BAND MEMBERS- FZ, Ike Willis (guitar, vocals, disappeared for Halloween shows), Denny Walley (slide, vocals), Arthur Barrow (bass), Vinnie Colaiuta (drum madness, seal calls), Ed Mann (percussion, Bob Dylan), Tommy Mars (keyboard, vocals), Peter Wolf (keyboards)
SPECIAL GUESTS- Patrick O'Hearn (bass for several October shows, including all Halloween, shows- along with Arthur Barrow; Heil Caesars, lobster girls), L Shankar (Halloween violin), Warren Cucurullo (Halloween tale of sexual exploits), Nancy (lame Halloween sexual fantasy involving Frank)
DATES- August 26th- October 31st
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS PLAYED- 47
AVERAGE SHOW LENGTH- 115 minutes (Halloween was approx. 4 hours)
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 5 (Halloween had 11)
SONGS FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Ancient Armaments, Bamboozled By Love, Black Napkins, City of Tiny Lites, Conehead, The Deathless Horsie, Easy Meat, Little House I Used To Live In, Muffin Man, Opening Solos, Packard Goose, Persona Non Grata, Pound for a Brown, The Purple Lagoon (early in tour), Stinkfoot, Suicide Chump, Thirteen, Twenty-one, Village of the Sun, Watermelon in Easter Hay, Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?, Yo Mama
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- This was another very good year for Frank solos. In fact, as I argue below, Frank's playing and the band's abilities and opportunities at improvisation are what lift this tour from mediocrity into possible greatness. Frank actually did not solo all that much in each show, but he chose his spots well, and varied his solo song selection from night to night to keep things fresh. In the Opening Solo spot, Frank typically produced his most inspired work, getting an opportunity to create something out of nothing. His "Bamboozled" and "Suicide" solos were typical blues scorchers, not really to my taste, but recognizably good. He occasionally stepped up and soloed in the rewritten, galloping "Village of the Sun", and these solos, along with the "Conehead" solos, have a Zappa texture that you do not hear all that often. "Watermelon in Easter Hay" needs no explanation, and the same goes with "Black Napkins", although on 10/13 Zappa produced an absolute "Black Napkins" monster. The only real disappointment were his "Yo Mama" solos, which are worth hearing, but just do not produce the spine-tingles that the Spring '78 solos all so frequently did. Of course, we also had Halloween, but I save my praise for that for below.
SONGS THAT FZ WOULD USUALLY SOLO IN BUT DID NOT ON THIS TOUR-None (though Pound for a Brown on the Bus was only percussion/keyboards until the waning days of the tour)
NEW SONGS ON TOUR (1st time performed live)- Ancient Armaments, Bamboozled By Love (the music, not the lyrics), Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder, Little Rubber Girl, Lobster Girl, The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing, Moe's Vacation, Packard Goose (the music, not the lyrics), Rollo (as it is performed here), Suicide Chump, Sy Borg, Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?
MONSTER SONGS ON TOUR- Conehead (on 9/7 only), Little House I Used to Live In, Pound for a Brown (including "Thirteen"), Suicide Chump (on 10/27 only)
OVERVIEW- As I mentioned above, this tour should have been destined for mediocrity, especially as we look back in hindsight. The setlists are, well, almost painful. "Dancin' Fool", "Keep It Greasy", "Honey Don't You Want A Man Like Me?", "Bobby Brown", "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow"- songs that would make most of us vomit by the end of '84, or would bore us to death with their lack of variation- were played at almost every show. We do get some guitar solos and improv, but the songs that we regularly got that stuff in- such as "Easy Meat", "City of Tiny Lites", and the almost always, keyboard-only "Pound for a Brown"- all appear in somewhat weak versions. But amidst all this mediocrity, we received some wonderful surprises, extremely wicked improv, and the simply unbeatable 6 show Halloween run.
The Surprises- "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?" and "Packard Goose" world premieres- the former in a must-hear, bluesy version, the latter in a still-developing-but-ain't-it-great version. "Uncle Meat" and "Moe's Vacation"- the former a "where the hell did that come from?" candidate, the latter sort-of a "Black Page" on ludes. We get both Patrick O'Hearn and Arthur Barrow on bass for several shows, with the craziness that such a pairing should produce. And finally, a wonderful, reworked version of "Village of the Sun", complete with a wonderfully lazy keyboard or guitar solo.
The Extremely Wicked Improv- This really didn't start until October, but once it started, watch out. Longer, more unlimited "Pound for a Brown" performances, with Heil Caesar variations and the Emperor of Ohio. "Little House I Used To Live In" jams with Vinnie proving that drum solos do not have to suck. "Black Napkins" that seem like they are never going to end; and, of course,...
The Simply Unbeatable 6 Halloween Shows- I don't know if it was L Shankar or what, but these shows simply smoked. Major jams in all the Monster songs, rarely played surprises, mega-audience participation, and for me, the highlight of the entire tour. 10/27, the late show- "Suicide Chump" becomes THE Monster song. Not only do we get some Shanker/Zappa dueling, we also get a Tommy Mars led, baked-from-scratch jam complete with surf music. The entire side two of my 10/27 tape contains only two songs- "Thirteen " and the aforementioned "Suicide Chump". Improvisational heaven.
For that 45 minutes of music alone, I love this tour
ANCIENT ARMAMENTS- The opening solo from 10/31. One of the instances where the band simply begins playing a beat, and Frank simply begins playing a solo. It is a rather restrained solo, nowhere near the craziness the rest of the night would bring, but somehow perfect nonetheless. Named by FZ himself, when he released this as the B-side of "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted".
BAMBOOZLED BY LOVE- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I- the slow blues version- with the standard deviation coming in both Denny's and Frank's guitar solos. Complete with seal calls. Frank steps up and takes care of the vocals in Ike's absence during the Halloween run.
BLACK NAPKINS- This tour's version of this was arranged similarly to the '88 version, in that the song would begin with an opening vamp that the band would play until Frank dove in and started playing the actual theme. Once the theme was played, it was time for Frank to shine, and he would wail away on the guitar, the band supporting him. Upon finishing his solo, he would return to the theme, and the tune would conclude. The 10/13 performance is a veritable monster, with Frank simply refusing to stop playing his guitar.
BLACK PAGE #2, THE- Essentially played as on "Baby Snakes", though with a little more ooomph!, as both the song and the band were more experienced by this time (new band, yes, but I attribute the strength of this version partially to this band's surefootedness). "Audience Participation" occurred at least once on 10/27 - the early show- but apart from that, the intro to this song at least included a challenge to the audience to either a) keep the beat by clapping, or b) dance without stopping, for the duration of the tune. In its best incarnation, this tune arises out of the Barrow/Colaiuta spotlight "Mo's Vacation", providing an interesting and light-hearted contrast to the former's more profound complexity.
BOBBY BROWN GOES DOWN- Essentially performed as it was always performed.
CAMARILLO BRILLO- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume VI (i.e the half fast/ half slow version), allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
CITY OF TINY LITES- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with the standard deviation in Frank's solo, and in the occasional Denny slide solo. Like several other tunes on this tour, this is the hyperactive drum version, so called because of the dominance of Vinnie's drums. This guitar solo had still not reached the somewhat epic proportions that it would reach on later tours, but nonetheless, many of the amazing October shows contain some stellar performances.
CONEHEAD- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Early in the tour- on 9/7- this tune receives Monster treatment with special guest Shankar inspiring Frank to let him, the keyboardists, and several other band members a chance to strut their stuff. During the Halloween show, this song recieves another extended workout as both Zappa and Shankar got a chance to solo. In my opinion, this is one of Frank's greatly underrated tunes, at least as it is performed on this tour. While the solos were no monsters, they were nevertheless consistently interesting, and had a particular flavor that I cannot seem to find in other solos. Sadly, the one official version we have of this tune- from "Saarbrucken"- has a nasty edit in the middle of the solo.
DANCIN' FOOL- Performed as always- as on the last tour, the next tour, the tour after that, the tour that then followed that, etc., etc., ETC.
DINAH-MOE HUMM- Essentially performed as on "Baby Snakes", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and played a litttle bit faster. Although the audience does sing along, there is no official audience participation section, and once Frank's spoken lines are finished, he simply tells the audience that they will now return to the beginning of the song, and that they should clap along. Even as "Dinah-Moe Humm's" go, this is a rather inconsequential version.
DEATHLESS HORSIE, THE- Frequently played as the opening song, used- as always- as a showcase for a FZ guitar solo. Essentially played as always, with the arpeggio, the short "theme" played by FZ, and an always interesting and more than competent guitar solo.
DON'T EAT THE YELLOW SNOW- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I. This song was always performed as part one of the five part suite. [DETYS- part one, Nanook Rubs It- part two, St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast- part three, Father O'Blivion- part four, Rollo- part five]
EASY MEAT- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
FATHER O'BLIVION- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I. This song was always performed as part four of the five part Don't Eat suite.
FLAKES- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I. This is also essentially the same version as the one found on "Sheik Yerbouti". While the backing tracks for that album were recorded on the Spring '78 tour, that tour's version of this song was not identical to the album version, as it lacked the overdubbed vocals that make up the entire post-Dylan part of the song. This tour's version- and every other tour version of "Flakes"- included these vocals.
GO CRY ON SOMEBODY ELSE'S SHOULDER- Essentially played as on "Freak Out", including Frank's spoken introduction, and allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. One of the many treats of the Halloween show. "Little Rubber Girl" from YCDTOSA Volume IV is the outro section of this performance.
HONEY DON'T YOU WANT A MAN LIKE ME- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I.
I HAVE BEEN IN YOU- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume VI. Frank gave his "English rock star" lecture as a prelude to the tune, though thankfully it was shorter on this tour than on the last.
IDIOT BASTARD SON- Another treat of the Halloween run, rearing it's little head twice during that magnificent stretch. Essentially performed as a blander version of the YCDTOSA Volume II performance, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. What we got on this tour was Frank simply singing the vocals, with none of the vocal and musical weirdness that normally occurred between the vocal parts. Jon Naurin points out that this was played in a lower key to adapt to the new vocalist, and reckons that Tommy or Denny probably would not have done as good a job. Way to go, Frank. Patrick Buzby has this to say about the song- "I disagree about your estimation of "The Idiot Bastard Son" from the Halloween shows. This appeals to me due to the "unplugged" feel created by Arthur's acoustic guitar, with Vinnie chilling out a bit on the drums. Also, it's funny to me to hear FZ trying to sing this."
KEEP IT GREASEY- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with the hyperactive, drum flurry ending.
LITTLE HOUSE I USED TO LIVE IN- This version of this tune is a full band arrangement of Ian Underwood's song opening piano solo. After this main theme is performed, the band was off into solo territory, with Mars going first, a little drum and bass madness, and depending on the show, possibly some FZ action. The 10/31 performance included Shankar.
LITTLE RUBBER GIRL- This song is actually the outro from the 10/31 performance of "Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder". Zappa's intro on the aforementioned release is edited from a different source, and being a continuation of another song, the tune does not actually begin cold as it does on that release.
LOBSTER GIRL- During Patrick O'Hearn's bass solos on 10/15 and during the Halloween run (in whatever song these solos may be in), he would spin strange little tales of drugs, sex, and general weirdness. This officially released "song" from YCDTOSA Volume VI is from O'Hearn's "Little House I Used To Live In" bass solo from the 10/29 show.
MAGIC FINGERS- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation (meaning that this tour's version was more keyboard oriented).
MEEK SHALL INHERIT NOTHING, THE- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I. Take note of the evocative Denny Walley slide- a nice touch that makes this version tops in my book.
MOE'S VACATION- This is a full band version of the orchestra piece known as "Mo and Herb's Vacation" (at least part of it). Running about 4 minutes in length, this tune sounds like a cross between the "Black Page #1" and the full band version of "Little House I used To Live In." These performances, however, are for bass and drums only- a veritable showcase of Artie's and Vinnie's talents. Sean Gaffney points out that the opening notes to this tune correspond to the notes that Ike sings in "Wet T-Shirt Nite", slightly slowed down for that studio song, for the lines "And it's wettshirttime again...I know you want someone to show you some tit...Big Ones...Wet ones....Big Wet Ones"
MS. X- This title refers to the story that special guest Warren Cucurullo told onstage during the Halloween show. Essentially, Warren's tale is a very elaborate and overwrought brag of a sexual conquest which turned out not to be so bragworthy. During this "The Crying Game"-ish type story (or Lola-esque story, if you prefer), Frank conducted the band in an attempt to soundtrack the lurid tale of Ms. X.
MUFFIN MAN- Essentially performed as on "Bongo Fury"-the live part only- with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
NANOOK RUBS IT- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's narration of the audience participation segment. This song was always performed as part two of the five part Don't Eat suite.
OPENING SOLO- For several shows, instead of playing an actual tune, Frank would instruct the band to play a beat, and FZ would just solo over it. No monkey business, just Frank playing his heart out and the band trying to support him. Despite being the first thing he played each night, these excursions were typically one of the highlights of each show.
PACKARD GOOSE- Pay attention, coz things are bound to get confusing. While several of the vocal parts actually premiered on the Fall '75 tour, the musical monster that we know and possibly love premiered on this tour. The verse/chorus sections are essentially the same as on "Joe's Garage.", with extra lines occasionally appearing in the second verse. "They go to the party just to chew on the cheese, and they act like they all have some great expertise, they tell you that Rock 'n' Roll is dead, oh, spare me please." [Thanks Naurin, and nice rhyming Frank] The "Mary" section- musically speaking- was intact since tour rehearsals, though the spoken lines were not yet fully developed. By the final '78 performance on Halloween, the Mary section immediately followed the second chorus (no "journalism" section), with Frank beginning with the "Information is Knowledge" line. After "Music is the Best", however, Frank says, "However denied... Wherever its tried...However... Is never... Forever". For the Halloween show, the solo section as we know it then follows, though it is not as pronounced as it is on "Joe's Garage", and has a much heavier, keyboard content. For previous shows, we either got no solo and a longer rant on the evils of journalism (9/15), or we got a solo over the calmer "Mary" progression. Finally, depending on the show, we get a Frank solo only, or a Frank/Shankar battle. (Did you get all that?) I love the "Joe's Garage" version (is this still an unpopular opinion?), and although these versions do not have the power of that release, they are still worth hearing, if just for historical purposes only.
PEACHES EN REGALIA- One of the many sweets Frank gave us on Halloween, and once at an earlier show. Essentially performed as on "Tinseltown Rebellion", the Peaches III version.
PERSONA NON GRATA- This title refers to the vamp that Frank used for several opening solos that were performed on the tour.
POUND FOR A BROWN (ON THE BUS)- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I. What we get here is the main theme followed by an Ed Mann solo, keyboard solos, (first Tommy, then Petey early in the tour, then first Petey, then Tommy late in the tour). Tommy would occasionally throw in some scat, and would frequently call out to Vinnie and try to get him worked into a frenzy. Some good solos, but nothing all that great. Until suddenly, in the waning days of October, the song starts to stretch a little. Wilder keyboards, extended drum workouts, and top-of-the-line Frank guitar solos start rearing there "Pound for a Brown" heads. The 10/15 performance of this tune is a MONSTER, thanks to special guest for the night, Patrick O'Hearn. Lots of improvisation, including the infamous Emperor of Ohio and Heil Caeaser variations. Patrick and Tommy even perform a mini drug routine, similar to but not as preachy as the "Dummy Up's" from '74. By the time the Halloween shows roll around, the tune includes "Thirteen", and thus, Shankar, and thus things get even better. The song may have entered the scene rather meekly, but it goes out with a terrific BANG!
PURPLE LAGOON, THE- In the early shows of the tour, this was used as the opening vamp for the band introductions, similar to the way it was used on the previous tour. Occasionally, prior to the actual introductions, Frank would rip off a short and rather pointless solo. About two weeks into the tour, however, Frank substituted this tune with an actual guitar solo spot, either composed on the spot or contained within a song that was essentially a vehicle for a guitar solo (i.e. "The Deathless Horsie").
ROLLO- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with Tommy Mars on lead vocals. This tune was always performed as part five of the five part Don't Eat suite. Portions of this song- without vocals- appeared on the Fall '72 Petit Wazoo tour, in a much longer, full blown "Rollo".
SOFA #2- Essentially performed as on OSFA, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. Only performed a couple times as part of the Halloween run festivities.
STINKFOOT- Another Halloween goodie. Essentially performed as always, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Performed only once- and not the most assured of performances- but enjoyable nonetheless. During the song, Frank notices a guy in the audience (either Loeb or Leopold) that he recognizes from the Garrick Theater days, calls the guy up on stage, and recounts how he use to spit Pepsi on this guy (on request) as the guy lay screaming on the stage. Sort-of amusing. The solo that shortly follows is great. Very dark and distorted.
STRICTLY GENTEEL- Yet another holiday treat, performed several times during the Halloween run, and sporadically throughout the tour. Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
SUICIDE CHUMP- Time for the blues. This song was taken at a much slower pace than it was on subsequent tours, and thus has a much more "bluesy" quality. Typically, Denny would exercise his aluminium finger- never disappointing- in the middle section of the song, and then Frank would try to one up him in the outro section. But for the Halloween shows, the rule of thumb was anything goes, and thus anything did. After the required blues solos on the 10/27 late show, Frank instructed Tommy to play "whatever he felt like playing", telling the rest of the band that they would then follow along. The end result was a keyboard solo extravaganza, complete with surf music, all courtesy of "Suicide Chump."
SY BORG- A nice, mellow little treat. Essentially performed as on "Joe's Garage", minus the "conversation" part that occurs between Joe and Sy Borg. Ike sings the lyrics, and Petey gets a chance to compose a very reflective, casually paced keyboard solo. One of the great examples in Frank's work of how the lyrics are saying one thing (sex, sex, sex), and the music is saying something completely different (isn't this beautiful? close your eyes and relax). The Halloween shows present us with yet more treats when this tune is performed as an instrumental on the 28th, and as a group vocal (to make up for the missing Ike) on the 29th.
TAKE YOUR CLOTHES OFF WHEN YOU DANCE- The YCDTOSA Volume VI version is an edited take on the single '78 performance of this tune- from the Halloween concert, of course. In the actual concert, Frank instructed the band to vamp on the opening chords for about half-a-minute prior to beginning the actual tune- sort of a warm-up- and this vamp is edited out of the officially released version.
TELL ME YOU LOVE ME- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume I, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and thus lacking Vai's firepower. From tapes and available setlists, it appears that this was only played twice, on 9/17 and on 9/21. While both performances are nice to hear simply for the relative rareness of the performances, they both suffer from a surprisingly lumbering Colaiuta drum sound. He just does not seem to be able to "rock" in these performances.
THIRTEEN- This is not really a tune, per se, just a name given by Frank to a solo section of the "Pound for a Brown's" from the Halloween shows. After Tommy and Petey did their soloing bit, the band began playing a beat in thirteen (hence the name), and Shankar and Zappa used this beat as the backing for their solos. On the YCDTOSA Volume VI version, Shankar's solo is from the 10/27 performance, while FZ's is from the 10/31 show.
TITTIES 'N' BEER- Reportedly played once, with Denny as the Devil (who else?), but I have yet to hear this performance, or speak to anyone who has. Anybody?
TWENTY-ONE- An instrumental tune, built around a percussion riff in twenty-one, that Frank employed as a solo vehicle several times in the tour. It was used as an Opening Guitar Solo vehicle on 9/17, again on 10/4, and as part of the "Little House I Used To Live In" festivities on 10/29.
UNCLE MEAT- If it were not for Ed, the handful of "Uncle Meat" performances sprinkled throughout October would be quite disappointing. Vinnie sounds uncomfortable, Tommy inserts random, out-of-place chords throughout, and Artie (playing a little too funky) does not hold the piece together as well as Fowler did four years earlier. Ed, however, sounds magnificent, and one can imagine that with a little work, this could have been something special. It is nice to hear- don't get me wrong- but musically speaking it does not add up too much.
VILLAGE OF THE SUN- Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from the Beat the Boots Volume I. This version is more akin to the Fall '73 performances- as found on "Roxy and Elsewhere"- than to the more recently performed Fall '74 version. Unlike that later, hyperactive rewrite, the Fall '78 "Village" is taken at a much slower pace, with just enough room left at the end for a casual keyboard or guitar solo.
WATERMELON IN EASTER HAY- Essentially played as on "Guitar", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. This is one of those tunes where I feel compelled to go on and on about its greatness, but restrain myself knowing that words cannot do it justice. Suffice to say, the frequent performances of this song serve its reputation well, with the Halloween "Watermelon" performance with both Zappa and Shankar being quite the jewel in this crown.
WHY DOES IT HURT WHEN I PEE?- Premiered on 9/5, along with the story of how one of Frank's hired hands went into the bathroom on the bus one day, and came out yelling, "Why does it hurt when I pee?" The vocal sections are essentially the same as on the officially released version, allowing for differences in instrumentation. The solo section is a lot bluesier, however, and contains both a Denny and FZ guitar solo. It sounds as if parts of the solo were pre-written, and parts composed on the spot.
YO MAMA- Essentially played as on "Sheik Yerbouti", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Not quite the monster guitar spot that it was on the previous tour (possibly due to O'Hearn's absence?), but a showstopper, nonetheless. [See the 10/29 review for the exception to this "not-quite-a-monster-guitar-spot" rule. Frank whips out what may be his best solo ever during that climatic "Yo Mama" show closer]
These shows resemble each other too much to be really interesting. For me, this was when Zappa reached his peak as a guitar player, so the opening solos are almost always marvellous. Then you could as well fast forward most of side A. Vocal-wise, this was not a good tour, which to me makes the songs (i.e the sung ones) even less interesting, but instrumentally, this was one of his best tour - hands down. I think FZ took too less advantage of this fact - Pound for a Brown was their only real showcase, while for example the 1981/82 and 1988 bands had several each night. Of course, the Halloween shows deserve all praise you've given them. Despite the lack of vocalists, they qualify among the greatest moments in history.
Listening to these tapes makes me wonder what it must have been like for people to come to the shows and encounter a mostly-new band and a mostly-unrecorded set of material. Although some of the arrangements are rough (the early "Easy Meat" is hilariously bad, IMO), this tour is one of my favorites due to the near-instant chemistry between FZ and Vinnie Colaiuta, whose playing (even on songs like "Dancin' Fool") is constantly insane. TheHalloween shows make up perhaps the best NYC run ever, easily meeting the competition of Christmas '76 and Hallowen '77.