factors, with the simply incredible and enthusiatic rhythm section (including Duran on guitar), one should not be disappointed with the final product.
SONGS THAT FZ USUALLY SOLOED IN BUT DID NOT ON THIS TOUR- I'm Not Satisfied
NEW SONGS ON TOUR- 'A' Minor Blues, Cosmik Debris, Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?, Farther O'Blivion, Imaginary Diseases, KC Blues, Little Dots, Montana, Rollo, Waka/Jawaka
MONSTER SONGS- As I originally envisioned them, the title "Monster" referred to songs that contained a high degree of improvisation, going beyond the realm of "solos" and frequently into the limits of complete unpredictability. While a song did not have to actually reach these limits each performance to qualify for Monster status, the potential for such musical outer limits needed to be present. For this tour, I do not feel that any songs actually qualify for Monster status. Yes, they almost all contain solos- and some brilliant ones at that- but these solos never veer off into a completely new direction. Frank has predetermined a vamp and/or structure for each solo, and this set-up is not deviated from. Plus, in comparing different performances of the same song, one finds that the only difference between them is the solo itself, with all other aspects of the song being essentially the same. So while I highly enjoy this tour for the wonderful soloing that occurs within each tune, I find that the tour is lacking in any real "far out" improvisation, and thus there are no Monster Songs.
OVERVIEW- This tour ranks as one of my top 5 Frank tours. Even though there are no real high quality tapes circulating from this tour, I still find myself listening to these shows as often as I can, and immensely enjoying the music each time. The band is excellent- Frank, an astounding bass/drum combo, a slide/rhythm guitarist, and 6 horn players. Obviously, the make-up of this band makes for some great arrangements, with even "Cosmik Debris" and "Montana" sounding fresh (which they were at the time, but definitely are not to these ears). The repertoire is rather small, but considering that almost every song contains at least one quite lengthy solo, and many of them contained several, each show is essentially a whole new experience. We get oboe solos, tuba solos, trombone solos, sax solos, frantic drum and bass solos, scorching slide solos, and a plethora of diverse and quite inspired Frank solos. The material that we are all sick of due to years of overexposure appears in a new light, and a handful of tunes make their only appearance during this short stint. All of these factors make this a tour that offers many reasons for listening. One, the variety of different material that is interesting to hear simply because of the novelty and/or reworking of the tunes. Two, unlike say the Spring '80 tour, these "interesting" listens also contain some excellent music, and thus the shows can bear repeated listens. Finally, the band is top notch, with all members playing their parts as required, while pushing the music to higher levels with inspired solos. I do not have much to say about this tour other than it is one of Frank's more interesting and musically unique tours, and one of the horrible omissions in his officially released catalog.
AMERICA DRINKS AND GOES HOME- An instrumental, busily arranged version of the "Absolutely Free" track, with some random jazz madness thrown in just to be safe. Running at about 4 minutes in length, this upbeat tune basically consists of a series of themes and motifs- heavy on the horn arrangements- interspersed throughout with short horn solos.
'A' MINOR BLUES- Sometimes you just got to play the blues. This midtempo blues performance opened up the second show on 12/2, providing the audience with an early glimpse into the jamming capabilities of this band. With some heavy rhythm guitar accompianment, we get a short FZ solo to open up the festivities, followed by a sax solo, a Duran slide workout, a trombone solo, and a full length Frank jam. Running about 12 minutes in length, this blues jam is a great way to the show, warming up both the band and the audience.
BIG SWIFTY- This song appears on several setlists, but as Charles Ulrich dutifully points out, does not actually appear during any of the shows it is supposedly on. So, sorry people- no "Big Swifty" this time around.
BOOGIE- This title refers to the closing jam of a lengthy instrumental performed during the 11/11 early show. Towards the end of the instrumental, Frank lets the audience choose how they want the song to end by having them applaud for various musical styles, i.e. boogie, ballad, waltz, etc. Boogie receives the loudest applause, so the band segues into a ZZ Top style boogie groove, with Duran and Frank each taking a turn soloing. An excellent ending to an excellent series of solos.
CARAVAN- At the request of a hip audience member, the band performs a short rendition of this tune at the 11/11 early show, complete with drum solo. After the drummer gets a little, the band jumps headfirst into a very festive and somewhat chaotic rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In."
CHUNGA'S REVENGE- Essentially performed as on "Chunga's Revenge", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in the solos. For this tour, we get at least two solos- first a horn solo, a return to the opening riff, and then the standard Frank solo. This is the standard progression of this tune, though occasionally Frank would give an additional member of the band a chance to wreak his revenge.
COSMIK DEBRIS- Essentially performed as always, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. There are some minor changes in the lyrics, in the second chorus and in the closing vocals, but overall the song is exactly as it would remain for the next 16 years.
DON'T YOU EVER WASH THAT THING?- As it appears here, this song more closely resembles a jazz composition than the FZ monster that would later appear. The main theme is played once through, though a lot less staccato, and with a much busier feel to it. Some additinal horn parts are played after this opening, which build up speed and lead us into a very hyper jam centered around a feedback laden FZ solo. The drummer gets a short moment in the spotlight next, before the tune is concluded as on "Roxy and Elsewhere". While this is not the same beast that we know and love from the '73 and '74 tours, it is nonetheless an interesting version. The overarranged horn parts in the beginning give the music quite a different feel, and Frank's guitar solo is typically one of the more aggressive of each show.
DRUM SOLO- Come on, people, think. Think!
DUKE OF PRUNES- Essentially performed as on "Orchestral Favorites", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. Instead of Frank's dramatic and effectively drawn out guitar solo, this tour provides us with a rather mellow oboe solo, followed by a more lyrical, flowing FZ guitar solo. This version is great, majestically arranged and almost perfect sounding with the horns.
FARTHER O'BLIVION- This tune consists of what would eventually be three distinct musical compositions, namely the Steno Pool section from "Greggary Peccary", the head of "The Bebop Tango", and "Cucamonga". As it appears on this tour, it is essentially performed as on "Piquantique" from Beat the Boots Volume I, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and minus the opening musical flurry. During the opening "Steno Pool" section, we get a tuba solo, along with an occasional Frank solo. Also, during the written parts, we get random blowing and some subtle FZ soloing underlying the complex melodies. During "Bebop Tango", Fowler takes what would eventually be his calling card solo, once again amazing all those within earshot with the feats that his lips can perform. After this spectacular trombone solo, the drummer would get a little, before the band concluded the affair with a "Cucamonga" run through. These performances averaged about 14 minutes in length
FOR CALVIN MEDLEY- Sorry to disappoint you all, but there is no "For Calvin Medley" on this tour. The songs performed in this mistitled slot are actually "Farther O'Blivion" and "Imaginary Diseases" (unless the date is mislabelled on my tape, then ...?)
IMAGINARY DISEASES- This instrumental tune resembles many of the other jazz influenced tracks performed on this tour. The song starts off with a heavily composed theme, with some busy horn parts, and some Frank guitar slithering around the proceedings. After about two minutes of written music, the band settles into an active shuffle groove, over which Frank gives us an intense and somewhat mean sounding guitar solo. After Frank complete's his solo, we return to the main theme, which is again played once through before the tune ends.
I'M NOT SATISFIED- How did this song sneak into the repertoire? Amidst the jazz and blues trappings of the majority of the material, this short, vocal oriented ditty about longing and love (or lack of it) pops up, races through its due course in no time, and disappears about two minutes later. While it is essentially performed as on "Freak Out", some nice twists are added with the horn section playing the opening guitar riff, and a saxophone playing the melody line along with Frank's vocals. Unfortunately, we only get the first half of the song, with no guitar solo and the tune ending coldly after the second chorus. Nevertheless, a nice treat.
IMPROVISATION- This spur-of-the-moment jam (titled "Little Dots" on most set lists) comes from the 11/11 early show, and is essentially a series of solos accompanied by a Middle Eastern vamp. Frank announces that the next tune is so new "that we do not even know what it is". The band starts playing, in a very organized and seemingly rehearsed fashion, establishing a slow riff that sets us up for a steady stream of solos. We get several horn solos, and a concluding Frank workout, one of his best of the tour. The riff itself is not that interesting, but the solos are all enjoyable. For the conclusion of the tune, Frank lets the audience vote on how they would like it to end, with the choice of "Boogie" receiving the loudest applause. The band the segues into a ZZ Top type boogie, both Duran and Frank then solo, and this jam finally ends. To my ears, this song most closely resembles the long jams that the 60's Mothers frequently indulged in, with the repetitive JCB drum beat.
INSTRUMENTAL- Found in many setlists from this tour, this title usually refers to the unreleased instrumental songs "Imaginary Diseases" or "Little Dots". For the 12/3 show, the opening instrumental tune is a spur-of-the-moment blues jam that Frank begins in order to kill time while the tenor saxophonist is getting ready. This short jam contains a short saxophone and a short Frank solo.
KC BLUES- Like I said before, sometimes you just got to play the blues. This midtempo blues performance is from the early show on 12/2, and is essentially nothing more than a solo vehicle. Running at about 11 minutes in length, this jam starts off with a short blues vamp, establishing the groove before giving us a plethora of solos. Duran goes first on slide, followed by sax, trumpet, and then FZ's guitar. Nothing more than musicians jamming to their hearts content, and an excellent addition to any show.
LITTLE DOTS- While this tune is often compared to "Approximate", it has always reminded me more of an Ornette Coleman tune, sounding quite like the so-called "free jazz" of the early sixties. The tune begins with some abrupt horn parts, interspersed with active improvising by the rhythm section. Once this short head is played through, the bass player takes a solo, accompanied only by a manic Gordon and the band's well-timed screams. As this frantic soloing fades away, Tony begins playing one of Frank's most beautifully written progressions on rhythm guitar, creating a very folkish atmosphere. The bass and drum dueling then picks up speed again, wailing away over this newly established rhythm, before once again settling down and returning our attention to Duran's playing. Over this wonderful progression, we get a variety of solos, with different band members stepping up and soloing at different shows. At least one horn solo, an occasional slide guitar solo, and occasional Frank workout, with each solo once again providing the listener with some very impressive playing. Then, as with most typical jazz numbers, we return to the head of the tune, which is played once through before the song ends coldly. This is a great tune- an excellent precursor to the madness that would be "Approximate", sandwiching one of Frank's most reflective and seductive pieces of music.
MONTANA- For the most part, this song is essentially performed as always, with the added pleasure of the horns, and some very minor changes in the lyrics. The only markedly different aspect of the song is the opening vamp- a fast, hyper riff played on drums and bass over which the main theme, as we know it, is played. This riff only lasts several bars, before disappearing with the appearance of the pre-vocal drum flurry. Also, after Frank's typically impressive guitar solo (which overlays some even more impressive drum and bass work), the riff returns along with the opening theme. There is no high vocal section in this version, with the song immediately jumping to the "I'm going to find me a horse" line after Frank's solo and the reprise of the opening theme. Oh yeah- the tweezers are chrome plated.
ROLLO- Another of the many treats that this tour provides us. As many of you know, a song by this title popped up as the final part of the "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" suite in the late 70's, which can be heard on YCDTOSA Volume I. That song originated in this number, though the lyrics in the latter version are not present in this version. As it appears here, that later, revised version comprises the last several minutes of this musical monster, minus the lyrics. This version, running about 11 minutes in length, starts with a whole new musical theme, heavy on the horns, complete with lyrics (see below). We get the main theme, verse, quiet chorus, return to the main theme, verse, quiet chorus, and spoken part. After this spoken part, we get a somewhat tweaked version of what would later become "St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast". This leads into a short, new horn arrangement, which drops us off in a Duran slide solo. This is quite a lengthy solo, with the rhythm section once again practically stealing the thunder from the soloist. Towards the end of the solo, the horn section slowly reenters the scene, before a calm and reflective horn part provides a segue out of Duran's solo into the instrumental performance of the "Rollo" that we know and love. Obviously, my weak attempt at describing this tune does not do it justice, but take my word for it when I tell you that this song is quite a treat, and is a worthy addition to the Frank Zappa musical library. THE LYRICS- Verse I: There was a man and a dog, squatting on a log, he had him biting on a stick, until the bark was all gone, Chorus: hey little fella, get up and beg, open the jaws, lift up the leg, and that little doggie's name is Rollo, and his little doggie dealie is hollow. Verse II: A little while later on, further down the road, there was a lady and a man, about to get blown, Chorus: hey little fella, get up and beg, open the jaws, lift up the leg, and the husband's name was Rollo, and his old ladies name was Swallow. Spoken Part: Now Rollo if you love me, do what I told you, and fetch onto me, a baroque magnolia. [Thanks to Charles Ulrich for help with the lyrics (and no thanks to Frank's, ahem, singing)]
SHIT ONSTAGE- This is not a song, nor a musical event, yet it still continues to pop up on setlists. During the 12/2 late show, some guy yells "Shit onstage!", to which Frank replies "Go see Alice Cooper." That's about it. There's some more FZ comments, some visual tomfoolery, but nothing all that crazy. Frank does make one other interesting comment, however. Before playing the next song "Cosmik Debris", Frank announces that the title of the tune is "Cosmik Debris", which "is as good as shitting on stage." So, for those of you who do not like the song, there you go.
SON OF MR. GREEN GENES- A rather dull and simplified version of the "Hot Rats" track. Running at about 10 minutes in length, this version starts off with the uptempo version of the main theme, played through twice before depositing us in the solo section. We get several horn solos, and a Frank workout, all over the same rather listless vamp. The only real highlight of this song (and a highlight throughout the tour) is the excellent drumming and rhythm work, both by the bass player and the rhythm guitarist, who manage to salvage this rather dull solo fest.
WAKA/JAWAKA- They said it would never happen. They insisted for years that it never did. They drooled over "Zappa's Universe" because it contained a live performance of this long-ignored classic. And now, do they feel like fools, or are they dancing in the streets over this joyous discovery? Yes, boys and girls, the Petite Wazoo did it. At least once, on 10/31, they performed "Waka/Jawaka". And here, with a description six long months after we first discovered this treat, is Mr. Sean Gaffney-> "The head is very horn heavy, and sounds incredibly cool. The piece is played with a lot of energy, as if the musicians sensed this might be a rare piece. We then get a short FZ fill, before we're off to the first of the two solos. This is on trumpet, I believe, and is just gorgeous. About 4 minutes long, and Barone gets to use a variety of styles. After a short bit of musical randomness, FZ gets to solo, and again takes a fairly lengthy one, about 3 minutes, with the first minute or so being very low, smooth notes. After that, we get a return to the head, FZ plays a few more tasty licks, and the song ends. 11 minutes or so of coolness." And yes, that's about it. Now, everyone pray (find your god now) that Gail sees fit to include this on the "will it really happen?" Petite Wazoo release. [For those of you who are here just for this, AND who have a sincere interest in the Xmas '76 page, this is your chance. I really do appreciate the interest and response I have received for these pages, and am genuinely motivated by it. SO, if you really want to read what I have to say about the Xmas '76 shows, drop me a line and let me know because that WILL spur me to get my butt in gear. And, if you do not care, I will let you know that I already have several others committed to adding their comments, as mine will probably not be 100% positive. So, e-mail me below and let me know what you think. Thanks!!!!]
WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN- After tearing through a quick performance of "Caravan (with a drum solo)" at the 11/11 early show, the band dives into a festive and chaotic rendition of this tune. It lasts approximately a minute, before Frank conducts the band into a noisy frenzy and then ends the tune coldly.
WILLIE THE PIMP- I was really looking forward to hearing this band's performance of this song- apparently only performed on 10/31 early- as I figured the arrangement would be somewhat different, and that this band would give it a sleazy and sultry feel that they accomplished so well on other tunes. Sadly, upon first hearing the song, I was greatly disappointed. The intro and main theme of the song- performed as an instrumental- were rather lifeless, and even managed to make the '84 version sound down and dirty. I was very disappointed, and was about to give up on the song, when the structured part ended, and we were off into solo land. While the vamp itself is not that inspired, the guitar solo is worthy of being heard, while the two horn solos are simply great. Not that dirty- not as vicious as they could be- but just all around, solid performances. Good enough to redeem the miserable beginning, and chalk this one up as a keeper in my book. Interestingly enough, during the solo section, Frank announces the segue into the next song, which is "Montana". A hint of things to come 12 years later, when once again the composed section of the tune would suck.
-Charles Ulrich's excellent analysis of the Petit Wazoo tour, including newspaper reviews of the actual shows. Check it out.