BAND MEMBERS- FZ, Adrian Belew (guitar, vocals, wild love), Patrick O'Hearn (bass, vocals, broken hearts), Terry Bozzio (drums, vocals, teen idolatry), Ed Mann (percussion, mystery words), Tommy Mars (keyboards, high-pitched vocals), Peter Wolf (keyboards)
DATES- January 24th- February 28th
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS PLAYED- 33 -13 songs played at every show
AVERAGE SHOW LENGTH- 120 minutes
AVERAGE # OF SONGS PER SHOW- 19
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 4+
SONGS FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Black Napkins, City of Tiny Lites, The Deathless Horsie, King Kong, Little House I Used To Live In, Muffin Man, Punk's Whips, Stinkfoot, The Torture Never Stops, Watermelon in Easter Hay, Yo Mama
SONGS THAT FZ USUALLY SOLOED IN BUT DID NOT ON THIS TOUR- Pound for a Brown (2nd straight tour w/o FZ solo)
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- Frank didn't pick up his guitar much on this tour, but when he did, he made sure his solos counted. "Torture", "Yo Mama", and "Little House" were always quite lengthy excursions, and their high grade quality more than made up for the lack of quantity. The "City" solos had not quite reached their epic status, and the "Muffin" solos were typical barnburners. Not an overwhelming tour for guitar playing, but when you figure that "Torture" and "Yo Mama" were two of the songs regularly performed, you can bet that it's still a tour you don't want to miss.
NEW SONGS ON TOUR (played live for 1st time)- Black Magic Woman, The Deathless Horsie, Watermelon in Easter Hay, Yo Mama
MONSTER SONGS- King Kong, Little House I Used to Live In, Pound for a Brown, Wild Love; With the possible exception of the '88 tour, this is THE tour for Monster Improvisation. "Pound for a Brown" is keyboard heaven; "King Kong" is a little bit of everything, depending on the night; "Wild Love" showcases Belew's much underplayed soloing edge; and "Little House" is simply majestic- sweeping keyboards and wicked, angular guitar playing. We get excellent Mystery Word sections, chaotic full band on-the-spot orchestrations, and even a little Carlos Santana.
OVERVIEW- Despite the relatively small number of different songs performed, and the rather redundant set lists, this tour seems to remain in favor with most FZ fans. For me, this holds true because of the guitar playing. While Frank didn't step forward and let loose all that often on any given night, when he did, he made sure that he poured every ounce of available energy into his guitar creations. The "Torture" and "Yo Mama" solos were monsters, and the latter song probably holds the honor of being the most consistently breathtaking guitar showcase. Not only was Frank on top of his game for this tour, the rest of the band was given plenty of chances to show their respective skills, and seldom if ever did they disappoint. And finally, even though the set lists were essentially the same nightly, they were put together very well- with excellent balance and contrast. Below is a sample set list, with these songs being played in this order at almost every show.
Purple Lagoon-> Dancin' Fool-> Peaches III-> The Torture Never Stops-> Tryin To Grow-> City of Tiny Lites-> Baby Snakes-> Pound for a Brown-> I Have Been in You-> Flakes-> Broken Hearts.
The above songs constitute the first hour or so of most shows on this tour. About two weeks into the tour, "King Kong", which was absent up to this point, permanently entered the scene after "Broken Hearts". Both "Wild Love" and "Yo Mama" were also performed at every show.
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION- One of Zappa's favorite Audience Participation gimmicks- other than the Dance Contest- is the "this-side-of-the-audience-sing-this-and-this-side-sing-this-and-this-side-sing-this-now-sing" trick. Although it never really seemed to work, FZ never gave up on it over the years, and on 2/18, we got it once again. This time the songs in question were "In-a-gadda-da-vida", "The Rites of Spring", and Lohengrin. Didn't really work, but a truly funny moment occurs about 30 minutes later in the set, when Frank yells at the people in the balcony and says, "You're still supposed to be singing 'In-a-gadda-da-vida'".
BABY SNAKES- Essentially performed as on "Sheik Yerbouti", with slight deviation occurring in the post-SMPTE line. Instead of "Society of Motion Picture, Television Engineers", this band sung the line as "Suck My Pee-pee Towards the End." Huh.
BLACK MAGIC WOMAN- During the "Little House I Used To Live In" guitar solo on 2/18, Frank starts playing the melody to a familiar tune. Bozzio, thinking it's "Black Magic Woman", starts singing "Black Magic Woman". Frank then chimes in, "No, I was playing 'Land of A Thousand Dances'". So Frank starts singing his song, but then changes his mind and says that it would be sick if they actually performed "Black Magic Woman". So they try to, but the band doesn't really know the tune, and the only words that Bozzio actually knows are "Black Magic Woman". So the song quickly falls apart, but then Bozzio remembers that some of the words are "Put a spell on me baby", which he attempts to fit into every line. Frank sees that this is going nowhere, rips off some guitar runs, conducts the band off in another direction, and then closes the set. Interesting, to say the least. CONCEPTUAL CONTINUITY CLUE- What is the fascination with Santana? True, this is originally a Fleetwood Mac song, but given "Variations on the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression" and the '84 performance of "Singing Wind, Crying Beast", I think we can add this performance to the list of Santana CC clues. Anyone know of any other Carlos related Zappa items?
BLACK NAPKINS- Played several times throughout the tour as an encore. Essentially played as on MAJNH, with the opening vamp being played before the actual theme of the song, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. On this tour, this was a guitar solo vehicle only.
BLACK PAGE, THE- Essentially played as on "Baby Snakes", with the usual "I-bet-you-can't-dance-to-this-and-keep-the-beat-for-the-duration" dare.
BOBBY BROWN- Essentially performed as on "Sheik Yerbouti".
BROKEN HEARTS ARE FOR ASSHOLES- Essentially played as on "Sheik Yerbouti", with deviation in O'Hearn's spoken lines during the middle verses, and in the FZ, Bozzio, O'Hearn vocal interplay during the closing "ram it up" section.
CAMARILLO BRILLO- Performed similarly to the '84 version that e have on YCDTOSA Volume VI, with the regularly paced first half, and the drawn out, half speed second half.
CITY OF TINY LITES- Essentially performed as on "Sheik Yerbouti", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Frank's solos were usually a bit longer than the one we have on SY, but they were not yet quite the tour-de-force solos that this tune would deliver on later tours. Note the written guitar part to close the solo section, and the little piano break before the return to vocals- two aspects of this song that would sadly disappear in the '80's.
DANCIN' FOOL- Performed as it was always performed, with this band being forgiven as it was the first band to always perform it this way. While I hate to admit this, I sort of like this version of "Dancin' Fool" as it seems to have a healthier dose of disco than any other tour's rendition, and this mock-sincerity makes this tour's performances more satisfying.
DEATHLESS HORSIE, THE- Premiered on 2/17, and played only once on this tour. The performance begins with Belew- by himself- playing the opening vamp at a speed roughly twice as fast as the SUAPYG version. Over this vamp, Frank solos for a couple minutes before the whole band enters and joins Belew in playing the "Deathless" arpeggio. Frank continues to solo, before giving way to a "Flakes"-ish Belew solo, with Belew liberally employing the use of his volume control. Once this solo finishes, the tune changes vamps, and both Frank and Tommy get a chance to solo over this new groove. Finally, Eddie returns the band to the standard "Deathless" arpeggio, Frank rips off some more guitar licks, and the song concludes. Thanks to Jon Naurin for the info..
DINAH-MOE HUMM- Essentially performed as on "Baby Snakes", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's banter before the closing reprise.
DISCO BOY- Essentially performed as on "Baby Snakes".
DONG WORK FOR YUDA- Not quite the production we would find on "Joe's Garage", this song on this tour was essentially a bare bones musical number with emphasis on the harmonizing and vocals of the band. As on "Joe's Garage", Terry Ted had the meat of the vocals- uttering all Bald Headed John's linguistic mutilations. Essentially performed the same each time.
ENVELOPES- With vocals! Yes, this instrumental ditty originally (sometimes) had vocals, sung by, of all people, Tommy Mars. Several years ago I transcribed these for "Society Pages", but the issue they were to be in never came out, and I have since lost my copy of the lyrics. But essentially, the song was about sex (surprise!), with one line which I cannot forget being "Squat on my blaster". When I get around to listening to one of these performances again, I will post the lyrics. [Okay boys and girls, here they are- You are my desire, You come to me in a dream, Thru a garden wall, It's covered with a lot of dew, I suppose your covered too, Just slightly wet, better yet, you're my stew. You are my ?, you come to me in dreams, thru a ?, It's covered with a lot of dew, I suppose you're covered too, Just slightly wet, better yet, Let's go screw. I'm screwing you (x4), Oh boy I'm doing it, I'm really neat (x2), You're really sweet (x2), In and Out (x4), It's divine, you are mine, you're so fine, Squat on my blaster, make it go faster (x2 last 2 line)-> Drum Solo] Sorry about the way they're written. My program gives me no choice.
FLAKES- Quite a treat on this tour. The first part of the song is essentially the same as the version on "Sheik Yerbouti", up through the Bob Dylan section. From this point on, however, the song has quite a different feel. On the album track, listen closely to the music that is playing behind Frank's "I'm a Moron and This is my Wife" verse. This vocal part was written by Frank after this tour, and, for the album, was dubbed over a live backing track of this song from this tour. So what you got on this tour was this instrumental backing track as the main course, and no lyrics. During this instrumental portion, Belew plays a slow, eerie guitar solo that highlights his imaginative use of his volume pedal. The "1,2,3,4" yell was present for this tour, but instead of the "we're coming to get you" lines, we got an intensification of the Belew-led jam.
I HAVE BEEN IN YOU- Essentially performed as on "Sheik Yerbouti", with the "Is This Guy Kidding or What?" bit thrown in from Stage VI. Frank always opened this song with the monologue about the teenage girl meeting and seducing the "pop star of her choice". Like "Billy the Mountain" years before, Frank changed names and slightly altered the story depending upon where the concert was taking place, but for the most part the story was the same.
JONES CRUSHER- Essentially played as on "Baby Snakes".
KING KONG- Another monster from this tour, this time round performed in an hyperactive, quite fast version. The band literally tears through the main theme, and drops us off right in the middle of the solo section before we even know what's happening. The typical solos included Mann's percussion, O'Hearn's very groove oriented bass, and the Mystery Word section sandwiched around O'Hearn's thumping ("White Person" from YCDTOSA Volume VI is from a 2/25 "King Kong"). Towards the end of tour, Frank started to deviate from this pattern, and would occasionally throw in an energetic guitar solo, some Mars' keyboard and scat action, and a little chaotic, full band orchestration.
LITTLE HOUSE I USED TO LIVE IN- The great shame of Zappa's officially released catalog- where is this version of this song? For this tour, Ian Underwood's greatly understated piano intro from the original tune is arranged- quite majestically- for an entire band. Sounds like "The Black Page" on lots of 'ludes. But like "Pound for a Brown", the majestic opening is nothing more than the obligatory setup for a monster solo section. First, keyboards galore- soloing away to their hearts content- with Terry and Patrick providing some inspiring support. Frank would then step up, conduct the band through some random musical madness, and then, the crown in this jewel, he would give us the Sheik Yerbouti Tango. The band would start playing the tango groove, and Frank would take his solo. Always in top form, FZ was for this one. Truly, this song is one of the feathers in Frank's touring cap, and it is quite a shame that we have no complete version of this in the officially released canon. Note: the "SY Tango" from the "Sheik Yerbouti" is taken from the LHIUTLI performance from the 2/15 show.
MUFFIN MAN- Performed similarly to the live portion of the "Bongo Fury" version. Unlike the '84 version of this tune which we have on YCDTOSA Volume VI, the verses of this song were not yet reduced to reggae dribble.
PEACHES EN REGALIA- Essentially performed as on "Tinseltown Rebellion"- the "Peaches III" version.
POUND FOR A BROWN (ON THE BUS)- One of several Monster Tunes on this tour. The head of the tune was essentially performed as on ZINY, with obvious adjustments made for different instrumentation. Once the main theme was complete, it was keyboard time, with Wolf taking the heavier load of soloing (Mars would get his turn in "Little House"). While these "Pounds" were nowhere near as chaotic and improvisational as the '88 "Pounds", our two keyboardists had quite a bit of room to maneuver in, and occasionally cooked up quite a tasty musical treat. Once they had finished their bit, Frank would conduct the band into a somewhat frenzied meltdown that would eventually segue into the next song
PUNKY'S WHIPS- Essentially played as on "Baby Snakes", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
PURPLE LAGOON, THE- This is just the main theme, as played on ZINY. This was played as the opening tune of every show, which Frank used as the background music for the band introductions.
RAT TOMAGO- The guitar solo from the 2/15 performance of "The Torture Never Stops". Approximately 30 seconds have been edited from the beginning of the solo.
SAN BER'DINO- Played as an encore frequently throughout the tour. Essentially played as on the "Baby Snakes" video, with Belew singing Johnny "Guitar" Watson's closing parts.
SHEIK YERBOUTI TANGO, THE- The guitar solo from the 2/15 performance of "Little House I Used To Live In." Apprximately a week into the tour, Frank added a closing guitar solo to what previously was a keyboard only "LHIUTLI". From this point on, this Tango section became the closing jam of each LHIUTLI.
STINKFOOT- Essentially performed as always, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Performed only once- on 2/17. Thanks to Jon Naurin for confirming what we could all have safely assumed.
TITTIES 'N' BEER- Essentially played as on "Baby Snakes", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's and Terry Ted's middle-of-the-song dialogue.
TORTURE NEVER STOPS, THE- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume I, with the standard variation coming in Frank's solo. This was one of the two monster guitar showcases of this tour. Although not perfectly consistent, Frank usually achieved god status on the '78 Torture workouts, as both the Stage version and "Rat Tomago"- a 2/15 Torture extract- easily prove.
TRYIN' TO GROW A CHIN- Essentially performed as on "Sheik Yerbouti".
UNCLE MEAT- This impromptu performance of this classic tune arises out of Ed Mann's percussion solo during the 2/7 performance of "King Kong". During his solo, Ed teases the melody line to the tune, which prompts several band members to briefly join in. The song is shortly aborted, and Mann continues his solo. Later in "King Kong", however, the band once again dives into "Uncle Meat", and performs a more fully baked rendition. This more-fully baked rendition pops up again during the topsy-turvy 2/19 show. While neither is an outright great version of the song, they are both interesting to hear, nonetheless.
WATERMELON IN EASTER HAY- Premiered as an encore about midway through the tour, and much to the pleasure of all us "Watermelon" fans, the song decided to stick around. Early on, the tune wasn't as fully developed as it eventually would be (see "Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa" for an example of this), but it was nonetheless still quite an aural treat. Despite the kinks, it was essentially played as on "Joe's Garage", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
WILD LOVE- To make things easier, I will divide this song into two parts. Part one is what we have on "Sheik Yerbouti", and this constitutes the first half of this song as it appeared on this tour. Part two is The Solos, a spotlight for several band members that was unfortunately cut from the official release. After the conclusion of the song as we know it from the album, Belew's chorded guitar riff would be played again, and this would lead us into The Solos. The standard "Wild Love" solo section included a very intense, somewhat manic Belew guitar solo. For this section, a new vamp was introduced, with a short theme that Belew toyed with for the duration of his solo. While Belew got his chance to shine in every "Wild Love", Mann, O'Hearn, and the keyboardists only occasionally got their turns in the spotlight, and this usually hinged on what tunes the rest of the set contained. In comparison with the Fall '77 tour, the "Wild Love" solos for this tour were not quite as monstrous, but were nonetheless quite worthy of being heard (hear that Gail.) [ I was watching VH-1's "Eight Track Flashback" recently (a music show here in the states), when I heard a snippet of a disco song that sounds exactly like the solo vamp to the "Wild Love" coda. Unfortunately, they did not say the name of the song. Anybody out there possibly know?]
YO MAMA- During the Fall '77 tour, Frank would perform a guitar solo as the climax to the "Wild Love" improvisational festivities. After Belew's disco-vamped solo, the band would start from scratch and Frank would play his piece over a dramatic, slowly building vamp. For this tour, Frank kept his post-"Wild Love" solo spot, but he spruced it up with lyrics and a simple song structure. That song is, of course, "Yo Mama". The guitar monster. During this short 5 week tour, the "song" essentially stayed the same, but Frank's solo spot evolved through three distinct styles. The first is the most freeform of the lot, in which Frank simply played maniacally while the band attempted to support him. About a week into the tour, the initial freeform section remained, with a new, "this sounds like YAWYI" vamp supporting the remainder of the solo. By the third week, the song had transformed itself again, into the three part monster we know and love from "Sheik Yerbouti". Now, I really should go on and on about what a treat this song was- especially on this tour- but I think this is something that we all already know. This song usually ends up as one of the top 5 favorite songs in most FZ polls- as does the guitar solo among favorite guitar solos- which is particularly amazing considering that there exist many a live tape with "Yo Mama" solos that are better than the officially released one. Probably THE highlight on a tour with many.
Instrumentally, I hold this band as high as the fall tour band. Bozzio is not really up there with Vinnie, but O'Hearn is my favourite among FZ's bass players, and I enjoy Belew better than Denny Walley. And even though their repertoire wasn't that big, these shows are a lot more varied. Almost each show contained one Pound, one King Kong, one Wild Love, one Yo Mama and one Little House. I love revisting the few (5-6) good sounding shows I have from this tour! Absolutely my favourite from the 2nd half of the 70s! Now, what if Eddie Jobson would've stayed a year longer...wow!