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Musicians who flummox

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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby Kenneth Burns » Thu Nov 01, 2012 9:22 am

scratch wrote:From the first time I heard it I thought the bit about the teacher was meant to satirize the Vals. Was Magdelana meant as an endorsement of adult men engaging in sex with their thirteen year old daughters? I think it was meant to mock odd behavior that FZ found repugnant. And I don't think Stuff Up the Cracks was meant as an endorsement of suicide either for that matter.


If anything, the outrageousness of Zappa's lyrics may have verged on hacky, especially if you view it as a component of his overall smug, contemptuous persona. Okay, we get it, there's dumb stuff in the world. Thanks for the 20-minute guitar solo. What now?
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby Kenneth Burns » Thu Nov 01, 2012 9:27 am

Zappa was better when he was mocking sacred cows like the Beatles. The cover art alone of "We're Only in it for the Money" is just brilliant. I loved him at the PMRC hearings. Right on, Frank.
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Nov 01, 2012 9:50 am

Zappa was also pretty great when he wasn't mocking anything at all (or just singing about sex.)

The lyrics to "Montana" are hilariously bizarre.
I'm also pretty fond of "Evelyn, A Modified Dog"
Those are the first two that leapt to mind, but there are many more.

Oh, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson is ]a most-welcome addition to Zappa records. (His "In France" is a highlight of Them Or Us, for example.) His own discoey-bluesy-jam records from the late '70s and into the '80s are bizarre, to be sure, but do have their charms.
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby Kenneth Burns » Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:21 am

When I was a teen in the 1980s, I taped "Montana" off Vanderbilt's college rock station. I loved it. Listened to it over and over. As I recall, I recognized it from a Zappa concert that was broadcast on USA's "Night Flight" in the early 1980s. Or maybe I even recognized it from a commercial spot for that Zappa concert on "Night Flight." It's funny how we learn about stuff.
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby Kenneth Burns » Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:29 am

My VERY earliest Frank Zappa association is a gag on Robin Williams' 1979 album "Reality ... What a Concept." There's a quick Zappa mention in a Mr. Rogers routine. I loved that (rather adult) album when I was a kid -- loved Williams, and Mork. Wondering about the joke, I asked my parents who Frank Zappa is. They demurred.
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby scratch » Thu Nov 01, 2012 11:15 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:The lyrics to "Montana" are hilariously bizarre.


The lyrics to Montana presented a problem to overly-serious Zappa devotees since there was a widespread assumption that "raising dental floss" was a clever reference to growing ganja. Wikipedia used to have verbiage discussing whether or not dental floss was ever actually made from ganja fiber, but I couldn't find it in a quick search just now. However, at the time, the idea that FZ would write a song about raising cannabis provoked consternation in some because Frank was perceived as anti-drug (except for coffee and wine). An acquaintance told me that when he squired Frank from the airport to a campus gig, FZ had a coke spoon on a chain and made frequent use of it. Not sure I believed that then or now, but I doubt Frank felt he owed his audience any more of the truth than he felt like doling out.

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Oh, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson is ]a most-welcome addition to Zappa records. (His "In France" is a highlight of Them Or Us


In France is one of my favorite later career Zappa songs. And I suspect he was serious about the lyrics, but that probably just reflects my biases about France.
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby scratch » Thu Nov 01, 2012 11:18 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
minicat wrote:Bang-era Neil Diamond is catchy, perfect '60s pop, and should be owned by anyone who likes '60s pop.
I agree this is the best era of stuff by him I've heard, but I don't own any of it and I don't feel like it's a collection gap which needs filling. I definitely wouldn't call anything Neil sings on "perfect".

I've never understood why so many real rock'n'rollers seem to love this guy.


A fair number of reggae fans probably love him, too, but I'm not sure how many of them realize UB40's Red Red Wine is a Neil Diamond song.
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby minicat » Thu Nov 01, 2012 11:35 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
minicat wrote:Bang-era Neil Diamond is catchy, perfect '60s pop, and should be owned by anyone who likes '60s pop.
I agree this is the best era of stuff by him I've heard, but I don't own any of it and I don't feel like it's a collection gap which needs filling. I definitely wouldn't call anything Neil sings on "perfect".

I've never understood why so many real rock'n'rollers seem to love this guy. His appearance in The Last Waltz baffles me to this day (and is definitely a low point in both the film and the soundtrack.) He wrote a handful of good-not-great songs, some of which he seemingly wrote over and over and over again.


Think of his Bang era this way: much of it is essentially girl group records a few years too late, but with a guy singing lead.

I just listened to one of the original Bang LPs yesterday, and I stand by my "essential" assessment. Even a song that would also fit comfortably in his "serious"/yucky period such as "Shilo" works within the Brill Building pop factory context (it doesn't hurt that I've never deciphered what he's yammering about -- and don't care).
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Nov 01, 2012 11:57 am

minicat wrote:Think of his Bang era this way: much of it is essentially girl group records a few years too late, but with a guy singing lead.
You're gonna have to give me some examples 'cuz I just don't hear any girl group in "Thank The Lord For The Night Time" or "Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon" or "Cherry, Cherry". And now that I think about it, isn't the 1st Bang LP mostly just pointless covers? After all, "Red Rubber Ball" and "Hanky Panky" are stupid songs when real singers do them, so they certainly aren't improved by Neil's lame pipes.
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby Kyle Motor » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:24 pm

I don't hear the girl-group thing in Diamond either. I think he was a pop songwriter with a unique formula and a unique voice. I happen to like that formula/voice combo, but if you don't there isn't much else there for you.
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby Henry Vilas » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:53 pm

scratch wrote:... Frank was perceived as anti-drug (except for coffee and wine).

You left out tobacco.

I was talking to Jim Schwall a few years ago about all the famous musicians he has come into contact with. Once at a party he ran into Zappa and they had a conversation. Schwall said that even though FZ didn't do drugs, the conservation was one of the craziest he ever had. (Don't know if JS was partaking at that party.)
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby Kenneth Burns » Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:09 pm

At a high point in his career, Neil Diamond devolved into self-parody, hard, and that makes it more difficult than it might be to assess his earlier stuff.
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby christopher_robin » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:53 pm

Zappa was a coffee and cigarettes guy. Everything I've read indicates that was the extent of his substance abuse.

You know what's strange, I never knew that was Watson on THEM OR US (an album I haven't listened to for probably 15 years, though I can recall "Down in France" as if it were playing right here and now). Thanks for that tidbit, Wagstaff, it led me to discover that Frank Zappa stated that "Watson's 1956 song 'Three Hours Past Midnight' inspired me to become a guitarist".
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby Igor » Thu Nov 01, 2012 9:47 pm

Henry Vilas wrote:I was talking to Jim Schwall a few years ago about all the famous musicians he has come into contact with. Once at a party he ran into Zappa and they had a conversation. Schwall said that even though FZ didn't do drugs, the conservation was one of the craziest he ever had. (Don't know if JS was partaking at that party.)


I read an interview years ago where one of his kids was complaining because they would have friends over, and he would walk through the room either naked or in his underwear. Seems like he either cultivated a vaguely jerk/attention seeking persona that spilled over nto private life, or maybe he was just an actual jerk/attention seeker.
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Re: Musicians who flummox

Postby scratch » Fri Nov 02, 2012 9:10 am

christopher_robin wrote:Zappa was a coffee and cigarettes guy. Everything I've read indicates that was the extent of his substance abuse.


I did indeed leave out tobacco in my previous little hymn to Frank. He took delight in offending people and causing consternation and his affinity for tobacco often figured in it.

And everything I've ever read or seen attributed to an identifiable person indicates that coffee, cigarettes, and wine were about it for FZ's substance abuse, but rumors persisted for years that, for instance, how could he skewer the LSD/Love is all you need crowd so well if he hadn't experienced psychedelics. However, given that former band members, even the ones who felt he'd ripped them off unmercifully, never contradicted Frank on the subject makes me think he was telling the truth. At this point I'd have to hear otherwise from as unimpeachable a source as Flo and Eddie, certainly no strangers to psychic adventuring, to change my opinion. Or from one of the kids.
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