While the [Anti-Defamation] League [of B'nai B'rith] was harping, [FZ] was readying other projects: Warts And All, a double live album, was culled from performances at the 1978 Halloween show in New York and a January engagement at the Hammersmith Odeon in England; Shut Up And Play Your Guitar is an album of blistering Zappa guitar work, sans vocals, which he plans to sell mail-order. "It's just for fetishists," he says, laughing. "For those who want to hear my guitar work, that's the album for them." With these works completes (but as yet unreleased). Zappa moved into Village Recorders on April 11, , planning to record a couple of songs and then split. By the first of June, he and his entourage had completed a dozen tunes. According to one studio staffer, Zappa claimed to have exhausted his supply of written material, but asked to extend his stay nonetheless. "I'm going home and writing an opera this weekend," he told the skeptical staff. The following Monday, he was back in the studio with Joe's Garage. This concept piece wove the material Zappa had already recorded with other songs he'd written over the weekend. [...]
FZ: We went in there to cut two songs—"Joe's Garage" and "Catholic Girls"—which I was going to release together as a summer single. And we just got into it and the next thing we knew, we had all those tracks laid down.
We went into the studio to do two singles, "Joe's Garage", the song itself, and "Catholic Girls", and when we came out there were 17 songs. I thought there had to be some continuity there so I went home and wrote up the continuity over the weekend.
[...] Although we had a really huge array of synthesisers and stuff like that I had the keyboard player play all the basic tracks on the Wurlitzer piano. So some of the tracks are just Wurlitzer, bass and rhythm guitar. The first difficulty was trying to get Peter Wolf (keyboards) to play just Wurlitzer, like these keyboard players wanna go apeshit all the time. It's hard to make musicians just play tracks; play a few notes and stay out of the way of the vocals and make a good arrangement of it.
[...] When we started the JOE'S GARAGE album I had this trouble with the first keyboard player, he was just noodling around too much and was dragging everybody down. The next day when Peter Wolf came in, we got three or four tracks down in one day—we didn't have to spend all day on one track.
This was the first FZ album I played on and is still one of my favorites. [...]
I played Fender Jazz bass on all my tracks except for "Joe's Garage", which I came in later to overdub the final bass track on my Fender Precision, both basses stock and going direct into the mixing board. [...]
As I recall, the basic tracks were cut with Vinnie, Warren, Peter, Denny (on some cuts) and Frank or Ike on vocals. Some of the songs that are segued together were actually recorded that way as basic tracks. Frank recorded the basic tracks to several songs in a single take, a recording studio rarity. [...] I also remember hanging out with Captain Beefheart at the studio one night and having a short conversation with him about Hendrix.
We recorded the basic tracks of bass, drums, keys, guitar, and temporary guide or "scratch" vocals for about 10 days, often working for 10 or 11 hours a day. After most of the basic tracks were done, Frank did the overdub recordings of vocals and more instruments. I was not around for most of that, although Frank did bring me back in the studio for a couple of things.
04/21/79 (2-8PM and 9PM-12midnight) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Joe's Garage (5:40)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Vincent Colaiuta, Arthur Barrow, Dennis Walley, Warren Cuccurullo, Isaac Willis, Thomas Mariano
04/22/79 (2:30-6:30PM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Joe's Garage (5:40)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Vincent Colaiuta, Arthur Barrow, Dennis Walley, Warren Cuccurullo, Isaac Willis, Thomas Mariano, Craig Steward (harmonica)
04/23/79 (2-8PM and 9PM-12midnight) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Crew Slut (5:47)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Vincent Colaiuta, Arthur Barrow, Dennis Walley, Warren Cuccurullo, Isaac Willis, Thomas Mariano, Craig Steward (harmonica)
04/24/79-04/25/79 (1-7PM and 7:30PM-1AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Crew Slut (5:47); Keep It Greasey (3:19)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Vincent Colaiuta (1-7PM and 8PM-12midnight), Thomas Mariano (2-6:30PM and 7:30-10:30PM), Arthur Barrow (2-7PM and 8PM-1AM), Warren Cuccurullo (2-7PM and 8PM-1AM), Isaac Willis (2-6:30PM and 7:30-10:30PM), Craig Steward (2-6:30PM and 7:30-10:30PM), Dennis Walley (2-6:30PM and 7:30-10:30PM)
04/25/79-04/26/79 (1-7PM and 7:30PM-1AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—A Little Green Rosetta; Fembot; Rap; T-Shirt
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Isaac Willis (8PM-1AM), Vincent Colaiuta (1-7PM and 8PM-1AM), Warren Cuccurullo (3-7PM and 8:30PM-1AM), Peter Wolf (3-7PM and 8PM-1AM), Arthur Barrow (2-7PM and 8PM-1AM)
04/27/79 (9PM-12midnight) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Crew Slut (5:47); Joe's Garage (5:40); Catholic Girls (3:40)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Jeff Hollis (sax), Earle Dumler (sax), William Nugent (sax)
04/30/79 (4PM-12midnight) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Sy Borg; Short Girls; Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up; Treacherous Cretins
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Warren Cuccurullo, Vincent Colaiuta, Arthur Barrow, Peter Wolf, Isaac Willis
05/01/79-05/02/79 (2-8PM and 9PM-2AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Packard Goose (22:10); Watermelon In Easter Hay (9:40)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Vincent Colaiuta (2-8PM and 9PM-1AM), Arthur Barrow (2-8PM and 9PM-1AM), Isaac Willis (2-8PM and 9PM-1AM), Peter Wolf (2-8PM and 9PM-1AM), Warren Cuccurullo (2-8PM and 9PM-2AM)
05/02/79-05/03/79 (5-8:30PM and 9:30PM-1:30AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Catholic Girls (4:15); Keep It Greasey (9:00)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Arthur Barrow (7-8:30PM and 9:30PM-1:30AM), Peter Wolf (7-8:30PM and 9:30PM-1:30AM), Vincent Colaiuta (7-8:30PM and 9:30PM-1:30AM), Warren Cuccurullo (5-8:30PM and 9:30PM-1:30AM)
05/03/79-05/04/79 (4-7PM and 8PM-2AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—A Token Of My Extreme (5:30)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Vincent Colaiuta (4-7PM and 8PM-2AM), Arthur Barrow (4-7PM and 8-10PM), Warren Cuccurullo (4-7PM and 8-10PM), Peter Wolf (4-7PM and 8-10PM)
05/04/79-05/05/79 (4-7PM and 8PM-2AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Catholic Girls (4:15)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Vincent Colaiuta
05/05/79-05/06/79 (5-7PM and 8PM-2AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Catholic Girls (4:15)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Vincent Colaiuta
05/11/79-05/12/79 (5-8PM and 9PM-2AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—E Vamp From Groz; Treacherous Cretins
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Warren Cuccurullo, Patrick O'Hearn
05/12/79 (4-8PM and 9PM-12midnight) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Treacherous Cretins
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Warren Cuccurullo
05/17/79 (9PM-12midnight) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Treacherous Cretins
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Warren Cuccurullo
05/24/79 (4-8PM and 9-11PM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Watermelon In Easter Hay; Catholic Girls; Dong Work For Yuda
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Dennis Walley, Isaac Willis
05/25/79-05/26/79 (4:30-8PM, 9-11:30PM and 12midnight-4AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Packard Goose; Short Girls; Watermelon In Easter Hay
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Isaac Willis, Warren Cuccurullo
05/26/79-05/27/79 (6-8PM and 9:30PM-3:30AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—O.D. Fembot; Packard Goose; A Little Green Rosetta
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Warren Cuccurullo
05/28/79-05/29/79 (4-9PM and 10PM-3AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Joe's Garage (5:40), A Token Of My Extreme (5:30); A Little Green Rosetta
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Warren Cuccurullo
05/29/79-05/30/79 (5-7:30PM and 8:30PM-3:30AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up; A Little Green Rosetta
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Warren Cuccurullo
06/04/79 (5 hours—exact times not listed) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—A Little Green Rosetta; #9; E Vamp
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Peter Wolf
06/05/79 (3 hours—exact times not listed) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—A Little Green Rosetta; Sy Borg
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Peter Wolf, Isaac Willis, Warren Cuccurullo, Ed Mann
06/07/79 (5-6PM and 7-10:30PM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—The Central Scrutinizer
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Ed Mann
06/08/79 (11AM-2PM and 3PM-8PM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—A Little Green Rosetta
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Ed Mann
Frank Zappa sits leaning over the mixing board, yellow pencil in hand, studying a typed lyric sheet. Wearing a grey, shapeless shirt, grey pants, purple socks and brown loafers, he looks like a pleasantly absorbed research scientist in the midst of a fascinating experiment. It's approaching midnight, but in the shadowy confines of Village Recording Studios, that means very little to the group of musicians at work.
"Let me hear that bridge again," he says to engineer Joe Chiccarelli, who responds by flicking a dozen switches in a matter of seconds. Zappa takes a slow drag from his cigarette. "I'm trying to decide whether we keep the singing or add talking here."
He looks up suddenly, acknowledging the guests who have sidled into the tiny control booth. They're putting the final touches on a concept piece, he explains, entitled Joe's Garage. [...]
For the next few hours, he keeps vocalist Ike Willis busy laying down double-track harmonies for an ethereal ballad called "I Can't Wait To See What It's Like On The Outside Now." When his visitors finally drag themselves out into the West Los Angeles morning, Zappa is reaching for another cup of coffee from the thermos at his feet, and eyeing another typed lyric sheet.
I think Joe Chicarelli quit 'cause he got fed up with— the way Frank put it was, he would give up on a— he'd want a better snare sound, and he would just, wouldn't stick to it, or something. Kind of gave up on how much tweaking Frank liked to do.
Frank told me that Joe [Chicarelli] couldn't take the heat and always gave up on some things, so he actually asked him to leave. I had to replace some erased kick drum tracks and finished up the remaining songs that Frank needed done for the record.
I'm lucky to have worked with at least two artists of whom I was a great fan, Frank Zappa and Van Morrison. I'd listened to their albums and bought their records several years before I worked with them. I was still chief engineer here at the Town House when I first worked with Zappa. I was recording an album he was producing for an Indian violinist by the name of L. Shankar, a virtuoso prodigy who'd crossed over to rock through playing with John McLaughlin. That was my introduction to Frank, I just got the gig through being in the right place at the right time. He then asked me to record four live shows at the Hammersmith Odeon on the Rolling Stones mobile, which was fun—the RSM was the original truck built in the UK and had quite a modest Helios desk—this was a Frank Zappa show, with percussion players, four guitarists, drummers and lots of singers! Later on, when Frank was recording Joe's Garage, I was in California at the Record Plant recording Into The Music with Van. I got a call from Zappa to say 'How much time have you got? We've got a triple album to mix!' I had ten days so I went down to LA and mixed three sides, Steve Nye ended up doing the last three. Zappa had a house in the hills with a very well equipped studio with a large Harrison desk. The air conditioning broke and it became ridiculously hot, so we ended up mixing at Kendun Studios Burbank. They had an early SSL B series, which I was pleased about as I'd been working on the same system at the Town House. I was keen to demonstrate my chops on this new system and show Frank how great it was—but the automation was broken! I heard a story later on that the tech engineer at Burbank had been impressing his mates by getting into the software and tweaking stuff, and in the process had completely screwed up the computer's operating system. Joe's Garage is a long track, so we had to mix it in sections by hand, with lots of chalk marks on the faders and half-inch edits.
All the guitar solos on Joe's Garage came from the European tour in 1980. They were recorded on a 2-track Nagra, just 2 microphones in front of my guitar amplifier and every time I played a solo the guy turned it on and recorded just the guitar. And when we did the Joe's Garage album I found the solos I liked and put them on top of the studio tracks and that's what's in there.
Mix: Zappa makes references to the guitar solos on Joe's Garage, which he says were recorded on a 2-track Nagra, which only had guitar on it, and somebody would just turn it on for solos and then turn it off again.
Pinske: I think Claus Wiedemann had something to do with that. That was before my time, as well, when they were doing a lot of the Nagra stuff.
David Gray [...] was part of the road crew since early 1976
Q: Who does your [equipment] work?
Someone recently posted this photo on one of the FZ facebook groups.
I figured this must be from the Joe's Garage sessions, as I recognized the guy on the right as having appeared in the little clip from the sessions that appears in The True Story Of 200 Motels. Then I realized I still have no idea who that guy is. No one in the comments on facebook seemed to know until Ed Mann said it was "probably Jeff [Hollie]."
Peter [Wolf] did a lot of the work on Joe's Garage; Tommy [Mars] just didn't seem to be suited for it. When we first went into the studio, Pete was back in Vienna and Tommy started the album off. He was always jamming around. We had so much trouble trying to make him behave like a studio musician and get down to business that when Peter came back from Vienna, I tried him for a couple of days and it was a lot more efficient. With Tommy, we worked for several days and wound up with two tracks, whereas with Peter, we could do two or three tracks a day. They're equipped differently. Tommy is definitely a creative keyboard player with a good musical mind, but in the discipline department we had some problems. He just can't control himself to sit down and play something simple that's required for a simple song. So Tommy plays on only two songs on all six sides of Joe's Garage; the rest of the keyboard work is Peter.
For other things that I do, Tommy is probably better qualified than Peter. Tommy reads a lot better and has a totally different kind of musical ear. It just turned out that he wasn't what I needed for Joe's Garage. You see, there's very little keyboard work on it. What was needed was vocal accompaniment, because it's basically a vocal album. We needed some tracks laid down on a Wurlitzer electric piano, without any jazz motives or cadenzas. That's all I wanted. There are a lot of keyboard players in the world who cannot imagine that that would be fun to do. Tommy is one of 'em. Peter wasn't all that thrilled about it either, because he's basically a jazz guy too, but in his case you can say, "Now, Peter, stop playing the jazz and just play this," and he'll do it. You have to tell Tommy 18 times. The first few sessions were very chaotic. I hate to have to act like an umpire or referee and go scream at everybody because they're jamming. I don't pay 200 dollars an hour studio time to have guys go in there and jazz out. If you want to practice, do it at home; don't do it in the studio. The studio is the time to make the record.
[Denny] Walley appears on Joe's Garage, Zappa's satirical rock opera in three acts. "All the background singing is just Ike [Willis] and me, doubling and tripling our parts."
The ['73] audition was established when FZ heard me in a club in Wichita, Kans. [...] Afterwards he said he would be flying me out to LA to audition. [...] After 3 days FZ called me over and asked me what I thought and I said Frank I think I should go back home. [...] I went home practiced 5 years, called him back and he flew me out to record on Joe's Garage Act I. [...]
I called Frank and shared that I was now ready and he flew me and my wife out to LA, all expenses paid.
Jeff Hollie (sax) who I met through FZ played on Joe's Act I
A few years ago a friend of mine happened to have some time together with the sax player on "Joe's Garage" identified on the album only as "Jeff." I'm sure one of you can fill in the last name.
Anyway, Jeff told him that, on the day he went over to Frank's house to play his parts, they broke for a lunch/snack break and went up to the kitchen. Frank's mom happened to be visiting and puttering about. So Jeff and Frank are talking when FZ nonchalantly launches an F-bomb as part of the conversation. Mrs. Zappa immediately snapped, "Frank! Watch Your Language!" He said Frank suddenly became Mrs. Zappa's little boy—got this look on his face like, "oops!" and quickly said, "Sorry, Mom!" Then he looked at Jeff with a kind of "what are ya gonna do? That's my mom" look.
I ran into Frank on Valentine's Day 1976. I had gone to L.A. At the time, in 1976, I was a Playboy Bunny of Boston that year. That shows how old I am. I'm pushing 50. Heffner called me and said, "Come to the mansion." I was so afraid of Hugh that I wouldn't walk up the flight of stairs to talk to him. I asked him to come down and I said I'm scared and he kept waving me. I ran away. At the time, I looked up the stairs and thought, "Oh no." It was so powerful. [...]
When I left the mansion, I got in my car (which I had drive from Boston to L.A.). I drove to see a friend of mine who was rehearsing. I thought, I have no money, no job. I looked like a munchkin. I was in leather and it was 100 degrees. I just heard Zappa's music playing. I said, "I will follow that." There was this huge sign and it said "if you value your life don't open this door." At that point, I must have had no value, because I opened the door. I opened the door and Frank was standing there. He said, "What are you doing from Boston?"
When I was 16, Frank was playing in Boston and it was the Orpheum . . . no, it was the Music Hall . . . that's the one where they had spotlights out front. The Mothers of Invention and his movie was out. I was crazy over Frank. I got totally into his music. I ran to this place and my friend was the usher there—I went to high school with him. I showed up with two of my friends. He said, "You won't believe it. It's sold out!" He said, "Go around the side of the building. It's a fire escape on the side. Climb to the window and go in and jump on a toilet seat and go around the corner and you'll be right near the stage." I turned around and said, "Sissy. Debby. Let's go!" We went up and we did it. I landed on the toilet, opened the door, and Frank Zappa was standing right there. The string is so deep with Frank. If I knew then what I know now . . . I said, "Frank, I'm you're biggest fan." He turned around to his bodyguard and said "Give that girl a backstage pass." I said, "Frank, two more girls are coming." He said, "Smothers, give those girls backstage passes." The he said, "When we're done, we're going out to eat. Do you have a car?" I said, "Yeah, but I can only keep it to midnight because I only had a learner's permit." I drove him home. I had a Delta 88 Canary convertible. I drove him to the Holiday Inn in Cambridge. I said, "Frank, I love you so much but I can't go up there because I'm a good girl. I have to go home by midnight." He never forgot. He took me by the shoulders and kissed me on the forehead. He was a man of not a lot of words.
It was four years later when I came back. He said, "How can I forget you? With that voice and accent, you will be a household word." I said, "I don't even know how to sing." He said, "I'm making a record on Saturday called Joe's Garage and I'm looking for a girl to play Mary." Well, I just lost my job with Heffner. He said, "You know, you got a job, you got one, you start Saturday." The way I talked, with my accent, he said, "Can you paahhk the cahhh in Hahvid yahhd?"
[...] That day, when I walked in there, Frank said, "I want you to my band. First of all, on drums, that's Terry Bozzio." I looked at Terry, and I know now he knew that I'd fall in love with him. I said, "Hi Terry Bozzio." Patrick O'Hearn was in the band, and ended up being my bass player. Eddie was an incredible violin and keyboard player from Roxy Music. Then I walked out of there and went to see a friend of mine, and came back 10 minutes later and saw Terry and walked back up to him. I thought that we shouldn't hang around. I wanted to say, 'Hello, I'm very happy to meet you.' He said, "You're a friend a Frank's?" I said, "Not a close friend. Frank's married. How about you and me have coffee? Do you like boys or girls?" I just didn't know. He was an amazing looking fellah.
When [Frank Zappa] came to the studio, I explained my intention, and then asked him: "How open can you be?" He grinned and said, "As open as you want".
This reply was very encouraging, so I thought "All right, since he's Frank Zappa, it's OK to do this for him" and threw a cream pie against his face. But, by accident, some of the cream got into his ear. As a musician who took care of his hearing ability more than anything else, he got furious. And it gave me a very precious lessen: if you want to open someone's heart and achieve a trustful relationship, don't throw a cream pie.
In spite of this false start, the rest of the session went quite well. After cleaning up the wreck of the pie, Zappa turned out to be a subject with full of imagination. For example, he picked up a mop in the studio and gave us various performances with it. After that, he took an electric fan, and so on. His imagination was limitless, and he was never hesitant to try bold and refreshing ideas. And this session yielded plenty of wonderful photos of Frank Zappa.
Photo: Norman Seeff
Cover photography by Norman Seeff
Photograph by Norman Seeff
Photo: Neil Zlozower
Cover: Zappa with Hendrix' guitar—Neil Zlozower
CS: I didn't do Joe's Garage.
LS: Oh, you didn't do Joe's Garage? Well, then . . .
CS: That was John Williams doing my thing. :) But he did a good job.
LS: This [diagram stuff] is obviously why I thought Joe's Garage was yours because it's so similar . . .
CS: Yeah, well he—I think that he took . . . it was kind of a conversation between us—'cause I worked with John Williams on some other stuff . . .
I won't give away the advice [L. Ron] Hoover gives Joe, except to tell you that it's simply hilarious and will probably never by played over your local radio station. That goes for the majority of the songs on Joe's Garage, which is emblazoned with a sticker that proclaims: "WARNING: Another ZAPPA Album! Please Audition Before Airplay!"
"'Joe's Garage' was planned to be a three-record package," Zappa says. "The economy was so bad I didn't think anybody could afford it. But I made the release schedule close together so people wouldn't lose continuity of the story."
"The Central Scrutinizer" actually started out as a new version of "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama". You can sing the words to "My Guitar" right over "Central" and the chord changes will happen in just the right spots.
After a show in Munich [March 31, 1979], several of the band members were hanging around with Frank talking about our garage band experiences as kids. [...] I mentioned that I had a secondhand Stratocaster, and that we played next to the old green Dodge in the family garage. We all had some good laughs, and normally, that would have been the end of it. But Zappa, of course, was nowhere near normal.
I can remember being back stage with Frank and other band members at one of the last shows of the winter 1979 tour reminiscing about our various garage band experiences. I recall mentioning about the old Dodge in my garage, and everyone seemed to have a good garage band story. This was when Frank got the idea for the title song "Joe's Garage".
[...] I played Fender Jazz bass on all my tracks except for "Joe's Garage", which I came in later to overdub the final bass track on my Fender Precicison, both basses stock and going direct into the mixing board. I also had the privilige of playing the main "reetooreetooreetoo . . . " theme on my Stratocaster with a whammy bar on "Joe's" in a simultaneuos overdub together with Warren. (Unfortunately, my guitar playing was not credited.) We recorded at the Village Recorders in West L.A. in a room that no longer really exists after remodeling.
I can confirm Arthur's story. When he told me a few years ago, I was like, "Yeah. holy shit! That was so much fun! Can't believe I didn't remember it."
In retrospect, the whammy bar Strat part was the ONLY thing for that guitar. The first of the guitar overdub sessions. Different set-up/mics, etcetera. Once that was put away, it was all Les Paul and Coral Sitar.
The song "Joe's Garage" was written at the Hotel Romershakizer [Römischer Kaiser] in Dortmund, Germany, and the guitar part was written during a sound check at a place in France. But, you know, you put things together piece by piece during a period of time and then the final work all takes place in the studio. [...]
It's patterned after general conditions of garage behavior that I've learned about. I've participated in some of the things that are spoken about in the "Joe's Garage" story, I think that it's a general kind of story that could apply to anybody's garage band.
(It makes its own sauce . . . if you add water)
"Makes its own sauce when you add water" is a Gravy Train dog food commercial I'm pretty sure anyway.
At this point, LARRY (a guy who will eventually give up music and earn a respectable living as a roadie for a group clled Toad-O) joins in the song . .
LARRY FANOGA (a guy who wants to ride a PONY while wearing a pointed blue foil party hat, but will eventually settle for a job as a roadie for a group called 'TOAD-O') joins in:
Rian: I believe there's a song called Catholic Girls on the new album. Is that to atone for Jewish Princess?
Zappa: No, it was written long before Jewish Princess.
A lot of shit going on. During the fadeout you hear the resolution of all the choral stuff from the front part of the song, plus a bass singer who's not only performing the function of the rhythm and blues bass vocalist but is giving you an assortment of Italian melodies as part of the bass line. And on top of all that is the melody from "Jewish Princess" played on an electric sitar. Now, that's Charles Ives. Charlie would've been proud of that little number!
The difficult middle sections of "Greasy" and "Catholic" were quickly thrown together in the studio right before we recorded them. For the "Catholic" middle section, Frank told Vinnie and I to work out the odd time changes on our own, which we did.
FATHER RILEY making sure the lights don't go down too low . . .
Warren Cuccurullo . . .
Do you know the first words that [Dale Bozzio] ever sang in her entire life? 'Warren Cuccurullo!' Those were the first words she ever sang! There's that song 'Catholic Girls,' and there's the line leading up to it, 'when they're learning to blow all the Catholic boys,' Dale sings 'Warren Cuccurullo.'! Frank made her sing that line.
Kinda young, kinda WOW!
"Kinda young, kinda wow" was the trendy slogan for a fragrance aimed at young women called "Charlie" if I'm not mistaken. Just another TV Head from the 60s-70s......
Then there are ads for women's cosmetics. Any woman who buys one of those products because of all that's written in those ads is . . . hurting. You know—kinda young, kinda wild, Charlie.
Surpisingly, the track that was hardest to get to Frank's satisfaction was "Crew Slut". We did it over and over untill Frank thought we had the right "feel".
"Crew Slut" was another one, that was about a real person.
It looks just like a Telefunken U-47
You'll love it . . .
[Telefunken | USA CEO Toni] Fishman explains, "Frank Zappa had assembled a very original and complete collection of extremely rare and valuable German and Austrian microphones, unused since his passing. [...] We went through three Telefunken U47s, four Neumann M49s, a beautiful matched pair of Neumann M50s, circa 1950, and four AKG C-24s, circa 1960."
As I recall, the basic tracks were cut with Vinnie, Warren, Peter, Denny (on some cuts) and Frank or Ike on vocals. Some of the songs that are segued together were actually recorded that way as basic tracks. Frank recorded the basic tracks to several songs in a single take, a recording studio rarity. An example is "T-shirt/Toad/Why Does it"—recorded in one chunk without edits. (Of course, there were overdubs later.) I was getting mighty tired during the long samba section of "Toad", I can tell you! During the recording of that basic track, there was no talking between Frank and Mary as there is on the final mix. Frank did not yet know what he was going to do there, so he just told us to do the vamp untill he gave the signal to go into "Why Does It". We had no idea it would go on for nearly as long as it did!
On September 10th , it was a flight back across the ocean to the states straight to Florida, where we had a few days off at a hotel on the beach. It was during this time that a club in Miami provided another source of inspiration for Frank, a Wet T-shirt contest.
OUI: Have you done anything interesting while you've been here in Florida?
ZAPPA: The other night we were out cruising in the limo when we passed a place that had a sign out front saying war T-SHIRT NITE, so all the guys went "Arrreeeyarrrghhh!" We go in and there's one hundred guys and three girls and a couple of barmaids and a band. There were a couple people dancing. We sit down and have a couple drinks. Pretty soon the place starts filling up and the band starts playing. Then they announce the wet T-shirt contest. They have some guy who's the M.C., and in order to prove he's really a cool guy and not merely an M.C., naturally he has to join in with the band and sing a couple Elvis Presley numbers. Well, a-one for the money and all that shit. He had one of those Bible-person haircuts that looks like it's made out of chewing gum and it's real neat around your ears and sort of poofy up front—the Jehovah's Witness look. The Bible cut. He has on a Marine sportcoat. After he sings his numbers, with a flourish and a drum roll, it's time for the contest. They have these five girls: Big C from Boston; a skinny dark-skinned-nationality-type girl; then there's this large girl with blonde hair; then there's this girl who's shaped like a huge tomato, who introduces herself as the good fairy from Never-Never Land; then, last but not least, there's this girl from California with the classic dumb-blonde look. Classic. Couldn't dance. Nice tits. Shapely body. Everybody thought: OK, here's the one. Meanwhile, the M.C. is making all the dumbest comments in the world. He's trying to emcee the show and come on to these chicks simultaneously. It was right on the level of va-va-vooomm!! Really stupid. They tried to drag it out as long as they could. First they do it with the "dry look." Then a break, then they're gonna do it with the "wet look." I didn't even stay for the "wet look" part, because the first part was so boring. I heard later that the dumb girl won and the big girl got booed off because she wouldn't flash her tits—she got very upset and wouldn't come out of her dressing room and tried to get out by a secret exit . . . It was real pathetic. I'm glad I went there or else I wouldn't have had a chance to see the phenomenon in the flesh.
OUI: Are you going to compose anything around the event?
ZAPPA: Yeah, but I don't want to get specific about the names. What I want to capture is the essence of the event. Somebody's going to win, somebody's going to lose, the M.C. is going to be a schmuck and the audience is the real star of the show. What are their motives? What do they think they're gonna get out of this? It's total desperation. I think I comprehend that event pretty good.
And here comes THE WATER! (EEEK!) No, you'd squeak more if the water got on you . . . sounds like you just got an ice pick in the forehead . . . AND HERE COMES THE ICE PICK IN THE FOREHEAD . . . a million laughs, Mary!
When Frank said 'Here comes the water,' and obviously he didn't douse her with water, Dale went 'Aaaugh.' And he said 'that sounds more like the ice-pick in the forehead,' and she starts cracking up. And he left that in, because it was just one of those kinda things.
|Eppelheim, March 21, 1979||One Shot Deal (2008)||Joe's Garage Act I (Rykodisc, 1995)|
|Inca Roads||Occam's Razor||Toad-O Line|
special thanks to Phil Kaufman for asking the eternal question: "Why does it hurt when I pee?"
The road manager on that tour went into the toilet on the bus in Germany and I heard this horrifying scream, I didn't know what was going on. And he comes walking out and says "Why does it hurt when I pee?" and the song was written by the end of the trip.
We got stuck in a bus on the way to a huge concert (125,000 people) in Saarbrucken, Germany. We were playing with Joan Baez, Ten Years After, The Tubes and others. I said to Frank, "We got to get there two to three hours early because it's a small town." He said, "Oh, fuck that." So the tour bus got stuck in traffic. We were going through the traffic and I had my Wild Turkey sandwich. I was sitting in the back and having a little drink. I went into the toilet which was located in the middle of the bus. Halfway through my piss, I jokingly started screaming and everybody was looking at me. I cried, "Frank, why does it hurt when I pee?" and everybody laughed. By the time we had gotten through the crowd to the venue, he had written a song called "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?" scored all the parts, given it out to all the guys in the band and made them play it that day. Needless to say, the band told me to shut my fucking mouth in the future. The song is on an album called Joe's Garage and if you see that album, you'll find a credit on the back which reads, "Special thanks to Phil Kaufman for asking the eternal question: Why does it hurt when I pee?"
My favorite part of the song [...] is the instrumental middle section. [FZ] wanted it to sound similar to one of those English "art rock" bands like King Crimson or Genesis. He described what he wanted as "pseudo English pomposity." I think the climax at the end of that section with the big D major vocal chord is absolutely glorious.
MG: Earlier, you mentioned something about having had a chime Frank used on "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?."
RE: Oh, yeah. I had just built this thing I called a "Zing Tree." It was a piece of wood with different sized brass tubes suspended from it. I brought it in one day.
MG: To his house or to the studio? Did you just happen to have it in your car?
RE: This was before his home studio was finished. Frank had invited me over to the studio in town where they were recording what would later become Joe's Garage. Frank took the Zing Tree and went "ding-ding-ding," and half the tubes fell off, and then he had it taken into the echo chamber, and had it recorded onto quarter inch tape, from which it was later transferred to the song. I didn't know how he would eventually use it until later when I heard it on "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?." Do you recall hearing that?
MG: Where does it crop up?
RE: Right after that line "Why does it hurt when I pee?."
I showed [FZ] an instrument I'd built consisting of numerous hollow brass tubes suspended from a wooden bar. When stroked, it produced an ethereal tinkling sound. He took the contraption into his studio and recorded several minutes of improvised tinkling. Not long afterwards, my invention made its debut, perfectly placed, in his poignant song "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?" from the Joe's Garage album.
FZ: You can dance to the new one that goes, "Fuck my you ugly son of a bitch." ["Short Girls," a tune on the forthcoming Joe's Garage, Act Two.] That's a good dance song. We'll see if it stirs any excitement in New York.
What's a girl like you
Doing in a place like this?
Do you come here often?
Wait a minute. . .
I've got it . . .
You're an Italian . . .
What? You're Jewish?
Love your nails . . .
You must be a Libra . . .
Your place or mine?
T.B. How did you get to play the part of Sy Borg on Joe's Garage?
W.C. I was able to talk like this.
Frank asked me to teach Warren [Cuccurullo] to do the Sy Borg voice (that took 4 seconds) and then we recited the Sy Borg Manifesto together—which was a lot of fun, or course. By that time in a Frank production, everything was fun and Frank was making shit up left and right as icing for his sonic comedy-cake.
I think Peter [Wolf] did his keyboard solo on "Sy Borg" three or four times. He has to be satisfied with it, it's his solo. I did specify some of the notes he had to play to cadence it off at the end so it would adhere a little bit better to what was coming up. And usually if there is a solo required in a given spot, I'll tell them what kind of feeling I want for it because it's senseless to take the attitude that we are now making a record and I am going to play the solo of my life.
I share this apartment
With a modified
Gay Bob doll
You'll love it!
It looks just like a TeleFunken U-47.
You are a fun person
I like you.
I want to kiss you always.
You know—I knew that girl! She issued that offer to Peter Wolf and not to me. That was one of my rare intelligent moments in an otherwise reckless youth: politely show her the door and wish her well. She was so young.
Additional informant: Matthew Galaher.
Since [the Rainbow incident] he has employed a personal bodyguard, Bald Headed John, who features on JOE'S GARAGE—or at least his name does. Ironically, it was the bodyguard who was in hospital when the album came to be recorded and Terry Bozzio, who had worked out a fair imitation of his voice, was called in to complete the session.
He took a little walk to the weenie stand
A great big weenie in both his hands
He sucked on the end 'til the mustard squirt
Q: What's the story behind sausage?
FZ: Oh, sausesh! Let me try and explain this concept to you. You remember Mr. Smothers, my bodyguard for many years? Well, Mr. Smothers liked sausesh! You see he couldn't pronounce sausage very well because he had false teeth so when he would say it it would come out as sausesh! He discovered the legendary European sausesh! in Copenhagen. They sell them on the street on a piece of waxed paper (two long things with mustard on them). One day, he decided to buy one of these things and eat it. The guys in the band saw this gentlemen walking down the street with these sauseshes! hanging out of his mouth with mustard on them. This is included in a song called "Dong Work For Yuda."
He said, "Ya'll stand back 'cause you might get hurt"
Terry: The tradition of the iron sausage was further perpetuated by one of those private-like European urinal stalls, you know, they have those little walls between them. Where John said, "Boy, I gotta stand back," to make room for the salami, you know.
Make way for the iron shaschige
Falcum . . .
Take me to the falcum!
FZ: Once upon a time, on his first trip to Copenhagen, we were playing at a place called the Falkoner Center [...] and we didn't have a limousine. I had to take a cab to the place. We get in the car. It's just this little tiny car, (laughter) not a Fiat, but maybe, slightly larger than a Fiat. You know how big John is [...] and it's a cab, and the driver is Danish, and he doesn't speak English. I get in the back, and John gets in the front, and the cab driver is just sittin' there, 'cause he doesn't know where to go, and John finally realizes that he must tell the driver where to go, so, he just turns to him, and goes, "FALCUM." (laughter), and the guy looks at him, y'know, kinda lookin' up like this, and John goes, "FALCUM." [...] And the guy DOESN'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON. And then, John gets vehement. He goes, "TAKE ME TO THE FALCUM!" [...] And the driver jumped out of the car [...] and ran into the lobby of the hotel to ask the guy in Danish at the desk (laughs) what the fuck is going on.
The solo in "Keep It Greasey"—the rhythm background I think is in 21/16 and the guitar is in 11/4. The beats come together about once a month ..?
RF: There was one song, "Keep It Greasey", where I wonder how you were thinking of the time signature.
VC: There's this one part where the actual time signature is 19/16. The feel is like it is 4/4 with three 16th notes tacked onto the end of it. Then there's another part in 21. It was all one live take; no splices or adds or anything. We just rehearsed it. We used to play it on the road and Frank said, "Okay, we're going to elongate that in the studio and that's going to be a solo. You're just going to vamp out until I give you a cue and then we'll go into something else." And bingo, he gave us a cue and zipp, we were in 19/16. We just cut that track with guitar, bass and drums. I don't recall if there was electric piano in that particular solo section or not. We went to Village Recorders one day and just churned out tune after tune, all live, no edits or anything.
Up until the time we got into the studio, we had always played that song in a normal 4/4 time signature, but Frank decided he wanted to do a new version for the recording. The choruses were to stay in 4/4, but the verses were to be changed to odd times: 19/16 and 21/16. As we played the odd time tracks for the verses, he sang more or less in 4/4 over what we were doing in 19 or 21. We were to play the vamp until he reached the end of a verse, then transition back to 4/4 on the choruses. We never knew how many times we would play the vamp before going into the transition.
|Munich, March 31, 1979 (early show)||Munich, March 31, 1979 (late show)||Guitar (Zappa Records, 1988)||Joe's Garage Act II (Rykodisc, 1995)|
|City Of Tiny Lights/Outside Now||Outside Now||Outside Now (Original Solo)||Keep It Greasey|
|Munich, March 31, 1979 (early show)||Zurich, April 1, 1979||Joe's Garage Act II (Rykodisc, 1995)|
|City Of Tiny Lights/Outside Now||Outside Now||Outside Now|
I asked Frank about playing the fretless in his band, and he said no, that he preferred the fretted one, saying that he didn't like all that "slippin' and slidin'" on the fretless. Imagine my surprise when I found out—only after the album came out—that he hired Pat O'Hearn to record fretless bass on two tracks for the first Zappa album I played on, Joe's Garage.
I'll never forget standing next to Vinnie counting and praying during the incredible drum work in the middle of "Goose." He was doing stuff that was turning my brains inside out—I could hardly believe we pulled it off.
I came back [from the road] with a stereo Nagra tape of just guitar solos and thought of songs where they could go. You try to find something that's in the same key but the time signature could be different. In "Packard Goose", the backing is in 4/4 and the solo was played in 15/16 in a totally different tempo. It was from the last show in Zurich during a song called "Easy Meat".
Love myself better than I love myself . . .
I think . . .
On Packard Goose from Joe's Garage (my personal fav song on my personal fav album), Ike says:
"Love myself better than I love myself... I think..."
which is a direct quote from a Bill Cosby parody of James Brown's style called:
"I Luv Myself Better Than I Luv Myself" from his 1976 album "Bill Cosby Is Not Himself These Days"
Take a listen (specifically at around 2:40 and 4:27): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STHuWIlzTJ8
|Wiesbaden, March 27, 1979 (late show)||Zurich, April 1, 1979||Joe's Garage Act III (Rykodisc, 1995)|
|Persona Non Grata||Easy Meat||Packard Goose|
If a drummer overplays, if the bass player overplays or the keyboard overplays . . . if they don't have any sensitivity to what I'm doing or if they aren't smart enough to track the direction that I am going in it's like dragging an anchor. In fact, I'll point out the way that song, "Watermelon in Easter Hay" got its name. It's from the statement that playing a solo with this band is like trying to grow a watermelon in Easter hay. And most of the bands that I've had it was like that. It's been just recently where I've had rhythm sections that don't get in my way and let me do what I am going to do. And also guys playing behind me who are fans of what I play. Not just fans of the group or whatever, but they really enjoy listening to what I am capable of doing given optimum circumstances and they get off on it. When you have somebody pushing you like that and working with you to help make a musical event unnatural or unknown or alien or beyond or scientific or whatever, then it's great. So I enjoy that.
The guitar solos from Joe's Garage (except "Watermelon In Easter Hay") were solo tracks that were taken from different live concerts through the years and printed on studio rhythm tracks.
The only guitar solo that was "played" in Joe's Garage was "Watermelon In Easter Hay."
. . . ultimately, who gives a fuck anyway?
DS: What can you tell us about the nearly uncontrolled laughter that permeates the beginning of Watermelon In Easter Hay? I believe it has something to do with the phrase "Who gives a fuck?," or something like that, and you're really crackin' up. What was happening during that session that was causing that.
FZ: I had just realized how true the statement was, and I amused the shit out of myself. (laughter)
DS: Tell us about how A Little Green Rosetta came together. That's a pretty absurd piece.
FZ: A Little Green Rosetta was originally done as a demo at a session at Studio D at the Record Plant . . . circa 1974 . . . about the time we were recording [The Adventures Of] Greggery Peccary . . . '73 or '74, and it was just George Duke playing a tack piano and me singing on top of it. It was just a little stupid song. I always thought it was just a nice little stupid song. It was put into JOE'S GARAGE to function as a replica of a "cast party," like "OK! The show's over! Now everybody in the cast is gonna get together and sing a stupid song!" If it were being staged, that's what it would look like.
Good God, give the drummer some
"Cold Sweat" [(1967)] is the first recording in which [James] Brown calls for a drum solo ("give the drummer some") from Clyde Stubblefield, beginning the tradition of rhythmic "breaks" that would become important in dance music.
Rang Tang Ding Dong, I am the Japanese Sandman . . .
RS: What's the meaning of "Rang Tang Ding Dong, I am the Japanese Sandman"?
FZ; Oh, Rang Tang Ding Dong, I Am the Japanese Sandman is an actual rhythm and blues record that I owned when I was in high school. It was by a group called the Cel-ohs, I believe.
DS: Can't say I heard that one.
RS: I always wondered what that one meant.
FZ: Well, the way it went, they had this chant that went (Frank sings) "He goes Rang Tang Ding Dong . . . humpty doo wah . . . " something like that (laughter), and then it stops, and one guy in the group goes, "Hey! All you guys get to say the big stuff, and all I get to say is (Frank sings) He goes Rang Tang Ding Dong . . . " (laughter)
Ed Mann will call him up later, show him the sign. Okay, Vinnie, where is five?
Frank said, "The guy's a mutation." [...] Sometimes the rhythms would get very complicated, often with "across the bar" figures that lasted many measures before coming back to the original "one." [...]
All of these wild rhythmic goings on were a departure from what some of the "vets" in the band were used to. It even upset one guy so much he made a sign he'd hold up that said "Where's one?" in reference to the downbeat of the measure not being played in an obvious manner. [...] If I lost track of where "one" was, I knew it was me and not Vinnie who was off.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos