BAND MEMBERS- FZ, Ike Willis (guitar, vocals), Ray White (guitar, vocals), Arthur Barrow (bass, the burden of carrying the band), Tommy Mars (keyboards, vocals), David Logeman (drums, last-minute replacement, a better job than most people give him credit for)
SPECIAL GUESTS- L Shankar (violin), Craig "Twister" Stewart (harmonica), Pierre Boulez (possible 6/11 "Pound" appearance?)
DATES- March 25th to July 3rd
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS THAT WERE PLAYED- 47
AVERAGE SHOW LENGTH- 110 minutes
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 7
SONGS FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Any Downers, Bamboozled By Love, Black Napkins, Chunga's Revenge, City of Tiny Lights, Cosmik Debris, The Deathless Horsie, Easy Meat, He Used To Cut the Grass, If Only She Woulda, Illinois Enema Bandit, Outside Now, Pick Me I'm Clean, Pound for a Brown, Suicide Chump, Treacherous Cretins, Watermelon in Easter Hay, Zoot Allures
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- Frank's guitar playing may be the sole redeeming quality about this entire tour. While it is not as experimental and "out there" as either the '79 or '81 tours, Frank's soloing on this outing contains enough energy and "in-your-face" attitude to practically make it worthwhile to sit through the drek that makes up the majority of these shows. The opening solos- contained within "Chunga's Revenge", "The Deathless Horsie", "Watermelon in Easter Hay", "Treacherous Cretins" and others- start things off with promise, with Frank forcing his guitar in your ears and through your brain. He is definitely playing guitar here- no messing around. The same goes with the other solos- especially "City of Tiny Lites", "Outside Now", "Pick Me I'm Clean", and "If Only She Woulda"- which are highlights of each show, but are unfortunately too few in number, and surrounded by a lot of repetitive, sub par numbers. The only disappointment as far as guitar solos is the "Easy Meat" solos from the first half of the tour. These performances contain a busy, plodding, quite dull vamp that never seems to really inspire the head Mother. But overall, this is a good tour for solos, but possibly not good enough to make it worth sitting through the rest of the material.
NEW SONGS ON TOUR- Beauty Knows No Pain, Charlie's Enormous Mouth, Drafted Again, Harder Than Your Husband, Heavenly Bank Account, He Used To Cut the Grass (w/ vocals), If Only She Woulda, I'm A Beautiful Guy, In France (w/ Gary Numan's "Cars" as music), Little Green Rosetta, Mudd Club, Outside Now (w/ vocals), Pick Me I'm Clean, Society Pages, Teenage Wind, You Are What You Is
SONGS THAT FZ USUALLY SOLOED IN BUT DID NOT ON THIS TOUR- Conehead (keyboard solo; special guest L Shankar during one show), Suicide Chump (short solos by other band members)
MONSTER SONGS- There really are not any Monster Songs this tour. "Pound for a Brown" is performed throughout the tour, but due to the restrictive nature of the solo vamp, and the resulting solos from Tommy and Frank, I do not feel that this tune really qualifies. While the solos are good, they do not go to the extremes that other Monster solos go, nor is there a sense of "anything goes" during the performances. The closest thing we get is the "Pound for a Brown" performance from 4/11, which features Craig "Twister" Stewart battling Frank with his harmonica. Another disappointing tour as far as improvisation goes.
OVERVIEW- If you like "You Are What You Is", you may really like this tour. Eleven songs from that album are premeried on this tour, and those 11, along with the majority of the others, are played and played and played and played. And then they are played some more. Yes, they are played a lot. So if you like that album, you may love this tour. But then again, you may not. The songs as they are performed here do not really sound like the songs that are performed on the album. For one thing, there is no Steve Vai. We still have two guitar players on this tour, but Frank has written the material at this early stage to be mainly carried along by Arthur and Tommy. They do an amazing job of it (especially Arthur), but the songs definitely lack a certain oomph! without Vai's stunt guitar. Also, many of those tiny little things that make that album so worthwhile are not present here (especially in the vocal department), so what we essentially get is three months of "You Are What You Is" demo tracks. Some of this material is pretty good- most notably, the awesome "If Only She Woulda" jams- but the majority of it is merely interesting as a reference point to the album versions. Another disappointing aspect of this tour is the band. Vocally, they are more than competent, with Ike and Ray providing some soulful singing throughout. These two do not do as good a job on guitar, however, and thus, Arthur and Tommy are responsible for carrying the bulk of each tune. They do an excellent job, but nevertheless, it limits what can be played and how it can be played. The drummer, last minute replacement David Logeman, does a competent job handling the parts and providing support during the solos, but he just doesn't jump out at you the way most other Zappa drummers do. But alas, there are some high points. Apart from the YAWYI material, the remainder of the repertoire is pretty good, though not great. Frank's guitar playing is consistently intense throughout, with each solo containing an overabundance of energy. He does not solo all that frequently in each show, but when he does, all complaints are forgotten. But when he is not soloing, one usually wishes he was, as there is not much else exciting going on. As much as I like Frank's playing on this tour, I have to admit that after listening to this tour for the past two days straight, I cannot say that I ever wish to hear it again. The solos are good, but not good enough.
AIN'T GOT NO HEART- Essentially performed as on "Tinseltown Rebellion", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
ANY DOWNERS- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's heavy metal tinged solo. As a segue from Frank'solo to the following vocals, there is a written piece of music that does not make it onto the album version. This 30 second piece is similar to the post solo "City of Tiny Lites" segment found on "Sheil Yerbouti", though this version sounds like that riff overdosing on amphetamines. It is pretty cool. Frank's solos during this tune are also pretty cool, very aggressive, and another continual highlight of the tour.
BAMBOOZLED BY LOVE- Essentially performed as on "Tinseltown Rebellion", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
BEAUTY KNOWS NO PAIN- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
BLACK NAPKINS- Essentially performed as on MAJNH, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in the Frank-only solo. For this version, the band would play the opening vamp for approximately thirty seconds before delving into the main theme. Frank would take a particularly blistering solo, and lead the back back into the theme to conclude the tune.
BOBBY BROWN GOES DOWN- Even with this smaller, somewhat humbler band, Frank is able to play this song as its always been played- as with the large groups, the medium groups, the puny groups. Some things just never change.
CHARLIE'S ENORMOUS MOUTH- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
CHUNGA'S REVENGE- Essentially performed as a show opening, guitar solo vehicle. The song begins rather calmly, with the bass-prominent main theme and no abrupt guitar intro as on the studio release. Once the main theme is played through, then we get the aforementioned guitar part, which drops us off into Frank's solo. Upon the conclusion of the solo, the bass theme would then be used as the vamp for the band introductions.
CITY OF TINY LITES- One of the repeated highlights of the tour. Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume V, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. For the US portion of the tour, we get the '79 guitar solo vamp, as can be heard on "Anyway the Wind Blows" from Beat the Boots Volume I, complete with the composed segue from the solo back into the vocals. For the European portion, however, we get the debut of the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression, and to celebrate, Frank makes sure he gives us solos worthy of such a progression. They are excellent workouts, with Barrow and Logeman keeping a solid groove going beneath them. The post-solo vocals are not yet tweaked, however, though Ray's always incredible singing more than compensates for the lack of musical fireworks. [CARLOS SANTANA CONCEPTUAL CONTINUITY CLUE- During his solos on both 6/21 and 6/22, Frank quotes- at length- the song "She's Not There", a Zombies' song covered by Santana in the late '70's.]
CONEHEAD- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Tommy's short, "space invaders" keyboard solo. We do not get a Frank solo this time round. After the weird transition from the vocals into what is a solo on the album, Tommy keeps the weirdness up, and takes a short solo which sounds as if he is playing a video game. Very weird sound effects. Frank describes it during one show as "the soundtrack to Thomas Nordegg's bedroom". Huh? L Shankar makes a guest appearance at one show (5/10), and performs his little heart out during an extended version of this tune.
COSMIK DEBRIS- Essentially performed as always, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's guitar solo. For the "price-of-meat" section, we get the aggressive, guitar tinged vamp, as heard on the "Cosmik Debris" from "Anyway the Wind Blows" from Beat the Boots Volume I.
DANCIN' FOOL- What more do I need to say? You know how it goes, and it sure did not change on this tour.
DEATHLESS HORSIE, THE- Essentially performed as on SUNPYG, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
DINAH-MOE HUMM- Essentially performed as always, though this time around the lyrics are a lot funnier. No, just kidding.
DONG WORK FOR YUDA- A rare vocal treat, popping up once (5/11) before quickly disappearing again. Essentially performed as on "Joe's Garage", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the emphasis being placed on Ike's and Ray's vocals. Frank attempts to fill Terry's shoes in the song closing "Bald Headed John-isms", but fails. He just cannot seem to nail that accent.
DON'T EAT THE YELLOW SNOW- Essentially performed as on "Apostrophe (')", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. For the first time in its career, this song is performed as a solo piece, without the other songs commonly found in the "Don't Eat" suite.
DRAFTED AGAIN- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
EASY MEAT- Essentially performed as on "Tinseltown Rebellion", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo, and with one other major change- for the first half of the tour, the guitar solo vamp SUCKS. I do not know what else to say- it just sucks. It consists of a plodding drum beat, accompanied by a plodding bass riff, with Frank trying to find inspiration and solo over it. The inspiration is not there, and these early solos typically bore. Fortunately, this problem is amended by the European portion of the tour, where we get the standard '80's vamp, which is essentially a blank canvas from which Frank and the band can go wherever they please. These solos are hot. [Patrick Buzby has this to add- "Easy Meat" had a different (rather uneasy sounding) uptempo 4/4 vamp up until somewhere around 4/29 (the version on Crush All Boxes). Every version from then until '88 had the same vamp afterwards. I think Logeman is to blame for the plodding quality, since the other rhythm sections were working from the same pretext. (However, have you heard the 5/10/80 version w/FZ and Shankar trading solos? This is intense."]
HARDER THAN YOUR HUSBAND- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with Frank handling the vocal chores instead of the revered Jimmy Carl Black.
HEAVENLY BANK ACCOUNT- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
HE USED TO CUT THE GRASS- Essentially performed as on "Joe's Garage", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. This is quite a treat, popping up once on this tour (4/18), on a night when Frank's guitar playing is particularly intense. Thus, without fail, Frank produces a stunning solo during this excellent performance of the "Joe's Garage" track.
IF ONLY SHE WOULDA- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Arthur's keyboard solo and Frank's guitar solo. For some reason, this "Robby Krieger Secret Chord Progression" seems to bring out the best in Frank, and as a result, these performances are some of the best of the tour. Arthur's cheesy keyboard solo creates an excellent atmosphere, which Frank proceeds to rip apart with some his most biting guitar playing. Why this song never made it past 1980 is one of the great mysteries of Frank's touring career, as it never failed to produce absolutely first rate guitar solos. YET ANOTHER CARLOS SANTANA CONCEPTUAL CONTINUITY CLUE- During the 6/11 performance of this tune, Frank plays the melody line to the Zombies' "She's Not There" during his solo, and then sings the first line of that song before resuming "If Only She Woulda". Santana covered this song in the late '70's, and Frank's tease sounds similar to Carlos' playing on that tune.
ILLINOIS ENEMA BANDIT- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo
I'M A BEAUTIFUL GUY- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
IN FRANCE- This is great. The world premiere of this tune pops up late in the tour (7/2), only days after the band originally starts rehearsing it. Lyrically speaking, almost all the words are intact from the beginning, with only a missing line or two, and one major change in that one particular line now reads- "Ed got a blow job that made his peter turn green". Musically speaking, however, this is quite a different, and very amusing, beast. Instead of the breezy blues that we know, the song here is performed with Gary Numan's "Cars" as the musical backing. We get a perfect rendition of that nu-wave hit, with Frank's "In France" tribute replacing Gary's ode to the automobile. The results are hilarious, and actually quite musical. If you have not heard this tape, just start singing "In France" next time you hear "Cars", and you will see how well this works. [Many months later, and I have just received 6/22, the true origin of "In France". During Frank's "City of Tiny Lites" solo, Barrow quotes "Cars" briefly in the midst of the solo. Later, during "Mudd Club", Barrow returns to the "Cars" bassline, which prompts Frank to make up some verses about France. Without so much as thinking twice, he whips out one verse, and gets a big laugh out of the band. He begins a second verse, but cannot finish it without some help from the band. He then tries to go back and sing the first verse, but cannot remember it until Ike jumps in and helps. Short and amusing, but an excellent insight to the way (and the speed) at which Frank's mind works.]
JOE'S GARAGE- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume III, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
JUMBO GO AWAY- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
KEEP IT GREASY- Essentially performed as on "Joe's Garage", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and only up to the point where the extended guitar solo section begins.
LET'S MOVE TO CLEVELAND- Patrick Buzby supplies us with this piece of information- "Performed as a second encore at show #2, 4/1/80 (not on my tape, alas), according to a European source whose name I forget (sorry!). He mentioned that this included an extended Tommy Mars solo but no guitar solo." Anybody else know anything about this?
LITTLE GREEN ROSETTA- This song poot forth onto the audience during the 6/14 show. I have yet to hear it, but it occurs after the "Ms. Pinky" encore, so I assuming that it is merely an impromptu vocal performance by Frank, who typically fools around and speaks to the audience at length after these "Ms. Pinky" performances.
LOVE OF MY LIFE- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume IV. When Frank composed the criteria for the YCDTOSA series (listed in the front of each CD booklet), I think he had this song in mind when I wrote #7- "Does the inclusion of this song help the stylistic flow...by providing contrast or relief?" This song is a beacon of musical simplicity amidst a sea of chaotic rhythms and nonsensical juxtapositions. It is the least likeliest of Frank Zappa song titles, and a refreshing breath of air no matter where its put in the canon of Zappa works. In the live context, it provides the ultimate contrast, from the almost sincere lyrics to the heartbroken wail that punctuates the latter half of the proceedings. One of my continual live favorites.
LUCILLE HAS MESSED MY MIND UP- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume III, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
MEEK SHALL INHERIT NOTHING, THE- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and lacking the poignant bite of Denny's slide.
MS. PINKY- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
MUDD CLUB- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's middle of the song tirade. [Patrick Buzby adds: FZ's rap during this tour opens with these lines that don't appear on the album- "Mudd Club - There ain't no sign on the front/ Mudd Club - There ain't no sign on the back/ Mudd Club - Now people, if you don't go/Then you won't know about the show on the floor of the Mudd Club." ]
NITE OWL- This upbeat 50's cover has popped up at Frank shows repeatedly over the years. Nothing all that special, the tune is enjoyable nonetheless for the vocal display the band puts on (the best part about this band). This song serves as a precursor to the tiny little flood of 50's tunes that Frank would begin performing in the following tours.
OUTSIDE NOW- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
PICK ME I'M CLEAN- Essentially performed as on "Tinseltown Rebellion", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. This is another of those songs that I wish saw more time in the '80's, especially since it consistently provided some exceptional Frank guitar solos. [Patrick Buzby has quite a bit more to add: "The versions from the first month of the spring '80 tour have a ballad feel much different from the released version - an interesting alternative. In May, it changed to a more upbeat version and FZ added the "Check out my bandaid!" line in the chorus. It continued this way until somewhere around November, when FZ made it even slower than it was originally (though without the ballad feel) and added the monkey business you describe. The Tinseltown version starts with arrangement #3 and cuts to arrangement #2 (thus the jump in tempo at "Vinniegoes bareback")".]
POUND FOR A BROWN (ON THE BUS)- 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."]
SOCIETY PAGES- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
STICK IT OUT- Essentially performed as on "Joe's Garage", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with both the English and the German verses being sung. This version is particularly cheesy- and enjoyable- due to Tommy's prominent keyboards and an extended outro highlighting the "doo wop" vocals of Ike and Ray. (One annoying note- Immediately upon finishing the first verse, someone in the band- for some reason I figure it's Ike- starts encouraging the audience to clap along with the song. Get the crowd involved- that's fine- but when listening to audience tapes, this overwhelming intrusion of the taper and all his friends clapping for the next minute or so is rather annoying.)
SUICIDE CHUMP- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. For the solo section, Ray, Ike and Tommy all take short, rather uneventful solos.
TEENAGE WIND- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
TREACHEROUS CRETINS- Essentially performed as on SUNPYG, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. [Patrick Buzby points out that "FZ often performed this song in 11/4, rather than the reggae 4/4 that appears on Shut Up? The one version I've heard from this tour (6/9 Dusseldorf) is in 11."]
WATERMELON IN EASTER HAY- Essentially performed as on "Joe's Garage", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. I'll ask the question again- can words do this song justice? [Patrick Buzby with some Logeman abuse- "this song featured some of Logeman's worst drumming on this tour, IMO, at least during the head. His way of following FZ's phrasing doesn't come off at all."]
WHY DOES IT HURT WHEN I PEE?- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume III, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU IS- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and lacking Ray's dynamic end-of-the-song vocal workout. Without Steve Vai's aggressive guitar, and Ray's soaring vocal climax, this tune wins the dubious honor of being the worse of the Summer '80 YAWYI premieres. [Patrick Buzby adds: "From Electric Don Quioxite : In the premier version (Boston 5/3/80), the first line of verse 1 went : "A dandy young man from a nice Jewish family..."]
YOU DIDN'T TRY TO CALL ME- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume I, and another treat from this tour. [Yet more info from the desk of Buzby: "Interesting interjection from FZ during the 6/11 Paris show - "You didn't try to call me at all - even though I was doing 15 in the space of 16 - didja?" I interpreted this as a jab at Logeman for not being more reponsive during the Pound solo that night, though I could be wrong."]
ZOOT ALLURES- This just in from Jon Naurin- "A surprising report from a tape I recently got: on 20-Apr 1980, show #2, "Zoot Allures" was played (in the same spot where he threw in "He used to cut the grass" two days earlier). FZ announces that this is a song they've never played live before, and the first couple of bars would have revealed this anyway. After the staggering intro, FZ delivers a long and quite nice solo. The vamp is similar to the 1981/82 one."
Now and then, I pick out one of these tapes and say to myself "I'll give it a chance". Then I usually enjoy the opening solo, but a few songs into the show I'm too bored to continue - I feel an urge to rinse my ears with a 70s show or something. To me, nothing - except for the guitar solos - really works during this tour. Not even Tommy and Arthur, two musicians I usually love, sound at all interesting. It might have to do with the fact that the bass and the keyboards alone must fill the sound landscape, and their playing don't really work in this context. Tommy's synth sounds might work very well within a larger group, in midst of stunt guitars, marimbas and other keyboards - but here, the thinness of a 1980 synth becomes obvious. Arthur sounds uninspired, compared to the earlier tours. In many solo vamps, he tends to become more repetitive and boring than Logeman - maybe he was missing Vinnie.
I suppose that this must rank as one of FZ's least musically interesting tours, but I've always had a bit of a soft spot for it. For one thing, YAWYI is possibly my favorite Zappa album, and it's funny for me to imagine FZ hitting an audience with an entire set of this unrecorded material. For another, this may be the most unjustly overlooked tour as far as FZ's guitar playing goes - it still has all of the fire of his late 70's work (which started to fade around '82, IMO), in spite of his evident lack o frapport with David Logeman's drumming. Still, at his best (listen to the Munich '80 "Chunga's Revenge), Logeman managed to hold his own among what must have been a very intimidating group of players. Also, Arthur Barrow takes a more prominent role than before, and the brilliant combination of Ike Willis and Ray White falls into place.