Frank Zappa and Beyond

It’s been a while since I have done a vinyl project entry.  I was on a roll for a short while, going through Ted’s record collection from Z-A and then got to Zappa.  Yes, I didn’t make it too far before finding myself stymied.  Why you ask?  Well, Zappa is so prolific, and there were many records to listen too.  Hardly a chore, as I’m a fan. But how do you sum up these records when they are so diverse?  Also, the analysis for why Ted might have liked these records is pretty simple:  He was a guy.  I don’t have one male friend who isn’t a Zappa fan.  I can’t say as much for the opposite sex, and it’s no surprise since this band and it’s following is a straight up testicle festival.  But I dig these records, so let’s just jump right to my favorite of all:

Hot Rats – released 1969

Condition: record cover – fair, vinyl – good

Price: unknown (but let’s be real, PRICELESS)

Wow, what a record!  Starting at track one, “Peaches en Regalia”, you are barraged with a sonic collage that is just delightful to listen to.  This record is a decidedly jazzy bunch of songs that are so well composed and intricate.  I heard through the grapevine that Zappa was never formally trained in music composition, and that he learned everything he knew from books he took out from the public library.  That’s impressive.  I also learned that early in his recording career, he got busted for producing some soundtracks that were used for a porno movie, and he was very resentful about this.  It could explain why his lyrics have rather suggestive overtones on almost every track that involves vocals.  Take that prudish world!  For some this might be a turnoff.  I find his lyrics humorous, but then again, it’s a fine line.  When I say this, I’m not talking about the songs being raunchy, but verging on the vibes of Weird Al Yankovic.  Really, one could easily find the sardonic humor in these songs to be plain old adolescent, and would not be wrong.  But I find myself listening to Zappa songs and consistently chuckling over a lyric as the song delves into a wailing freaked-out Frank guitar solo.  It’s been said that Frank is a very underrated guitar player, and I’d agree.  He really shreds.  I think he only seem lack luster because the rest of the band is ridiculously tight and talented.  This virtuosity really shines on Hot Rats, a unique record in that it’s very instrumental heavy and not overly busy in the lyrics department.  Captain Beefheart is featured on this record and his vocals really work well, especially on the track “Willie the Pimp”.  He is so nasty sounding and compliments the fat cacophony of sound churned out by the band.  This multitracked wonderland apparently was recorded on a homemade 16 track recorder that Frank jerry-rigged together back in 1969.  He used all kinds of multitracking and varispeed tricks, especially with drum tracks, to create the sound.  This guy was a rock MacGyver!

So beyond Zappa, I was faced with a bunch of Neil Young records, followed up by Yes.  I’ll be honest, I just couldn’t take it.  Believe me when I tell you, if you are ever feeling low, the prospect of a lengthy stretch of listening to Neil Young and then Yes is a daunting proposition.  I’ve committed to listen to everything in this vinyl collection, so I’ll get there, but let’s just save those gems for later…

Then it dawned on me that I should just listen to whoever I want and write about that.  Since we’ve been producing some great shows this year, I could have focused on the artists we brought in, as I had indeed spent days on end with Robyn Hitchcock and then a long stretch with Graham Parker, getting psyched up to see them perform.  Why not delve into the material of the artists that will be performing at our upcoming shows?  From here forth, I’ll be focusing on the amazing musicians whom we are booking for Tedrock Fund concerts.  On deck: The Bevis Frond!

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