BAND MEMBERS- FZ, Tom Fowler (bass), Ralph Humphrey (drums), Ruth Underwood (percussion), Ian Underwood (horns, keyboards), George Duke (keyboards, vocals), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Jean-Luc Ponty (violin)
DATES- August 18th through September 14th
COUNTRIES- 12 (all European)
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS PLAYED- 29
AVERAGE SHOW LENGTH- 110 minutes
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 5
SONGS FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Chunga's Revenge, Cosmik Debris, Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?, Dupree's Paradise, Farther O'Blivion, I'm the Slime, Montana, More Trouble Every Day (?), Penguin in Bondage, RDNZL, Willie the Pimp
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- For some reason, this short little European outing seems to bring out the best and most interesting guitar playing of 1973. To my ears, his solos from the earlier portion of this year tended to be rather non-descript, and frequently fell into a rather predictable and uninspired competence, while his solos from the Fall tour suffered from a trite guitar sound and Frank's least diverse guitar playing. This tour, however, seems to be from a different world guitar-wise, with Frank playing the guitar like a whole different person. His more standard solos, such as in "Montana" and "Cosmik Debris" are wonderfully inventive, his "Dupree's Paradise" workouts are masterpieces of patience, and his surprise guitar treats ("Willie the Pimp", "Farther O'Blivion") shimmer with inspiration. While the shows tend to be somewhat repetitive, Frank's guitar work raises even the most standard setlists to great heights, making this my favorite tour from this heavily toured year.
SONGS FZ USUALLY SOLOED IN BUT NOT ON THIS TOUR- Inca Roads, King Kong
NEW SONGS ON TOUR- Bebop Tango (by itself), Echidna's Arf (of You), Kung Fu, Penguin in Bondage, T'Mershi Duween, Village of the Sun
MONSTER SONGS- Dupree's Paradise; As is standard fare for 1973 and 1974, this instrumental classic once again terrorizes setlists, challenging us with its zany mix of George Duke keyboard madness, random Frank conducting, and blistering solos.
OVERVIEW- While I respect the other two tours from this year- the poorly documented Spring and Summer Tour, and the "Roxy and Elsewhere" Fall Tour- neither of them have a particularly strong effect on me. This short little tour, however- 21 European shows in less than a month- is absolutely captivating. The band is essentially the same as on the previous tour, with the only difference being Marquez's absence (you say you want a per diem? Ha!) Yet for some reason, these performances seem consistently more inspired, and have a warmth to them that the earlier shows lacked. Even Ponty, who is more annoying than anything earlier in the year, can do no wrong here. The song selection is slightly more limited this time round, but the addition of several new songs- some lost classics, some newly written gems- help brighten the landscape. "Penguin in Bondage", "Echidna's Arf (of You)", and "T'Mershi Duween" are several of the new songs that help display this band's talents, while "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" and "Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque" are two long forgotten favorites which triumphantly return, bringing a major grin to this reporter's face. More than anything, though, it is the individual playing of each band member which lifts this tour to another level. The older tunes are handled with a steady confidence, and one can sense that this is a unit that has been together for awhile. In fact, the band becomes so comfortable with the material that towards the end of the tour, several of the songs- "Exercise Four", "Dog Meat", "T'Mershi Duween"- are frequently played at ridiculously brisk paces. The band seems on the verge of musical chaos during these rampant workouts, yet somehow manages to hold things together and triumphantly avoid a major train wreck. As individuals, their solos are consistently adventurous, and seem to have a sense of urgency that seemed to be lacking in the previous months. And last but not least, Frank's guitar playing is in its adventurous mode, and seldom does Frank settle for a run-of-the-mill solo. He pushes the envelope throughout each show, varying both his sound and his style to give us an interesting variety of solos. No, this tour is not without its faults. The setlists are all fairly similar, with a relience on songs which are played the same nightly; and the vocal abilitites of the band are quite limited. These factors included, though, this tour still has a lot going for it, and at least for this opinionated reporter, is the strongest suit in Frank's 1973 touring hand.
BEBOP TANGO- During the final show of the tour, Frank announces that the band is going to play "Part 2 of 'Farther O'Blivion'", and minutes later, "The Bebop Tango" makes it solo debut. It is essentially performed as on "Roxy and Elsewhere", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in the parade of solos that we get. Bruce goes first, taking his "let me blow your mind with my trombone" solo, followed by a "damn is he good on this tour" Ponty solo, and concluding with the dynamic Ruth. We do not get an ending this time round, only a smooth yet odd segue into "Cosmik Debris".
BEBOP TANGO REPRISE- During the drum/percussion duet of "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?" at the final show of the tour, the band begins playing the opening "Bebop Tango" vamp. The drummers continue to fight it out for awhile, with the rest of the band maintaining the "Bebop" vamp. After approximately a minute of this, the band reprises the main theme of the "Bebop Tango", which eventually dissolves into yet another drum/percussion duet. Finally, in a continuation of the madness, this duet evolves into the "T'Mershi Duween" drum intro (which is not present on any released recording), which then leads right into a "T'Mershi Duween" reprise. Simply great!
BROWN SHOES DON'T MAKE IT- One of the treats of this short European jaunt. The song is eesentially performed as on "Absolutely Free", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with smoother transitions between the many "movements" (a la the Spring '79 version). Unlike either of those other two versions, however, these performances are taken at a much brisker pace, with the post-vocal ending especially taking on a hectic and rather rushed feel. Nonetheless, the song is great to hear, and serves as a major plus in this tour's positive column.
CHUNGA'S REVENGE- Played as part of the "Mr. Green Genes-> King Kong-> Chunga's Revenge-> Mr. Green Genes" medley. As far as the main theme goes, all we get is the abrupt guitar intro as it appears on the album, followed by a Frank Zappa guitar solo played over the "Chunga's" bass line. Upon completion of his solo, Frank would segue into the melody of "Mr Green Genes", at which point the band would follow suit and ease into the medley closing tune. At the final show of the tour, Frank begins the medley with "Chunga's Revenge" (not actually making it a medley, but...), and gives Ponty a short solo before beginning his own. Then, as always, Frank segues into "Mr. Green Genes" upon finishing his solo, and we get the normal ending for this truncated performance.
COSMIK DEBRIS- Essentially performed as always, with the standard deviation coming in the middle-of-song solo fest, which typically features Duke on keybooards and Frank on the axe, with an occasional Underwood solo thrown in for good measure. For the "price-of-meat" section, we get the rather laid back, keyboard funk groove.
DOG BREATH- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume II, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in the ridiculously brisk pace in which this tune is frequently performed.
DON'T YOU EVER WASH THAT THING?- After hanging around setlists for two tours with a more "jazzed up" appearance, this instrumental powerhouse finally makes its transformation into the classic we know and love. It is essentially performed as on "Roxy and Elsewhere", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in the solos. Ponty typically takes the first solo, while Fowler and occasionally Duke (making it 3 solos total) take solos in the second spot. As on the "Roxy" release, we get the drum/percussion duet, followed by the composed ending. Unfortunately, Frank does not entertain us with his "Watch Ruth!" commands in the middle of the song.
DUPREE'S PARADISE- Once again, this Monster Song staple of the '73 and '74 tours provides the listener with many an incredible musical experience. As would be the case for its entire '70's run, this improvisational showcase begins with Duke and his keyboards. George gets a chance to strut his stuff, showing off both his piano skills and his assortment of keyboard toys. Once George sets the scene, Frank puts on his conductor's hat and slowly brings the rest of the band into the proceedings, inevitably steering the music into new directions. We get short solos, a variety of musical styles, some occasional Frank commentary (the "It's so fucking cold up here, everybody clap along" rant from "Piquantique" may be one of the funniest, and funkiest, things Frank ever produced on stage), and all this before the song actually starts. Typically, at around the nine minute mark, the song properly begins, with the majestic opening chords and the beautifully composed theme. Once this is finished, we are off into Solo land, with Ponty, Trombone Fowler, an occasional Bass Fowler, an occasional Underwood, and finally an-always Frank giving us their all.
ECHIDNA'S ARF (OF YOU)- Referred to as "Excentrifugal Forz" at this early stage in its career, this is one of those Frank classics that emerges on the scene fully developed and damn near perfect from the start. It is essentially performed as on "Roxy and Elsewhere", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. The early performances are somewhat rickety and do not flow as nicely as they eventually would, but by the end of the tour the band sounds completely comfortable with this tune.
ERIC DOLPHY MEMORIAL BBQ- One of the nice little treats of this short European jaunt. This version essentially consists of the main theme, followed almost immediately by a seamless transition into "Kung Fu". Allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, the theme is performed as on TBBYNHIYL, without the wickedly fast riff which comes about half way through the composed section. Very enjoyable nonetheless.
EXERCISE FOUR- Essentially performed as on "The Yellow Shark", allowing for the quite obvious differences in instrumentation. For this tour, this piece is performed as a prelude to the "Dog Meat" staple.
FARTHER O'BLIVION- This montsrously composed piece consists of three distinct sections which would later appear as parts of three separate Frank songs. "The Steno Pool" section from "Greggary Peccary" (plus the flurried music that immediately precedes it) comprises part one (and begins with the leftover-from-the-previous-tour "Join the March and Eat My Starch" command, which makes absolutely no sense taken out of context); the main theme from "The Bebop Tango" comprises part two; and an instrumental rendition of "Cucamonga" concludes the affair and serves as part three. Throughout these proceedings, we get a handful of solos, with Ponty typically taking a lengthy and interesting one during the first part, and with Bruce, Ian, Ponty, Frank, and yes, even Ruth, taking theirs during the extended and jammed-on part two. While these abbreviated "Bebop" performances come nowhere near the ridiculous extravaganzas of the Fall '73 tour, they do contain some exceptional solos, and occasionally veer off into improvisational madness. In the midst of all this- following the madness that is the "Bebop Tango" and proceeding the climactic ending that is "Cucamonga", the drummer gets a chance to get a little, giving the rest of the Rockin' Teenage combo a much deserved rest. As far as Frank's involvement goes, his guitar is present throughout, inserting tasty licks here and there; he also, of course, has a major hand in the direction of the "Bebop Tango" festivities.
IDIOT BASTARD SON- This song appears on setlists for the 9/13 show, which not only I have not heard in its entirety, but is unfortunately only available in atrocious sound. Anyone have any info on this "Money" classic?
I'M THE SLIME- Essentially performed as on "Overnite Sensation", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo, and minus the opening guitar rave-up. Frank's singing is rather awkward for this tune, sounding as if he does not really know what sort of attitude he wants to convey.
INCA ROADS- Swank! The infamous cocktail lounge version, which sadly has not seen the light-of-officially-released-day. The tune starts off with a very cheesy cocktail lounge atmosphere, slow and sultry, like the kind of tune America would listen to before they drink and go home. George sings the lyrics, low and sexy, paying homage to the great lounge acts of our time. Towards the conclusion of the lyrics, we get a burst of Ruth (ah, that Inca sound!), and then an awesome and powerful segue into the "Inca Roads" we know and love. From this point on, we essentially get the song as it is performed on "The Lost Episodes", which is essentially the post-guitar solo section (but complete with lyrics as on OSFA), with the standard deviation coming in the Duke's solo. While this version is not the complete classic that we would eventually get on OSFA, it is still a force to reckon with. The meat of the tune is still here, and the sleazy opening is hilarious, serving as an excellent contrast to the remainder of the tune. My only complaint is that Duke cannot hold a candle to the Frank Sinatra inspired renditions that Marquez gave us on the Australian tour months earlier.
INSTRUMENTAL- This title from the 9/2 Zurich show refers to a case of pure instrumental improvisation. The festivities start off with Tom Fowler displaying his bass prowess, before Duke and Ponty jump in and help the madness get going. The whole band eventually joins in the festivities, with Frank obviously having a conducting hand in the entire process. As with most of Zappa's "let's make it up on the spot" pieces, this performance does not have much direction or cohesion, but the music is interesting nonetheless.
ITALIAN SONG, THE- This title appears in setlists for the 8/31 Rome show. I have not heard that tape, so I have no idea what this may be referring to. Anyone?
KING KONG- Performed as part of the "Mr Green Genes-> King Kong-> Chunga's Revenge-> Mr. Green Genes" medley. It appears here in its fast version (similar to the "Uncle Meat" take, but without the opening vamp, and also as performed on the Spring '78 tour), and consists of the main theme followed by a torrent of solos. While these solos are quite good, it is Frank's active rhythm guitar that really stands out in these forays, providing support for the soloists while being interesting in its own right.
KUNG FU- Essentially performed as on "The Lost Episodes", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
MONTANA- Essentially performed as on "Overnite Sensation", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. It is at this point in its evolution where Frank's "Montana" solos start to become interesting, as he begins to stretch out and really explore the guitar in these longer than usual solos. These are no Fall '74 monsters, mind you, but they display the potential that Frank would later so successfully exploit. The post-solo "tiny little horse" section is strictly instrumental at this point in time.
MORE TROUBLE EVERY DAY- This song appears on setlists for the 9/5 show (along with "Oh No"), but I seriously doubt that this is correct. I am asuuming that these two songs are filler from a later '74 show, but I may be wrong. Does anyone know for sure?
MR. GREEN GENES- Performed as part of the "Mr. Green Genes-> King Kong-> Chunga's Revenge-> Mr. Green Genes" medley. The first portion of the song is a rather fast run-through of the "Hot Rats" take, heavy on percussion, having a very bouncy, light feel. Once the melody is played twice through, we get some breathing room for a short Underwood horn solo, before heading off into a breakneck-paced "King Kong". Then , later in his guitar solo during "Chunga's Revenge", Frank returns to the melody of "Mr Green Genes", leading the band into a short instrumental version of this tune, similar to the latter half of the song as it appears on TBBYNHIYL.
OH NO- This song appears on setlists 9/5 show (along with "More Trouble Every Day"), but I seriously doubt that this is correct. I am assuming that these two songs are filler from a later '74 show, but I may be wrong. Does anyone know for sure?
PENGUIN IN BONDAGE- This song premieres on this tour, magically appearing both fully clothed and completely prepared from the start. Pretty amazing- I mean, how many times has Frank succeeded in debuting a song and leaving it be for the rest of his career? The only difference is that in the early performances, there is no solo, just an immediate segue from the pre-solo verse to the post-solo verse. Apart from that, what we get here is what is essentially performed as on TBBYNHIYL (the "Roxy and Elsewhere" version is edited), allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
RDNZL- Essentially performed as on "The Lost Episodes", with the standard deviation coming in Fowler's or Ponty's opening solo, Frank's short but interesting solo, and Duke's end-of-the-song solo.
T'MERSHI DUWEEN- According to the information on "Piquantique" from Beat the Boots Volume I, the "T'Mershi Duween" contained on that boot is from a non-existent show from the previous tour. Noting that the "Piquantique" boot documents a show from the European tour, and that "T'Mershi Duween" premieres on this same tour (though not at the same show), I think it is safe to assume that the "T'Mershi Duween" on "Piquantique" is actually from this tour. This also seems to be the case since the "T'Mershi Duween" preformances from this outing sound quite similar to the performance captured on "Piquantique". Thus, having said all that, let me now say that this song is essentially performed as on "Piquantique" from Beat the Boots Volume I. The band had some difficulties with this song early on, and the first attempted performance involves Frank stopping the band and having them start over a couple of times. But apart from that, the tune premieres fully developed, and sounds here much as it would four tours later at the end of the Fall '74 tour.
T'MERSHI DUWEEN REPRISE- During the final show of the tour, the band performs this tune for a second time, segueing into it from the remnants of a "Bebop Tango Reprise". The tune is essentially performed as it always is, with a slightly more chaotic ending.T'MERSHI DUWEEN REPRISE- During the final show of the tour, the band performs this tune for a second time, segueing into it from the remnants of a "Bebop Tango Reprise". The tune is essentially performed as it always is, with a slightly more chaotic ending.
UNCLE MEAT- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume II, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in the ridiculously brisk pace in which this song is frequently performed.
VILLAGE OF THE SUN- This version is essentially the same as the overproduced "Roxy and Elsewhere" performance, though quite a bit slower, and with the addition of a new, rather out-of-place intro and outro. The tune begins with a melodic instrumental section very reminiscent of the opening theme to "Down in de Dew" off the "Lather" album. After the theme, the vocal section proceeds as on "Roxy", with Duke handling the vocal chores and sounding remarkably like Ike Willis during his Fall '78 "Village of the Sun" duties. The opening theme reappears at the conclusion of the lyrics, appearing in a somewhat mutated version, and serving as the outro for the song. Eventually, this outro is dropped, and we get the Roxy segue into "Echidna's Arf".
WILLIE THE PIMP- Another great instrumental version of this guitar classic, this tune pops up on 9/11, and does nothing more than provide Frank an excellent chance to solo. Down and dirty, this is rock and roll at its best.
ZIPPER- This title appears on setlists for the 9/5 show. Anyone have a clue?