June 21, 2007

Think of a vegetable, lonely at home....

50 comments:

Drew W said...

Oh, Prof. Althouse, your references to the Mothers Of Invention make my Zappaphilic heart beat true.

I'm sure you would have preferred the original 1967 Absolutely Free version with Ray Collins on vocals, but I'm unaware of any film that exists of that. The clip you linked to features ex-Turtles Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (aka Flo & Eddie), on lead vocals from one of the '71 tours. (And this version still features the quote from Holst's "The Planets" -- right before the guitar solo -- although FZ doubletimed and somewhat re-harmonized it on that tour.) This video clip sounds identical to the audio version from live album Just Another Band From LA. -- never knew that existed. Sorry to publicize my obsessions like this, but this blog makes more Zappa-references than I ever would ever have imagined.

But let's face it, in the surrealist arena, vegetables make for splendid subject matter.

After trousers, that is.

David53 said...

"Call and they'll come to you
Covered with dew
Vegetables dream
Of responding to you"

Zappa was a musical genius.

Who can forget Dynamo Hum, Suzy Creamcheese. or Don't You Eat that Yellow Snow?

Ann Althouse said...

I like all the versions. The 1971 period is a special favorite of mine. I've listened to "Live at the Fillmore East" ("the one with the pencil on the cover") hundreds of times... And "Just Another Band From L.A." too. But I love the early albums. I was a big Mothers fan in the 60s, and saw them at the Fillmore East in June 1969.

Jeffrey said...

Ann,

I belong to your cohort group and have also especially enjoyed those early Zappa records. Great musical compostions to which are added sometimes light and sometimes biting satire. What's not to like? Take, for example, a few verses from "Who Needs the Peace Corps?"

What's there to live for?
Who needs the peace corps?
Think I'll just DROP OUT
I'll go to Frisco
Buy a wig & sleep
On Owsley's floor

Walked past the wig store
Danced at the Fillmore
I'm completely stoned
I'm hippy & I'm trippy
I'm a gypsy on my own
I'll stay a week & get the crabs &
Take a bus back home
I'm really just a phony
But forgive me
'Cause I'm stoned

Every town must have a place
Where phony hippies meet
Psychedelic dungeons
Popping up on every street
GO TO SAN FRANCISCO . . .

How I love ya, How I love ya
How I love ya, How I love ya Frisco!
How I love ya, How I love ya
How I love ya, How I love ya
Oh, my hair is getting good in the back!


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billy b said...

Ms. Althouse, just so you know - Frank hated republics.

He wasn't much a fan of any politician, but he hated republics.

Theo Boehm said...

I was a big Mothers fan in the 60s, and saw them at the Fillmore East in June 1969.

Professor A: That speaks very well of you!

People either love or hate Zappa, and the feeling was even more intense among music students when I was a composition major at the time. Letting on I liked Zappa got about the same reaction as from the trolls in the current Clenis vortex. (BTW, Clenis is a perfect Zappa word)

An old accompanist of mine from my California flute-playing days wound up playing keyboards for Zappa during his last European excursion in '92. I knew her as someone who could read thoroughbass on the harpsichord like a flash, play Bach like an angel, and improvise brilliantly in a half-dozen historical styles. It didn't hurt she looked like Scarlett Johansson, only better. Zappa was known for surrounding himself with massively competent musicians, and that was certainly the case here. Those LA studio musicians! I think we were both lucky, especially me, but it gave me a real insight into the level of musicianship behind Zappa's work.

The thing that drove people crazy about Zappa is related to what drives them nuts about Althouse. You just couldn't pigeonhole the guy. Was he joking? Was that as stupid as it sounded? Whoa! There's a whole other layer of meaning in that. And those players are really, really good. He's playing aleatoric jazz and using 12-tone techniques with a rock band. He can't be serious. He's messing with my mind!

And let's not forget Rubin and the Jets, the album that literally sent me to the hospital, because I popped a surgical stitch the first time I heard it.

If you decide to leave me,
It's all over....

Steven said...

billy b: So what did he prefer, monarchies?

dave™© said...

I assume you posted this because you couldn't find any Napoleon XVI?

Jeffrey said...

I would like to add that Zappa satirized and mimicked muscial forms and styles that, in truth, he really loved. In "Status Back Baby," "You Didn't Try to Call Me," and "Wowie Zowie," for example, he dips back into what he had lovingly learned as a zoot-suited doo-wopper. What resulted then by the time of his first two studio albums was a series of strange sendups. Half fond appreciation and half joking.

You laughed at the lyrics but your foot kept tapping to his changing compositions and tributes to his earlier roots. And that's one aspect of his career that sets him apart from the rest of his generation.

Here are a few verses from "You Didn't Try to Call Me":

You make me feel
So excited, girl
I got so hung up on you
From the moment that we met,
That no matter how I try,
I can't keep the tears
From running down my face,
I'm all alone at my place

You didn't try to call me
Why didn't ya try, didn't ya try
Didn't ya know I was lonely?
(Baby . . . )
Why didn't ya try, didn't ya try


If you remember the instrumentation and composition of that song, you'll surely note Frank's pure enjoyment in both the form and content of the late-fifties pop hit. Of course, he also goofs around not a little when he appends at the end:

I dig you so much, man, why didn't you call me
If you could have seen me in the afternoon
I was hung up, I even washed the car
I, I reprimered the right front fender, man
We were gonna go, we were gonna go out
And get some root beer afterwards, man
(Baby!)
And I was gonna show everybody my new carburettor
(Baby!)
And you didn't try to call me
(Girl!)


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Roost on the Moon said...

He wrote in his autobiography that the only thing more enjoyable than conducting a good orchestra was singing doo-wop and hearing the chords come out right.

My favorite line from Freak Out:

You tore a big hole in your convertable top/
What will you tell your mom and pop?

"Ma, I tore a big hole in the convertable."

Jeffrey said...

Theo,

The thing that drove people crazy about Zappa is related to what drives them nuts about Althouse. You just couldn't pigeonhole the guy. Was he joking? Was that as stupid as it sounded? Whoa! There's a whole other layer of meaning in that. And those players are really, really good. He's playing aleatoric jazz and using 12-tone techniques with a rock band. He can't be serious. He's messing with my mind!

That's really spot-on. As I argue above, any musical style was fair-game for Zappa and, while he broke expectations in the lyrics, he often showed fidelity to the origins of the chosen style. In "Trouble Every Day," for example, he stays glued to the blues guitar riff that holds the song together while adding very biting lyrical content on top. And the harmonica is classic howling counnterpoint to the guitar buzz-sawing. Ever Frank, he intones, "Blow that harmonica, boy."

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Jeffrey said...

Oops.

I just listened to "Trouble Every Day" and Frank says, "Blow your harmonica, son."

Roost,

You tore a big hole in your convertable top/
What will you tell your mom and pop?


That is classic. Zappa was an American original. One needs only to compare him to some of the more ponderous Krautrock (much of which I like, it should be acknowledged) that was being made around the same time. Can's "Tago Mago," for example, while a great album, lacks any of the odd humor that you will find in any Zappa album. In fact, there never will be a German Frank Zappa. Why? The Importance of Being Ernest in Deutschland. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Can's "Tago Mago" is fine too.

For comparison, a video of Can's "Mushroom."

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Theo Boehm said...

Jeffrey: Excellent points about Zappa and this music in general.

Do you write or blog about music?

Your writing about music is quite good, and I wouldn't mind seeing more of it.

Ann Althouse said...

I used to have a convertible back in 1969 -- a 1961 Chevy Impala -- and it got a hole in the top. This guy friend of mine said to me "You tore a big hole in your convertible top, what will you tell your mom and pop?" So, naturally, I said (deadpan) "Mom, I tore a big hole in the convertible." The guy freaked out and thought it was the most bizarre thing, because he did not take account of the possibility that I knew the album "Freak Out." People are not prepared for the deadpan remark.

Hazy Dave said...

Way to educate Ann on FZ, billy. Pfft. I bet you know what he thought of Tipper Gore, too. Ooh, *snap*, trademark, but I think you mean Napoleon XIV.

Parenthetically, I think I originally discovered Lilek's website through the Art Frahm section where the "stalk of celery isn't always just a stalk of celery" theme is explored...

http://www.lileks.com/institute/frahm/index.html

mickey said...

Althouse - dear, are you feeling ok? Everytime I stop by, you look redder. Or are you just embarrassed?

XWL said...

Just yesterday I linked and quoted from a 1988 Zappa interview.

Here's a quote I didn't quote, but seems relevant;

What I'm asking people to do is simply this: In your own way, in your own life, every day, you are confronted with a piece of data. Don't just eat it up. Just think about it for a minute. You have the right to process your own information based on the equipment that you were born with. That's your right. That's real freedom. You have the right to make up your own mind. Now, if you choose to numb yourself, and to be bamboozled, you have the right to be bamboozled. But in your state of bamboozlement, you do not have the right to be a liability, because of your self-imposed ignorance, on other people who might want to do things the right way. If you voluntarily choose to be a numbskull, for whatever reason you have chosen it, that's fine. You have the right to be stupid, but you don't have the right to harm other people as a result of your stupidity. And you don't have the right to legislated your stupidity into existence, to force it on other people who have a clearer view of what things are. .

But for those that want to make him a Democrat, this might be troubling;

That's perverting the concept of what conservatism is. True conservatism is the guy who wants smaller government and lower taxes, and that's me. And everything else that has been appliqued on to that term has more to do with religious fanaticism and Fascist politics, and stuff like that. "Conservative" is the wrong word. I don't think that Americans, in the way they think of themselves as being nice, kind, free, fair, good-natured, jolly little individuals, would willingly opt for Fascism, but they could easily be tricked into it. All you have to do is tell them that it's a candy apple, or whatever the lies are that are going on right now. Literally, they are being molded into something that is as potentially dangerous to the rest of the world as Nazi Germany was in the Thirties and Forties. But tricked into it by people who have just lulled them into this false sense of security, and they wave a little American flag over it and everybody just has this knee-jerk reaction that they've got to buy it. .

That's pox on both their houses territory, but he's clearly closer to the small libertarian fringe of the GOP than any constituency represented by the Democratic Party.

(and does a party whose frontrunner won't even let their spouse eat onion rings sound like a party that wants to increase personal freedoms?)

ethan said...

Ann Althouse:

You have HOT milkbags!

Roost on the Moon said...

That's pox on both their houses territory, but he's clearly closer to the small libertarian fringe of the GOP than any constituency represented by the Democratic Party.

He's clearly closer? He'd have nothing to do with the GOP in his own lifetime, in fact saw it taking on disturbing aspects of fascism. You think he'd support them now? In these days of enhanced interrogation techniques (imagine how he would've pronounced that!) and preemptive war?

If he were alive now, and it's a crying shame he isn't, he'd be as vilified as Michael Moore is, and by the same people.

Hazy Dave said...

I seem to recall that FZ was approached by some libertarian types to run for some office, but declined when it became clear he'd be expected to Conform to the Ideology.

Theo Boehm said...

Roost: I think he's be vilified by some of the same people. For my part, I can't stand Michael Moore for a lot of reasons, none of which have to do with the usual left-right divide. But, as you can tell, I'm a big Zappa fan.

Zappa's political analysis seems more and more to have a ring of prophecy about it, sadly.

But Zappa, ever the artist, would not be pigeonholed in others' crude categories. As far as I can tell, he was for freedom—from censorship, hypocrisy, religious bigotry, stupid wars, and humbug and cant in general. It is very hard to say which political party represents that these days.

Enough of politics! I'm just rummaging around looking for that old DVD of 200 Motels. I just want to hear Kathy Berberian sing "Munchkins Get Me Hot" again.

Ann Althouse said...

Hazy, Theo, etc.: You're reminding me of something I said back in 2005: there's something inherently right-wing about the artist's mindset.

George said...

Let's go one step beyond Frank....

Momma was flatten'n lard
With her red enamel rollin' pin
When the fishhead broke the window
Rubber eye erect 'n precisely detailed
Airholes from which breath should come
Is now closely fit
With the chatter of the old fart inside

Capt. Beefheart.

Mitch said...

Zappa got me through high school. It was such a comfort knowing that there was someone out there who was even weirder.

Zappa hated the Nixon-era "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" Republicans as much as I did. He had no use for the nanny state, though, regardless of party affiliation – remember his confrontations with Tipper Gore about censoring music? "A couple of blow-jobs here and there and Bingo! - you get a hearing." The whole point of politics, as far as he was concerned, was to not f**k things up too extravagantly and to stay out of his hair. I concur.

Jeffrey said...

Theo,

Thanks for the nice comment. No, I don't blog about music, but I have thought about music from time to time. I'm about five or six years younger than Ann, so instead of seeing Zappa in 1969 I saw him in 1975 when I was nineteen. Zappa, with his trademark thick mustache and fat goatee, was standing tall in the center of the stage, surrounded by his mad crew (Ansley Dunbar on drums, I recall), playing his Gibson SG and leading the band. It wasn't the original Mothers lineup, but it was pretty good, nonetheless.

What I always find a bit shocking is how early those first albums were. "Freak Out!" is from 1966. A year before the "Summer of Love" and already Zappa was lampooning what we can only call "counter-culture conformism," right? As you said, what makes Zappa unique was his irritation with ANY KIND of infringement on his personal freedoms. He didn't like acid and he said so (even if others around him thought he was an up-tight jerk for not "tuning in" and "dropping out"). Back in those days, if you went to a party and announced that you neither smoked reefer nor dropped hallucinogenics, you were surely some kind of square. And THAT conformity bothered Zappa.

Conformity or solidarity. Sometimes the edges are blurry, aren't they? I remember that, in the Midwest, back in those days when I was going to Zappa concerts, my friends and I used to wear these long greatcoats that our grandfathers had worn a few decades earlier. All of us wore them. It was a sign of solidarity, I guess, taking something from the past that others would never have been caught dead in and wearing them as our group marker. Conformity or solidarity? I'm not sure how popular greatcoats were but I do seem to recall Hot Tuna wearing them on a cover of one of their albums.

I hope we can talk some more about Zappa.

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Jeffrey said...

In 1975 it had to be Terry Bozzio, not Dunbar, on drums.

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TMink said...

OK, I love Frank. But I prefer Brian's vegetables.

Both were American classics, and dmans could two white guys be more different?

Trey

reader_iam said...

Zappa.

: )

!!!

lee david said...

Ann

Are you sure that you saw Zappa at The Fillmore East in June of 69.

My show list for the F.E. has The Mothers of Invention playing on the following dates with these other acts on the bill.

4/19&20/68 with James Cotton

2/21&22/69 with Buddy Miles Express and Chicago Transit Authority

5/8&9/70 with Insect Trust and Sea Train

11/13&14/70 with Sha-Na-Na and JF Murphy& Free Flowing Salt

6/5&6/71 with The Hampton Grease Band and Head Over Heels
(special guests on the 6/5 show were John Lennon and Yoko Ono)

Do you remember the other acts on the bill that night? Did you see any other shows there? It is quite possible that we may have been in that building at the same time. I never was a big Zappa Fan though I did appreciate his professionalism. I remember very clearly watching him rehearse his band at the F.E. one afternoon. He had charts written out for everything and was quite meticulous about getting everyone playing what he had written. He stood on the orchestra floor with his guitar the charts on the front of the stage and sort of conducted looking up at his band on stage.

Ann Althouse said...

Lee: I'm reconstructing my memory based on this list. I know it was 1969 and I'm almost positive the weather was warm. If I'm right, the other acts were Chicago and the Youngbloods and it was June 13 or 14.

I'm sure I saw Chicago, but I can see there was a February concert that had Chicago as well. So the question is do I remember the Youngbloods or the Buddy Miles Express. I think I remember the Buddy Miles Express, but only because I feel like I once saw BB King at the Fillmore, but looking at the concerts he played, I know I never went to one.

So what counts more, my feeling that the weather was warm or my feeling that I saw BB King? I do remember that Zappa wore skinny red velvet pants. Can someone check into this?

Looking over that list, I know I saw the concert where Miles Davis opened for Neil Young, and the one where the New Riders opened for the Grateful Dead, both in 1970. I wish I had lived in NYC then, because there are so many concerts I wish I'd seen... and some really weird combinations.

Theo Boehm said...

Jeffrey: Well, it's too bad you don't at least blog, because IMHO you're one of the better writers who's shown up here in Althousia.

Anyway, you've really nailed it about Zappa's cultural antennae. His Southern California freak sensibility was way ahead of a lot of things and had great fun with hippies.  Some of the less ironic-challenged among us were already into self-parody by 1966, the year I graduated from high school.  Freak Out! just seemed to emerge logically from the Zeitgeist.  And then there was Absolutely Free, still my favorite, and the source of much classic Zappa, including our vegetables.

I swear it seemed We're Only in it for the Money showed up within hours of Sgt. Pepper.  I remember a lot of people were offended, but, again, the cynical among us were mightily amused.

I think one important thing about Zappa is the sheer quantity of his work.  He worked long hours every day in his studio, and it shows.  I own a large collection of his music, plus 200 Motels and other videos, and it feels like it would take days to get through it all.

Althouse's point about artists' interests being essentially right-wing is an interesting one.  Zappa's conversion to a sceptical view of government seems to have stemmed from his arrest for pornography for making a "sex" audio tape with a female friend.  Shades of Lenny Bruce.  Some artists have tumbled to the conclusion that the same government that has overweening power to take care of you will also inevitably have the power to squash you like a bug.  This is a perennial problem for those of us concerned about both artistic freedom and the solution of societal problems.

My own epiphany came about one day when, as a struggling musician with a side business of keyboard repair and harpsichord building, an OSHA inspector showed up at my little workshop.  I ended up getting fined $1200, which nearly killed me financially, and which was for total bullshit.  It dawned on me that the same Federal Government that had just finished trying to kill me for the lost cause of the Vietnam War would also descend with all its majesty on me, the starving artist, and attempt to ruin my life for unbelievably stupid reasons.

We won't go into what fun the IRS had with me, the freelance musician and *ahem* small business owner.

So, as a person who basically believes in the necessity of an active government, I've been living with the contradictions ever since.  Color me concerned.  Color me socially aware.  But color me a deep shade of skeptical.

Another reason Zappa calls out to me.

Jeffrey said...

Theo,

Like Ann, I tried to lock down when exactly I saw Frank Zappa and, to my surprise, the closest date for Frank Zappa at the Field House in Iowa City, Iowa, is September 24, 1977! It looks like I was only off by ... TWO YEARS! Oh boy, I guess I bogarted that joint one too many times.

I think one important thing about Zappa is the sheer quantity of his work. He worked long hours every day in his studio, and it shows.

No kidding. And his tours were long too.

I swear it seemed We're Only in it for the Money showed up within hours of Sgt. Pepper. I remember a lot of people were offended, but, again, the cynical among us were mightily amused.

That's beautiful. I can only imagine the torture it must have been for Zappa to listen to Lennon's "Imagine."

Hey, who were the other rock musicians that you listened to in those days? Among your classically trained friends, whose music did you admire for its structure? Did you guys follow any of the jazz-rock fusion bands? The group Yes? McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra? Or Jeff Beck? I saw Jeff Beck in 1974 and he was a very fine live guitarist. He used the entire fretboard -- and NOT in runs up and down the fretboard in a blur -- and his melodic ear was great (I also saw Clapton around the same time and, in my opinion, Beck was a better guitarist). Unfortunately he was playing with Jan Hammer, a organist for whom another note cannot possibly be played too many times. Or the quasi-classical folk music like Pentacle?

By the mid-seventies, you'll recall, rock music was again trying to figure out which way to go. More muscianship? More stage shows? I saw Jethro Tull around this time and it was a very entertaining performance. Return to older forms? More singer-songwriters? More super-groups?

In 1975 both Neil Young's "Tonight's the Night" and Jeff Beck's "Blow by Blow" were issued. One a low-key, honest assessment of some of the wreckage coming out of the sixties, and the other a guitarist's dreamscape with a really tight rhythm section (and NO words).

But there was one other album that was released that year, Patti Smith's Horses.

Which way would rock music go from there?

Who could have predicted 1976 and 1977?

1976: The Ramones' eponymous first album.

1977: Television's "Marquee Moon," Elvis Costello's "My Aim is True," the Strangler's "Rattus Norvegicus," and the Sex Pistols' "Never Mind the Bollocks."

I don't think anyone saw that coming.

Okay, let's keep talking.

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Jeffrey said...

Theo,

So, as a person who basically believes in the necessity of an active government, I've been living with the contradictions ever since.

As are we all. Measuring, monitoring, and trying to get the balance right between a government that offers us as much freedom to pursue our own goals as possible and a government that protects us from others who may have bad intentions will never cease. And that's a good thing. And, of course, the question of how much meddling we will put up with from a government going about its duties.

Stirred by your reference to Sgt. Pepper's, I also wondered whether the logical extension of Lennon's "Imagine" might not be Mogahishu, Somalia. No government, no rules. Just warlords. If a warlord in Mogadishu isn't "living for today," then no one is.

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Jeffrey said...

Theo,

Let me add before I forget. As a rock musician, Zappa was a very good composer with an understanding of what music can do that many of his contemporaries could only dream about. At the same time, he was not a great guitarist. I recall in concert that he often resorted to the dreaded "noodling." Duane Allman, Jeff Beck, and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, to name just three, were much better guitar players and they rarely resorted to noodling.

You want an example of smoking but non-noodling guitar solo?

Here's some guitarist playing one of the leads from Steely Dan's "Bodhisattva."

I'm not sure if it's Denny Dias's or Jeff Baxter's, but it really is an imaginative lead instead of running up and down a few scales as fast as one can.

By the way, even though we've just met, you can certainly disagree with me.

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TMink said...

"At the same time, he was not a great guitarist."

Hmmm, the solo on Inca Roads is incredible, I also liked his "Shut Up and Play Guitar" series which I have on vinyl. Noodling is boring, and I am sure Frank noodled on occasion, but I bet they all have on a given night.

There is a story about Steve Vai, someone who knows his way around the frets, who passed the time on a bus trip writing out the Inca Roads solo in tab from memory.

I really liked Frank's guitar work. He always said he was not that fast, but his left hand made up for it.

Just my opinion.

Trey

Jeffrey said...

Trey,

Okay, that's a good challenge. To be honest, I don't know if I recall that lead from "Inca Roads." Let me locate that now and listen to it.

I'll get back to you. I'm willing to change my opinion when presented with convincing evidence. I was going by memory of seeing both Beck and Zappa in concert at around the same time. Listen, Zappa's compositions and instrumentation and pure playfulness were better than Beck's, of course. But I simply thought live Beck was far more fascinating to watch. I was in a high-school rock band and knew my way a bit around the fretboard myself. We played songs like "Stormy Monday" and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" by the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," and for slow-dancing at the proms that old staple, "Whiter Shade of Pale." Gibson sunburst Les Paul.

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Jeffrey said...

Trey,

I'm signed up to this music download website out of Russia called GoMusic and I was able to listen to "Inca Roads" for 0.19 cents. Nice, right? Okay, that solo was very nice. Thanks for the tip. I just may have to modify my opinion.

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Theo Boehm said...

I think I have to agree with Trey.  Zappa had his limitations as a guitar player, obviously, but his left hand indeed made up for it.  A lot of his music is very linear, and he was the master of playing his long, complex lines.  It could sound like noodling, but I think it's generally more jazz-inspired and really out there than just doodles on the fretboard.

Jeffrey:  Sorry I'm falling down on this discussion, as I'm putting these comments up during breaks during a programming project.  I've got to be careful lest the programming project turn into breaks from commenting on Althouse.   Actually, this is inspiring me to revive my own blog, where this is exactly the kind of conversation I would like to have.  I'll put my profile and blog back up this weekend, and if you're inclined, we might continue in that venue.  I know it's bad netiquette to link or solicit for one's own blog in someone else's comments, but I think this long Zappa talk could wear out pretty quickly in the fast-moving Althouse world.  I've been around here forever, and heaven knows, I'm not a spammer.

Trey:  You have One Size Fits All on vinyl?  I know we're both Christians, you Protestant, me Catholic.  You must understand I'm trying very hard not to break the Tenth Commandment.  Do you think that includes not coveting thy neighbor's LP's?

Jeffrey said...

Trey,

If you like guitar work, I think you'll love this YouTube treat. The Allman Brothers' "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed." It's broken into two parts at YouTube. The basic structure of the song is built on four jazz chords, but the solos are in a blues idiom. In that high-school band I played in, we had an organist with a Hammond B-3 (and a Leslie, both of which we had to carry up many flights of steps, I recall). We got a good approximation of Greg Allman's playing too.

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed -- with Dicky Betts solo.

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed -- with Duane Allman solo.

Enjoy.

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Jeffrey said...

Trey,

I think I have to agree with Trey. Zappa had his limitations as a guitar player, obviously, but his left hand indeed made up for it. A lot of his music is very linear, and he was the master of playing his long, complex lines. It could sound like noodling, but I think it's generally more jazz-inspired and really out there than just doodles on the fretboard.

After listening to "Inca Roads," I've started to temper my opinion. You're right about the long lines and using a staccato style with his pick on the right hand. Duane Allman did the same thing. One thing I look for in solos is the soloist's melodic lines. In "Inca Roads" Zappa shows a very fine melodic touch.

Hey, I'm listening to this stuff for the first time in a long time. Very enjoyable. Hey, if you're blogging, just add a link.

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Jeffrey said...

Here's another great YouTube clip.

Jeff Beck and Clapton together doing a blues number, "Further Up the Road," but Beck rips off some fantastic leads and Clapton can only smile and shake his head. Um, and Clapton is no slouch on guitar, right?

Whew. It's good.

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TMink said...

Fellas, no argument that Jeff Beck is a better guitar player than Frank. Now sometimes Jeff gets drawn into the dark side of flash over substance, but who is perfect.

I just meant to say that Frank is a fine player as well, and I love listening to him play. He played a fretless guitar on "San Ber'dino" from "One Size Fits All" that sounds like good slide guitar. I think he plays it on another cut there too.

I also appreciate Carlos Santana, who does not play many lines that I cannot, but he pours so much wonderful tone and soul into it that it is transcendent. So I guess there are different ways of being a great guitarist.

For me, emotional communication is right up there with technique and cleverness. Course, Frank never really made me feel like crying, but he was so clever and funny and entertaining.

Theo, believers are believers, so that makes us brothers. But I am old, 47, so most of my music is on vinyl! Part of it is cool, and part of it is just being middle aged! And part of it is being cheap and buying clean used records for $4 then burning them to my iPod.

It is good to have some of the old releases because Frank remixed and I think rerecorded some parts from the old stuff when he re-released it. "We're Only In It For The Money" and "Freak Out" sound very different on the two releases. I know he was an unrepetent tinkerer, but it is a bit jarring to hear the two back to back, like different conductors or orchestras with different take on a classical piece.

Trey

Jeffrey said...

Trey,

I just meant to say that Frank is a fine player as well, and I love listening to him play.

Me too. I just meant to say that when I saw Beck play live his solo leads were more inventive than Zappa's. Zappa's all-round understanding of composition and arrangement, of course, is far better than Beck's.

I also appreciate Carlos Santana, who does not play many lines that I cannot, but he pours so much wonderful tone and soul into it that it is transcendent.

Do you play guitar? After I was in that high-school rock band, I played for a couple years more in college but then decided to quit to devote more time to my studies. I sold the Les Paul and one of those old yellow-covered Fender amps. I stopped playing for a couple decades, but then a few years ago I bought an acoustic and started playing a little again. Who knows, I may buy an electric again. Oh yeah, I'm three years older than you, so you're just a young feller in my eyes. Heh heh. Speaking of Santana, of course we played "Black Majic Woman."

So I guess there are different ways of being a great guitarist.

Absolutely.

Course, Frank never really made me feel like crying, but he was so clever and funny and entertaining.

Again, those albums with the first Mothers lineup always made me laugh and, at the same time, listen intently to what the heck they were doing.

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TMink said...

Jeffrey, I play AT guitar! I was in the requsite bands in High School, and a couple in college, just for laughs really.

I do play now, my calluses are up to snuff. Just for me and the family. When I am quite angry, I look for a time when the family is out of the house and turn the volume to 11 and work out some aggression.

Do you miss that yellow fender amp? How about the Les Paul? I have an old musicman, a semi-hollow ibanez, a Taylor 701, and a nice tube fender blues man amp. Mostly I play acoustic.

Nice chatting with you, I appreciate the time to think and talk about Frank, it has led me to listen to more of his music lately.

Trey

Ann Althouse said...

I'm glad you guys are still in here, talking about music.

Theo Boehm said...

I'm glad you guys are still in here, talking about music.

Yes we are, or at least Trey and Jeffrey have been.  I'm afraid I fell down on my end of things a bit.  I was going to reopen my blog and perhaps start a musical discussion, inspired by this thread. But I got sidetracked by the onion ring vortex, the fact that I still can't do what I want to with my damn Blogger template. And there's that annoying intrusion, "real life."

Frank Zappa is always a good conversation-starter, as he occupies an interesting nexis between concert ("classical") music, jazz, and rock.  There's something in all genres to love and hate about him.  It's great there are a couple of really knowledgeable people here.  I was especially surprised about Trey, as I had no idea he was that into music.

In any event, I'm afraid I'm kind of burnt out by this venue, if not this discussion.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm a big Althouse fan and somewhat regular commenter.  It's just that this template is hard to write anything of any length in.  That's usually a virtue, but there are some things that require space, and musical discussions are, to me, one of them.  I'm also trying to set up my blog so it's possible to play clips, and attempting to set up a template that encourages somewhat longer writing without being an eye-blinding space hog.

So, Jeffrey, if you're interested, please check my profile every few days.  At some point my blog should be back online.  I would also encourage you to set up your own blog, as you have quite a bit to say, and you say it well.

Jeffrey said...

Ann,

Hey, just keep the light on for us. We're still talking.

Trey,

One thing I haven't talked about but is kind of interesting, I think, was the fear one felt going into a music store back then to check out the guitars. Maybe it's because I was from a small town and didn't get into cities to check out guitars very often, but I do remember the anxiety upon entering those shops and then pulling down a Strat, for example, to check out. I always felt that everyone else in the shop had one ear cocked on me to check out my chops.

Did you ever feel that? Or was it just me? I usually had a group of songs I'd play to check out the guitars. On acoustics I'd play "Can't Find My Way Home" and a few blues numbers. On electrics I'd play some of the harder passages from some of the Allman Brothers songs. But inevitably some guy would saunter into the store, nod to the cashier, and pull down a guitar and absolutely rip off a great lead. Meanwhile, I'm sitting there feeling as if I had just started to learn guitar.

Yeah, I do miss that Les Paul. It was HEAVY. No problem keeping your balance with that thing around your neck. I miss those days of putting on a new pack of strings on it and that sharp sound you'd get and the way the guitar would hold the tunings.

Those days in the high-school rock band were really fun. We were a six-piece band and we used two old vans to drive to gigs. We played in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. We played lots of high-school dances and in the summertime VFW halls and places like that. None of us had really traveled very much at that point, so we were just excited to pull into any small town to play.

Once we went to a battle of the bands, a two-day affair, if I remember right. Man, when we got there EVERYONE looked so much older than us. I think there were nine or ten bands. We were so nervous, but we played our best songs, and to our surprise we got third place. I remember the last performance by a band that was really, really good, older guys who looked like they had been touring for five years. I remember they absolutely ripped a Led Zeppelin song -- it could have been "Dazed and Confused." Anyway, after graduation, we all went our separate ways, but we still have all those fine memories.

And that old Fender amp -- a Tweed with a single speaker -- had a great sound. By the way, my first electric was a Fender MusicMaster, which had a shorter rosewood fretboard than the Strats and Telecasters.

I'm really thinking I should buy an electric again.

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Jeffrey said...

Theo,

So, Jeffrey, if you're interested, please check my profile every few days.

Will do.

And I see your point about Frank; he can lead one in so many different directions because of his huge catalog of styles and influences.

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TMink said...

I sure do remember being intimidated in the guitar stores. I had forgotten that. Now, I bring my wife and have her play the acoustic some so that I can hear the sound from the listeners perspective.

Yep, those Les Paul's were heavy! Lots of great sustain from those. My little Musicmaster is like a pocket guitar, the neck is so small and easy to wrap around. It is not really in playing shape right now, I should take it to Gruhn and get it fixed up.

Trey

Jeffrey said...

Trey,

I sure do remember being intimidated in the guitar stores. I had forgotten that.

Good to hear. Glad I wasn't the only one. (Well, I'm not happy that you felt intimidated like me ... um ... you know what I mean).

Now, I bring my wife and have her play the acoustic some so that I can hear the sound from the listeners perspective.

Hey, that's pretty smart.

Yep, those Les Paul's were heavy! Lots of great sustain from those.

Indeed. I also liked that you could play a pretty wide range of styles on the Les Paul. For example, those jazz-type chords that the Allman Brothers used were not as easy to get down cleanly on a Strat because the fretboard on the Strat, if I remember correctly, was shaped a little differently -- more bowed, I think.

My little Musicmaster is like a pocket guitar, the neck is so small and easy to wrap around.

My MusicMaster was my first electric, as I said, and that's the guitar on which I learned all my Barre chords. Before that I had a nylon-stringed faux-classical guitar, on which I learned open chords and picking. I could do Barre Chords, but it was really hard to hold all the strings down with the index finger of my left hand because the action was so high and the fretboard so wide. Well, the Musicmaster was a dream, in comparison.

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