WARNING- I have some strong feelings about this tour, so please- like good little Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts- Be Prepared.
BAND MEMBERS- FZ, Ike Willis (guitar, vocals, random noises), Ray White (guitar, vocals), Bobby Martin (keyboards, vocals, sax, push-ups), Scott Thunes (bass), Chad Wackerman (drums), Alan Zavod (keyboards, fan abuse), Napoleon Murphy Brock (sax, vocals, rumored drug abuse, an aisle or a window after only several shows)
SPECIAL GUESTS- Dweezil Zappa, George Duke, Bruce Fowler, Aynsley Dunbar, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Denny Walley, Archie Shepp
DATES- July 17th through December 23rd
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS PLAYED- 88
AVERAGE LENGTH OF SHOW- 110 minutes
AVERAGE # OF SONGS PER SHOW- 21
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 10
SONGS FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Advance Romance, Alien Orifice, Baby Take Your Teeth Out, Bamboozled By Love, Black Napkins, The Black Page #2, Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy, Chana in da Bushwop, Chunga's Revenge, City of Tiny Lites, Cosmik Debris, Deathless Horsie, Drowning Witch, Dumb All Over, Easy Meat, Evil Prince, Filthy Habits, Heavy Duty Judy, Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel, Illinois Enema Bandit, I'm the Slime, In France, Let's Move to Cleveland, Lucille (guitar fills), Marqueson's Chicken, Montana (only for a week in December), More Trouble Every Day, Muffin Man, My Guitar, Nig Biz, Outside Now, Penguin in Bondage, Ride My Face to Chicago, Sharleena, Singing Winds Crying Beasts, Sleep Dirt, Stevie's Spanking, Stinkfoot, Treacherous Cretins, Truckdriver's Divorce, Watermelon in Easter Hay, What's New in Baltimore?, Whipping Post, Willie the Pimp, Zoot Allures
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- See Overview section below, #2.
SONGS THAT FZ USUALLY SOLOED IN BUT DID NOT ON THIS TOUR- Oh No/ Son of Orange County (not played since '74/ no solo), Montana (no solo in this since '77 tour; Frank freaked in December and played only '80's "Montana" solos)
NEW SONGS ON THIS TOUR (performed live for 1st time)- Be in My Video, Brown Moses, Carol You Fool, Chana in da Bushwop, The Evil Prince, He's So Gay, Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel, Jungle Boogie, Singing Winds Crying Beasts, Stick Together, Why Don't You Like Me?
MONSTER SONGS- In strict adherence to Monster Song guidelines, this tour had no Monsters. "Let's Move to Cleveland" was the closest thing we got this time out, but in all honesty, it's improv just wasn't that all "out there". "King Kong" was played several times in the middle of the tour, but it was simply a vehicle for a FZ guitar solo, nothing more. Sadly, a very disappointing tour as far as full-blown improvisation goes.
OVERVIEW- This tour has taken a lot of heat- received a lot of bad press- from practically every facet of the Zappa world- fanzines, affz-ers, hard-core tapers, completionists, most Zappa fans in general. In fact, it appears that the only person who really liked this tour was Frank himself. Just look at the amount of officially released material, especially on the Stage series, that comes from this tour. Heck, you'd think this was the best band Frank ever had. This, however, is definitely not the case. So, what's the deal?
#1) Well, the main problem, to quote Naurin, is that "the sound of the band is somewhat antiseptic." That's an understatement. Personally, I find the '84 performances of "Tinseltown Rebellion" to be very ironic simply because Frank's band reminds me of those bands he's bashing in the tune. Frank, where is the passion? This band sounds like they're performing in their sleep half the time.
#2) Possibly because of the aforementioned problem, Frank's guitar solos were woefully pedestrian this time out. No, he didn't suck, but he never seemed to be particularly inspired, either. For me, the problem lies in the songs that he was soloing in. Yes, there were a lot of them , but for the most part, they contained tired, repetitive vamps that didn't allow Frank to stretch out. "Advance Romance", "Sharleena", "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy", "The Black Page #2"- yes, Frank played well in these and other songs, but none of these tunes provided him with very much leg room, or overhead storage, for that matter. There just wasn't anywhere he could go with these solos. The one bright spot on the tour (though somewhat inconsistent) was "Let's Move To Cleveland", which frequently contained some highly recommended guitar workouts. Frank's solo space and direction was practically unlimited in this tune, and he frequently took advantage of that fact. Also- another bright spot- towards the latter part of the tour, Frank began rewriting the solo sections of many songs ("More Trouble", "Penguin", "Hot Plate"), and essentially giving himself blank canvasses from which to create. This had a very positive effect on his solos, but alas, it occurred too late in the tour to redeem the whole outing.
#3) A lot of people gripe that one of the main problems with this tour is that too many of the same songs were played too many times- the same tired set lists over and over. Well, folks, sorry, but next to the '88 tour, this tour ranks second in number of different songs played (beating out the '82 tour by only a couple of songs). I guess we just don't like the songs that Frank was playing, or, as in my case, we don't like the way he rearranged and essentially destroyed so many songs (see SONGS PLAYED below).
#4) Due to overwhelming demand, I have inserted this new number 4, in an attempt to give praise to a previously overlooked aspect of this band and tour- the Vocal aspect. While I tried to give praise where praise is due in the song descriptions below, I apparently did not do so enough. I agree with this, and since I also agree that this band does have amazing vocal abilities, I am therefore officially drawing attention to this. Without a doubt, this is one of the strong points- if not the strongest- of this tour. "Carol You Fool", "Brown Moses", "The Evil Prince", "Daddy Daddy Daddy", "The 50's Medley"- just a small sampling of the incredible vocal displays put on by this ensemble. Having said that, I still believe that...
#5) The highlight of the tour- HUMOR. Thank goodness humor belongs in music, because without it, this tour probably would have been the complete failure that it is so often labelled. Secret Words run rampant, infecting everything and everyone, turning "Keep It Greasy" into "Keep It Corny", giving us the first ever "Stinkdick", and educating us with an entire show about broccoli. Frank and the boys kept themselves so amused that they couldn't remember the words to the simplest of songs, and made up new ones to the rest. It is my belief that the band was in such pain from continually laughing so hard that they never noticed how bland their music was sounding.
So, what does all this mean? To me, it means you go to this tour for laughs, vocal gymnastics, and the occasional good "Cleveland" solo. What does it mean to you?
ADVANCE ROMANCE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III, with the standard deviation coming with Frank's solo. A common vehicle for Secret Word usage. In January of 1999, after listening to way too many "Advance Romance's" on way too many tapes, I have concluded that this should have been a one-tour song. May of 1975 should have been the last time that this song saw daylight.
ALIEN ORIFICE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, allowing for adjustments in instrumentation and with the standard deviation in Frank's solo.
APOSTROPHE (')- Performed several times as a show opener throughout the tour. Essentially, a typically sterile version of the main theme with a Frank Zappa solo. Not really a jam as the studio version is, or as the handful of '75 performances felt like, but simply a vehicle for an opening guitar solo. Great to hear, just not mindblowing.
BABY TAKE YOUR TEETH OUT-Essentially performed as on "Them or Us", allowing for the obvious differences in instrumentation, and with a Frank guitar solo. Unfortunately, it was played like almost all tunes on this tour- that is faster- and with (are you sitting?), electronic handclaps. Thankfully, Frank takes a solo after the third verse- over the "There ain't nothing left to talk about" vamp- before the final verse is sung and the song concluded. Only performed a handful of times in the middle of the tour. [Thanks to Jon Naurin for the information. The bias is mine.]
BAMBOOZLED BY LOVE- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume III- complete with "Owner of the Lonely Heart" solo vamp- with the standard deviation coming in Frank's Yes-inspired guitar solo.
BE IN MY VIDEO- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume I.
BLACK NAPKINS- For the most part, played as on MAJNH, allowing for the obvious differences in instrumentation. The song began with around thirty seconds of the pre-theme vamp, similar to the one found on MAJNH. After this came the main theme, which was only played once through, before Frank departed from the theme and took off into solo territory. Essentially, this tune was played simply as a vehicle for a guitar solo, which was obvious by the speed at which Frank and the band headed towards the solo spot. And as always, upon finishing the solo, Frank would return to the main theme with band in tow, and the song would conclude.
BLACK PAGE #2, THE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Towards the beginning of the tour, this tune was frequently played as the show opener, starting cold just like it does on the aforementioned release (i.e. no "New Age Version" type intro section). Rather abrupt beginning, and kind of jarring, so Frank saw fit to move it towards the middle of the set by about the second week. It flowed much better there. Note that when he chose to open the '88 tour with it, he essentially rewrote the tune to make it more appropriate for the opening slot.
BOBBY BROWN GOES DOWN- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III. A common vehicle for Secret Word usage.
BROWN MOSES- One of the reasons why the '84 band was not simply taken out back and shot. This is a good tune. Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, with those excellent vocals and harmonies, Thunes' kick-ass bass playing, and simply some of Frank's most amusing and multi-layered lyrics. Too bad it wasn't played all that often.(For a hilarious take on what this song means, check out "T'Mershi Duween's" Songs of Orange County. If I get enough requests for it, I'll post the interpretation here.)
CAMARILLO BRILLO- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, with the hyper-fast first half, and the slowed down second half. In my opinion, it's cool.
CAROL YOU FOOL- Truly a treat of the '84 band (this song justifies their existence). Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume III, except towards the beginning of the tour, when the acapella section in the latter part of the song was NOT acapella- it was sung over full instrumentation. Over the course of the tour, the instrumentation became less and less, until one day, POOF, we had an acapella section. Well done, Frank.
CAROLINA HARD-CORE ECSTASY- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
CHANA IN DA BUSHWOP- Out of all the performances he chooses to release, he releases one without a guitar solo. Yeah, that's right, the tune normally had a short, funky little guitar workout. But instead of giving us one of those, he gives us a performance that was really only funny visually. HTBT, as they say. So, apart from this, the song was essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume III, with, of course, the occasional Secret Word tweakage.
CHUNGA'S REVENGE- Sadly, we have no live versions of this anywhere in the official catalog, do we? Quite a shame. On this tour, the song did not begin with the aggressive guitar riff that opens the studio track. Instead, on this tour, and the other '80's tours, the tune starts with the mellow bass line and main theme, then heads into the aforementioned guitar part, before heading into solo territory. For the most part, Frank was the only one to take a solo on this tour for this song, except on 7/22, when Denny Walley and Bruce Fowler joined the band for this final encore, with Ansley Dunbar guesting also on drums. Also, apart from this 7/22 performance, the song was used in the opening spot only.
CITY OF TINY LITES- This tune was sort of weak, this tour out. The beginning was arranged similar to the '82 version found on YCDTOSA Volume V, with the opening chords played on guitar with no other accompaniment. The tune proceeded as normal, with a subdued "Carlos Santana Chord Progression" as the solo vamp. Sadly, Frank's "City's"solos never really took off on this tour (possibly sick of the song by this time). And the post solo section- without the written guitar part or the piano break- was played such as on the '88 tour (without the silliness of the '82 tour). To my ears, this song was almost inconsequential on this tour. It just never seemed to carry the weight that it did on practically every other tour.
CLOSER YOU ARE, THE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV.
COCAINE DECISIONS- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III, without the tear gas and pleas for calm.
COCKSUCKER'S BALL- Essentially played as on "Does Humor Belong in Music?"
COSMIK DEBRIS- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Because this song most commonly occurred in the encore, it quite often fell victim to some serious Secret Word abuse. For this reason, I have always liked this tune live- it makes me laugh- and though Frank's space is limited on this tune, I've always found his "Cosmik" solos to be very worthwhile. Check out the Volume III solo- it's one damn good minute of guitar. Same goes for most all versions of the tune.
CREW SLUT- Played only a handful of times, this tune essentially follows the same path of both the "Joe's Garage" and YCDTOSA Volume VI versions, allowing for the obvious differences in instrumentation. As in the latter release, these '84 perfromances were highlighted by some excellent Martin keyboard support, and some dig-in-and-get-dirty Frank solos.
DADDY DADDY DADDY- One of the highlights of this tour- we get this song, and we don't have to have Flo and Eddie. But seriously (well, I was serious), this is truly one of the more enjoyable songs of the tour. Yes, it's short, and no, there's no solo or improv, but it is such a good little treat. For the most part, it's performed as Flo and Eddie performed it (see "Tengo Na' Minchia Tanta" from Beat the Boots), except like with almost everything on this tour, performed slightly faster and more upbeat.
DANCIN' FOOL- Do you really want to know how this was played? Let me give you a hint- the only performance of this song that sounds anything different than any other performance of this song is the very first performance- and that one sucked.
DANGEROUS KITCHEN, THE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume I.
DEATHLESS HORSIE, THE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. To these ears, Frank always played a top-notch solo in every '84 performance of this.
DINAH-MOE HUMM- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, which is quickly and without hesitation. A very good thing by this point in this song's history.
DON'T BE A LAWYER- Another name for "Why Don't You Like Me?", referring to an '84 only verse of the song. See "Why Don't You Like Me?" for more details on the tune.
DO YOU LIKE MY NEW CAR?- Purportedly played once- on 11/16- and I have yet to hear the song or from anyone who has. A Jack-in-the Box ring job (but not from me) for anybody who supplies me with the make on this particular model.
DROWNING WITCH- If the '82 band couldn't play this one right, who in their right mind would think that the '84 band could? Frank claimed that no band ever played this tune correctly- all the way through- in a single performance. And for all I know, he's right. But rather you play it perfectly or screw it up royally, the fact is that it is so perfectly composed that even the '84 boys couldn't destroy it. In fact, Ike's vocal ad-libs and his hilarious car salesman routine added greatly to the vocal section of this tune; and Martin and Zavod did a more than noble job of carrying the "never played correctly" parts of the tune. It was essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III (with assorted mistakes), with the standard deviation coming in both of FZ's solos. For at least one performance- on 11/30- the second guitar solo spot turns into an exceptionally good solo fest. Immediately upon entering the solo region, the band switches to a new, loop based vamp, over which Frank, Alan, Scott, Ray, Bobby, and then Frank again solo. Unlike the rotating solos in such songs as "Nig Biz", these solos are all hot, with Frank allowing each soloist to slowly establish themselves and give it their all. As far as Frank's solos go, they never quite reach the heights that they did on the previous two tours. Yes, they were always good, but they never attained the greatness of say, 11/17/81.
DUMB ALL OVER- Well, finally it happened. Frank (and Ryko) finally give us our "Dumb All Over" with the guitar solo. It appeared as if all you CD-philes would never know the true glory of this song. First, Frank cuts the solo on YAWYI. Then, he cuts the solo on YCDTOSA Volume I. Fortunately, for us tape collectors, he did not cut the solo when he performed this song live, and now, we get it on "Have I Offended Someone?" Essentially performed as on HIOS, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's always kickin' (thanks for the adjective, Naurin) guitar solo.
EASY MEAT- Though we have no officially released version from this band, their performances of this tune basically sounded like the '82 bands version on YCDTOSA Volume V, noting of course that neither Bobby nor Alan could play the keyboards like Tommy (I'm not saying Tommy's better, just that sound). Occasionally, Frank would tease "Sinister Footwear III" to start off his solo, but for the most part, he just soloed. He used the "non-vamp" of the last two tours, but to my ears, his '84 Meat solos never got as interesting as they were in '81 and '82. "Variations on Sinister #3" from "Guitar" is an "Easy Meat" extract.
EVIL PRINCE, THE- By the time tour was over, this song sounded like what we have on YCDTOSA Volume IV. But man did it seem like it took a long time to get there. Maybe it's just me (I LOVE the Volume IV version), but early performances of this song reeked. To begin with, Brock did the vocal chores, and after several lines, you can tell why he was given the choice of an aisle or a window. The band, for the most part, pretty much had the many changes of this song down from the beginning, but the transition into the solo was really shaky in the early months. It was almost as if the entire song fell apart once we reached the solo section. And Frank's solos just didn't cut the mustard early on. Interesting to see the evolution of the song, and very worthwhile considering the end product. If you are looking for other performances of this tune, go for ones later in the tour. You are better off.
FILTHY HABITS- A rare treat of the '84 tour. Only played a couple of times, this tune still managed to maintain much of its sense of foreboding doom, though it was not as evil as the studio version, nor as majestic as the '88 one. It was essentially played as on that latter tour, allowing for the obvious differences in instrumentation, and the standard deviation in Frank's sinister solo
GOBLIN GIRL- allowing for differences in instrumentation, this song was essentially performed as on YAWYI. Unfortunately, this band only performed the first half of the song, and did not attempt the vocal gymnastics that conclude the studio version of this tune. From available tapes and setlists, it looks like this song was always followed by "The Black Page #2", though not vice-versa.
HEAVY DUTY JUDY- For the most part, this song was performed as on TBBYNHIYL, with major adjustments made for instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. For the main theme, the keyboards played the bulk of the tune (as the horns did in '88), and for this tour, there were vocals, mainly "Heavy Duty Judy" and Frank saying "We the Best." Secret Word usage occasionally creeped in, and since this was only played as an opener, these Secret Words would then infect the rest of the show.
HE'S SO GAY- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume VI.
HONEY DON'T YOU WANT A MAN LIKE ME?- Yeah, like this song ever changed. Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume III, with occasional Secret Word tweakage. Betty's musical taste's did evolve by this tour, however- away from Helen Reddy towards the more enjoyable "Echo and the Bunnymen" into the unforgiveably laughable "Twisted Sister".
HOT PLATE HEAVEN AT THE GREEN HOTEL- Essentially played as on "Does Humor Belong in Music?", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. These solos were pretty straightforward in the first half of the tour- erupting right out of the closing strains of the third chorus. But towards the end of the tour, Frank started the "complete-stop-and-give-me-a-new-vamp" solo section which ruined any and all momentum built up by the song. Typically interesting and exciting solos, just very disjointed from the rest of the tune.
ILLINOIS ENEMA BANDIT- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Also, as the aforementioned release demonstrates, this tune was also a continual victim of Secret Word abuse, especially considering that it was usually the final encore.
I'M THE SLIME- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume I, allowing for differences in instrumentation. Unfortunately, Frank skipped the manic guitar opener found on the studio track, and instead chose to jump head first into the actual tune when performing this. And unlike "Montana" from the same album, Frank chose to solo in this tune.
IN FRANCE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III, except for the fact that Frank chose to edit out his guitar solo. Yet another song that usually had a short but interesting guitar solo that CD-philes will never know about. On 7/22, Johnny "Guitar" Watson joined the band for this encore performance.
JOE'S GARAGE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III. This song- typically a set closer or early encore number- frequently fell victim to some serious Secret Word abuse.
JOHNNY DARLING- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV.
JUNGLE BOOGIE- For the encore on 7/21, Frank asked the audience if they wanted a "Song", or whether they wanted the band to just make something up. The audience chose the latter. With Frank conducting every facet of this jam, the band produced four minutes of rather boring improv. The longest groove established was about 4 bars, and for the most part, the jam was nothing but conducted bursts and meltdowns. The title comes from Ike yelling, "Jungle Boogie".
KEEP IT GREASY- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III.
KING KONG- Reared it's head several times in the middle of tour, before disappearing again until '88. This was NOT the monster jam that we had in '82 or would have again in '88. Instead, it was simply a Frank Zappa guitar solo surrounded by the reggae version of the main theme.
LET'S MOVE TO CLEVELAND- The monster of the '84 tour, and sadly, it was more of a Fido than a King Kong. This was the one chance each show that the band got a chance to stretch out, and, well, frankly, they didn't. Zavod got to noodle around on the piano (electric) for about five minutes (oh oh, volcano solo- watch out), Wackerman would play with his electronic drum (sic) kit for a couple minutes, and then (actually you may want to be awake for this), Frank would solo. He frequently struck gold on his excursions, but had some bad stretches where "Cleveland" sounded like, well, like Cleveland. For me, it all boiled down to what the rhythm section was doing that would make or break the solo. Sometimes Scott and Chad would hit a groove, or ride a vamp that just took off. They would lock in together, and Frank would just soar. Higher and higher and higher until they all gloriously returned to the main theme. Other times nothing would work, and you would end up with something that sounded like a real bad result of xenochranization. So, apart from the solos, this song sounded essentially like the version on "Does Humor Belong in Music?" NOTE- This song is known by many names. In the closing section, where the band sings "Let's Move to Cleveland", they also sang many other lines, depending on the theme of the show or a predetermined line. Thus, other names for the song have been "Kreegah Bondola","Young and Monde", "Rowland in the Whorehouse?", "Where's My Vacation?", "Je Suis, Je Suis", "It's My Volcano"- actually, that's all I can think of right now. Anyone got other '84 titles? "Republicans", "GOA", "Sunrise Redeemer", "Once Again Without a Net", and "Canadian Customs" from "Guitar" are all "Cleveland" extracts. [One last thing- Having just completed the '82 write-up for this song, I realize that all things considered, this tune was quite a disappointment on this tour. The piano/drum solos are simply a waste of time (FZ cigarette break?), and by the time we get to Frank, we're lucky he's still awake. Plus, Vai was such an integral part of the '82 Cleveland's sheer madness, that without him, this song sounds like a pleasant stroll in the park, instead of forced relocation to Cleveland. Sorry for the digression, but I feel really let down by this tour's Cleveland's after having just heard several '82 performances.]
LITTLE GIRL OF MINE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV.
LUCILLE HAS MESSED MY MIND UP- I love this song. Yes, it's that mock reggae again, but at a casual pace not all that familiar to Zappa songs. Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III, with the standard deviations in Frank's guitar fills.
MARQUESON'S CHICKEN- Another musical treat that unfortunately did not surface until the closing weeks of the tour. It was essentially played as on "Them or Us", with Zavod playing the bulk of Vai's guitar parts. Unfortunately, Frank chose to replace the solo vamp from the album with a rather lifeless alternative, and thus, the guitar solos were never that interesting. Still, the song itself is always a pleasure to hear.
MEEK SHALL INHERIT NOTHING, THE- Essentially played as on "You Are What You Is", with the obvious differences in the instrumental accompaniment. Denny Walley's slide is sorely missed on this tune.
MONTANA- December, 1984-> Frank Zappa goes crazy the last weeks of the tour. No one knows what happened, but for some strange, unexplainable reason, Mr. Zappa picks up his guitar and plays solos during this song. No, seriously, he does. And as far as this reporter can tell, this is the only time he did such a thing- during this song- since 1977. Sure, he played this song A LOT in the '80's- probably too much- and he played it exactly as it sounds on "Overnite Sensation", but most of the time he forgot the solo part. Yeah, that's right, forgot the solo part. No guitar. Instead, straight to Ike singing about his tiny little horse. Ladies and gentleman, what is the point of this song if not the guitar solo? I mean, Frank, what were you thinking? At least we have December.
MORE TROUBLE EVERY DAY- Essentially played as on "Does Humor Belong in Music?", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Unfortunately, as the tour proceeded, Frank had the annoying habit of stopping the song DEAD IN IT'S TRACKS to reestablish or start up a new soloing vamp. It was like a new song reinserted right in the middle of "More Trouble" (the DHBIM version is a perfect example of this). The solos were almost always great- no complaint here- it just really ruined the flow of the song.
MUDD CLUB, THE- Essentially played as on "You Are What You Is", with the obvious differences in the instrumental accompaniment. Frank's middle spoken section basically followed the same dialogue as on the official release, though this part was frequently an obvious victim of Secret Word abuse.
MUFFIN MAN- Another travesty of the '84 band. Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume VI- that is, horribly. Along with "Willie the Pimp", this is another one of those MONSTER guitar tunes that Zappa reduced to pop music dribble for this tour. At least "Willie" didn't become mock reggae. Like I said, essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
MY GUITAR- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Not a bad version of this tune, eh, even though it is the '84 band.
NIG BIZ- Get down, Ray! Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III, with the standard deviation coming in the solos. One of Ray White's better vocal excursions on this or any tour. While he was with us, Brock also had his own vocal excursion, taking a very weird vocal solo during the middle solo section.
NITE OWL- Harmless little fifty's tune, performed several times throughout the tour.
NO NO CHERRY- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV.
OH NO/SON OF ORANGE COUNTY- Forget "Roxy and Elsewhere". Forget any '74 versions you may have heard of this. Those were transcendent, spine-tingling, god-like. This ain't that. Luckily, Brock got an aisle or a window and this tune was dropped like a dead fish. Played in that mock reggae style (a la "Muffin Man") that '80's Frank was so fond of, this year's performance simply doesn't hold a candle anywhere near the '74 performances of this tune (or the '88 performances, for that matter). Brock screeched it, the band remote controlled it, and then, just like the good ol' days, it went into "More Trouble Every Day". But NO, this isn't the good ol' days. It's a cheap facsimile. A nightmare. Get me out of here.
OUTSIDE NOW- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, with the standard deviation in Frank's solo. Unfortunately, not played enough..
PENGUIN IN BONDAGE- Essentially played as on "Does Humor Belong in Music?", with standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. The standard "short" Zappa guitar solo for most of tour, though by the latter end of this outing he began to insert the "complete-stop-give-me-a-new-vamp" longer solo section, like the one on DHBIM.
RIDE MY FACE TO CHICAGO- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. "Orrin Hatch on Skis" from "Guitar" is a "Chicago" extract.
SHARLEENA- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo, and with the absence of Dweezil, obviously. Frank must have really liked this vamp, because without fail, every "Sharleena" I have heard from this tour has had an excellent, let's-sit-down-and-listen guitar solo. "Winos Do Not March" from "Guitar" is a "Sharleena" extract.
SINGING WINDS, CRYING BEASTS- Performed one time only, on 8/31, sort-of tacked on to the end of "Ride My Face to Chicago". This is the first track of Santana's "Abraxas" album, and for some strange reason, Frank and the boys just dove into this tune upon concluding "Ride My Face". No Santana references in the show, not even a "City of Tiny Lites" Carlos Santana secret chord progression solo. Actually, the song itself was not played, just the rhythm section with a FZ solo laid over it. [For you Conceptual Continuitists, this further extends the thread of Santana that runs through Zappa's studio and live work ( I'm not going into this, but will be more than happy to provide details to those that care).]
SLEEP DIRT/BLACK NAPKINS- How in the world did this get in here? For some reason (and whatever it is we thank it), Frank- in Dallas on December 13th- decides to bring back a song that had not seen the light of day since 1975. This song is essentially a blending of the above tunes. The band begins the affair by playing a vamp (reggae style, of course) based on Bird Legs' two chord progression from the original. Once this is established, Frank plays the melody line- a subtler, less obvious rendition of "Black Napkins". As in the latter tune, Frank plays this theme two times, before veering off into his solo, and then returning to the theme when his soloing is complete. While this version is not that long, with Frank's solo not being all that impressive, this performance is still great to hear simply for the complete rarity of it. Plus, in spite of the reggae curse, the subdued nature of the tune really stands apart from the majority of this tour's repertoire, and shows a whole other side to this band.
SOCIETY PAGES-> I'M A BEAUTIFUL GUY-> BEAUTY KNOWS NO PAIN-> CHARLIE'S ENORMOUS MOUTH- Jon Naurin writes in with this juicy bit of info: Interesting discovery from the 8/22#2 show, and I wonder why these weren't performed more often. They sound well rehearsed and should definitely have taken the place of the played-to-death "YAWYI/Mudd Clubb/Meek" suite in many setlists. Oh - and of course - performed essentially as on YCDTOSA #3.
SON OF ORANGE COUNTY- See OH NO (actually, don't see OH NO, don't listen to OH NO, forget that this band ever even looked at OH NO).
STEVIE'S SPANKING- Purportedly played once- on 9/13- as the final encore, a performance I have yet to hear or receive info from anybody who has. A vaporised banana for anybody who helps? [Jon Naurin with this: Played at least twice, on 9/13 and 10/16. Essentially performed as on Them Or Us, with those little 1984 sounds we all know and have mixed feelings about. The only real difference is some added vocal arrangements in the "Hairbrush" part. The solo is rather short, and really make you miss that blue-haired guy.]
STICK IT OUT- An amusing little number, played very infrequently on this tour. Played as on "Joe's Garage", but with the English vocals only. On previous tours- both '70 and '80- Frank performed both the English and German verses, but for the '84 tour, we got the former verses only. Not much to the song- short, no solos- but a nice treat amid the repetitiveness of the rest of this tour.
STICK TOGETHER- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV. In a very nice change of events, Frank chose to open- yes, open- several shows at the end of the tour with this rather non-opening type of song. Kind of cool, huh?
STINKFOOT- Played a handful of times throughout the tour, with Frank being kind enough to even throw a "Stinkdick" in there somewhere. Frank started getting a little creative with set lists towards the end of tour, and this song sneaked into the repertoire as a result. Essentially played as always, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo and in the aforementioned lyrical changes.
TEENAGE WIND- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV.
TINSELTOWN REBELLION- Essentially played as on "Does Humor Belong in Music?".
TREACHEROUS CRETINS- Essentially played as on SUAPYG, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Only played a handful of times, and only in the earlier stages of the tour, this vehicle for guitar was used as a show opener only. After Frank's solos, which were competent but not overwhelming, the progression and vamp would be used as background music for the band introductions.
TRUCKDRIVER DIVORCE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Like the aforementioned version, Frank's solo was over a "non-vamp"- no predetermined rhythm part, just Wackerman and Thunes doing their best to support Frank's meanderings. Unfortunately, Frank's outings on this song during this tour were either well worth hearing but way too short, or overlong and dull. He never seemed to hit a happy medium for this tour. On 7/22, George Duke joined the band for this encore song.
WATERMELON IN EASTER HAY- Essentially played as on "Guitar", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Played way too rarely on this tour, but as always, quite a treat when it was played. (Thanks Sean!)
WHAT'S NEW IN BALTIMORE?- Essentially played as on "Does Humor Belong in Music?", with the standard deviation coming both in Frank's solo and in his vocal asides during the choruses. Like "Drowning Witch", this was another tune that the '84 band did a very good job with, but like DW, Frank also never managed to whip out a truly jaw-dropping, goosebump inducing solo like he quite frequently did on the previous two tours. Quite a shame.
WHIPPIN' POST- Essentially played as on "Does Humor Belong in Music?", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo, and with the absence of Dweezil, obviously. The blues riff used in the solo section is from "Mannish Boy". "For Duane" from "Guitar" is a "Whippin Post" extract.
WHY DOES IT HURT WHEN I PEE?- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III.
WHY DON'T YOU LIKE ME?- This song made several appearances early in the tour, before disappearing until the '88 tour got of hold of it and slightly rewrote it. Known as "Don't Be A Lawyer" by band members and tape collectors until the "Broadway" release, this song is essentially "Tell Me You Love Me" with different lyrics. For the most part, the lyrics are the same as in the '88 version, except they are not directed towards Michael Jackson and thus are missing some of the more specific references. Also, there is a third verse which has a chorus of "Don't Be A Lawyer". Like "Tell Me You Love Me" in previous tours, this song was used as a set closer the handful of times it was performed.
WILLIE THE PIMP- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, which is virtually unforgiveable. What possessed Frank to redo THIS tune THIS way? Come on, Frank, this was the original guitar MONSTER- and look what you've turned it into. And what, is that electronic clapping sounds I hear in the background? And that solo- one-tenth the length of the original? And with that horrible segue into "Montana" every single time? The '84 band may never be forgiven for this one.
WPLJ- Essentially played as on "Does Humor Belong in Music?"
YOU ARE WHAT YOU IS- Essentially played as on "You Are What You Is", with obvious differences in the instrumental accompaniment.
ZOOT ALLURES- Essentially played as on "Does Humor Belong in Music?", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Only played as a show opener.
The 1984 tour is not a favourite of mine either, though YCDTOSA #3 and the DHBIM video were among the things that got me hooked on FZ in the first place. My least favourites are probably the Spring 1980 along with the Flo&Eddie bands and fall 1975, but the 1984 tour is almost down there. But I think this band had a feature you forgot to mention: the strongest singer line-up Zappa ever put onstage! [ I amended the boo-boo- Fog] I play a 1984 tape every now and then just to get a dose of humour and great vocals.But apart from that, no, Zappa's taste for sounds was bad about this period. Cheesy synth-percussion, cheesy synth-horns, cheesy syn-drums and most often a too hard guitar sound in his solos. It's amazing how all this changed until the next tour - the sound picture of the 1988 band is among the most pleasant I've heard.
Okay. I agree that the 1984 band is EXTREMELY CHEESY. And a lot of the performances earlier in the tour just BLEW. I also think Alan Zavod sucks. However, I now take this tour with a grain of salt. At first, just the sound of this band made me want to puke. Now, I enjoy this band very much. EVEN the cheesy instrumentation. I read an interview in the library in which Frank had mentioned that this particular band was SUPPOSED to sound demented because he wanted to mock everything going on at the time. Remember the part in his book where he's making fun of fake handclaps? Do you SERIOUSLY think that he would add these to the band as a "good instrumentation decision"? Of course not. You need to have a BIG SENSE OF HUMOR to enjoy this tour. "Does Humor Belong In Music?" was a big theme behind this tour. Apparently, most people's answers would have been NO. I'm talking about HUMOR IN THE INSTRUMENTATION. In reference to specific songs, I don't think that Frank is capable of "ruining" any of HIS OWN SONGS. I laughed hysterically when I heard the '84 "Willie The Pimp". I am never disappointed in Frank when he changes the arrangement of songs. I hardly think he was blaspheming the 1970 version by turning the 1984 version into nonsense drivel. I like the 1984 version. "OH MY GAAAAAWWWWWWWD!!!!!!!!!" Also contributing to my eventual acceptance of this band was the fact that Frank seemed to enjoy this band very much. He raved about them in interviews. He kept them on the road for a long time. I DO, however, warn new listeners to stay far away from the 1984 tour until you are familiar with at least half of Frank's material. I LIKE the 1984 band. :-P There. I said it. Now cast the first stone.
I understand and appreciate how fed up one can become with cheesed-out and mock-reggaed versions of songs that were originally magnificent. But as you realise when you begin listening religously to recordings of all these concerts, IMAGINE HOW FED UP THE BAND MUST HAVE BECOME WITH THIS MATERIAL. One of the main problems, as you point out, is FZ solos that have no substance or justification for existence - they simply come out of nowhere, doodle for a few minutes, and scuttle off again. This means that they either seem out of place in that particular piece, or the piece becomes little more than a vehicle for the solo. You can judge how good a FZ solo is by how easy it is to memorise, so that when you listen to it you know exactly what is coming next (a good example would be the solo on the studio version of Sinister Footwear II). There aren't too many of those on this tour. A pity.
Having attended Zappa shows for each tour from 1979 through 1988, I cannot disagree with you more regarding the 1984 tour. I saw many shows, including Jones Beach, the Pier, Poughkeepsie and Saratoga. First, for once, Zappa did not sit around "conducting" the band and/or let someone else like Steve Vai take virtually every guitar solo during 1984 [I'm not sure about this claim- Fogz]. In fact, Zappa playedmore guitar in the 1984 shows that I saw than in any other Zappa tour that I ever caught. Far from looking tired, I thought FZ stepped out and seemed to be on a mission to prove that his past reliance on Vai was not for his own lack of talent. As far as the material, it was fine and mixed up every night. Having Ike Willis and Ray White (who is currently in a great band, KVHW, which anyone reading should catch) together was great. When I saw the band again in 1988, despite seeing Stairway, Whipping Post, I Am The Walrus and some otherwise great setlists, I was disappointed because the shows didn't hold a candle to the 1984 stuff. Zappa was clearly justified in thinking this was his best post-Mothers band, even though I can quibble with some of his released selections, because there are better versions from the same tour of every tune released on the YCDTOSA discs. I have listened to tapes from many of these shows, and I think my initial take was right. For example, nothing from 1988 even touches the Saratoga show on 9-1-84. Anyway, that is my subjective belief.