I'll tell you how quad it's going to be. I've had some special instruments manufactured. Like that marimba and vibes that she (Ruth Underwood) is playing? Well you're hearing then mono right now, but both of them are quad instruments. There's a transducer on every bar, and they're fed out to a four-channel box. When you go into a studio, each one of those channels represents three half-steps on the keyboard. On the vibes it's F, F-sharp, G-channel one and any F, F-Sharp or G will come out on channel one. And then G-sharp, A and B flat will come out on channel two and so forth, so when she plays it will go bo-i-i-ing all the way around the room, like that . . . The piano pickup that George (Duke) is using on the grand is also the only one of its kind—its a magnetic pickup that goes across all the strings just like a guitar pickup. When he plays, in quad, the low notes are behind you, and the middle of the piano is in front of you and the high notes are over there . . . it just zooms around the room. When we record the drums in quad, we place the position of the bass drum mike in the center of the room, it will sound like it's hitting on top of the head . . .
A lot of quad layouts, are done in such a way that it will appear like the panorama of the group in front of you and the room echoes in back of you—that's the legit quad. But what we do is make the person who is listening to it sit right in the middle of the instruments, not in the middle of the band, but inside of the instruments themselves, and the result is pretty astonishing . . . It's just covering you up with notes. So I'm very enthusiastic about a quad release on that . . .
The new album that's coming out is quad, and all the rest of our albums will be quad from now on. It's recorded in quad. Like for instance, instead of miking your drum set for a two-channel spread we have four overheads, and the placement of the kick drum comes up in quad centre so that when you hear the drum set you're sitting on the drummer's seat and it's all happening around you.
This is our first quad release. I think it's a very excellently recorded album. It's got a very clear production, and on two speakers it still gets the idea across. It even sounds good on cassette machine.
Jenny [Brown]: Do you ever censor yourself?
Zappa: Sure. That's even more necessary now with the new Supreme Court Ruling in the United States so now it's up to the individual communities to decide and use their own discretion as to what is and what isn't obscene. The difference from community to community in the U.S. and the extent to which you can be prosecuted is pretty frightening. I mean, you get one guy or District Attorney or policeman in one small town that you go to or send a record to and he's going to go "Aha, I'll get my name in the papers with this."
Well, there's various procedures that I've used in recording albums and the new album which is out in the States in about four weeks is done in layers. Did the rhythm section—brought them in—most of the material they'd already played on stage—so I put the finishing touches on it as we "layered down". Certain things that are good for performance on stage were omitted on record because they didn't add anything to the event on record and certain things that would be impractical on stage were included to add interest to the record. After the rhythm section was down the vocals went on. And after the vocals we put on the horns, then the guitar solos. It went on in layers like that. I think it added to about two or three hundred hours onto this album.
When we made the second deal with Warner Bros. they, in their infinite wisdom, allowed us a budget of $60,000 per album. And this was a time when your average 'big time' group was spending a quarter of a million per album.
Your guitar style underwent a marked change around the time of Over-Nite Sensation.
That was partly because of the rhythm section and partly because of the equipment I was using. I imagine that anybody's guitar playing would change if one day your keyboard player was Don Preston and suddenly the next day it's George Duke—know what I mean? Or the difference between [drummers] Jimmy Carl Black and Chester Thompson; that certainly made a difference.
When you have a completely different rhythm section with a different musical perspective, you'd be a fool not to take advantage of it. It also changed because I started playing an SG.
So, you could put the difference in your guitar sound down, at least in part, to a new instrument?
Not just a different instrument but also different amplification because prior to that time I'd been playing either a Gold Top Les Paul or a Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster, which was a large, fat three-pickup jazz guitar, which really had uncontrollable feedback.
I was playing through a Fender amp or an Acoustic amp with a fairly nondescript tone—I just didn't have enough money to invest in new equipment. But by the early '70s I was playing this SG and I switched over to Marshalls, and started playing through a device that a friend built for me, which had compression, phase shifting and some other little specialities.
I am back in the singing business again. For the kind of lyrics that I write, it's hard to get somebody else to identify with them to the extent that they express 'em properly. There's millions of people who can sing better than me, but there's not many who understand the lyrics sufficiently to get them across. So I figured that I might as well do it myself. I have a pretty limited range—I can't sing very high so there are certain things that have to be done by other people. Ninety percent of that album is me singing the lead vocals.
We've been in the studio for about three weeks and you ought to hear that stuff; that's terrifying. I mean, I hate to even come out to do a show sometimes when I know how good it can sound in the studio.
Bolic Sound, 3-19-73, Dynamo Hum, Dirty Love, Young Sophisticate. Master.
Bolic Sound, 3-20-73, Excentrifugal Forts, Redunzel. Master.
This is the original for "Dirty Love," "Dinah-Moe Humm," recorded March 19th and 20th, 1973, and this is Barry Keene's handwritting at Bolic Sound.
03/19/73 (11AM-2PM, 3-6PM & 6:30-11:30PM) Bolic Sound—Dinah-Moe Humm; Dirty Love; For The Young Sophisticate; Roadie Music (Part One)
MUSICIANS: FZ, George Duke, Tom Fowler, Ralph Humphrey
03/20/73 (1-4PM & 5-9:30PM) Bolic Sound—Excentrifugal Forz; Montana; Curse Of The Zombads
MUSICIANS: FZ, George Duke, Tom Fowler, Ralph Humphrey
04/03/73 (1-4PM, 4:30-7:30PM & 8-11PM) Whitney Studios, Glendale, CA—Inca Roads, Fifty-Fifty
MUSICIANS: FZ, George Duke, Tom Fowler, Ralph Humphrey, Ian Underwood, Ruth Underwood, Bruce Fowler, Salvador Marquez
04/04/73 (1-4PM & 4:30-7:30PM) Whitney Studios, Glendale, CA—Redunzl; Camarillo Brillo
MUSICIANS: FZ, George Duke, Tom Fowler, Ralph Humphrey, Ian Underwood, Ruth Underwood, Bruce Fowler
[FZ] used some of that personnel—for lack of a better term people tend to call that group the "Petit Wazoo." It was really terrific stuff, and I was there for those sessions—they were being held at Whitney Studios, and Paramount [Studios in Hollywood], but mostly at Whitney in Glendale.
I contributed the following to the tracks on Over-Nite Sensation: keyboard and rhythm guitar parts on "Dirty Love"; guitar on "Camarillo Brillo"; backup vocals on "Dirty Love" (which were later re-recorded by Tina Turner); backup vocals on "Camarillo Brillo" (which were not used); and a few VSO'd vocals on "Camarillo Brillo" (which are audible). These tracks were recorded at Whitney Studios in Glendale.
INVOICE May 31, 1973
Background voices (3) 4:30 pm to midnight a total of seven and 1/2 hours (7 1/2) at the rate of $25.00 per hour per person a total of $187.50 each. Please make checks to the following people:
Tina Turner $187.50
Linda Sims 187.50
Debbie Wilson 187.50
Thank you for giving us the chance to serve you.
05/26/73 (12-4PM & 4:30-8:30PM) Bolic Sound—Montana; Cosmic Debris
MUSICIANS: FZ, Ian Underwood
05/29/73 (12-3PM, 3:30-6:30PM & 7-10PM) Bolic Sound—Cosmik Debris; Zomby Woof; Fifty-Fifty
MUSICIANS: FZ, Ralph Humphrey, George Duke, Tom Fowler, Ruth Underwood
05/30/73 (12-3PM, 3:30-6:30PM & 7-10PM) Bolic Sound—Zomby Woof; Wonderful Wino
MUSICIANS: FZ, Ralph Humphrey, Ruth Underwood, George Duke, Tom Fowler, Bruce Fowler, Salvador Marquez
06/01/73 (10AM-1PM, 1:30-4:30PM, 5-8PM & 8:30-11:30PM) Bolic Sound—Zomby Woof; Wonderful Wino; Cosmik Debris; Fifty-Fifty
MUSICIANS: FZ, Bruce Fowler, Jose Salvador Marquez, Ian Underwood
Frank has now got a new band together to tour America shortly. Old hands are George Duke and Ian and Ruth Underwood; new are Jean Luc [Ponty], Ralph Humphrey on drums, Bruce Valla [Fowler] on trumpet, and Tom Fowler on bass. He also hopes to include a singer who has impressed him called Rick Lansiladi [Lancelotti].
IT: How long was Lancelotti on for?
Z: Lancelotti?—He auditioned—he passed his audition—he rehearsed for 2 weeks and flunked out. He sang a couple of times on one album.
Ricky would hang out with Frank during his recording sessions. After the final mastering of the Grand Wazoo (1972) Frank played the recording to all the band members and than asked each person what they thought of it. Each musician he asked thought the recording was excellent. When Frank asked Ricky for his opinion he said "It had no back-beat" (Frank was shocked).
Later Ricky sang for Frank on Overnight Sensation. Ricky asked Frank how he wanted him to sing ("50-50," "Zomby Woof") and Frank said, "Just act crazy." Ricky's picture was not printed on the album cover along with the other band members because Ricky didn't want his picture on it. During this time period Ricky would drive Frank around in his car (Frank didn't like to drive). Band practice was mostly late at night or after midnight. One night Ricky showed up for practice drunk and Frank told him to "go home and sleep it off" (Frank was paying Rick $80 per hour to sing and didn't tolerate drugs or drinking at work). Later Frank asked Ricky to go on tour but Ricky refused to tour and dropped out of the band (you had to tour with Frank because that was his main source of income at the time). Ricky's friendship with Frank ended badly because Ricky accused Frank of using him so he could learn how to sing.
Well, look at what's happening on the cover . . . somebody's having an overnight sensation there . . . [...] The figure in the center of the album cover is a composite of two of our roadies. It's one body with two roadie heads on it . . . ummm, Paul Hof and uhhh . . .Dunt.
[...] The cover painting is by the same artist who did the cover of 200 Motels, his name is Dave McMacken, and he's a very talented graphic artist. Some of the worthwhile details on the cover are the underpants which are rumpled, lying next to the sexually abused grapefruit . . . and the label inside of the underpants, which says 'Rush-Up Chicago' has all sorts of deep significance for people who live in Chicago, and who have one time or another rushed up . . . to the place that they call Rush-Up.
And then there's a little leg sticking up from the abused grapefruit, which says 'Roadie's Delite' on it . . . oh, I'd better tell you about the Roadie's Delight first. About 3 or 4 years ago, we were working in Florida, and there was a sociological discussion taking place around a swimming-pool after Paul Hof had had to drive many miles with his truck full of equipment, and had been wondering when he was ever gonna get a chance to gratify himself by the use of . . . well, with the cooperation of a female assistant. And he had decided while he was driving along that the problem about being a roadie is that you just didn't get enough action, so he had been trying to work out some plan for roadie gratification . . . and in Florida, he came up with the idea of the Roadie's Delite, which was: stop the truck, pick a grapefruit, work out on the grapefruit while you're driving the truck, and by the time you got to the hotel, give the grapefruit to the road manager, because he was having trouble too . . . that's right, that's a warmed up grapefruit that we see on the front.
[...] And then, behind the grapefruit you see a very small, semi- cartooned leg with a up-turned foot that has just kicked a partially transparentized, small white chair out of the way from in front of a large briefcase with backstage stickers on it. Now, that foot represents the foot of Steve Desper, who used to be the sound mixer for The Beach Boys, and who worked for us for two tours, one in the States and one in Australia. He quit working with The Mothers because he was offended by the lyrics, and decided that he was quitting showbiz altogether, and he entered a Christian science seminary in Boston . . . he's a very upstanding gentleman. Now, the leg represents the time that we were working at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh [May 6, 1973], and somebody forgot to tell him that the [Arby's] had arrived . . . and the roadies ate [Arby's], but he didn't get any. And so he threw a tantrum and kicked a chair, whereupon I threatened to send him home . . . it's so delicate, you know, and it was so worthwhile commemorating it on the cover.
Then, back behind the large shoe, behind the two-headed roadie, is a fire extinguisher that says 'Perellis' on it. That's a replica, an enlarged replica, of the same extinguisher that was used to chase our road manager in a nude condition down the hall of a motel in Daytona Beach. Paul and Jay got him out there and worked him over a little bit with the fire extinguisher, and behind the hose of the extinguisher, behind the hand of the multiple-headed roadie, is a replica of a Holiday Inn artwork, that as you can tell is bolted to the wall, because of its unbelievable value . . . the possibility that a person might try to steal the artwork from the room, they put these enormous bolts to the wall. And the painting itself is an exact replica of a Venetian blind, as imagined by an artist named Brittini, who has always been a great . . . uhhh . . . motel artist, you know. He's one of those kind of artists that does sort of boring pictures and then writes his name really big in the corner, which is the most interesting thing on the canvas . . .
[...] Cross on the backside, that funny little figure pooching up through the broken concrete, is none other than Herb Cohen, who's the co-founder of Discreet Records . . . that's big business. This is Herb disguised as a Young [?] radio tube, going up through the floor. [...] The Flo & Eddie [Europe] pass is on simply because the artist took one of the briefcases that was owned by the roadies and duplicated it.
The interior, ladies and gentlemen, is executed by Cal Schenkel. What it represents is the rear view of the television set which is oozing the slime, and as you might have seen, if you ever turned your TV set around, there's some sort of fibreboard background with holes in it for vents . . . and the little noodle-like objects that are leaking out around the things that have the lyrics on it are supposed to be rear-zone slime extrusions that are oozing down over some of the illustrations.
Transcription: Jon Naurin (alt.fan.frank-zappa, November 22, 1999)
Fast forward a couple of years [after 200 Motels] and Frank calls and asks if I want to paint another cover for him. I nearly fell off my chair. He wanted to get started immediately and so that night I listened to a truly bizarre take of the scene that Zappa imagined. In fantastic detail, he proceeded to tell me the story of Over-Nite Sensation and that the cover painting was to be done in a formal, realistic "Dutch Master" style, with the objects in the painting to be portrayed as visual elements from the story.
The painting captures a moment in the life of a band roadie on tour, with "Over-Nite Sensation" being a reference to the horniness of bands on the road. The space we're looking at is in a true perspective, but they're in a mirror and the object on the viewer's side are in reverse. Our focal object is a grapefruit, the symbol of a sexual object, and the grapefruit's been penetrated, with "cum" oozing out of it. The fire extinguisher symbolizes the completion of the act of intercourse, and even the frame is a sexual fantasy, starting off in gold and going to rot. All of the other items—the Holiday Inn, the food, maps and oozing TV—represent the doldrums of being on the road.
I took tight notes during this session—I wasn't given a written assignment or description—and worked on this painting for 2 months, meeting many times with Frank to discuss the work in progress. I started with a pencil and it evolved as we went along, with Frank adding more as "more was always better"—it is really cool when the musical act is also the Art Director and owns the production company! During the process, we had one meeting with Chris Whorf at Warner Brothers just to include the record company at some stage during the development and I showed him the pencil sketch I'd done. He loved it and picked it up and was going to leave with it to use it as the final art. In hind-sight, it might not have been such a bad idea, but there was no way that I was going to miss out on the fun I was having, so I retrieved the sketch and went off to Illustrationland to continue my work. I did the final painting using casein paints, which were a cool mixture of oils and acrylics and had the lovely aroma of vanilla. They later discontinued these paints and I new paint exclusively in acrylics—they're way less fussy.
The guy with the fire extinguisher is "Dunt"—the roadie.
He entered my room via the balconies and sprayed me (while playing a borrowed Martin guitar) with a soda-acid fire extinguisher. I spent the rest of the evening cleaning the guitar.
What the roadies did with the ripped-open grapefruit, you don't even want to know. Trust me.
Photography by Diva Zappa
Archive Photos by Emerson-Loew, courtesy ZFT
JAY "DUNT" SLOATMAN
KANSAS J. CANZUS
Additional informants: Charles Ulrich and Javier Marcote.
There's a certain kind of girl in California they have em in some places in New York too . . . easy there . . . It's like cartoon here, that goes Hinnnnnn . . . like that, you know this kind of girls? Yeah well, I always thought that those kind of girls needed to be commemorated you know, there's a certain way . . . because the way pop culture is constructed, the way dress fads come and go, and hair styles come and go, and so forth . . . If you don't make a note of it while it's going by, then it will be lost to the ages. And a hundred years from now, somebody will get that record and say: Hmm . . . Camarillo Brillo, what does that mean? But you know, see . . .
On "Camarillo Brillo," Frank basically came into the studio with some lyrics and a simple chordal riff—V, IV, I, etc. It was late at night, and the band had gone home, so he asked me to sit down at the piano and play some chords to help him flesh out the song (he was basically a one-fingered keyboard player). I ended up adding a minor-chord change and fleshing out the voicings, and suggesting a rhythm guitar part, which he then asked me to play on his guitar. He had tape rolling during both the piano and guitar parts, and later he copied the parts exactly. I also recorded three backup vocals, which were nice, although I didn't expect him to keep them because the pitches weren't great.
By where some bugs had made it red
I imagine that "where some bugs had made it red" alludes to cochineal hair dye.
On "Dirty Love" he had a series of basic instrumental tracks and the lead vocal up on the board, including a harpsichord part by George Duke, which he said he didn't like the tonality of. Duke's keyboards were set up in the studio, and I sat at the clavinet and played another part. As far as I can tell, that's the same part that was released on the album. I'm also fairly sure my rhythm guitar part on "Dirty Love" is intact, although it's extremely low in the mix. I've already explained in Being Frank about the backup vocals on "Dirty Love." I came up with the parts and recorded them, but they sounded so white-bread that Frank and I were rolling on the floor laughing. A little later when Frank was doing sessions at Bolic Studios in Inglewood, which was Ike Turner's studio, he got Tina Turner and a couple of the Ikettes to re-record them. I think it would have been appropriate under the circumstances for Frank to have given me a credit, even if it was just a "thanks to."
How did you decide to use the organ sound on "50-50"?
I think we were somewhere, in a church or something, and Frank said, "I want you to play that pipe organ." I said, "What pipe organ?!" He said, "The one up there." I said, "You want me to play the pipe organ?!" And he said, "Yes." I didn't know anything about playing the pipe organ or how to get the sound out of that thing. Half of the stuff that we did with Frank was off the cuff.
vocal: RICKY LANCELOTTI
A 'Zombie Wolf' would come from New England but a 'Zombie Woof' is interdenominational, he's Interfaith, you know what I mean? That's all I can tell you.
Co de Kloet, Jr: Were you excited when you played your solo on ZOMBY WOOF last night?
Frank Zappa: No.
CDK: YOU WEREN'T!
FZ: Well, it's not that I'm bored, but that just isn't my favourite style to play in. Because the rhythm is so strict. If I have to choose between a song where the rhythm is very stiff or where the thythm is free, I'll take the free rhythm. I'd rather play on ZOOT ALLURES than on ZOMBY WOOF.
HAPP: [...] let's take "Dynamo Hum," for example [...]. Where do you come from when you write lyrics like that?
ZAPPA: Well, it seems like the normal thing to do. It's a true story.
HAPP: Was "Dynamo Hum" a real true story in your life?
ZAPPA: Not until after the record came out.
I have a very interesting story on that song. Just before releasing the album, we gave a concert in Brisbane, Australia. I was touring with a cassette tape of the album, and after the show, I came back to the hotel with two girls and made them listen to the tape. One of them was a beatnik type, and the other one was a Women's-Lib type. And then, they started laughing and really liked it. Later that night, the Women's-Lib type suggested that we should do exactly the same things that happens in the song, but this time, do them extremely fast. She was buns-up kneelin' and wanted to do it as soon as possible (* Everybody in the room laughed out loud). You should try it. It's difficult but would be a good exercise.
D'you think I could interest you
In a pair of zircon-encrusted tweezers?
Okay, you have to understand that the zircon is the ultimate symbol of cheapness, because it's the symbol of grandeur when applied to a small ad in a comic book. Did you ever see those zircon rings, fake diamonds? So whenever I see the word zircon, it just conjures up immense cheapness. Now, the tweezers—a tweezer, as an object of sexual gratification, is the ultimate extension. If you have something hard to grab, the tweezer is handy. So the tweezer has many conceptual usages. And when you take any object and zircon-encrust it . . . get the drift?
How about other lyrics? What was this fixation on the same album with zircon encrusted tweezers.
"I first discovered the zircon in 1957. When the piano player in this band I had in high school decided that in order to really play like Fats Domino he had to have the same amount of weight on his hands that Fats Domino had. You know, Fats had that big diamond ring on his finger.
"Well, Wimberly couldn't afford a diamond, so he saw an ad in a comic book said he could get a zircon as big as yer fist for 10." Between laughter, he went on: "So the zircon has always seemed to me the symbol of complete cheapness."
We had a piano player named Terry Wimberly. And Wimberly always wanted to be the missing link between Fats Domino and Otis Blackwell [...]. And he decided one day that he wasn't funky enough in his normal white boy condition, living there in the desert. He decided in his infinite wisdom that he was going to get all the things he needed to be more like Fats Domino. [...] I don't how he did it, folks—He got a hundred dollars together to buy a hundred dollar zircon ring.
Do you know how big— what size zircon you can buy for a hundred dollars? So he had this enormous, cheap-looking, obviously-fraudulent diamond sort of thing on his little finger that he used to wear to school all the time. And so, since that moment, I've always considered the zircon to be the symbol of wealth—not wealth, but the ultimate cheapness as applied to the back of a comic book. And it was cheap grandeur, you know? The grandeur that we can all afford, but if you dare to afford it you can make yourself look just like Terry Wimberly playing the piano [...]. And it helped his piano technique tremendously. He could play triplets like nobody's business with that thing on his finger.
So the tweezers I've always considered to be an object of potential sexual ecstasy, if applied properly to some sort of unique erogenous zone, which may or may not exist in each and every one of us, if we would only but take the time to experiment with a friend and find out where that zone might lie. And then to apply tweezer pressure might yield some very interesting results. Therefore, if you took the tweezer and encrusted it with enough zircons, you would have something that was not only cheap and grand, but sexually gratifying at the same time.
Excuse me, but what's the significance of Zircon? I mean, you use the term "zircon encrusted tweezers" in one of your songs. What is zircon, if you'll forgive my ignorance.
A zircon is a fake, cheap diamond. Now you have to understand that things which are cheap are wonderful, and nothing could be more wonderful than a zircon ring with a stone this large (2 inches diameter) for the person who wanted to simulate the Fats Domino look. You know, to keep on his little finger. Now this is a phenomenon that I've known about for 23 years. People who wear zircons are a special breed.
Informant: Charles Ulrich
What are the topics that Zappa is writing about these days?
"Well, there's a song in this album about dental floss. Dental floss is a type of flaxen string which is coated with wax and comes in a 500-yard spool in a little plastic box. You pull it out and tear a strip off and you pull it between your teeth to remove food particles."
Wowie zowie! Does Frank think that dental floss is a subject that has been previously neglected by songwriters?
"I think it is, and that's why I have decided to attempt to fill the gap."
I got up one day, looked at a box of dental floss and said, hmmmm. I assumed that nobody had done the same thing and I felt it was my duty as an observer of floss to express my relationship to the package. So I went downstairs and I sat at the typewriter and I wrote a song about it. I've never been Montana, but I understand there's only 450,000 people in the whole state. It has a lot of things going for it, plenty of space for the production of dental floss . . . and the idea of traveling along the empty wasteland with a very short horse and a very large tweezer, grabbing the dental floss sprout as it pooches up from the bush . . . grabbing it with your tweezers and towing it all the way back to the bunkhouse . . . would be something good to imagine.
"Montana" (from Overnight Sensation, 1973)—Gibson SG guitar, 100-watt Marshall amp.
"I played the SG through this special compressor I'd had built for me: into the board, into the studio and into the Marshall, which eventually exploded."
And I was wondering how you got the tape effects for "Montana" [...], the voice?
Oh, you mean the ones that are speeded up! [...] All you do is, the way you do that is you take the master tape, and you slow it down a minor 3rd, and the girls sing on it here, and then when you play it back in normal speed the track is normal speed and the voices are speeded up, they do it with a device called the VSO, the Variable Speed Oscillator.
Did you do that yourself or did someone else do it?
I did it. I've even turned the knob on the oscillator myself.
"Montana" was done the other way. It was like an old story song. The chord changes and notes were fitted in later.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos