’Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow’ Zappa Utility Muffins complete with ‘deadly yellow snow crystals’
The juvenile humor that crept into Frank Zappa’s work from the early 70s onward is difficult for me to defend. Even as an admitted Zappa freak, I tend to steer clear of anything not mostly instrumental after a certain point. It was an obvious decision that Frank Zappa made, not only as an artist, but as a businessman and a touring bandleader operating his own record label, to go there with the groupie/scatological subject matter that would endear him to pimply-faced teenage boys the world over, and sell more records and concert tickets to be sure, but most of it just makes me wince.
I’ve heard a tape of Genesis P-Orridge and Sandy Robertson interviewing Zappa in a London hotel around the time that Zoot Allures came out. Genesis pursues a (polite) line of questioning about Zappa’s “old style” with the more “serious” sound of the original Mothers evolving into the “comedy” material of the 70s and gets a flat-out denial from Zappa that there was ever any change whatsoever in his work, which obviously just is not true.
Nevertheless, there were still some pretty incredible gems he was turning out, like the Raymond Scott-esque song suite that takes up side one of Apostrophe, beginning with “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow.” Yes, it’s about “doggie wee-wee” and a leprechaun who is masturbating into a sock, but Zappa does the cartoon music thing really, really well—helped out immensely by his percussionist Ruth Underwood on marimba and trombonist Bruce Fowler—and this material was super well-recorded, so on a good stereo, certain things really jump out at you.
When Apostrophe came out in 1974 a disc jockey in Pittsburgh made an edited version of “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” and “Nanook Rubs It” and the song became a local hit (I remember hearing this when I was a kid). Zappa liked the idea and made his own edit, incorporating a part of the third number, “St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast.” It reached #86 on the Billboard singles chart and Apostrophe became his biggest commercial success, hitting the top ten in the US for the only time in his career.
The original studio recording:
Below, Zappa performing the “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow Suite” at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ on October 13th, 1978: