Wednesday, 2 March 2005
All of the following songs have a link to Frank Zappa.
I Am The Slime by The Mothers (Frank Zappa)
Every note or sound, be it feedback or fuzzy squall, that was ever recorded by Zappa or his group The Mothers was written and composed by Frank Zappa. Composed in the same sense of composition as employed by Beethoven or Pierre Boulez. Even though a lot of his music was freeform and improvisational he wrote the structure of the song/piece allowing for that individual expression to surface. The word genius is too often thrown around and applied to every Tom, Dick or Harry but in Zappa's case (and he was very much a Frank and not a Tom or Harry and Never a Dick) the word genius is correct.
Zappa was also an excellent blues guitarist and pretty much overlooked in an age of brilliant guitar players. This song begins with a blinding and dazzling guitar intro before the synth, bass and brass kick in. All orchestrated and syncopated within a heavy riff the like of which either Page or Blackmore would have loved to have thought of. However, this is no empty headed heavy metal beast of plodding mediocrity. This has teeth and guile and more time signature changes than Greenwich. The lyrics are a vicious swipe at the media in general and the TV in particular.
"I am gross and perverted and completely deranged
I have existed for years but very little has changed
I am the tool of the government and industry too
I was designed to rule and regulate you
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozing out from your TV set"
Spoken in a deep sonorous whisper that hints at a conspiratorial conversation. It is full of Zappa's famed phlegm and acid wit and lasting for only approximately three minutes it is the perfect pop song. Wasn't a single in the UK but should have been.
Gimme Dat Harp Boy by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band
It is no coincidence that I have placed these two competitive buddies in the same section. Zappa and Don Vliet (Beefhearts real name, include the Van if you must) were friends way back in high school and of course famously worked together on Willie The Pimp from Zappa's brilliant Hot Rats album and also and much later on Zappa's Bongo Fury.
Both men were incredibly talented and both men envied the others genius. Zappa won the kudos and the cash and became very wealthy whilst Beefheart appealed to the critics but didn't get the commercial success that he deserved.
This track brilliantly illustrates the incredible way Beefheart took the blues mixed and messed with to produce his own acid/blue fusion.
Explosive and deadly and as fast as a bulbous squid this song has all of the hallmarks of the blues with its rootsy feel and its harmonica wailing, but what makes it so very different is its fractured beat that sounds like prehistoric monsters stomping on the ceiling of the Albert Hall and the powerfully distinctive vocals of Beefheart himself. A rasping wail that echoes Howlin' Wolf fed through a megaphone.
Schools Out by Alice Cooper
So come on then all you clever clog-know-it-all-muso-types, what has Alice Cooper got to do with Frank Zappa then eh?
Zappa 'discovered' Cooper. Not only discovered but promoted and pushed the band into the spotlight. He was a big fan of the group, and yes back in those days it was very much a group and not a solo gig, and being tired of the soppy soapy fashion hippies musak recognised an act with potential to shock, titillate and entertain.
My wife thought that this was a sad farewell to a beloved school year when in actual fact it is the very reverse. A detonation under the teachers chair more like.
"Well we've got no class
and we've got no principles
and we've got no innocence
We can't even think of a word that rhymes"
A two fingered (sorry American chums but we use two) salute to each and every school all over the globe.
"No more pencils
No more books
No more teachers dirty looks"
This song, along with, Elected, propelled Alice Cooper into international superstardom and put him up there along side the likes of David Bowie and Elton John and Roxy Music.
"School's out forever
School's out for summer
School's out with fever
School's out completely "
Love Shack by The B52's
This bunch were as barking barmy as a bag of frogs. Like a collection of misfits from different cultures and time warped in courtesy of the local time machine still dressed in their mutant 50's paraphenallia.
The song is a thinly disguised tribute to bonking. Bonking done no doubt in a downtown motel or is it a bordello. Yep, that's what it is a good old fashioned knocking shop.
"Huggin' and a kissin', dancin' and a lovin', wearin' next to no thing
Cause it's hot as an oven
The whole shack shimmies when everybody' s
Movin' around and around and around!
Everybody's movin', everybody's groovin' baby!
Folks linin' up outside just to get down
Everybody's movin ', everybody's groovin' baby
Funky little shack! Funky little shack!"
Zappa loved this fun loving nut bunch band and wanted to produce them. He didn't and that will always be one of lifes great missed chances.
The song itself is saucy in an almost carry on way and has an undeniably great feel about it. Not only great to dance to but great to listen to.
"Bang bang bang on the door baby!
Knock a little louder sugar!
Bang bang bang on the door baby!
I can't hear you
bang bang on the door baby
bang bang on the door
bang bang on the door baby bang bang"
And no they are not talking about that brass knocker that hangs on the door front.
Cousin Dupree by Steely Dan
Having named them selves after a vibrator where else could they go but up?
Fagan and Becker. Sounds like a firm of accountants doesn't it or maybe a couple of legal eagles. Walter Becker and Donald Fagan. Still doesn't sound any better does it? Not like Jagger and Richards or Page and Plant. Mick 'n Keef. Jimmy 'n Bob. Walt 'n Don? Nah.
Well, like it or not they may not sound like it but they very much are Rock 'n Roll stars.
Rock stars with a twist though. A love of wry and witty lyrics coupled with a passion for funk with jazz overtones and there you have the outfit that is Steely Dan.
Cousin Dupree is a perverse little number about a perverse little character.
"Honey how you've grown
Like a rose
Well we used to play
When we were three
How about a kiss for your cousin Dupree"
As you can see the young lady in questions cousin isn't such a nice chap after all. He used to watch when she was young fooling around with her boyfriends whilst he hid behind the settee and now the perverted family member wants to fool around with his own cousin.
"She turned my life into a living hell
In those little tops and tight capris
I pretended to be readin' the National Probe
As I was watchin' her wax her skis
On Saturday night she walked in with her date
And backs him up against the wall
I tumbled off the couch and heard myself sing
In a voice I never knew I had before
how about kiss for your cousin Dupree"
Can't be California so it must be Texas musn't it?. And of course Steely Dan were HUGE fans of Frank Zappa.
next on MUSIC TO GROW OLD TO....
Bjork...The Dandy Wharhols...The Kaiser Chiefs...The Boomtown Rats...The Undertones and Tom Veck.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.