BAND MEMBERS- FZ, Napoleon Murphy Brock (vocals, saxophone, dancing), Tom Fowler (bass), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Denny Walley (slide guitar), Terry Bozzio (drums, moisture), George Duke (keyboards, vocals), Captain Beefheart (vocals, sax, harmonica, shopping bags)
SPECIAL GUESTS- Jimmy Carl Black
DATES-April 11th through May 26th
COUNTRIES- 1 (USA)
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS PLAYED- 25
AVERAGE SHOW LENGTH- 100 minutes
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 6
SONGS FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Advance Romance, Apostrophe, Carolina Hard-core Ecstasy, Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?, Florentine Pogen, Intro, Montana, Muffin Man, Orange Claw Hammer, Penguin in Bondage, Pound for a Brown, Sleeping in a Jar, Stinkfoot, The Torture Never Stops, The Velvet Sunrise, Willie the Pimp
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- Frank's guitar playing is great on this tour. Not "this-is-the-best-he's-ever-played" great (I would reserve that statement for '81/'82, many others would apply it to '78/'79), but "listen-to-that-guy-go-where-does-he-get-the-energy-damn-is-that-some-ugly-playing" great. Frank is just upfront, in-yer-face, ripping off those solos like he has not played guitar in years. The best part about it is this is the tour where Frank's playing starts to get nasty. Loud and ugly. Distorted and fast and full of venom. Even the most standard of guitar solo vehicles are raised from the depths of mediocrity by the attitude conveyed in Frank's playing. "Stinkfoot" has more energy than it would ever see, "Muffin Man" and "Willie the Pimp" are simply blasphemous, "The Torture Never Stops" is dirty, swamp blues, and "Pound for a Brown" is an aural workshop on how to make your guitar sound ugly (and oh is it great!). For some reason, possibly a new drummer, or the uncontrollable nature of Beefheart's musical presence, Frank's guitar work on this tour has a raw and rather exposed quality, as if for the first time he was really showing us the "warts and all". Considering that he only chose to release three guitar solos from this tour, and considering how highly he regarded his official output, I believe that Frank really was showing us the warts and all on this tour, and that is why we have so little released from it. Quite a shame, because to these ears, the rough edged, seemingly haphazard nature of these solos makes for some intriguing listening.
SONGS FZ DID NOT SOLO IN THAT HE USUALLY SOLOED IN- I'm Not Satisfied
NEW SONGS ON TOUR (1st time performed live)- Advance Romance, Carolina Hard-core Ecstasy, Debra Kadabra, Man with the Woman Head, Muffin Man, Orange Claw Hammer, Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead, Portuguese Lunar Landing, Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top, A Token of My Extreme (the "Joe's Garage" version), The Torture Never Stops, The Velvet Sunrise
MONSTER SONGS- Pound for a Brown. While this whole tour has a somewhat loose and chaotic feel to it, "Pound for a Brown" qualifies as the only real Monster Song from this outing. We get the the tune as we know it, followed by trombone solos, keyboard solos, bass solos, slide solos, sax solos, lunatic ravings, and, of course, the climatic Frank guitar solos. [David Lynch adds the following- "I'd also categorize the intro improvs as a "monster song". They just jam out of nowhere. Actually, despite the fact that to my ears Beefheart didn't have THAT much influence in this tour, these improvs sound a lot like the improvs performed by the fall '75 Magic Band (which featured Beefheart, B. Fowler, and Walley)."]
OVERVIEW- This is probably the most MIS-represented tour in the Frank Zappa officially released catalog. "Bongo Fury" is NOT a good representation of the quality and diversity of music that is presented on this North American outing, and "The Torture Never Stops" from YCDTOSA Volume IV is easily the weakest version of the handful of '75 "Torture's" that I have heard. While this is not one of Frank's greatest tours, it is a highly interesting tour because it represents a crossroads in his touring career, and this changing of the guard from Ol' Zappa to New Zappa is well reflected in the band, the songs, and the music.
THE BAND- On this side of the ring, we have the Champions- Duke, Brock, Fowler (the bass player). Years of experience, well accustomed to each other's playing, comfortable with Frank, and a solid, confident funk unit. On this side of the ring, we have the Challengers- Bozzio and Walley. Young and brash, newcomers to the world of Frank, supplying a whole different attitude (the drums) and sound (the slide), and looking to lead Frank into new directions. Over here, outside the ring, we have the Misfits- Beefheart and Fowler (the trombone player). Experienced veterans, well-versed at what they do, but not really having a comfortable niche in the Bongo Fury experience. And finally, in the middle, we have Frank, trying to bring these disparate elements together into a cohesive, musical whole. Excellent musicians- without a doubt- but the diversity of styles represented within these group of players seems at times to be too great, with Frank's attempt at meeting everyones needs occasionally slipping into sheer indulgence. But when it works, and the funk and jazz and avant-garde nonsense and sheer power converge into one force, the results are indeed impressive, with each musician proving his worth.
THE SONGS- On this side of the field, we have the Veterans- "Penguin in Bondage", "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?", "Florentine Pogen", and "Montana". Former MVP's, proving their worth year after year, giving it their last 110% before hobbling off the field for a well-needed vacation. On this side of the field, we have the Rookies- "Advance Romance", "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy", "Muffin Man", and "The Torture Never Stops". Fresh out of school, ready to give it their all, threatening to control the game with their power and swagger and attitude- the future of the Frank franchise. Over here, ready to run on field when needed, we have the ever ready Reserves- "Camarillo Brillo", "Pound for a Brown", "Stinkfoot", and "Willie the Pimp". These songs are always there when we need them, ready to provide some humor, some energy, and some much needed punch to any show, anytime.
THE MUSIC- Psst, come here, you want some? You want it, I got it. You want some rock 'n' roll, try my "Willie", or these "Muffins". No, you like jazz, how about some "Penguins", or these "Pounds", or maybe some of these "Don't You Evers?". Oh, you like blues. How about my "Advance Romances", or these "Tortures"? What? You like country? OK, how about some of these "Poofters"? Funk? Well, then "Let's Make the Water Turn Black". Lounge music? Visit the "Velvet Sunrise". None of that? Oh, I get it- you're a freak. Well, then try these "Debra Kadabras", or these "Sam with the Showing Scalps". This stuff should get you off. I mean, come on, man, I've got to have something you'll like. I've got everything!
You get my point. Frank is either trying really hard to be extremely diverse this time out, or else he's really confused. Whichever, I find this eclectic mix of tunes, this diverse collection of musicians, and this wide range of musical styles to be highly interesting and frequently amazing. This tour definitely has an underrehearsed feel to it- with what seem to be a lot of loose musical ends frequently popping up (random segues, directionless jams)- but this only heightens the excitement level for me, and makes those magical moments just all the more magical. This tour is a lot better than the picture that "Bongo Fury" paints, and is sadly one of the most ignored and underrated tours of Frank's career. Hey Gail, let's fix this problem, OK?
ADVANCE ROMANCE- Essentially performed as on "Bongo Fury", with the standard deviation coming in the solos. Early in the tour, we get a Frank solo only, but as the tour lengthens, so does the solo section. Denny and Donnie eventually jump on board, on slide and harmonica, respectively, with Frank still anchoring the section with his solo. As far as the written section goes, this is probably the best version of this song. Frank's guitar is all over the place, accenting random vocals here and there, with the ridiculously out-of-control combo of Brock and Beefheart making for some excellently overdone singing. [David Lynch adds- "Advance Romance could also get pretty damn improvisational on this tour. For instance, the tape of the late show on 4/11 contained a jam on "200 Years Old" and "Sam with the Showing Scalp Flat Top".There was a lot of other madness in there that didn't make it to the album version."]
APOSTROPHE- Performed at least twice on this tour (5/13 and 5/23), both times erupting out of the chaotic opening improv of each show. It is essentially performed as on "Apostrophe", with Fowler going heavy on the bass after the main theme, and Frank and his solo carrying us through the remainder of the tune. Whether it be this tour, or Fall '74, or, ahem, even the '84 tour, this is one continually great live number, and another candidate for the "Why isn't this on the Stage series?" awards.
CAMARILLO BRILLO- Performed as on every subsequent tour, with the first half at normal tempo and the second at the slower- though on this tour MUCH slower- tempo. Like on the previous tour, however, Frank RIPS into the song with his guitar, giving this song much more bite than usual.
CAROLINA HARD-CORE ECSTASY- This song is so painful on this tour. To begin with, for all performances until at least Austin (and I suspect that that version is edited), the chorus's contain the same lines as in the officially released version, only each line is sung twice, instead of only once. Secondly, the tempo is MUCH slower, with the song seeming to just drag on and on. And finally, to me at least, Brock's singing always seems just way off. The one high point is Frank's solo , which seems to come about four hours into the song.
CHUNGA'S REVENGE- During a lengthy "Pound for a Brown" performance on 4/19, Frank segues into this tune during his guitar solo. The band hesitantly follows suit, performing a ricketey version of the calm theme and abrupt guitar segue. Brock immediately begins soloing upon completion of this tease, though the accompanying vamp relates more to the "Pound for a Brown" jam than the typical "Chunga's Revenge" vamp. After a series of solos, and a Beefheart "Crazy Little Thing" tease, the entire band brings this jam to an end by returning to the "Chunga's Revenge" theme, with this later version being more confident and powerful.
CRAZY LITTLE THING- During the lengthy "Pound for a Brown" performance on 4/19, Captain Beefheart begins singing/screaming the lyrics to this "Clear Spot" tune. At least, I am assuming it is the "Clear Spot" tune. I am a big fan of that album, and while I definitely recognize the words "Crazy Little Thing" in Beefheart's yelling, I do not recognize the melody as being the same as the one on the album version of this song. But knowing the Captain, that could be intentional, or just a part of his delivery. Whatever the case, this spontaneous recital of lyrics over a rather hectic jam is a worthy addition to this somewhat insane "Pound for a Brown" performance.
DEBRA KADABRA- Essentially performed as on "Bongo Fury", although that version is slightly edited. In the actual live context, the song is preceded by Frank on guitar, with sparse accompaniment from the band, playing what sounds like a written piece, i.e. Beefheart's "Japan in a Dishpan". After this two to three minute performance, the song proceeds as usual. The ending, however, consists of a reprise of one of the written parts, followed by some random orchestration, which prolongs the song by about a minute longer than what is released. In my opinion, the opening guitar piece and the closing reprise gives the song a somewhat heavier and more dramatic feel, and add to the overall effect of the tune.
DON'T YOU EVER WASH THAT THING?- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume II, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in the solos. Fowler, of course, gets to take his standard "how-does-he-do-that?" solo, with the Captain possibly managing to one-up the trombone master with a wonderfully bizarre alto sax solo. For the thrilling conclusion, we get a Bozzio drum workshop, which bring us into the next song.
ECHIDNA'S ARF (OF YOU)- This song is not performed in its entirety. Instead, the closing section is frequently used as a segue from "Poofter's Froth" into the following song.
FLORENTINE POGEN- Performed as on OSFA, with the '88 transition-into-solo section, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. This song seemed to have a particular bite to it on this tour, with a lot of guitar in the intro and throughout the tune.
GEORGE!- Frequently throughout the tour, George gets a chance to simply play. As he does in the "Dupree's Paradise" extravaganza's throughout the '73 and '74 tours, George exploits his keyboards to their fullest in these spotlight moments, with Frank conducting the band in support. Immediately after the segue into this improvisational spot, George starts things off by hitting his finger cymbal (as he does on the Fall '74 tour), with Frank only occasionally providing the commentary. Then, once he hits himself into a frenzy, George puts his finger cymbal down and gets funky. These are typically quite lengthy affairs (at least five plus minutes), containing the usual orchestrated chaos, plus the keyboard-led funk jams that George is so good at inspiring. Occasionally, towards the end of these improvisational highlights, Fowler or Brock get a chance to step up and solo, leading the band off into stranger, more exotic locales. The Captain even gets his chance every so often, with one such jam (on 4/27) containing an abbreviated "Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top" recital. [And David Lynch again- "Note that the song listed on the early show for 4/11, "George's Boogie", is not simply a George Duke improvisation, but an actual written song (in FZ's words, "just a ditty"), with a quirky full-band theme reminiscent of FZ's Roxy-era writing bookending a brief Duke solo."]
I'M NOT SATISFIED- Apart from Brock's occasional unnecessary screams, this is a pretty good version of this tune. Frank plays the opening riff on guitar, the band joins in, tears through the song, and then we're on to the next tune. Short and to the point.
INTRO- The majority of the shows open with an improvisation based around a primitive and minimalist Bozzio beat. Depending on the show, certain band members get the chance to take a short solo, before Frank steps up, rips off some rather heavy licks, and propels the show forward to the next song.
LET'S MAKE THE WATER TURN BLACK- Funky! A whole different arrangement, with a rollicking funk beat. The music is set up in your standard verse/chorus format, with some extra ooh's and aah's, and a musical bridge segueing either into a short Duke or Frank solo after the second chorus. As the solo peters out, the music enters this repetitive yet interesting funk groove, which gradually fades in volume and leads us to the next tune. Quite a shame this one never got released. Even Brock's vocals- which were frequently annoying by this stage in his Zappa career- were all right on this piece. One of the reasons why everyone needs to track down a tape from this tour.
MONTANA- As always, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's "not-as-insane-as-on-the-previous-tour-but-still-great" solo, and with Brock singing the post-solo "Tiny Horse" section.
MUFFIN MAN, THE- Wow! This premieres as an "in-yer-face" instrumental, following hot-on-the-heels of an as wicked "Camarillo Brillo". No lyrical nonsense, just the blistering riff followed by Frank's most biting guitar work. Lyrics eventually surfaced by the time Austin rolled around, although a "T'Mershi Duween" reader contends that the Austin perfrormance was actually an instrumental, and that the album lyrics are overdubbed. Whatever the case, the lyrics definitely lessen the impact of the song, though the tune still carries plenty of force as the "Bongo Fury" version demonstrates. [John Henley, lucky enough to be there, write: "It's been a hell of a long time, but I was there and I'm pretty sure "Muffin Man" had no lyrics in Austin. It was the the riff underlying the guitar solo with which Frank ended the main part of the show. That's how I remember it, though it could have been the encore."]
ORANGE CLAW HAMMER- This acapella treat from "Trout Mask Replica" rears its mustached little head several times on this tour. I have yet to hear any of these performances, though I seem to believe that it is played with guitar accompaniment and not acapella for this tour. But I do not know why I would think that. Anyone? [And yes, more David Lynch- "You would think that because of the radio appearance Zappa and Beefheart made in November 1975 to promote Bongo Fury, in which they performed a duo version of "Orange Claw Hammer" live in the studio. In fact, the performance on this tour is actually a full-band arrangement- Zappa "defiled" it with a "pseudo-folk-rock backing" in his words. After the lyrics were finished the tune went into a guitar solo, at least on the only performance I have." And then Jon Naurin adds- "it's played with guitar, bass, drums and George adding some string sounds from his newly discovered ARP synth. A traditional arrangement, which suits the song well. After the lyrics, Don starts a monotonous harmonica solo, and FZ is not late to join in with his guitar." ]
PENGUIN IN BONDAGE- Essentially performed as on TBBYNHIYL (the "Roxy" version is edited), allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in the solos. Denny goes first, followed by Brock, with Frank bringing matters to a close. As good as Denny's and Nappy's solos are, it is Frank's rhythm guitar throughout this middle section that really pushes the music to another level.
POOFTER'S FROTH, WYOMING PLANS AHEAD- Essentially performed as on "Bongo Fury", although that version is slightly edited. The song always segues into the closing section of "Echidna's Arf (of You)", which is used as a segue into whatever tune follows.
PORTUGUESE LUNAR LANDING- Love the title, have not heard the song. It is supposedly about a Portuguese astronaut who encounters a monster on the moon. T'Mershi Duween calls it "a fun little item, though a tad overlong" (that's Frank). From available setlists, it appears to have been performed only three times, before taking a flight to the moon itself. Anyone know anything else about this unreleased little gem? [Guess what- it's David again- "I had an incomplete version on a tape which my idiot brother TAPED OVER. I wasn't very impressed by the tune. Pretty rudimentary backing and vocals by Brock (I wish Beefheart had done more vocals on this tour) which I couldn't understand, though the lyrics have been typed up and circulate on the net."] Okay, so who out there has them?
POUND FOR A BROWN, A- 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.
SAM WITH THE SHOWING SCALP FLAT TOP- The lyrics are essentially performed as on "Bongo Fury", though with the nature of the Captain, we get whole sections of words missing from several performances. The musical accompaniment ranges from the barebone noodling as heard on "Bongo Fury", to more full-blown support as heard in the George-led funk jams, to quiet reflective meditations sounding remarkedly similar to Tom Waits' "Ol' 55" (a tune the Mothers performed on the Fall '74 tour, which makes me believe that that is what is actually being played here.)
SLEEPING IN A JAR- Memories of the original Mothers, huh? This song is performed as the thrilling conclusion of several "Pound for a Brown" performances, just like in the old days, when things mattered, huh? Frank is busy on the guitar in these performances, ripping off a short solo in the middle section. The sound of these performances is particularly noteworthy, with Duke carrying the bulk of the tune and using some funky sound effects on his keyboard.
STINKFOOT- Still pretty much the version we know and love, with the only variant being in Frank's guitar solo, and the occasional Beefheart-blown harmonica during the vocal section. Two praiseworthy aspects of these performances- one, they are the last ones prior to the "Poodle Lecture" laced excursions of the next two years; and two, they contain some sick guitar playing.
TOKEN OF MY EXTREME, A- By this tour, this song had pretty much developed into what would eventually appear 5 years later on "Joe's Garage". The tune starts as on "Joe's Garage", with the horns being a nice addition to the musical landscape. Brock sings the first two verses and choruses, then we get an instrumental verse and chorus with a short FZ solo concluding the affair. Unlike on the previous tour, Brock is not free to simply improvise the lyrics, but is singing a predetermined set of words.
TORTURE NEVER STOPS, THE- Known as "Why doesn't somebody get him a Pepsi?", this is essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume IV. Unfortunately, however, on that release, Frank chose to fade out the song after the vocals, and did not include the monster jam that typically followed. While the part of the song we know is performed the same nightly (apart from FZ's fills), the remainder of the song typically includes a truly inspiring jam. Frank riffing the blues, Denny's wicked slide, nonsense vocals by Brock and Beefheart. This foray into blues improv more than makes up for the rather lackluster version of this tune.
UNCLE REMUS- My favorite tune off "Apostrophe" (for those of you who care), and a tune that I have not heard being performed on this tour. I'll leave your lawn jockey alone if you supply me with some info on this tune. (For those of you who care again- inspired by this song, we use to drive around Beverly Hills while in high school, and knock all the jockeys off the rich peoples lawns. In your honor, George and Frank!)
VELVET SUNRISE, THE- This is cheesy, keyboard-led lounge music, mainly consisting of Brock's improvised lyrics and Frank telling road stories. The tune has a relaxed feel to it, beginning with Duke and Brock singing the lyrics, "The Velvet Sunrise". Brock then oversings some improvised lyrics, usually dealing with events on the road, followed by Frank narrating the latest road story. This tune essentially serves the purpose of giving Brock and Frank an opportunity to spin their ridiculous stories about life on the road, like they so frequently did on the Fall '74 tour.
WILLIE THE PIMP- Whip it out Frank! No holds barred. Tear into the riff, let CB do his part, give Denny a chance to sliiide, and then just wail away. An encore at every show, and a guaranteed way to send people home smiling.
I don't have very many opinions about this tour myself. I don't listen to any of my few tapes very often, but I'm not sure if that has more to do with the mediocre sound quality than my appreciation of the music. It feels like an in-between tour, as if Zappa wasn't sure of what to do - how he wanted the band to sound, and how to through in Beefheart. Some of the improvisational stuff is quite interesting, but most of the songs were treated better by other bands. Hmmm, perhaps they made Advance Romance better than any other band, not sure...
Of all the Zappa tours which I attended, and there have been many, this was probably the most unusual. I managed to catch both shows at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ. The sets ranged from absolutely exhilarating (especially the Pound For A Brown rendition) to rather drab (the seemingly endless version of Velvet Sunrise gets to be monotonous). This was definitely not a virtuoso lovers tour. The "composed" parts of such core pieces as Carolina, Advance Romance, Willie The Pimp were rather sloppy.However, the improvisational portions of the program and those in which Don sang were well worth the price of admission. I agree that Don should have been given more of a presence especially in places like the East Coast where he had a large following. Though given Don's adverse nature to rehearsing, I'm not surprised of his limited contributions. In sections of the program where he would have no involvement, Don would sit himself off to the side of the stage and keep himself occupied with his artwork. Then ,out of no where, he would pick up his sax, dance around while playing and even sometimes go over to Frank and blow some notes in his face. On Orange Claw Hammer - yes the piece was done with full band accompaniment. I personally like the piece acapella. .One last note - it is very difficult to evaluate this tour without having seen it. The reasons are thus: the lack of available recordings (to the best of my knowledge the Pamona (Both), Passaic (Both), Boston (Both), Uniondale, New Haven, Baltimore, and St.Louis shows are all that are available).The 2nd reason is that from all the afore-mentioned shows only one of the Boston shows is a decent recording rendering a close examination nearly impossible.