In order to take part in an unprecedented rock show at Asakusa Kokusai Gekijo, Frank Zappa and the Mothers came to Japan for the first time. As he has been keen to visit Japan for a long time, he even shared the expenses of the touring. Although his visit coincided with other Japanese tours by the Average White Band and the Eagles, his concerts at various locations were reportedly very successful, gathering a lot of enthusiastic fans.
Zappa Japan Tour
Napoleon Murphy Brock
Herbert Cohen, Daryle Palagi, David Morie, Martin Perellis, Paul Hof, Mark Linett, Richard Abel, Coy Featherston, Richard Barber, Robert Camarena, Arther Satren, Jack Montrose
In the [...] photo, you can see all five members of the Mothers with John Smothers raising a bag over his head behind Andre Lewis. Notable members of the Japanese side are: Yagi Yasuo (left to Andre), Uchida Yuya (who wore a cap, standing under "FRANK" of the banner), Orita Ikuzo (an A&R from Warner Pioneer; in front of Terry Bozzio), Yamaura Masahiko (another A&R from Warner Pioneer; in front of Orita).
Is Paul Hof the one between Roy and Terry?
Yes, it's Paul Hof.
IB: Tell me about your departure from the Mothers—you went off and worked with George Duke?
NMB: Well, no—I went home and de-programmed myself from his music first. I spent about 6 months doing that. To do his music, you can't listen to anything else.
IB: Terry Bozzio said the same thing—that it's pretty much 24 hours a day.
NMB: It's all encompassing. You can't hear anything else. Everything else sounds wrong or so different that it just disturbs you. And it doesn't allow you to perform other music because it is 24/7—as Terry says. So I went home and de-programmed myself. I knew I had to do that, because every time I tried to listen to music I just heard his. It's so overwhelming. I did that, and I started writing my own music. That was the way I pushed his out and allowed mine to come through.
The reason I left Frank was because I told him I'd stay with him for about four or five years—no less than four, no more than five—and it ended up about four years and it was time to go. He was having some internal conflict with Herb Cohen—they were getting ready to separate—and it was affecting the band too. So I thought it was a good time to leave.
[Photos by Carlos Henze.]
Zappa recently dismissed his manager of 11 years, Herb Cohen, and that meant the dissolution of his own label, which Warner Brothers had distributed and his being absorbed directly into the Warner Brothers fold.
IT: Is Herb Cohen still your manager?
IT: What happened?
Z: I'm taking him to court. I worked with him for 11 years, but he made a couple of errors of judgment.
IT: Is there any bitterness?
Z: Oh yeah. Quite a bit.
IT: Who is your new manager?
Z: Bennett Glotzer. He used to manage Procol Harum, Janis Joplin, Blood Sweat And Tears.
In mid May '76 Frank Zappa dissolved his 10 year partnersip with manager Herb Cohen, accusing Cohen's lawyer brother of staling money. This action resulted in a number of lawsuits between Zappa, Cohen and Warner Bros. (distributor of Bizarre, Straight and DiscReet records). Immediately Zappa was denied access to the DiscReet rehearsal hall, his library of films and rights to past albums, pending outcome of the suits. Most of these issues were resolved in 1982 when FZ got back his films and tapes. Bennet Glotzer became the new manager, and from this point on Frank Zappa would take on the increasing role of monitoring business affairs. From here on all albums and bands would be billed as Zappa.
Zappa is no longer associated with DiscReet and Herb Cohen, and he will make the big adios from Warner Brothers at the first available opportunity.
FOCUS: I've always admired your ability to work within one of the largest entertainment corporations in the world (Warner Bros.) and at the same time so effectively poke fun at the ones who run it and all they hold sacred. Do you actually have much dialogue with the executives of your record I company?
Zappa: "I do have dialogue with them, yes. I frequently tell them to kiss my ass. I also have good reasons for doing that, because the company doesn't do very much for me. It's sort of like pulling teeth to get them to make the records available. I argue with them a lot and I'll be delighted when I can get away from them."
FOCUS: How much time?
Zappa: "Anywhere from two minutes to two years, depending on certain events."
FOCUS: On how you feel?
Zappa: "No, on legal things."
I'd like to get away as fast as I can. I would like to be away from [Warner Bros.]. They are not to be trusted. I'm no longer on Discreet Records because I fired my old manager and partner Herbie Cohen and hired a new one, Bennet Glotzer.
I asked what happened between him and Herbie. Frank says he fired him, "Law suits are, in the usual way, impending."
It sounds as if Frank has been studying the art of English understatement. One alleged "problem" was that Frank couldn't get the 30ips master tape of "Zoot Allures" from The Record Plant.
"Listen to this: I am the chairman of the board of DiscReet and the president of the company—also those guys are supposed to be my friends—but they wouldn't release the master tapes to me unless Warner Brothers indemnified the studio from any legal action that Herbie might take against them."
Warner Brothers agreed—providing Frank indemnified them. "Can you believe it? An individual artist having to indemnify one of the biggest record companies in the world so that they can bring his record out?"
So Frank mastered the album from his own 15ips safety copy of the album. He always takes 15ips safeties home with him after every recording session. "When I go home after 20 hours in the studio, what am I gonna listen to—Bob Dylan records?"
The saftey copies were very good; "You can't tell the difference, only an engineer would be able to tell that the transient response . . ."
[FZ has] filed suits charging fraud, breach of fiduciary responsibility and "various other malignant activities" against Herb and Martin Cohen, his former manager and former attorney.
Sources of the suits ore fairly complex, but boil down to "things looking really stinky in terms of dollars and cents routed into areas where they shouldn't have been routed," according to Zappa.
Points of departure for the suits are what Zappa explained as the "unauthorized use" of some of his touring equipment by Cohen, the "unauthorized and over budgeted issuing" of an album by Kathy Dalton on Zappa's former label, DiscReet, the "unauthorized issuing" of another album by a group called "Growl" ("something I never would have signed"), the "unauthorized sale" of a Zappa film to a German television station, and assorted "chincy" things.
Once upon a time, there was a company called Bizarre and Straight Records, and the successor to that contract was DiscReet Records. Bizarre/Straight was the first label deal we had with Warner Bros. as the distributor; that contract expired, and a new one was negotiated for DiscReet. That contract was what you'd call a "sweetheart" contract, which was working more on behalf of the Cohen brothers than on my behalf as an artist.
During the course of operating DiscReet Records it became evident that the trust that I had placed in Herb Cohen was placed in the wrong location. Our agreement was that I was the one who was supposed to decide who was going to be on the label—I would concern myself with all the musical matters. But shortly after the signing of the contract, I was surprised to learn that an album by an artist named Kathy Dalton was not only recorded but pressed and ready to be released. This came as a surprise to me, since I never signed Kathy Dalton. Herb signed her, and he spent three times what the specified budget for a new artist on the label was supposed to be. I'd never heard anything about it, so I became very irate; I had a meeting with Herb and his brother Martin, the attorney who drew up the contracts, and I said, "Look, this can't go on, doing a label deal under these circumstances. My name is on the line, and I wouldn't have signed Kathy Dalton, but you already have, and you spent three times what you were supposed to on the record. What's the story?" The net result of that meeting was "Well, we won't do it again."
Shortly thereafter, I was on my way to the MIDEM convention, and I happened to drive to the airport with Mutt (Martin) Cohen. It was during this car ride that I learned of the existence of an album called "Growl." What had happened was this: Herb and Mutt have a publishing company called Third Story Music. There's a guy named Duffy who works for Martin as sort of a talent scout, and apparently Duffy had brought this group named Growl to Martin's attention. Martin had sold some Growl demos to Camden and somehow managed to get them back.
On the flight to the convention, I was riding in the first class section, and Mutt was in the back of the plane. It happened that Joe Smith was also riding in the front of the plane. He wasn't a close acquaintance of mine—I didn't even recognize him until he came over and introduced himself—but we sat down and talked for a little while. I asked him if he'd ever heard of the Growl album, and he started laughing and said, "Have I ever heard of the Growl album? I'm the guy that's gotta stand up in front of a sales meeting with one of your albums in one hand and the Growl album in the other hand and say, 'And now, from DiscReet Records we have ... ' " So I said, "Well tell me, Joe, do you think there's any way we can just forget about this whole DiscReet thing and I can sign directly with Warners as an artist?" And he said, "Sure, that would be great." I asked him what kind of a deal I could get; he made me an offer and said that they would be delighted not to have to do business with DiscReet, because it had been an embarrassment to them.
By the time I got to the convention, Joe Smith had recommended an attorney to me. Joe's recommendation was a guy named Lee Phillips. He said, "Go talk to Lee Phillips. He'll help you work out the deal—after all, he's the one who negotiated my employment contract with Warner Bros." The lawyer that had been mainly representing me in music business affairs in L.A., all those years, had been Herb's brother, Mutt. So I didn't know where to go to get any outside legal assistance, because I'd been sort of tied up in the Cohen family syndrome for ten or eleven years.
Do you know what actually happened between him and Herb Cohen?
All I know is they were 50-50 partners, and with Frank's money, Herb formed a company which rented out Frank's PA and bought PAs and trucks and things like these. And we got to Europe expecting our PA system to be there. But it come without warns, and drivers & crossovers. So Herb had taken parts of Frank's PA, put in another PA, put it out on the road with Earth, Wind & Fire or somebody to make money and sent his own artist a PA system that wasn't ready to go. And that was fucked. And he had done this with 30,000 dollars of Frank's money, which was a lot of money in the early 70s. So Frank was furious, and fired Herb, sued him, and sued Warner Bros. Then Warner Bros. had possession of 3 of Frank's records and they put out those 3 records, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt & Orchestral Favorites, with no credits and lousy artwork. And Frank was very very depressed during that whole time.
Frank had been on tour during the entire time we were rehearsing and recording the [Bat Chain Puller] album. When he came back from touring, he found that Herb had changed all the locks to everything in the Discreet Records complex, which at that time was located on Hollywood Boulevard just east of Vine Street. Cohen had confiscated all of Zappa's equipment, all his archived recordings—in effect, everything was gone—including the master tape of Bat Chain Puller. The news of Frank's assets being sezied by Cohen made him very angry. Frank was not a man who was prone to deep anger but Gail saw the sign, "His eyes would turn yellow, the iris would turn yellow."
After all the hope of a re-established Beefheart legacy, this was a crushing blow to Van Vliet. Frank, basically struggling to get his own career back on track, had to put helping Beefheart on the back burner. He soon discovered that Herb had secretly used Zappa's publishing monies to finance the recording. It is entirely possible that Frank had not authorized this project at all. Even today, no one I have talked to who was involved can recall one instance of having discussed the album project with Zappa himself; always with Cohen. It turns out that Gail Zappa has always maintained that to be so, according to Frank himself.
While we were in the studio recording [Bat Chain Puller] & Frank Zappa was touring Europe, Herb rented out FZ's backup PA system to another band that was touring the US. That wouldn't be a bad thing if it weren't for the fact that herb was using the money from the rental and his publishing income, FRANK's money, to fund the BCP project. Now Frank never consented to this nor was he aware that this was happening. When FZ returned to the states and found out about it, the shit hit the fan. Herb locked Frank out of his own studio. And blocked FZ's access to all recording including his own. A long court battle ensued (FZ vs Herb Cohen and Warner Bros.) over ownership of various master tapes including the tape from the BCP sessions and after years of litigation (and a certain bit of contract-breaching rerecording of the materials) the tapes became the property of FZ (ZFT).
Frank had better luck with his two-million dollar lawsuit against MGM, which began in August 1975. "We made a settlement in which we get the masters back plus $100,000. But MGM gets a 3% production over-ride on all future use of them."
This money is all tied up with Frank's argument with Herbie.
Things had been getting ridiculous with MGM: "Of the five LPs I recorded for them, they repackaged eleven. Since then I've made a further 17 albums for Warner Brothers and there are also twelve bootlegs on the market . . ."
In an October 1976 out-of-court settlement, Zappa won back his Verve/MGM masters (with a provision for MGM to receive a 3% payment for all future tape usage) and was paid $100,000, but the lawsuit with Cohen complicated matters.
Paul [McCartney] would come to town and throw a party for his closest 500 friends. [...] One year the venue was the Queen Mary, the next, the Harold Lloyd Estate.
The Harold Lloyd Estate had been saved from the wrecking ball at the 11th hour; a 17-acre estate nestled into the hills of Beverly. Built by one of the earliest super-stars, an eerie reflection of the past was conjured up by the complete refurbishment of the building, complete with Grecian style gardens and architectural adornments. All the dollying up was underwritten by Paul McCartney for the party. We guests were asked to wear white and only white formal wear. Like a scene from the lodge in "The Shining", timewarped, we were transported to a long-gone era of gentility and civility. A perfect Riviera clime set the scene for 500 of Hollywood's heavy hitters to hang out on the lawn and rub white dinner jacket sleeves together.
Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty kept a rapid fire convo going near the pool, stopping only long enough to flirt with my astonishingly beautiful wife (who won rave reviews from Linda and Paul for her kind housewarming gift).
Frank Zappa stood to the side and I introduced myself as a fan of his music. The seminal Zappa album with "Peaches in Regalia" is a particular fave of mine and we chatted amiably. Mr. Zappa was probably one of the most individualistic avant-garde, musically savvy, culturally challenging players to ever walk the streets of that city.
There was an intensity to these gatherings that over-shadowed everything else. Paul brought together the then A list of celebrities and people who most often liked and celebrated the work of their fellow party-goers.
The evening ended with Catherine and I hosting Rod Stewart and Britt Ekland back to our house in the hills.
[After the European tour] I took a few weeks off and got a call from Frank, "I had to let Roy, Andre & Napoleon go, so it's just you and me again. Why don't you come down to the Record Plant and play on some stuff I've been working on."
[...] While we were in the studio he said he was thinking about hiring Eddie Jobson (of Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry & after FZ, UK) who we had met on the road and had jammed w/Frank backstage. This was the first inclination of what was going to be the new band.
I remember the depressed period where Frank told Pat O'Hearn and me, that he may not be able to pay us due to the legalities of the split [with Herb Cohen] having frozen him out from his financial assets. We of course being young, loyal and supportive offered to stay without pay until he had it sorted out. We were all grateful it naver came to that.
At one point, Frank, Terry, and I were just a trio. We jammed and played throughout the summer as such. Frank was producing a Grand Funk Railroad album at the time, and those guys would come in and encourage Frank to "revive the power trio." This was before the Police; the last trios had been Hendrix and Cream. We thought about that and actually rehearsed it for a while. But eventually Frank felt that he needed at least five guys to make things interesting.
I remember when Frank went through the lawsuit thing, he said he might not be able to pay us. We all said we we're willing to hang for a few months as long as the savings held out in the hopes that things would get better. And Frank was really depressed in that time. It was just me and Patrick O'Hearn and Eddie Jobson. And I was gonna be the sort of lead singer, and do the stuff that Napoleon did. It was a very strange time, you know. And then he got Ray White—we auditioned lots of singers.
I remember being in his basement with Pat O'Hearn and Eddie Jobson when things were really tough. His manager had miss-appropriated something like $40,000 and some parts of Franks personal P.A. system into a sound and lights/bus and truck company with out consulting him, and he said he didn't know if he could pay us that week. I recall saying that I had enough to last a month or so and not to worry about it, I wasn't going to leave or stop rehearsing, which he appreciated. Thanks to his creative financing it never came to that.
Frank's new group is called 'Zappa'. He changed the name from The Mothers because "any resemblance between this group and the original Mothers Of Invention is purely conceptual. The kind of things we're doing now are very different."
OUI: Why is your group just called Zappa I now?
ZAPPA: Because it's not really the Mothers of Invention; so why call it the Mothers of Invention? Why be trapped in the Sixties? Know what I mean? It's a good name. Two syllables, not too taxing. It looks good in print and it happens to be my real name.
Zappa had to come up with a way to perform without being blocked by [Herb] Cohen. To get around Herb, Frank Zappa laid The Mothers Of Invention to rest and hit the road under his own name, and he had a new manager in tow—Bennett Glotzer, former manager of Blood, Sweat & Tears, Janis Joplin and Procol Harum.
Zappa claims he's confident with his choice of his third manager, Bennett Glotzer, although, he adds, "I've been wrong before. He really knows his work. He works real hard, he's got a good imagination for putting things together, doesn't sit still for a minute, and is a compulsive worker. I can get along with a guy like that."
The latest Mothers are Zappa plus three, with Ruth Underwood a "possible" return. Their rock and roll event, "Night of the Iron Sausage," is due in September, with Terry Bozzio on drums, Eddie Jobson (Roxy Music) on violin and keyboards, and Patrick O'Hearn on bass while Zappa plays guitar, bass and keyboards. A U.S. tour is planned for the fall.
Flo and Eddie auditioned for Frank's new group—they said that they couldn't stand paying out for their own group all the time—and Frank wanted them, but Columbia Records pressured them to take their own group on the road to promote their new album "Moving Targets".
During the tour, their guitarist Phil Reed fell from a hotel window and was killed. Flo and Eddie called Frank and asked if they could tag onto his tour. They did.
IT: Have you severed connections with Flo and Eddie?
Z: As a matter of fact they auditioned for this group.
IT: What happened—did they fail?
Z: Well they sort of passed, but they had just finished an album for Columbia and they wanted to go out and promote it, and they were considering whether or not it would be better promotion for their album to tour with me or touring with their own group. So they decided to tour with their own group. I still see them occasionally.
[Eddie Jobson had] met Frank when Roxy Music supported the Mothers at a gig in Milwaukee in [November 28, 1975], when he'd sat in with one of his musical heroes. At the end of Roxy's American tour, he remained in Los Angeles and played with an early incarnation of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. Then Frank invited him to accompany the Mothers on a week of Canadian gigs.
Jobson and Frank played together at sound checks and in dressing rooms as Frank assessed both his musical ability and his capacity to memorize arrangements. But he did get to play onstage at two shows. "He'd sort of say maybe five minutes before he was due onstage, 'It'd be nice if you played along tonight,'" he told Chris Salewicz. "You know, there's 10,000 people out there and he tells you like five minutes before and you just have to go on-stage and jam, really. I mean, he goes into a riff that you've never heard before in your life and just points at you and you have to do a solo. It was really good for me . . . I mean, that's his strength. He stretches his musicians beyond their capabilities all the time. And then when it comes to a performance he'll just relax it slightly to the point where people can actually play what he wants.'" [NME, August 21, 1976, "The Boy With The Lobotomy", interview by Chris Salewicz.]
With an open invitation to join the band whenever he could, Jobson returned to England, where he was offered gigs with Ian Gillan and Procol Harum. Then he was told that Roxy Music were taking an indefinite break, during which he wouldn't be paid. He rang Frank, and Frank sent him a plane ticket.
Roxy supported Frank in Milwaukee, which is where I got to meet him. I expressed interest in his music and his band, and the next day both bands went to Chicago. We had a day off and Frank was playing so I went to the gig and jammed with him in the dressing room. He was suitably impressed to invite me to Canada at the end of the Roxy tour to tour around with him for a week. I just played with them in dressing rooms, working things out, so he could see if I could play his stuff and remember it. A couple of nights I ended up on stage, guesting on violin.
Terry's been with me for over a year. He introduced me to Patrick [O'Hearn], and he plays so good I'd be a fool not to have him in the hand. Eddie Jobson auditioned for me when we were out on the road with Roxy Music. He asked to join the hand, so we tried him out for a few dates. He's got a knack for fitting in.
IT: Do you get many superstars wanting to play with you?
Z: No. Nobody who is really good in the music business would ever want to be in this band after all the shit they've read in the British newspapers, about what a mean person I am. They couldn't stand the discipline, you see. And then there's the other people who want to be stars and they wanna do a quick tour and then get out of the band and they're all lining up, I got a blue book over there that's got phone numbers from all over the world of people saying I-play-this-and-if-you-need-this-call-me-and-try-me-out, about 50 people auditioned for the group that's over here now.
IT: How do you go about auditions?
Z: The first thing is if they can play the music—if they can memorise the stuff fast enough, and then they get a chance to go through rehearsals; and if they make it through rehearsals then they get a chance to go on the road; and if they make it through the road they get a chance to go on the road next time; and some people wash out at some of those stages along the line. There was a girl in this group when we first started off on the tour in October and she washed out—just couldn't handle it. She was a great singer, great through rehearsals, but just couldn't handle it.
The rhythm section started rehearsing in June, and Bianca and Ray were added a few weeks before the tour began. [...] Everybody auditioned.
It was not until the middle of September that Frank discovered Ray White, a vocalist and guitarist, and Bianca, who sings and plays keys.
I got a call on the phone one day from intercontinental absurdities and they said Frank would like me to come down and audition for his band . . . I said Frank who? Then my friend said Frank Zappa! (I still didn't know who he was) but I went anyway and the rest is history. He said you got the gig.
I was working up here with Sly Stone and got a call. I dont know how he found me. [...] Just went to a rehearsal and played and sang something. Then he said, "Can you make the next rehearsal?" [...] Then I got the music, ooh my! I didnt know what to do but just try to make it work for me. [...] He gave it to me in a hot rats folder and said, [...] "Learn these right away." [...] I had not heard his music before, just heard the name. Had no clue.
[...] I just had been with him three weeks before we went on the road. [...] I was scared to death.
[...] I got [Ray White] the job. [...] He used to play in my band.
In 1976 I got a call from the management of Frank Zappa. "What? Who is that," I said to my boyfriend, "and why does he want me?" My boyfriend said, "You don't know who Frank Zappa is? Well, just go down there, and you will see who he is."
Ok. I was very impressed with Mr. Zappa's organization. Wow. He got me transportation to and from the rehearsal and a beautiful hotel room at the Chateau Marmont. When I got there (to rehearsal) Zappa said, "Do you play keyboards?"
"Yes." (I said very softly) "What do you want me to play?"
"Just play with the band and learn these lyrics."
[...] I decided I would sing with all my might and play piano so he would hire me. Yep. And he did, and that was beginning of my apprenticeship with a genius.
[...] I was working with Ray White before Frank asked me if I knew a good guitar player and he fit Frank's snap just fine.
[A] friend played a record about a dental floss tycoon for me, by some guy I'd never heard of named Zappa . . . and as if that weren't strange enough, about a week later Bianca Thornton called and asked if I would be interested in an audition for the Zappa band . . . that was in nineteen seventy six . . .
How did you first get the gig with Frank—was it on Lady Bianca's recommendation?
Lady Bianca . . . a truly great woman, a fantastic musician, and a great human being. She called me about the audition, and life as I knew it changed.
What music had you been playing before FZ—with Bianca?
I only played a few shows with Bianca's band. I was already playing with an original band at the time, which included Tony Smith on drums, Archie White on keyboards, Larry Wong on bass, Ron Leung on percussion and Arnie Baruch on sax.
Bianca was, and is, a friend of the family—a lifelong friend, I might add. She introduced me to Frank, and away we went.
When guitarist Ray White received a phone call from singer Lady Bianca in 1976, he had no idea it would change his musical life forever.
She asked if he could be at the airport at 4:30 p.m. that day.
He answered yes.
She asked if he had his guitar.
Again, he replied, "Yes."
With that, he was out the door on his way to San Francisco International Airport, off to an audition with a band.
What he didn't know was that he was about to try out for a spot in Frank Zappa's band.
Today, White laughs while recalling this story. A week before he got that call, he had heard a Zappa album and listened to a song called "Montana." He recalls, "My comment was, 'This is the craziest hite man in the world!'"
A short time later, he walked in to play for this "crazy white man" wearing white linen pants, a dashiki, clogs, and "an afro the size of the full moon," White says. Frank Zappa looked him over, and then played what White calls "this very strange guitar line." With a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, White says Zappa said arrogantly, "Watch my fingers." He wanted White to mimic him.
"I don't want to see your fingers. Ignorance is bliss," replied White, and with that, he turned his back on Zappa and played it by ear. Then, Zappa asked him to sing "City of Tiny Lites." White complied.
Suddenly, Zappa's manager came walking across the warehouse floor, and began telling White about the pay. He had the job.
"Thanx, Henry [Goldrich]! Frank Zappa & Co. ICA"
[Terry Bozzio, Patrick O'Hearn, FZ, Eddie Jobson, Ray White, Bianca]
Jasun started composing The Pillory and assembling the Neoteric Orchestra in 1976. Following the premiere live performance in Los Angeles in July of that year, plans were initiated for the studio recording. However, when Jasun was asked by Frank Zappa to join his world-tour as a synthesizer programmer, the orchestra was temporarily disbanded and the album production delayed. After the Zappa tour in mid-77, Jasun moved to London to record some of the basic tracks and began auditions for the soon-to-be 40-piece orchestra.
As far as Zappa goes, I used to be a synthesizer programming wiz-kid and so I toured with him for a year or so. He had this HUGE synthesizer set up for Eddie Jobson that took me literally half a day just to tune. It was a great tour and Frank and I got along really well and I learned a lot from him. I recorded some interesting percussion and vocal overdubs for "Zappa, Live In New York".
After college, around 1977, I started touring as a roadie for lots of bands. Frank Zappa had this huge, and I mean huge Emu synth. It was like 10 feet tall and had literally hundreds of knobs and cables. By then I was a synthesizer wiz-kid and synthesizers were pretty new, so Frank hired me to run it, and Eddie Jobson to play it. I was excited to work with Eddie as he was an incredible musician, and we became really good friends touring with Zappa.
During the tour I started composing and recording THE PILLORY. It was a blend of all my musical tastes: prog, avant-garde, noise, freeform jazz with LOTS of mellotron. I owned 2 mellotrons at the time and have always loved the mellotron sound. Somehow the Neoteric Orchestra as I dubbed it, grew to 40 musicians including Jobson and Ruth Underwood from Zappas band. [...] It took me a few years to record it in LA, New York and London studios. Zappa was very supportive since he liked this type of music too. I have to admit, even though it was recorded 25 years ago, to me THE PILLORY still sounds pretty amazing.
[...] Frank and I got along really well and he showed me more about music than I learned in all my university music classes.
Art Rock: When you were in U.K., you appeared on Jasun Martz's The Pillory album. How did you get involved with Jasun's project?
Jobson: Jasun was my roadie in Frank Zappa band. He was keyboard tech. That album was done during Zappa. He wanted to make some kind of Avant-Garde record. He just asked me some favor if I would play something on his record. So I helped him out. I know that album still keeps coming out. People keep asking me what this album is.
Terry Bozzio took the mike to sing "Youre So Cute," a real kick-ass song which called to mind the kind of songs Don Brewer sings for Grand Funk. Eddie Jobson again stepped down from his skyscraper of synthesizers to stretch out on violin.
"You people dont feel any discomfort at all, do you?" Zappa asked. With that, the band played a crazy avant garde classical piece called "Discomfort," which fit its title to a T. The vocal style especially drew from the work of Zappa idol Edgard Varese.
One slight possibility is that "Discomfort" refers to the weird classical material included in the version of "I'm So Cute" (aka "You're So Cute") they played a short time later in Boston. Interesting to get confirmation that they played the song more than once.
The reviewer may have misheard FZ here. What FZ said in Boston was "CUTE people [not "You people"] never experience any discomfort." He recited lines from I'm So Cute ("Ugly is wrong...") between that line and the weird vocal section, so I'd be inclined to consider the weird vocal section still part of "I'm So Cute," rather than a separate song entitled "Discomfort."
Note that both in Tampa and in Boston, the so-called "Discomfort" was performed immediately after "I'm So Cute."
[Eddie Jobson, FZ, Bianca, Terry Bozzio, Ray White, Patrick O'Hearn.]
How many more years are you under contract to Warners?
FZ: That's arguable. I would love to be rid of them right now. They say I owe them four more albums. I'm trying to decide whether I'll hand them all four when I get home from this tour, cause I got 'em, And they know that. They're sitting in California waiting to come out. If Warners keeps fucking around like this they're gonna get a little present when I get home. One of the tapes is an orchestra album.
I am giving Warners a fair chance this time, I'm saying: "perform on this record." [Zoot Allures] is my first release for Warners, not DiscReet; it's not a subsidiary, it's not a little independent company, it's "hey, here I am on your mainline label, now what are ya gonna do about it?" So far they've done diddly-shit.
The last circulating tape with Bianca is from 11/11/76 Québec. The first circulating tape after her departure is from 11/16/76 Toronto.
Several years ago, I heard from someone who attended the previously-unlisted 11/12/76 Erie show (and saved his ticket stub). Of course I asked him whether Bianca was there [...]:
I can now state with clarity that Bianca was with the crew at that concert. I can clearly recall being disappointed that she sang "Dirty Love" when I was thirsty for FZ's deep-voiced rendition.
FZ told Zjakki Willems (1/28/77) that "Bianca was fired in Canada." So it probably happened between 11/15/76 London and 11/16/76 Toronto.
I left Frank Zappa because I am a lady. I did not feel I had to be humiliated by taking off my clothes or letting Frank use me as a prop on his show. I feel that my vocals and musicianship should have sufficed. That is why I left, it was my choice.
[...] I was on good terms with Frank when I left. As a matter of fact I returned to see some of his performances when he was in town. We kinda laughed about the whole thing. But it wasn't funny at the time.
It was a mutual agreement, because he wanted to make me do more degrading things on stage than just display my talent. I thought my musicianship should have been enough. And then again I don't know why I had to leave, it just was something that did jive with him. I was a little too conservative at that time, and still am a little. [He wanted] like put his guitar on my body . . . things like that [...]. I thought I shoudn't have to if Ray and Eddie and Pat and Terry didn't, we were a band all of us.
At Cobo Hall in Detroit, Zappa drew the biggest crowd since the Stones played there 18 months ago. Flo and Eddie appeared as the opening act and the came back onstage to jam with Zappa. Also in the jam were Ralph Armstrong of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Don Brewer from Grand Funk Railroad whose last album "Good Singin' Good Playin'" was a Zappa production.
Grand Funk broke up shortly after its release, which was a surprise to Frank. "I just found out about if four days ago. Three of the group, Craig Frost, Mel Shacher and Don Brewer came backstage in Detroit.
"I immediately offered Brewer a job since he wasn't doing anything." Frank has a high regard for his playing. "He's terribly nervous and insecure but he's a really good rock 'n' roll drummer . . . Every once in a while he grows a full beard to hide behind." Brewer is thinking about the offer.
Frank also has plans to learn three of Black Sabbath's numbers and to jam onstage with them at their December 6 Madison Square Garden gig—something cooked up between Zappa and one of the Sabs at Zappa's Third Annual Thanksgiving Banquet.
Do you often go and see bands live?
I saw them [Black Sabbath]. I was on stage with them at Madison Square Gardens on their last tour. I was sitting on the side of the stage. I'd never seen them before. They had me sitting on a box over by the side (he bursts into uncontrolled laughter).
I was going to jam with them and they were supposed to call me up and tell me what time their sound check was, but I guess they didn't have one. So I went down there to the show and they said 'what are you going to play' and they'd set up a mini wall of Marshalls for me. And I said 'shit, I'm not going to go out there without knowing what it's going to sound like'. I said I'd just watch the show.
What happened was that Tommy [Iommi] had some trouble with his guitar and decided to change his strings at the last minute. The audience had already been sitting there waiting for an hour or so since Ted Nugent, and they wanted me to go out there and make an announcement and calm them down. So I did. And I introduced them and then sat by the side of the stage over by Ozzy's orange juice (laughs again).
But you didn't play?
No, I just sat there and marvelled at it (more laughter).
Additional informant: Javier Marcote.Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos