Saturday, August 22, 2009


Frank Zappa-PIGS AND REPUGNANCE bootleg CD (Flashback World Productions, Italy); THE STRING QUARTET bootleg CD (Flashback World Productions, Italy); PIGS 'N' REPUGNANT bootleg 2-CD set (Vulture Records, Italy)

For a concise explanation of my (thankfully brief) teenage infatuation with Zappa click here, and if you happen to still be interested in the entire Mothers of Invention shuck and jive act this far down the line (like I am during downtime periods in my life) maybe you should seek out these particular CD's which were issued during the second Golden Age of bootlegs in the early/mid-nineties. With their professional-looking covers, good pressings (for a change) and vastly improved sound quality, these boots sure typified the "coming of age" of an industry that continues to fight on despite horrific odds, even though at this point in time it seems as if nobody, especially the Music Industry itself, cares whether these things exist or not with all of the file sharing and disque-burning one can engage in these days.

The first of today's batch is entitled PIGS AND REPUGNANCE and purports to contain recordings from the Mothers' legendary stay at the Garrick Theatre in '67 during a run which saw the allegedly similar-minded Fugs as the opening act. Personally I'd rather wanna lend ear to the Fugs' portion of the program but until that one materializes maybe I should make do with this nicety which surprisingly enough doesn't annoy as much as these Zappa discs can do at times. Going ever so far as to prove that they have "nullis prenti", the Mothers romp through a whole load of satisfactory improvisations in between plugging the latest single "Beg Leg Emma" and tracks from the first two albums. The early version of "King Kong" (here entitled "King Kong Variations") does capture that proto-fusion aspect of the group even with Roy Estrada doing falsetto moans somewhere in the midsection (I guess you hadda be there to appreciate the satire). After "Status Back Baby" fades out after a good 48 seconds we're treated to yet another take of "King Kong" live in Germany 9/28/68 which I guess is a good way to pad out a running short disque and a whole lot better'n having one of those 20-minute boot platters like the kind even the bigger labels like Chapter One would dish out at us unsuspecting musique junkies back in those pre-internet file sharing days.

Flashback, the same people who gave us PIGS AND REPUGNANCE, also gave us THE STRING QUARTET which was taken from a gig recorded live in Fullerton California. The UNCLE MEAT group is in full-force on this one which starts off with a cover of Andre Williams' "Bacon Fat" of all things (this being long before Williams' comeback on underground hipster terms) and a medley of themes from UNCLE MEAT entitled "The String Quartet" which sound rather pale next to the actual album but what else is new. The doo-wop weeper "Valerie" which later ended up on the BURNT WEENIE SANDWICH album even materializes, and if I'm not mistaken the unfortunately named "Aybe Sea" (also from BWS) appears somewhere in the jam. Even Bizarre-labelmate Wild Man Fischer pops up rather unexpectedly, and he's so good you don't mind that Zappa was using him as part of his patented "look how outrageous we are Middle America!" freak show one bit. The entire shebang ends with a particularly entertaining half-hour rendition of "King Kong" (a definite highlight of this set), and this performance, one which despite the usual goofs and gaffes you've come to expect from the Mothers, is a pretty honest sampling of what the group was doing live uninhibited by Zappa's usual overdubbing and total obliteration of entire passages/performances, control freak that he was.

Closing out today's Zappa soiree's the twofer PIGS 'N' REPUGNANT which, not surprisingly, has nothing to do with the similarly titled bootleg mentioned above. However it does have plenty to do with THE STRING QUARTET since a good portion was taken from the same show, along with tracks laid down in Appleton Wisconsin and somewhere in Europe if the liner credits can be believed. Whatever it is it's a decent enough, at least for me, collection of late-sixties Mothers that's probably enhanced because Zappa does not run off at the mouth like he is wont to do on way too many live recordings that I've heard. PIGS 'N' REPUGNANT includes personal faves "Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque" and even more of Zappa's homages to the early-sixties jazz avant garde, and even with the usual elongated jazz influx this admittedly does digest better'n the dross the original Mothers eventually led to. Biggest surprise comes on disque #2 where the Euro recordings show up...after a so-so version of "Help I'm a Rock" what should appear but this totally abstract number that is supposed to be "Return of the Son of the Monster Magnet" but sounds more or less like some forgotten avant garde jazz soundscape recorded by a group led by Marcel Duchamp sometime in 1928! Even stranger is that none other than Don Cherry is supposed to appear on this track, making me wonder if in fact he was a member of the Mothers at this time and if so...why?

BRAIN LAPSE #2 (an actual modern-day fanzine, available here)

Well, it claims to be an actual fanzine and even says it is one on the masthead, but man-oh-man does BRAIN LAPSE look like a gen-you-whine professional mag sans the usual bar code to these eyes! And the, I can't remember being this excited since the early-eighties when I'd pick up issues of BOMP and KICKS and read 'em in rapt wonderment sending off orders to various m.o. bizzez just so's I could at least get the most vital and important releases from those great six-oh and moderne-day energetic groups that seemed to make up the pulsebeat for my very own existence. OK, I'm not that excited over BRAIN LAPSE and perhaps could find a few faults with it if I really wanted to be a nitpicking tight-sphinctored rock critic kinda guy like Jay Hinman thinks I am, but I won't. But it still is a much-anticipated doozy that you can tell a whole load of hard work and effort was poured into, and given the virtual dearth of high energy reading these days (at least in print form) why should I complain? Along with UGLY THINGS and a few others publications, BRAIN LAPSE is a top-notch fanzine (yeah, I guess I do mean it!) that is a more-than-halfway-decent attempt at telling you and me, the unsuspecting reader, about groups and films and books that we should know about and the who whats'n whys behind the music in ways VH1'll never come up with in a millyun years!

Of course it may seem price-y to you...after all $11.99 for 80-some pages might not exactly seem like a bargain, but once you get your mitts on this glossy-paper read and glom the in-depth pieces on The Equals (complete with an Eddy Grant interview), the Marbles (interviewed as well), the Orbits, French underground rock, Japanese popsters Carol and the Titan Records story you'll be the one thinking you got the better end of the bargain! Imagine that Power Pop issue of BOMP magnified tenfold and you'll get an idea just how thrill-chill BRAIN LAPSE can get. The only thing missing are all of those ads for Bomp Mailorder and the Golden Disc like you used to see all over the place back in the Good Ol' Days of Sixties Fanzine Revivalism.

Besides the major interviews and articles on the above artists there are the as-to-be-expected music writeups, though 'stead of the usual rundown of current Cee-Dee releases and books that you would expect from a magazine such as this only old singles, beat-up paperbacks, fanzines and discontinued VCR tapes of early-eighties vintage teensploitation films are slapped upon the chopping block! It's always refreshing to know that someone else besides me might care a few whits for an old issue of THE SHAKIN' STREET GAZETTE as well as the Downliners Sect as F.U.2., and what's even better is that they wrote about it all and decided to sell it to us in a glossy read for twelve bucks a pop!

However, I must admit that there was one eentsy-weentsy thing in this ish of BRAIN LAPSE that didn't quite digest well with me, and contrary to what I wrote about "nitpicking" in the first paragraph of this review I really must bring this up in order to, er, rectify things if only a tad bit. Y'see, in an otherwise excellent mention of that one-sheet issue of THE PIG PAPER where none other than Edgar Breau raves on in his own humble style about the Kinks (which was reprinted in the now op BLACK TO COMM #22), the particular writer in question (named Jeff Green in case you want to give him a piece of yer addled mind!) slyly berated Our Hero's political beliefs and aspirations by quoting what I thought was one of the most poignant segments of the article as an indication of the "roots" of Breau's obviously non-progressive thought processes. Y'know, the part where the outspoken if softspoken leader of Simply Saucer mentions how he likes things that are "old" and writers like Dorothy Sayers and how mankind went wrong long ago (all honest and truthful statements to be sure), and this critic, chortling to himself and to his supposedly beknighted readership, actually added insult to injury by ending his piece with the exclamation "nuts!" as if to say that true, Edgar is a smart guy and wrote a stirring piece regarding the Kinks but man is he a Neanderthal anti-progressive jerk unlike enlightened me!

Now I could go on a reverso-riff about how strange it would seem if some writer screeded on about a certain artist's left wing beliefs by quoting some downright radical rant ending that writeup with "nuts!" but that would be useless, going over the heads of namby-pamby purebreds who just can't see the railroad ties in their own eyes while spotting specs in others. And maybe I am making mountains out of molehills by even pointing this out but I feel it imperative to mention that this comment regarding Breau and his own credo (and not just because I enjoy the guy's music and have been in contact with him on more than a few occasions) was a shameful yet typical jibe that just reeks cultural elite "above it all" snoot that is seen all-too-often in the world these days! (Just read Maureen Dowd or Paul Krugman for two sorry examples.) Once you get down to brass tacks, this admittedly small "crack" was only a step or two removed from the vastly accepted beliefs held by the upper-crust scions of the early twentieth century who were all in favor of eugenics and in its most brutal form (you know, "three generations of idiots is more than enough", not forgetting the gas chambers of Nevada which were the breeding grounds for Things to Come) at least until ol' A. Hitler took their dream to its most logical conclusion and these people had to go scrambling to hide their treacherous roots even though they did keep their original value system firmly intact. You know..."oh look at those peasants out there...aren't we oh so more REFINED?????" Sheesh. Now it's not like I have anything against the guy who wrote this admittedly rave review and I don't think he has any great qualms he was directing against Breau but in this day and age we better stand up to even these seemingly slight charges lest anyone think we AGREE with them!

As John Cale would say...enough. Just send your $11.99 to the link above (they take Paypal) and I promise, I won't call or bother you in any other way while you sit in your fart-encrusted bedroom reading BRAIN LAPSE while spinning your Marbles CD for the umpteenth time. (Though I wish they woulda printed that pic of the band standing around that George Cohan monument that was used for the Max's Kansas City Easter 1976 flyer...that one sure looked cool!)
Before I go, here's some Kongress w/Geofrey C/Krozier (I believe) live at Max's Halloween 1976 as well as some other date (same venue) I'm using to fill this pathetic excuse for a post out. Remember to keep pestering Otto von Ruggins to get that CD out before we're all taken off to the booby hatch:


Robert Cook said...

The first Zappa album (of only two) that I bought was WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH. I was hesitatnt to buy it because I'd heard how "radical" and all Zappa was, but this was also why I was tempted to try him out, and the cover and title of this particular record appealed to my adolescent sense of humor.

When I first put the needle down on "Did Ya Get Any Onya?" I was actually scared and I took the needle off. I'd never heard avant garde music or free jazz so it seemed utterly alien and repellant to me. It's suggestion of unseemly bodily fluids also spoke to my uneasiness about the changes going on in my body. (Recall, I was an adolescent; this was about 1971 or 72).

Well, it took me months of going back and listening to the album in small portions before I actually heard the whole thing. The melodic parts of it ("My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama" and "Orange Country Lumber Truck" and "Directly From My Heart To You") kept me coming back. I eventually got to kind of like the album. I even later bought ABSOLUTELY FREE, which was more immediately palatable, but also ultimately more superficial and less satisfying. (The only other album that elicited from me the same immediate antipathy that transformed over months into love was Pere Ubu's debut THE MODERN DANCE. 30+ years on, it remains perhaps my favorite album of theirs and of the 70s underground rock/punk era.)

This was the extent of my interest in Zappa, and especially as I heard other kids play albums such as JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM L.A. and other albums of the mid and later 70s, it struck me that Zappa was, for all his pyrotechnical guitaring and compositional tricks, really quite limited and boring and unfunny. I think Zappa's own singing was the worst thing about the music he made after the dissolution of the original Mothers: his voice drips smug self-satisfaction and can hear in it his own conviction that he was just hilarious and brilliant, but he was neither. He personifies the term "sophomoric."

I actually later bought WEASELS on cd, and I still enjoy that one album of his. As for the rest, and as for his various television appearances, he just struck me as an egotistical prick with a stick up his ass, with delusions of grandeur ill-served by his meager gifts.

I'm surprised he fooled so many intelligent people into taking him seriously (and thinking him funny!), but I guess given the pompous self-importance of much of the rock culture at the time, a pompous fake who pretended to deflate that self-importance with his own self-important "satire" seemed almost as good as the real thing at the time. I think he appealed (and appeals) to nerds who want to feel hipper than than the hipsters, and who get off on his "difficult" music and solo guitar wankery in the same way as metalheads adore the metal, but they see Zappa's product as more "sophisticated" than heavy metal, where similar ostentatious musical chopsmanship is seen as indicative of greatness.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Chris, I noticed that cultural slight as well and while it surely did bug me, it didn't dim the greatness of the rest of this awesome zine! You also have me salivating for some rad sounding Zappa that I haven't heard! Where can I snatch these up? Did you dig "Joe's Corsage"? It's way early R+B weaning Mother-stuff. And thanks for the free analysis Mr. Cook! Now I know why I still find plenty to like in the Zappa catalogue! It's not that I find "Black Napkins" or "Friendly Little Finger" sick jams that sound good next to the Sun City Girls more rock oriented tunes, or that I like the songs "Doreen" and "Excentrifugal Forz" as songs, it's that I'm trying to feel hipper than a metalhead! Got me! Hey it's cool that you only like two albums worth of tunes out of a hundred legit releases, not to mention these sick sounding boots, which there are scores of as well. While I agree much of Zappa's music is diluted pastiche and much of the humor sophomoric, your post just seems to be the sort of high horse snootery that you accuse foolish fans of Frank of possessing. Pax, PhilthyRex

Anonymous said...

...another great Melbournian, that Crozier

Christopher said...

Really??? I thought he was from Goolagong.