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Machine Heads: Deep Purple burn New York City down, 1973

01dple.jpg
Deep Purple, topless
 
There was a point back in the 1970s that whenever you went into a guitar store there was always some dude flicking his locks and playing the familiar plodding riff from Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” Well, either that or “Stairway to Heaven” depending on the taste of who was playing. These guys were either shop staff or some kid dreaming of a future rock career. When I bought my first and only guitar the assistant did in fact strum out a few blasts of “Smoke on the Water” to show me just how it was done. That kinda ruined it for me, I have to admit. I was more the Bonzo-Django-Benny Hill kinda player, which might explain my taste in music but doesn’t excuse my lack of any musical talent whatsoever. Least played, soonest mended. I eventually traded my guitar for a portable typewriter from a Bowie fan who had slavishly typed “I Love David” all over its ribbon.

If you hung around long enough listening to that dude riff on “Smoke on the Water” he would also probably tell you why Deep Purple were better than Led Zeppelin—because they were “proper” musicians who had performed “your actual” Concerto for Group and Orchestra with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hal, London in 1969. And why the recent incarnation of the band was better than the first—because (again) they were “proper” musicians not just pop stars, musicians who had honed themselves to the pursuit of musical excellence. Or something like that.
 
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He would also undoubtedly tell you how “Smoke on the Water” was based on a very real fire at the Montreux Casino during a Frank Zappa concert in 1971, where the venue was burnt to the ground. Depending on which version you heard, the fire was caused by either a flaregun fired by a member of the audience, or possibly a firework, or possibly by a “boy throwing lighted matches in the air, and one of them got stuck on the very low ceiling.” Whichever, the fire started and quickly engulfed the building.

Founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, Claude Nobs was at the venue that fateful night and helped rescue quite a few of the audience from death. He was also key in persuading Deep Purple not to “scrap” “Smoke on the Water” from inclusion on their mighty album Machine Head. As Nobs recalled:

Deep Purple were watching the whole fire from their hotel window, and they said, “Oh my God, look what happened. Poor Claude and there’s no casino anymore!” They were supposed to do a live gig [at the Casino] and record the new album there. Finally I found a place in a little abandoned hotel next to my house and we made a temporary studio for them.

One day they were coming up for dinner at my house and they said, “Claude we did a little surprise for you, but it’s not going to be on the album. It’s a tune called ‘Smoke On The Water.’” So I listened to it. I said, “You’re crazy. It’s going to be a huge thing.” Now there’s no guitar player in the world who doesn’t know [he hums the riff]. They said, “Oh if you believe so we’ll put it on the album.”

It’s actually the very precise description of the fire in the casino, of Frank Zappa getting the kids out of the casino, and every detail in the song is true. It’s what really happened. In the middle of the song, it says “Funky Claude was getting people out of the building,” and actually when I meet a lot of rock musicians, they still say, “Oh here comes Funky Claude.”

Deep Purple were originally called Roundabout—when the band was just a concept conjured up by Searchers drummer Chris Curtis in 1967. Curtis shared a low rent apartment with young musician Jon Lord, who was earning his spurs playing with many different bands—including a tour with the Flowerpot Men (best known for the song “Let’s Go to San Francisco”). Curtis explained his idea of the Roundabout being a group of three people—Curtis, Lord and a guitarist named Ritchie Blackmore—around which other band members would hop on and off when required. Not much happened. Lord toured. And Blackmore never turned up for a meeting about this “concept band.” That is, until Curtis took way too many drugs, covered the apartment in aluminum foil—reasoning it stopped all the good vibes escaping, and upped and left Lord with rent due, no band, and not much of a future.

That very day, the fabled Ritchie Blackmore turned up at the door to discuss Roundabout with Curtis. Instead, he and Lord discussed forming their own band, which eventually became Deep Purple. The name came from the song “Deep Purple”—a favorite of Blackmore’s aunt. Other possible band names were Concrete God, Orpheus and Zephyr.
 
More after the jump, plus Deep Purple live in New York…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Street art homages to Frank Zappa, Lemmy, David Bowie, Bon Scott, Ian Curtis & more

Frank Zappa street art mural under a bridge in London by James Mayle and Leigh Drummond
A massive mural of Frank Zappa under a bridge in London by artists James Mayle and Leigh Drummond.

I recently came across images of some beautiful street murals of both the sadly recently departed Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie—which is what got me cooking up this post chock full of graffiti and street art homages to notable musicians and rock stars who are no longer with us.

Of the many public pieces, photographed at places all around the globe, I’m especially fond of the Lemmy/Bowie hybrid that popped up on a utility box in front of a restaurant in Denver, Colorado shortly after Bowie passed on January 10th, 2016, as well as a haunting image of Joe Strummer that was painted on the side of a rusted old van.
 
Lemmy/Bowie street art mashup in Denver, Colorado
Lemmy/Bowie street art mashup in Denver, Colorado.
 
Joe Strummer mural painted on the side of a van by French artist, Jef Aerosol
Joe Strummer mural painted on the side of a van by French artist, Jef Aerosol.
 
Inspired street art dedicated to everyone from Joy Division’s Ian Curtis to James Brown, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa: Shut Up ‘n’ Play yer Bike!
03.29.2016
09:41 am

Topics:
Amusing
Heroes
Television

Tags:
Frank Zappa
Steve Allen
bicycle

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Long time ago on British TV there was what I guess you might call a talent show titled Opportunity Knocks. Each week host Hughie Greene offered young hopeful singers, comedians, magicians, variety acts, you know the kinda thing, the opportunity to make it big.

Among those who did make it big were the likes of Mary Hopkins who sang “Those Were the Days” and was quickly signed to The Beatles record label Apple. There were quite a few others who are better known over here than over in the US.

And of the many people who did take part but never made it big, there was always some kind of novelty act—a bodybuilder who flexed his muscles and inflated hot water bottles with his mighty breath; impressionists whose speciality was imitating the sound of railway engines and planes taking-off; belly dancers; bird-handlers who pushed little budgerigars on rope swings then made them hop thru flaming hoops; and last but certainly not least, those hobbyists who made music out of everyday objects such as kettles, washboards, radiators, hoover attachments and alike.
 
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These freaks reminded me of Frank Zappa’s appearance on The Steve Allen Show in 1960, when the precocious young musician impressed with his ability to play a bicycle.

At the time, Zappa was earning a living playing cocktail lounges and writing a score for a film called The World’s Greatest Sinner. As he explained to Steve Allen during his appearance he had also written a “bicycle concerto.”

I suppose I have to ask, what kind of twenty-year old goes on national TV to promote himself as a player of the bicycle other than one who is utterly desperate for recognition? Not just any kind of recognition but one that highlights an interest in the avant garde, some serious musical intent and (you guessed it) a zany sense of humor.

That Zappa pulls off all three says much for his talent, ego, and ambition.

Watch the video, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa’s Hollywood Hills rock star home is for sale for $9 million: Take a peek inside
03.08.2016
04:25 pm

Topics:
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
Frank Zappa


 
Wowie Zowie!

It’s the ultimate Frank Zappa fan’s stickiest wet dream. Buy—and live—in the great man’s former five-bedroom, 8000 sq ft home in the Hollywood Hills. The Zappa house is for sale on eBay for $9,000,000. Part of the proceeds of the sale will go towards preserving “The Vault” of Zappa’s immense tape, film and library (kept under the house) and funding the Frank Zappa documentary slated to be directed by Alex Winter later this year.

From the eBay listing:

This is the house in which legendary musician FRANK ZAPPA lived from 1968 until his death in 1993. It has been inhabited by the Zappa family since.

THIS IS FRANK ZAPPA’S
ACTUAL
F*@%ING
HOUSE.

The historic Zappa Estate, nestled on a secluded drive in the Hollywood Hills, is 8,000 square feet of California rockstar paradise. The property includes a rooftop tennis court, backyard swimming pool, guest cottage, beautiful mosaic art amidst the landscaping, and the space that was once the infamous Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, where musicians including Frank have recorded since the 1980s. Beneath the house is a storage chamber that, during the Zappas’ ownership of the home, was known as ‘The Vault,’ where he kept his private archives under lock and key.

The price of this house INCLUDES ALL KICKSTARTER REWARDS listed at whoisfrankzappa.com, as well as an EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CREDIT on the forthcoming definitive documentary about Frank Zappa’s life by filmmaker Alex Winter. Learn more about Alex Winter’s crowdfunding campaign to make the first-ever fully-authorized, all-access Zappa movie and to save Frank’s private archives. SAVE THE VAULT. TELL THE STORY.

It’s certainly the mother of all Kickstarters now isn’t it?

29 more days to go… I really hope they’re able to sell this home to someone who will respect it.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Classic shots of Grace Jones, Alice Cooper, Debbie Harry, Frank Zappa & more at the Grammy Awards

Grace Jones and Rick James arrive at the Grammy Awards, 1980
Grace Jones and Rick James at the Grammy Awards, 1983
 
One of my really awful guilty pleasures (I also love the band Rush, but I don’t judge and neither should you), is watching awards shows. I know, I know, they’re stupid, and that my street cred just went out to the dumpster to smoke cigarettes with Milli Vanilli. I’m okay with that.
 
Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith of the Monkees at the Grammy Awards, 1968
Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith of the Monkees at the Grammy Awards, 1968. The band was up for two awards for “I’m a Believer” (Group Vocal Performance and Contemporary Vocal Group), but lost both times to The Fifth Dimension’s “Up Up and Away.”
 
Alice Cooper and Stevie Wonder at the Grammy Awards, 1974
It does not get much cooler than this: Alice Cooper and Stevie Wonder at the Grammy Awards, 1974
 
Plenty more classic Grammy moments after the jump…

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Frank Zappa plays a hunchback on a children’s show narrated by Vincent Price, 1983


 
During the 80s, Shelley Duvall hosted a Showtime series for children called Faerie Tale Theatre. It attracted what we call in Hollywood “quality-ass talent.” Jeff Bridges and Gena Rowlands joined Duvall for “Rapunzel,” Paul Reubens played Pinocchio, Susan Sarandon and Klaus Kinski starred in “Beauty and the Beast,” and, perhaps most extraordinary of all, Mick Jagger underwent the showbiz Caucasian-to-Asian transformation (local stylists call this dangerous procedure the “Mickey Rooney”) for the series’ adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale,” in which Mick portrayed the Emperor of China. What the fuck.
 

Mick Jagger as the Emperor of China on ‘Faerie Tale Theatre’
 
But the 1983 episode “The Boy Who Left Home To Find Out About The Shivers,” based on a tale by the Brothers Grimm, is remarkable because it’s got Frank Zappa playing a Transylvanian hunchback named Attilla and Vincent Price narrating, not to mention performances by Christopher Lee and David Warner. Here’s the plot, as summarized on the back of the old Betamax box:

Overcoming fear is a problem for most people. But there once was a boy whose problem was his complete lack of fear! Peter MacNicol stars as that boy in this amusing production narrated by Vincent Price. The King, played by Christopher Lee, promises the boy treasure and a beautiful Princess, Dana Hill, if he can defeat an Evil Sorcerer who has haunted the King’s castle. The boy meets an ominous mute hunchback, a headless man, and finally, in a duel to the death, the Evil Sorcerer himself! Yet still he knows no fear—until the surprising conclusion. Featuring production design inspired by the work of Breughel and Durer and marvelous performances from a superior cast, this is a tale you should be afraid… to miss!

 

 
As I learn from Román García Albertos’ detailed Zappa videography, Frank discussed the role on Australian TV a few days after the shoot:

FZ: Recently, just for a laugh, I did a role of a hunchback in a fairy tale that was completed about three days ago, in a show called Faerie Tale Theatre, which was produced by Shelley Duvall and airs on Showtime cable network here in the United States. I don’t know whether they have distribution outside the US.

Interviewer: Don’t think we get it, no.

FZ: Well, I think that they’re probably going to be trying to export the thing, but it’s a whole series of fairy tales. The first one that they did was “The Frog Prince” and it starred Robin Williams as the frog. He was really great. And things are all done on video, they use a lot of video effects. Mick Jagger did the last one that was on the air, he played a mandarin in “The Nightingale.” And so I got to be a hunchback in a story called “The Boy Who Left Home To Find Out About The Shivers.”

Interviewer: Did he?

FZ: Eventually, yes, he found out about the shivers in one of the more humorous scenes in the thing.

Interviewer: Did you have lines in it?

FZ: Yes. Here are my lines: “Uh uh uh!” and “Oooh, heh heh!”

Watch’s Zappa’s appearance as the “ominous mute hunchback” on ‘Faerie Tale Theatre’ after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
High-end plush dolls of Frank Zappa, Robert Smith, Kraftwerk, Jim Jarmusch & more, that you NEED!

Kraftwerk plush dolls by Uriel Valentin
Kraftwerk plush dolls by Uriel Valentin

Uriel Valentin is the talented Argentinian-based doll maker and artist behind a massive line of plush, hand-painted dolls that are about to send you running for your credit card. I often blog about these kinds of collectibles here on Dangerous Minds but didn’t know until today how much I needed a plush Robert Smith doll clad in look-alike pajamas like the ones that he wore in the 1989 video for “Lullaby.” Did you?
 
Robert Smith of The Cure in his Lullabye pajamas
Robert Smith of The Cure in his “Lullaby” PJs
 
Frank Zappa plush doll by Uriel Valentin
Frank Zappa in his iconic “PIPCO” shirt.
 
Among the illustrious and eclectic inhabitants of Valentin’s cool world are plush versions of everyone from famous punks like Elvis Costello, director Jim Jarmusch, Charlotte Gainsbourg (covered in blood clutching the disemboweled fox from Antichrist), Andy Warhol and Jean Basquiat (wearing boxing gloves and attire no less, as in the poster for their 1985 collaboration), Iron Maiden’s “Eddie” (as well as Maiden bassist Steve Harris, squeee!), two delightful versions of Robert Smith of The Cure and every member of fucking KRAFTWERK.

Valentin’s figures stand about fourteen inches tall, are hand-painted and sealed with a transparent acrylic varnish, and have wire inside of them so they are able to be put into posed positions. I’ve included over 40 (!) images of Valentin’s dolls for you to digest after the jump that will run you around $100 (including international shipping). The talented Argentinian also does custom orders (which are $115) - contact him via his Flickr page for more information.
 
Jim Jarmusch
Jim Jarmusch
 
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford from the 1962 film, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford from the 1962 film, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
 
Hedwig (played by actor James Cameron Mitchell in the film and play Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Hedwig as played by actor James Cameron Mitchell from Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
 
Way more of these amazing handmade dolls after the jump…

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James Dean, Picasso, Prince, Robert Plant, Nirvana, Zappa, Jimi, Iggy & more in the bathroom!

James Dean in the bathroom
James Dean in the bathroom “multitasking”
 
Here’s another installment of a series of posts I’ve become “known” for doing here on Dangerous Minds that features photos of famous folks hanging out and doing mundane things like we all do. This time your eyes will be treated to images of writers, artist, celebrities and musicians that were taken in, well, the bathroom.
 
Pablo Picasso, 1956
Pablo Picasso, 1956
 
In this massive post, I’ve got over 30 pictures of famous faces (and their bodies in varying stages of undress) such as Serge Gainsbourg, Toni Iommi of Black Sabbath (as well as his pal Ozzy), Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen (snapped in the loo of Thin Lizzy vocalist Phil Lynott) and Pablo Picasso taking baths, spending time in a bathroom stall, or seated on the toilet. Some of the images date back to the late 30s, and others appear to have been snapped under somewhat candid circumstances. Go figure.
 
Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin on the toilet
Robert Plant
 
I mean, did you ever think you’d see a photo of one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time, Robert Plant chilling out on the crapper? Well, if you didn’t (and as I often say in my posts), today is your lucky day! As always, I’ve tried to nail down dates and places whenever possible. Also, since we’re talking about images that were taken in the bathroom, it’s likely that some of what you’re about to see after the jump could be considered NSFW. But that’s why you clicked this link in the first place, now isn’t it? Enjoy!
 
Nirvana (L-R Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and Kurt Cobain)
Nirvana (L-R Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and Kurt Cobain)
 
Prince in the bathtub (from the 1986 film, Under a Cherry Moon)
Prince in the bathtub (from the 1986 film, Under a Cherry Moon)
 
The late, great, Joan Rivers
The late, great Joan Rivers, 1966
 
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
 
Many more after the jump…

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Flo & Eddie: From The Turtles to Zappa, T.Rex, Blondie and beyond
10.22.2015
09:38 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Frank Zappa
Flo & Eddie
The Turtles


 
Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, AKA Flo & Eddie, are two of the most unlikely pop stars on the planet. Neither one was ever what you’d call a “dreamboat” and Volman was unashamedly fat and took great pains to point out that fact. They were also funny at a time when rock musicians took themselves way too seriously.

That could never be said of Flo & Eddie.

They started, of course, as the magic voices of The Turtles, to my mind one of the greatest 60s groups, even if they don’t really get their due today. “Happy Together,” “Elenore”, “Lady-O”—The Turtles were simply an amazing band.
 

 
Check out this clip of their hit, “She’d Rather Be With Me”—pure pop perfection. The harmonies, the melody, these guys were tight.
 

 
Plenty more Flo & Eddie after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa’s ‘Roxy: The Movie’ was worth the four-decade wait
10.16.2015
08:48 am

Topics:
Movies
Music

Tags:
Frank Zappa
Roxy: The Movie


 
Frank Zappa fans have clamored for the release of Roxy: The Movie for about 40 years now. I’m one of the lucky ducks who saw its world premiere at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre on Wednesday, and I am here to tell you that it is good.

About halfway through the screening, I noticed that my face hurt because my mouth had twisted up and frozen in the stupidest grin of which it is capable—the kind of grin that could destroy a family, or end a career. As I type this, some twenty-four hours later, my face is still ruined. The Roxy shows, represented on disc by 1974’s Roxy & Elsewhere and last year’s Roxy by Proxy, are among the most joyful presentations of Zappa’s music. The songs are celebratory, the performances are exuberant, the musicianship is virtuosic but not stiff or fussy, the sound is totally bitchen, and Zappa himself seems more relaxed and cheerful than (or at least not as sour as) he appeared at other points in his career. Biographer Neil Slaven attributes the light mood and spirit of camaraderie prevailing at the Roxy shows to the recent addition of Napoleon Murphy Brock, the outstanding tenor saxophonist and singer who belts “Cheepnis”:

Brock’s arrival brought important changes to the context of the group. He had a distinctive and flexible voice and struck up an immediate and overtly warm rapport with George Duke, sharing the broad and quick sense of humour that Frank had drawn out of the keyboard player. Their on-stage badinage, which both celebrated and satirised black consciousness, contrasted with Frank’s own studied bizarre humour and there were moments when one sensed that he was happy and relieved to become a sideman in his own group.

 

The woman with her hand down Zappa’s pants is named Joan, we learn
 
Before I saw Roxy, my favorite Zappa concert video was A Token of His Extreme, the 1974 special taped for public TV that features many of the same personnel: keyboardist and singer George Duke (a great artist in his own right), percussionist Ruth Underwood, bassist Tom Fowler, drummer Chester Thompson, and Brock—the One Size Fits All band, whose praises I sing. But Roxy trashes it. I just drove by the Goodwill and threw my Extreme DVD out the window. Roxy gives you one more drummer in addition to Thompson (Ralph Humphrey), trombonist Bruce Fowler playing impossible parts, and one of Zappa’s best-ever bands playing in a hot club rather than a cold TV studio. And there is so much to see at a Zappa show, and so much of the visual information is funny. Hearing Napoleon Murphy Brock and Bruce Fowler argue with their horns is bracing; watching it is hilarious.

I’m just old enough to remember when going to the Roxy was like this. People sat comfortably at tables, smoking, while waiters circulated with their backs to the stage, taking drink orders. (This is one of those rare cases where the past was actually better than the present.) However, I am nowhere near old enough to remember the denim-clad innocents and aging weirdos who apparently peopled the Sunset Strip during the early 70s. The audience participation, one of Roxy’s big treats, builds to an orgiastic climax on “Be-Bop Tango,” during which a “professional harlot” who has just entertained some of our boys at Edwards Air Force Base and original Hollywood freak Carl “Captain Fuck” Franzoni shake what the good Lord gave them (though He probably had other uses in mind).
 

 
Alex Winter, who is working on an authorized Zappa documentary, moderated the post-screening Q&A. Ralph Humphrey and Bruce Fowler came down from their seats to join the panel. Editor John Albarian, archivist (or “Vaultmeister”) Joe Travers and producer Jeff Stein explained that the over 40-year delay in the movie’s release was due to technical problems. A malfunction that took place four minutes into the first of the filmed concerts meant that the footage and sound could not be synced until the advent of digital technology; another glitch took out the crew’s intercom, with the result that much of what they shot bore no relationship to what was happening onstage (e.g., the camera is on Zappa’s foot while George Duke takes a solo). Albarian consequently had to do a lot of “cheating” in the editing room, which he said was made easier by the band’s wardrobe (black T-shirts and blue jeans every night). I couldn’t tell; more importantly, Humphrey, who like actually played these shows, told us he couldn’t tell either.

Ahmet Zappa introduced the film and joined the panel afterwards, and when he wasn’t fantasizing about sodomizing the Vaultmeister, he was sharing valuable information. He told us about a tape he’d recently heard of his father jamming with Eric Clapton in 1967 (“bonkers”); that his uncle says his late mother, Gail, saved America in her capacity as a CIA agent; and that Captain Beefheart once ended an argument with Frank by plunging his hands into an ice chest, letting the cubes slip between his fingers, and declaring “Diamonds!”

The conceptual continuity continues after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Comedy trolling genius interviews Cheech & Chong, Zappa, Boy George and McCartney

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Before Ali G, Borat and Keith Lemon, “Norman Gunston” was trolling celebrities with his bogus interviews for Australian television. Gunston was the madcap creation of actor-comedian Garry McDonald, who ambushed celebrities and probed them with his microphone and excruciatingly dumb questions.

Gunston made his first (brief) appearances on the Pythonesque Aunty Jack Show in 1972, before becoming the “legendary un-personality” on spin-off series Wollongong the Brave in 1974. With his shiny blue suit and his face covered with blood-spotted pieces of tissue paper, the beautifully observed Gunston was an instant hit.
 
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Gunston excited to be probing a Beatle.
 
Over the years, Norman Gunston interviewed Paul and Linda McCartney, Cheech and Chong (who he mistakes as comedy duo Morecambe and Wise), and Lee Marvin (caught in a airport terminal). Sometimes the stars played along—like a flirtatious Karen Black or Frank Zappa, who happily jammed with the harmonica-playing Gunston, or Muhammed Ali who said to Gunston “I’m punchy, what’s your excuse?” 

Occasionally, the celebs didn’t know how to handle Gunston—like an eyeballing Elliott Gould, or a confused Warren Beatty, but their desperate responses only add to the comedy.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Gary Lucas meets Captain Beefheart
10.05.2015
12:35 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Frank Zappa
Captain Beefheart
Gary Lucas


 
One of the nice things about editing this blog is when fun—and unexpected—things arrive in your inbox, like this delightful tale from grand guitarist Gary Lucas, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the live Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart album, Bongo Fury, which was released on October 2, 1975:

I’d originally met Don Van Vliet at Yale when I was an undergraduate there in the early 70’s. I was music director of their radio station WYBC in the fall of 1971, when he and his band came up to play a show at Yale around the release of The Spotlight Kid album, and I got the task to interview him and then do a hospitality meet-n-greet when the band arrived to play at Woolsey Hall (with performing monkeys as the opening act, I kid you not).

I had previously seen his NYC debut the previous year at a little club on the Upper West Side called Ungano’s in January 1971, and it changed my life. I vowed to myself that night:  “If I ever do anything in music, I want to play with this guy”—it was that life-affirming and radical of a show/presentation.

I always made a point after that to hang out with him backstage when he came around the NYC area to tour—I saw him at Town Hall several times with Bob Seger and Larry Coryell opening, also at the Academy of Music on 14th sandwiched between a then-fledgling Billy Joel and The J. Geils Band.

Don eventually gave me his phone number and we drew closer, with marathon phone conversations that would last an hour. We lost touch when he did his “Tragic Band” thing on Mercury. I didn’t have the heart to go see it live, having loved the old band and songs but in 1975 I was home in Syracuse NY when I saw in the newspaper that Don would be the special guest of Frank Zappa at the Syracuse War Memorial.

I had to see that—especially as his last words to me about Frank hadn’t been too favorable. He came out in the show and did the great cameos which are featured on Bongo Fury which came out later that year. He was still great!

When the show was over and they were packing up, I approached the stage and there he was, looking lost amidst the chaos, clutching a paper grocery bag filled with sketch books, harmonicas, cigarettes. I called his name and he yelled my name: “Gary!”—and came over and hugged me.

He was hungry and wanted to eat barbecue, so me and a pal drove him to a midnight barbecue pit known as “Tobe’s” that this old black guy Tobe Erwing ran after hours in his backyard in the ghetto of Syracuse,
you had to drive up a gravel road to get there. Amidst the midnight ribs chowdown, after Don, delighted by this scene, sang some a cappella blues while Tobe sat around looking bemused packing heat in his apron,
I revealed to Don that if he ever wanted to put his band back together I’d love to audition for it.

“You play the guitar?!?” he asked incredulously.

I’d never revealed this to him before as I was a) shy and b) didn’t want to offer my services until I was convinced I could handle his music, which I’d been secretly wood-shedding on.

“Come on up to Boston where I’m playing with Frank on Friday night, and bring your guitar” he instructed.

We caroused around some more in downtown Syracuse, eventually Don and myself bringing Frank back a bag of Tobe’s ribs (we found him in his bathrobe watching some cheesy Skiles and Henderson-like comedy duo in the top floor revolving restaurant of the Holiday Inn where they were staying).

I went home to crash about 6am, and got up around 10am to race back downtown to Syracuse University’s Crouse College Auditorium for the press conference of Frank and Don for invited students—the Soundcloud clip is just one excerpt from a fairly hilarious hour.

Later that week I duly took the Greyhound bus up to Boston with my ‘64 Stratocaster in tow… crashed with my Yale pal Bill Moseley (whom I ran a successful midnight horror film society with—Things That Go Bump in the Night—at Yale; Bill is now worldwide horror icon as Texas Chainsaw Massacre II‘s “Choptop” character, and has starred in a couple of Rob Zombie’s films). We went to see Frank’s Boston show with Don and then I went back to Don’s hotel room, where I proceeded to play for him.

“Great!! We’ll do it!” 

But when? He was vague… and I had a ticket to go to Taiwan in a few weeks to start work for my uncle (my parents attempt at shipping me off overseas to free me from the clutches of a 56-year-old Italian-American shaman-ess whom I’d been living with…)

We parted as friends—and I knew I was destined to play with him.

It did take a few years, but in 1980 things fell into place with Doc at the Radar Station …but that’s another story.

Guest post by Gary Lucas

Below, a brief excerpt from a Bongo Fury-related press conference at Crouse College of Music auditorium, Syracuse University, 4/23/75. My late friend Jamie Cohen (A&R maven for EMI, Columbia Records, and Private Music) was a student at Syracuse University back in 1975 when he asked Don Van Vliet this question at a press conference I also attended the morning after Frank Zappa and the Mothers—with special guest Captain Beefheart—performed at the Syracuse War Memorial:
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa really loved Black Sabbath’s ‘Supernaut’
09.10.2015
10:44 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Frank Zappa
Black Sabbath


Ozzy Osbourne backstage at the 1974 California Jam
 
Frank Zappa gave “Supernaut,” the ur-metal monster that ends the first side of Black Sabbath Vol. 4, the number one spot in his list of “faves, raves, and composers in their graves,” published in the June 1975 issue of Let It Rock:

‘Supernaut’: Black Sabbath. I think it’s from Paranoid. I like it because I think it’s prototypical of a certain musical style, and I think it’s well done. Also, I happen to like the guitar lick that’s being played in the background.

Eventually, Neil Slaven’s Zappa biography Electric Don Quixote reports, “Iron Man”—the Sabbath song Zappa chose to play in his DJ set on BBC Radio One in 1980—replaced “Supernaut” in the maestro’s affections:

A couple of years later, he’d changed his mind. He told Hugh Fielder, “‘Iron Man’. Are you kidding me? ‘Iron Man’! That’s a work of art. I used to like ‘Supernaut’ but I think ‘Iron Man’ is the one now.”

But in the mid-70s, it was strictly “Supernaut,” and the Sabs benefited from Zappa’s enthusiasm. Sabbath bassist and lyricist Geezer Butler, a Zappa fanatic who says his “musical life completely changed” when he first heard the Mothers of Invention at the age of fifteen, credits Zappa’s endorsement of “Supernaut” with changing critics’ attitudes toward the band:

I think some of them got an inkling when Frank Zappa did this interview in one of the big English music papers. They were asking him what music he was listening to at the time, and he said, “Black Sabbath.” And at the time, Frank Zappa was really well thought of critically. And I thought he was joking! (Laughs.) But he thought “Supernaut” [from 1972’s Black Sabbath, Vol. 4] was the best riff he’d ever heard. And a lot of critics went, “Well, if Zappa likes Black Sabbath, maybe we should give them another listen.”

 

Frank Zappa talking to Let It Rock magazine, 1975
 
On the strength of “Supernaut,” Zappa invited Black Sabbath to dinner, a Rashomon-like encounter that Ozzy and Tony Iommi recall differently in their memoirs. Everyone seems to agree that there was a party in an American city around 1974. Ozzy gives the short version of the story in Barney Hoskyns’ Into the Void:

Frank Zappa – who was a very techno guy – invited us to a restaurant once where he was having a party. He said, ‘The song “Supernaut” is my favourite track of all time.’ I couldn’t believe it – I thought, ‘This guy’s taking the piss: there’s got to be a camera here somewhere…’

The singer expanded on these remarks in I Am Ozzy, adding a lot of colorful detail:

Another crazy thing that happened around that time [1974] was getting to know Frank Zappa in Chicago. We were doing a gig there, and it turned out that he was staying at our hotel. All of us looked up to Zappa – especially Geezer – because he seemed like he was from another planet. At the time he’d just released this quadraphonic album called Apostrophe (’), which had a track on it called ‘Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow.’ Fucking classic.

Anyway, so there we were at this hotel, and we ended up hanging out with his band in the bar. Then the next day we got word that Frank wanted us to come to his Independence Day party, which was going to be held that night at a restaurant around the corner.

We could hardly wait.

So come eight o’clock, off we went to meet Frank. When we arrived at the restaurant, there he was, sitting at this massive table, surrounded by his band. We introduced ourselves, then we all started to get pissed. But it was really weird, because the guys in his band kept coming up to me and saying, ‘You got any blow? Don’t tell Frank I asked you. He’s straight. Hates that stuff. But have you got any? Just a toot, to keep me going.’

I didn’t want to get involved, so I just went, ‘Nah,’ even though I had a big bag of the stuff in my pocket.

Later, after we’d finished eating, I was sitting next to Frank when two waiters burst out of the kitchen, wheeling a massive cake in front of them. The whole restaurant went quiet. You should have seen that cake, man. It was made into the shape of a naked chick with two big, icing-covered tits – and her legs were spread wide apart. But the craziest thing about it was that they’d rigged up a little pump, so champagne was squirting out of her vagina. You could have heard a pin drop in that place until the band finally started to sing ‘America the Beautiful’. Then everyone had to have a ceremonial drink of the champagne, starting with Frank.

When it was my turn, I took a long gulp, screwed up my face, and said, ‘Ugh, tastes like piss.’

Everyone thought that was hilarious.

Then Frank leaned over and whispered in my ear, ‘Got any blow? It’s not for me – it’s for my bodyguard.’

‘Are you serious?’ I asked him.

‘Sure. But don’t tell the band. They’re straight.’

 

 
In Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath, Iommi records different memories of the first meeting with Zappa, including which song he singled out for praise. In his account, Iommi rushes through the dinner to get to the 1976 Madison Square Garden show where Zappa had planned to play with Sabbath:

We had met Frank Zappa at a party in New York a couple of years before. He took us all out to a restaurant, telling us how much he liked ‘Snowblind’. It was very kind of him and we became friends. On 6 December [1976] we played Madison Square Garden, with Frank introducing the band. He wanted to play as well. We’d put his stuff on stage but we had a really bad night. Frank was waiting to walk on and I thought, he can’t, it’s disastrous, everything is going wrong, my guitar is going out of tune, there’s noise and crackles and God knows what. So I said to him: ‘It would be best if you don’t play, really.’

Zappa, for his part, said that he had been prepared to play with Sabbath but declined because he didn’t get a soundcheck. Instead, he “introduced them and then sat by the side of the stage over by Ozzy’s orange juice.” (You can hear almost unintelligible audio of Zappa introducing “the rocking teenage combo known to the universe as Black Sabbath” on YouTube.) But this missed opportunity was not the final musical meeting between FZ and the Sabs. Iommi:

When I went to see [Zappa] once in Birmingham, he said: ‘I’ve got a surprise for you tonight.’

‘Ah?’

They played ‘Iron Man’. I was in the bar and I heard them play it and I thought, bloody hell! I went back out and I thought, I’ll thank him after the show. But he had such a bad night that he stormed off stage, really pissed off. So I thought, hmm, I don’t think I’m going to go back. Even so, it was a nice surprise.

It was announced this very morning that Frank Zappa’s Roxy: The Movie, which fans have waited patiently to see for decades, is finally getting released on DVD & Blu-Ray on October 30th by Eagle Rock Entertainment and the Zappa Family Trust.

Below, hear Sabbath’s outstanding 1975 set from Asbury Park, NJ. “Supernaut” begins at the 1:00:30 mark, followed immediately by “Iron Man.”
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa documentary announced: Will be directed by Alex Winter of ‘Bill & Ted’ fame
07.27.2015
04:44 pm

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Alex Winter


 
Alex Winter, best known for his roles in The Lost Boys and the two “Bill & Ted” movies with Keanu Reeves (and this infamous Butthole Surfers “home movie”), is developing a documentary on Frank Zappa, which he will direct from his own script and produce with Glen Zipper. The Zappa Family Trust has given its blessing to the untitled project.

Variety reports:

“There has yet to be a definitive, authorized documentary on the extraordinary life and work of Frank Zappa,” Winter said. “I am beyond thrilled to be embarking on this journey. Our tale will be told primarily in Frank’s own words; he will be our guide through this journey.”

Winter expects the doc to be finished in time for release in 2017.

“This is not an easy story to tell and we trust that Alex truly understands the complex and multi-faceted man that my father was,” Zappa’s son Ahmet Zappa said.

This is excellent news indeed and it’s been a long time coming.

Below, Frank Zappa and the original Mothers of Invention performing “King Kong” in Essen, Germany, 1968:

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘It Conquered the World’: The sci-fi atrocity that inspired Frank Zappa
07.03.2015
10:11 am

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Roger Corman


 
“Cheepnis,” from Roxy & Elsewhere, is probably the most upful rock number in Frank Zappa’s catalog, celebrating two of the maestro’s favorite pleasures: eating hot dogs and watching monster movies. The song begins with a short monologue about Roger Corman’s 1956 no-budget classic, It Conquered the World:

Let me tell you something, do you like monster movies? Anybody? I love monster movies. I simply adore monster movies, and the cheaper they are, the better they are. And cheapness, in the case of a monster movie, hsa nothing to do with the budget of the film—although it helps—but true cheapness is exemplified by visible nylon strings attached to the jaw of a giant spider. I’ll tell you a good one that I saw one time, I think the name of the film was IT CONQUERED THE WORLD. Did you ever see that one? The monster looks sort of like an inverted ice cream cone with teeth around the bottom. It looks like a teepee or sort of a rounded-off pup-tent affair, and it’s got fangs on the base of it, I don’t know why, but it’s a very threatening sight. And he’s got a frown, and, y’know, ugly mouth and everything, and there’s this one scene where the monster is coming out of a cave, see? There’s always a scene where they come out of the cave, at least once. And the rest of the cast—it must have been made around the 1950s—the lapels are about like that wide, the ties are about that wide, and they’re about this short, and they always have a little revolver that they’re gonna shoot the monster with, and there’s always a girl who falls down and twists her ankle. [Laughs] Of course there is! You know how they are. The weaker sex and everything, twisting their ankle on behalf of the little ice-cream cone. Well, in this particular scene—in this scene, folks, they didn’t want to retake it because it must have been so good, they wanted to keep it—but when the monster came out of the cave, just over on the left-hand side of the screen, you can see about this much two-by-four attached to the bottom of the thing as the guy is pushing it out. And then, obviously, off-camera somebody’s going “No, get it back!” and they drag it back just a little bit as the guy’s going [gunshots]. Now that’s cheapness. And this is “Cheepnis” here.

 

 
It’s hard to believe Peter Graves was ever this young. He plays the wholesome scientist Dr. Paul Nelson, who plays by the rules and approves of the status quo, as against his best friend Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef), the movie’s Promethean/Satanic figure, who wants to improve humanity by subjecting it to the rule of a superintelligent Venusian he talks to on his ham radio. To that end, he helps the space creature land in a cave in the West Valley, which it prefers to the doctors’ neighborhood, Beachwood Canyon (superintelligent, huh?). From its subterranean lair in Agoura Hills, the monster gives birth to space bats that enslave the powerful by biting their necks, and suddenly everyone’s a pod person. See what happens when you try to improve humanity? When will we ever learn to accept things exactly as they are?

Incidentally, Beverly Garland’s character, who Zappa remembers as “the girl who falls down and twists her ankle,” is the only badass in the movie; she tells the space creature “I hate your living guts!” and “I’ll see you in hell!” before she makes it eat lead. Also featured: the most clueless impersonation of a Mexican person in the history of celluloid.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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