Frank Zappa’s disastrous 1982 European tour ends with a full-scale riot
07:02 am
Frank Zappa’s disastrous 1982 European tour ends with a full-scale riot

Frank Zappa’s 1982 European tour was anything but conventional. Shows were booked in unusual venues with odd stage configurations that, on at least one occasion, contributed to violence breaking out. 

In May 1982, Frank and his group began their three-month European trek, which was in support of his latest album, Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. The record includes “Valley Girl,” FZ’s collaboration with his teenage daughter, Moon, which became a surprise hit. The European outing ended in mid-July after a number of concerts that didn’t exactly go as planned. The artwork for Zappa’s next album, The Man From Utopia, depicted the unpleasant events of the 1982 European tour.
The Man From Utopia
In Geneva, Frank ended a gig prematurely when the crowd wouldn’t stop throwing crap at the band, beginning with a lit cigarette. Some members of the audience—once they realized the show was over—began rioting, wrecking the stage in the process.   

The Milan concert was in a vacant lot held near a lake, and when the lights went up at the start of the gig, the stage was swarmed by mosquitoes, which the musicians spent the remainder of the show trying to swat away as they played. They also had to avoid something even worse, when used syringes were tossed onto the stage by fans shooting up in the front row. Fun, right?

The final concert of the tour took place on July 14th, 1982 at Stadio Comunale La Favorita, an Italian soccer stadium in Palermo, Sicily.
For some reason, the stage was set up in the middle of the stadium, with a large amount of empty space between the band and the audience. Fans quickly grew agitated, with some leaving their seats to sprint across the field in order to get close to the stage. Soon both the army and the police would step in to try and quell the crowd, but their tactics only riled up the audience more, resulting in a full-scale riot.

As the band were playing a new tune, “Cocaine Decisions,” they were startled by an unexpected noise in the crowd. The moment was included on You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3. Here’s Frank (taken from the set’s liner notes):

You can hear a loud ‘crack’ as the first tear gas grenade is launched, causing all of us to fumble in confusion momentarily. We couldn’t see what was going on out in the middle of the soccer field. The army and the local police (who didn’t like each other, and were completely uncoordinated) began a random process of blasting these little presents into the crowd. We could see fires in the distant bleachers. Tear gas seeped onto the stage. We continued the show in spite of this.

A good portion of the exceptional 2014 documentary, Summer ‘82: When Zappa Came to Sicily, is devoted to the Palermo concert. The movie was authorized by the Zappa estate, and features film from the infamous gig. We’ve scored a great clip from the doc, which begins just before the authorities make their presence known. In the segment, we hear from fans who were there, as well as FZ guitarist Steve Vai. We also see Frank’s now adult daughter, Moon, and his widow, Gail, watching the Palermo footage intently, as the tension rises.

The gig was a sort of homecoming for FZ, as his father and grandfather were born in the Palermo town of Partinico, which Frank visited before the show. In Summer ‘82: When Zappa Came to Sicily, Gail and Moon, along with two of Frank’s other children, Dweezil and Diva, go to Partinico, where they meet their Italian relatives—just one of many emotional moments captured in the film. Summer ‘82: When Zappa Came to Sicily has just been released on Blu-ray, and if you’re a Zappa freak (and I assume you are, since you’ve read this far), I highly suggest you pick up a copy. Get it through MVD or on Amazon.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Cocksuckers’ Ball’: The story behind the X-rated ‘50s doo wop song that was covered by Frank Zappa
Your Mother Should Know: Newly unearthed 1967 Frank Zappa interview taped at a Detroit head shop

Posted by Bart Bealmear
07:02 am



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