It seems like only yesterday I was at a double feature of 200 Motels and Baby Snakes in Santa Monica and Gail Zappa was taking questions from the audience between movies. A scruffy guy sitting in front of me wanted to know: like, what did it mean that Frank’s birthday was December 21? With commendable equanimity and poise, she replied that her late husband had been a Sag, for sure.
Has it really been seven years since those innocent, care- and money-free days? No picnic, but I’ll say this for the Great Recession: at least it was more “Cheap Thrills” than “Concentration Moon.” Gail Zappa was then breathing air, as was Negativland’s Don Joyce, whose KPFA radio show “Over the Edge” became my first podcast subscription right around that time. But look at Don now, resting in that plastic baggie on my shelf. A picture of health he is not.
In March of ‘95, a little over a year after Frank Zappa’s death, Joyce and Phineas Narco devoted an episode of “Over the Edge” to the composer’s life and work. After playing a tape of Zappa’s 1963 appearance on The Steve Allen Show—the whole thing, with a minimum of manipulation—the pair then go full Negativland on a treasury of primary and secondary sources. For five hours, everything Zappa goes into the blender, from Lumpy Gravy and the Synclavier to interviews and glib, stupid obituaries delivered by 1993 media personalities.
The embed below is courtesy of the National Cynical Network, but the show is also available (without track markers) in the Over the Edge Radio collection at Internet Archive. Meat Light, a remastered and expanded edition of 1969’s stone classic Uncle Meat, is the latest release in the Zappa Family Trust’s Project/Object Audio Documentary Series. Happy belated birthday, Frank (and Edgard Varèse).