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Fall '75 Reviews

page one

September 27th, 1975

Just over a week after the UCLA "Orchestral Favorites" shows, this tape finds FZ at another California university introducing the stripped-down rock combo for the fall. The setlist is about as good as it gets for the U.S. leg, but since most of the same items appear on the definitive Vancouver tape from four nights later, I will save my remarks on this subject for that review.

There's no indication of any opening-night jitters aside from a few timing mistakes here and there, but there are a couple of setlist oddities : the WOIIFTM medley leads to Swallow My Pride, rather than Chunga's Revenge, and two rarities appear. Both Lucille (with FZ, Brock and Estrada all getting solo vocal bits) and Any Way The Wind Blows, in what might be its last performance ever, are pleasant. Most of FZ's solos are a bit on the short side, but otherwise they display the same qualities that they will on all subsequent shows with this band - energetic, but rather one-dimensional most of the time.

This tape is a good item to obtain if you're looking to flesh out your list, but if you want only the essentials from this tour, skip this in favor of the easier-to-find Vancouver.

--PB

October 1st, 1975

This band occupies an odd place in FZ's touring history for many reasons, but one major one is that both of its touring legs peaked near the beginning and wound down from there. Less than a week into the tour, we get a superb show, but few of the later ones will match it due to the combination of questionable setlist decisions and evident on-the-road exhaustion.

Like Santa Barbara, this show opens with a great, laid-back blues jam. Andre and Napoleon open with a few capable solo choruses, with Bozzio providing some dynamic support (although, as usual for this tour, what he gets to do hardly scratches the surface of his capabilities). Then FZ appears on stage for a few more choruses, after which there is a segue into Apostrophe, which seems to explode out of the sedate intro. Good Jack Bruce impression from Estrada, good FZ solo, and a great, fiery coda, before things taper off into a haunting vamp for the band intros. It's a shame that FZ quickly decided to ditch this show opener in favor of the dull Stinkfoot jams that would prevail for the rest of the year, in this reporter's opinion.

Next are skeletal versions of Honey Don't You Want A Man Like Me and Illinois Enema Bandit and a speedy Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy, and then it's time for the WOIIFTM medley, one of this listener's favorite moments in FZ's entire live ouevre. Lonely Little Girl is poignant, Take Your Clothes Off is fun. However, the thought of FZ, in 1975, launching into the "All your children are poor unfortunate victims" verse is as close to tear-jerking as any composed vocal Zappa moment could ever get. Gives me chills just thinking about it.

This leads to Chunga's Revenge, with another round of entertaining (though not amazingly virtousic) solos including a rather long one from FZ. Then, after a pause, Swallow My Pride. Not one of FZ's most profound songs, and it's not hard to hear why it remained unreleased, but it's a fun listen with a good riff. Next is Any Downers, with a massive FZ solo. Again, in this listener's opinion, FZ started on a steep upward incline to the guitar-playing peak that he reached in 78-81 with this tour, and this song offers the best evidence of that on this tape.

Some mildly amusing comedy follows, then the bizarre reworked T'Mershi Duween, and then the set finishes with a Zoot Allures/Sleep Dirt/Black Napkins medley. That might seem like any guitar fan's fantasy, but none of those three songs is at its peak at this point - however, FZ turns in some interesting musings on the tentative Zoot and builds Napkins up to a satisfying climax after a relatively tepid, twangy beginning. Advance Romance (which cuts in near the end of the solo) and I'm The Slime are encores.

No one would mistake this for a first-class FZ band, but they had a lot of energy on this night, and that, combined with a good setlist, makes this show as enjoyable an experience as you're likely to find on most tapelists. Get it.

--PB

October 3rd, 1975

Before I tell you why this tape (which is, I am lead to believerelatively rare) is such a disappointment, you should take note of its origin, as passed on to me by my trading correspondent. It seems that the taper was a reporter for the Eugene Daily Emerald, a Free Press-type weekly newspaper. He came to the Paramount Theater equipped with one C-90 tape. He was saving Side 2 to tape an interview. There's the rub.

The intro blues jam opens with some squiggly synthesizer lines from Andre. Frank walks on a couple minutes in, checks out his guitar, and we head into the show proper. Happily, it's early in the tour; we
haven't jettisoned Apostrophe yet. Sadly, Frank's bluesy guitar workout is vanishingly short and almost buried in the echoey bass that is this tape's sonic hallmark. The briefness of the solo is mitigated somewhat
by some tasty delay effects right before the band intros.

With no Freak Out suite to spare us, it's immediately into the new material: "Honey", this tour's mproto-"Enema Bandit", and "Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy". Frank's "Enema Bandit" solo is short but violent, a living thing whipsawed by Terry's monstrous backbeat. One and a half minutes of noodling on "Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy" creates nothing meaningful.

Onwards to the WOIIFTM suite, and I can honestly say that I like the dub-reggae "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance." Andre's little synth solo suits it. And then "Chunga's Revenge" arises from the ashes of "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body", lumbering and swaggering like
the monster it is.

After typical solo turns from Nappy and Andre, Frank starts inside the muscular groove Chunga adopted for this tour. Quickly boring of this, he devises strategems to undermine Terry, tossing flurries of notes here
and there to lead the cute little drummer astray. Terry gets excited and speeds things up -- so Frank naturally, perversely, turns it down several notches. Terry pauses as if to listen, and commences a
call-and-response with Frank's guitar, entirely deconstructing the beat.

And just as it's getting REALLY interesting, the tape ends. Fucking reporter.

-- (The Duke)

 

October 4th, 1975 early

The show opens with one of the main characteristics of this tour, a blues jam over the Stinkfoot vamp. And though these jams would very seldom offer any surprises, I must admit I enjoy them. Andre's and Nappy's solos are pretty nice, and the Stinkfoot vamp has never sounded dirtier. Really good solo by FZ too - this might be the best year for Stinkfoot ever!

At this point in the set, FZ would soon throw in Dirty Love plus a medley of Freak Out songs. I will probably find many occasions to complain about that decision later in the tour, so for now, let's just say that I'm not crying as we land directly in another staple of this band: the Honey/Enema/Carolina medley. The first two are rookies that would eventually end up in the top-10 of most frequently played songs, so FZ must have liked them better than I do. While CHCE, my favourite of the three, would remain highly underplayed. Oh well, two good solos by Frank we get.

Next, another medley and perhaps *the* main characteristic of the tour: the WOIIFTM songs. Now, this is a fine one, bringing us the "lost" bridge of Lonely Little Girl as well as many other memorable things - my fave is Napoleon's "muh-muh-muh-muh-muh-muuuuh" in WTUPOYB? And things get even better, as the opening power chords of Chunga's Revenge come bursting out. Terry is excellent in the background, making this a really high- energy affair. Mighty fine playing by Brock, Lewis and Zappa too.

A very good show so far, but it's the encores that makes this show really worth having, in this reporter's opinion. This is where the real rarities come: first The Mudshark, in what might be its final performance (fittingly enough, considering the location), then Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up (quite nice, similar to Jeff Simmons's version) and then the highlight of the show - Sleep Dirt/Black Napkins!

This is one of the very few performances we have of this wonderful combo, which is quite a shame. As FZ starts playing the Sleep Dirt arpeggio, the audience is chanting for Dinah-Moe Humm, but they soon get quiet as the beautiful theme comes through. Napoleon takes a very good solo, Andre takes a decent, while FZ's is too short to lead anywhere. This is soon compensated for though, as his Black Napkins solo turns out to be his longest and best for the evening.

The contrast, as they burst from this beauty into what I consider to be Frank's worst song ever, is almost comical. This is definitely the best version of Swallow My Pride I've heard though, as it actually turns into a mini-monster. After the dreadful verses and choruses, FZ bursts out into a short, energetic solo, followed by a little drum solo, then a little portion of Ship Ahoy, some improvised madness and back to the SMP head. Weird, but really cool! We get a second encore too: Advance Romance, with another good, dirty solo from Frank.

Great show, probably one of the best of the tour. The predictable setlist and the Freak Out songs which we've come to associate with this band aren't there yet - instead we get some rare songs that would soon disappear from the setlists. The dirty sound quality on my tape might infact be to its avail, as dirtiness is just what I want to hear from this band.

--JN

October 4th, 1975 late

As I sat listening to the "Zoot Allures" which occurs approximately one hour into this show, I acquired a sense of gravity-free floating- the sense of being in outer space, unrestricted by the confines of gravity but still helpless against the weightlessness of space. Frank's skeletal sketching of "Zoot Allures" coupled with his every-which-way-but-loose guitar meanderings exhilarated me, and imposed a sense of freedom that I seldom receive from music. Extending this analogy with respect to the performance I was experiencing, I realized that the Space Metaphor could encapsulate the entire concert. And so it does, as we prepare to blast off into space….

The first 15 minutes of this show represents the excitement of hearing that you, for the first time, will be blasting off into outer space. The opening jam and the "Apostrophe" that follows are nothing short of amazing. Lewis and Brock solo over a bluesy vamp, with Bozzio sounding many times more confident (and talented) than he did on the Bongo Fury tour. Frank eventually steps forward with a short little solo of his own before tearing into an "Apostrophe" for the ages. Frank and Roy are simply monstrous here, stretching the middle solo and outro jam into an epic length that this song unfortunately never before or again received. An early peak is reached here, with the short instrumental rendition of "Duke of Prunes" providing a soothing and much needed breather.

Unfortunately, before entering outer space, you must undergo a strenuous training regiment, some of which is enjoyable but most of which you would rather do without. The Freak Out! Medley, Honey Don't You, Illinois, and Carolina are all part of this training regiment, and while they do have some enjoyable moments, most of these songs are exercises in patience more than anything else. As the training winds down, and you get into better shape, the WOIIFTM medley pops up, heralding forth an excitement for the actual journey into space.

With "Chunga's Revenge", we light the rockets and lift off into the stratosphere. Brock, Lewis, and Frank all solo here, with Frank's rhythm work during Lewis's solo being the highlight of the bunch. Frank's solo is interesting, rather mellow with lots of dark, melodic lines, but it is not until the very end that any real energy comes across. "T'Mershi Duween" is simply crazy, almost unsettling after the straightforwardness of "Chunga's Revenge". It finds us finally entering "outer space", with our bodies and minds somewhat out-of-sync as we adjust to the differences of zero gravity.

With the arrival of "Zoot Allures", we find ourselves suiting up and taking the giant step out of the spacecraft and into empty space. We still have our life line loosely securing us the spacecraft, but that is all we have, and for the most part we find ourselves drifting freely in a whirlwind of melodic guitar lines, sparse bass parts, and rolling waves of percussion. Undeniably musical, and quite soothing at times, this musical journey is still somewhat intimidating, as we are never quite sure what will happen next.

And then, things get really interesting. The "Any Downers" rift slowly coalesces into a powerful force, sneaking up out of the fringes of "Zoot Allures". We get the sense that we are not alone. There is an alien presence near us, and fear grips our hearts as we question whether this other being is good or evil. As the music begins to hit an angry peak, our fears confirmed and not denied, Frank tears into "She's a Lady", playing huge chunks of this Tom Jones classic, offsetting the ferocious bite of this guitar monster with Vegas-style familiarity. This alien force turns out to have a sense of humor, something the listener now needs as Nappy steps forth and chimes in with some unneeded improvised lyrics, yelling "She's A Woman" and other nonsense. After an early peak, Frank and company entertain us with a variety of alien jams- strange latin grooves surrounded by frantic outbursts of guitar and calm intervals of spaciness. "She's A Lady" eventually reclaims the main stage, hailing a return to familiar territory and marking the climatic and satisfying end to our journey in space.

The remaining two songs send us home, maintaining the thrill of this exhilarating journey, but also giving us time to calm down and adjust to the impending end of this excellent tape- one hundred and thirty-five minutes of music and one of the best journeys Frank has ever sent us on.

--JG


October 12th, 1975

This show gives us the debut of "Dirty Love" and marks the beginning of Frank's "same set list after same set list every single night" tendency. Up until this point in his touring career, the only tour with which Frank had decided a nightly set list beforehand was the Grand Wazoo outing (for obvious logistical reasons) and even then, he didn't stick with that set list. It is here- on the Fall 1975 tour- that Frank finally goes lazy and falls into the habit of performing the same set list each and every night on every tour. While their were still variations within this structure, the repetitiveness of the shows hindered many a tour, and it would not be until Spring of 1980 that Frank would break from this somewhat disappointing habit (and even then, the break was not that great).

However, I digress. This tape- the first show we have after the inspired 10/4 outing- is another rather inspired affair, weakened only by the echoey and hissy sound that dominates most of the more aggressive jams. The show opens strong, with Lewis and Brock soloing over a frantic and at times seemingly chaotic blues jam. The sound on the tape is nothing but noise at times, which is probably why it sounds chaotic, but interestingly enough, at this point in the show the noise adds to the music, and does not hurt it. Same with the well-jammed "Apostrophe", which is overpowered by bass and drums throughout, but nonetheless sounds great in this usually annoying mix. My only complaint early on is that Frank does the band introductions between the Opening Jam and Apostrophe (instead of after Apostrophe), and thus halts any momentum built up by Lewis' and Brock's solos. I shouldn't complain, however, since Apostrophe would be dropped altogether after tonight. This is a shame, as this is another lengthy Apostrophe, with Frank soloing at length during both the middle and outro jams.

The World Premiere of "Dirty Love" follows, sounding rather feeble but also lost in quite a bit of tape noise. "Stinkfoot" is great. Sci-fi nonsense emanating from Lewis' keyboards and a screeching solo from Frank further force me to accept that this song is an EXCELLENT show opener. The "Freak Out" Medley contains some interesting FZ rhythm work, but "How Could I Be Such A Fool?" is just WAY too long, and Brock butchers "I'm Not Satisfied" beyond recognition. Ouch.

"Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy" contains one of Frank's two weak solos of the night, which he would soon make up for in "Chunga's Revenge". Lewis and Brock deliver their standard goods, paving the way for Frank's tour-de-force. Frank is all over the map with this solo, starting off slow and deliberate, then whipping it into a frenzy, then going mano-a-mano with a soloing Bozzio, and finally concluding the affair with some spurts of "Ship Ahoy" weirdness. Not the longest or the most explorative "Chunga's", but satisfying nonetheless.

This tape closes with a HORRIBLE sounding "Lucille". A heavy guitar intro is completely out-of-place, Nappy's vocals seriously mess up the listener's mind, and the sound quality paints the music a horrible shade of PLOD. There is an interesting piece of pre-written music in the middle of the song (i.e. the middle section of "Why does it hurt when I pee?") but it was not interesting enough to save the song. Finally, "Advance Romance" concludes the whole affair already sounding like it needs to be retired.

There are some well-performed moments on this tape, and Frank turns out several inspired guitar solos. The poor sound quality, however, considered with the fact that this is a Fall '75 tape, pushes the desirability level of this tape down quite a bit. I enjoyed my time with it, but I doubt I will be returning to it anytime soon. This tour has better things to offer.

--JG

October 14th, 1975

While this is not one of the better performances of the Fall tour, the show captured on this circulating tape is a must have for a couple reasons. First and foremost, the sound is excellent. This is not one of the best available in the Frank live tape library, but probably the best from this tour, and good enough to survive close scrutiny and loud playing. The vocals are at times muddied, but the individual instruments come through nice and clear, providing an excellent picture of this band, especially in the lengthy solo vehicles "Chunga's Revenge", "Zoot Allures", and "Any Downers?". Secondly, only the last 70 minutes of the show are here (there is a cut into the Carolina solo, no?), and thus we do not have to sit through some of the more annoying aspects of this tour.

After a "Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy" tease, the tape gets going with the awesome "We're Only In It for the Money" medley. This is easily one of the greatest unreleased treats sitting in the Zappa vaults, with this "Lonely Little Girl" arrangement (and closing guitar solo) winning my vote as one of Frank's all-time pop masterpieces. "Chunga's Revenge" heralds forth some energetic solos from Brock, Lewis, and Zappa, and while nothing here is simply "must hear", the solid performances, clear sound, and pounding drum work of Bozzio make this an entertaining 16 minutes. "Zoot Allures" showcases the growing guitar experimentation of Zappa, and while it is one of the shorter '75 performances at just over 6 minutes, it still manages to throw a little bit of everything into the mix. Another unreleased gem sitting in the vault, the "Swallow My Pride-> Any Downer" combo brings the show to its musical climax, with the latter containing some stupid but funny Joe Cocker impersonations, and a heavy metal guitar freak-out. Again, not the best "Any Downers" (10/1 or 10/4?), but a worthy mini-Monster in its own right.

The remainder of the show delivers pretty much as you would expect given the songs, with Frank demonstrating his excellent understanding of song placement more than anything else. Special note must be given to the "Chunga's Revenge-> Advance Romance-> Zoot Allures" combo, which finds the middle song benefiting greatly by this placement (though unfortunately Frank would not repeat this). This is not a consistently great show, but there are several highlights, no dull moments, and start-to-finish excellent sound. I recommend it.

--JG

October 23rd, 1975

Here we find the fall 75 band making its stop at a venue (Boston Music Hall) which consistently yielded great tapes. And, qualitywise, this one is certainly not an exception - a very clear and balanced AUD
recording which I'll bet isn't much worse than the tape in FZ's vault, if there is one.

Musicwise, this tape shows the band getting closer to the routine it got into by the winter, which is not such a good thing. There are a couple of oddities (no Poodle Lecture, and Advance Romance follows I.E.
Bandit), and let me go on record as saying that I *like* the Freak Out medley [This author does not represent the opinions of this page or its other contributers :-)]- it's a nice look back at FZ's early songwriting, and I find it fun to imagine Brock and Bozzio frenzying out while FZ endures his
nightly workout on rhythm guitar.

However, aside from some cool '75 style FZ blowing on the usual numbers, this tape offers nothing surprising until near the end of side B. In Chunga's, FZ can't hold himself to the restrictive vamp and ends
up teasing Sy Borg, and he goes on a couple of interesting tangents from there. Unfortunately, the levels drop on the tape for a while around this point, and we also end up missing most of the drum solo. After
this, we get another one of those loose early versions of Zoot Allures, where FZ even throws in a few surf/blues licks towards the end. During Any Downers, FZ freaks out briefly on guitar and then recites the first verse of Packard Goose, which here ends with the immortal lines "Well, fuck all you people, 'cause it ain't no use/Because love is where it's at."

Aside from that, this is nothing more or less than a typical, energetic fall '75 show (as usual, Bozzio sounds especially pumped), with good sound.

--PB

 

October 24th, 1975

The Fall '75 shows have been hard shows to review for the majority of the FZTRS ensemble [except for Naurin, who is strange anyway]. Apart from the "Chunga's-> Zoot" guitar orgies, and the occasional "Black Napkins" and "Any Downers" classics, this tour does not offer much that gets us too excited about sitting down and listening to 135 minutes of Brock and Estrada and Lewis butcher Frank's songs.  So we sit and endure the more painful moments in hope that the payoff will be huge once Chunga's and Zoot show up. Funny thing is- there is no payoff in this late October show, but there is plenty of inspired guitar playing in the songs that normally make us cringe. Fast forward through this tape and you miss all the good parts.

"Chunga's Revenge", "Zoot Allures", "Any Downers" and "Black Napkins"- the four songs which I would predict would be the definitive highlights of any given Fall '75 show- are all disappointments on this night. "Any Downers" lacks the heavy metal guitar hysteria which makes the early October performances essential listening, and consists of nothing more that inane FZ rantings about gurus. The other three songs feature quite a bit of guitar, but are all particularly mellow, quite predictable, and at times, uninspired. "Black Napkins" sounds like a "Pink Napkins" outtake, but without the airy delicacy nor the slow build-up to something meaningful. "Chunga's Revenge" finds Frank going solo- acapella- for a good couple minutes to start his solo, but again, he does not use this platform to build to any cathartic or exhilarating peak. He does throw in some "T'Mershi Duween" quotes and a couple "Ship Ahoy" flavorings, but this is stuff that has been done before, and done better. Finally, "Zoot Allures" is its typical skeletal self, with some FZ deviations serving as a "solo", and that's about it.

Where all the guitar excitement comes in is during the songs I normally find myself snoozing through. "Advance Romance" and "Illinois Enema Bandit" are both GREAT!- long and varied and passionate and so full of energy that at times Frank seems eager to stop but apparently cannot find the brakes. "Illinois Enema Bandit" is particularly tasty, with Frank dipping into a hippy-dippy style of playing I associate more with Jerry Garcia that anyone else. This solo is at times very melodical, with short "looped" phrases that dance around the fretboard- light and airy- weaving in and out and through the percussive stylings of Bozzio. This contrast with Frank's typically aggressive and straightforward playing is awesome. Yes, my Grateful Dead sensibilities taint my enjoyment of this, but they are not making a mountain out of a molehill. This is a good solo.

Everything else about this show is standard Fall '75. "Stinkfoot", as always, contains an energetic and entertaining solo. The WOIIFTM medley rocks while the Freak Out! Medley sucks (sorry Buzby!). The remainder of the songs are what you expect them to be, which in my case are Yawn! Overall, this is not a great show, though it is not bad. Frank fails to do anything special with his usual monster showcases, though he does pull out two surprises elsewhere in the set. Finally, it's not that great of a sounding show- there are worse from this tour, though there are also better. I give this tape- performance-wise- a 6.

--JG


October 26th, 1975

Strange start of the show: Napoleon enters the stage and just starts groaning into his mic. "Somebody
beat him!" yells a guy in the audience, but Nappy is soon forgiven as he delivers a cool, dirty solo in the
blues intro. Apart from that, the first part of the show is pretty dull - FZ's solos in Stinkfoot and Napkins
are a little disappointing, and the songs in between do not appeal to this reviewer.

The first noteworthy solo does instead come in Advance Romance, a dirty, inspired solo. But after that,
it's down to disappointment level again, as neither The Illinois Enema Bandit nor Carolinca Hardcore
Ecstasy produce solos of the standard we've grown used to. The show is saved from mediocrity by the
last two songs, though. Both Chunga and Zoot give some tasters of the guitar extravaganzas that would
come within the next few days. Not everything Frank plays here is great, but it's really cool to see how
his experimental guitar playing side has started growing.

Not a bad show, but there are many better examples from this month.

--JN

 

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