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Fall 1977 Reviews

page two

October 20th, 1977 late

FZ begins show #2 with an enthusiastic intro, with Ed Mann cited as "soon to graduate from the puppies." As uaul for this tour, though, it's the two non-puppies, Bozzio and O'Hearn, who dominate the show, packing enough power to obliterate everything in their path. In fact, this is one of those shows where the rhythm section makes FZ sound better than he actually is - a common event in '84 or '88, but rare in the 70's.

Not that FZ is laying back, either. He offers a batch of extensive, try-everything solos - a good example is Wild Love, where he starts with some spiky Middle Eastern musing and then turns it into a shuffle. He also turns in one of the most fiery and effective Tiny Lites solos, while Conehead, with more bizarre-scale wailing, is the instrumental highlight of the night. The four puppies also excel in their solo spots, especially in Wild Love, where Ed's marimba is fleet and Adrian offers both e-bow atmospherics and distorted fire.

The main surprise of the show comes when FZ interrupts Pound to introduce the still-in-its-infancy Bobby Brown. In case anyone cares, this rough performance is more passionate than most, with FZ slipping and identifying the protoganist as Charlie Brown at one point. This is followed by the premiere of I Have Been In You, inspired by FZ's visit to WCBN the night before. FZ tells the audience to imagine him as "an older, more sinister Lou Reed," and indeed this talked/sung version sounds more like Reed than Frampton, although it's not much different than the mature version otherwise.

I'm not sure why the Punky's Whips solo is so short (maybe FZ broke a string?), but otherwise this is a rocking fall '77 show. Pretty good sound, too, which means that no one should hesitate to grab this tape.


October 22nd, 1977

Hmmmm...what do we have here? A pretty miserable little audience tape with nothing but mid-range and a noisy crowd? Well, not quite but that's what it seems like at times. Probably the worst of the Fall '77 tapes I have, this quality is a real shame because this is a typically GREAT '77 show. The band are now in quite good form and VERY tight. FZ's big moment tonight is surprisingly enough not "Torture" (though this solo is also very good) but "Tiny Lites", on which he plays a heavily metallic (almost) near '84-style solo. A tremendous "Pound" (Wow!! Tasty soloing) follows on. I want to single out solos here for special praise, but the band is so LOCKED IN at this point it will take a SPECIAL EVENT to elevate the playing further (Like Holloween maybe?). I dunno about my colleagues' feelings, but I enjoy the fresh-feeling of the "Bobby Brown" from this tour (Wonder if the audience could understand the lyrics? They seem unmoved). The "ConeFlakesEmmaEnvelopes" section is it's usual fun (Nice job on "Envelopes" Tommy!!). "Wild Love" does it's usual good job at taking the roof off your mind (is the audience asleep?). "Jones-Broken
Hearts-Punky" is really tremendous though standard. There is no "Dinah-Moe" on my tape, though that's possibly just as well!! Did FZ end the encore there?


October 24th, 1977

This should be a great tape - it's the week before Halloween, and there were many great FZ shows in Philadelphia. However, this show doesn't do a lot for me. Part of the problem may be the recording, an average audience job which, unlike other tapes from the month, shortchanges Bozzio and especially O'Hearn, though the others come across okay.

FZ starts the show by talking about Warners's upcoming release of Zappa In New York against his wishes, and he gets some mileage from this during Torture ("Warner Brothers be cursed'). Too bad the other vocalists weren't ready to follow FZ into Secret Word territory - this could have been another 5/24/88. The theme returns during T & B, with FZ fantasizing about torturing Mo Ostin and other Warners employees.

The first inspired instrumental moment comes with Tommy's Pound solo, an even more involved affair than usual, and FZ seems to know this - "That was really good," he comments. Conehead has a cut in the middle that interrupts the most interesting part, with some severe guitar mangling. The most interesting guitar development comes in Wild Love, where the rhythm section drops into half time for the first time (did they do it on 10/22?) during FZ's solo, prompting a nice proto-Squirm solo.

Ultimately, though, there's less excitement here than most other shows this month. As others have mentioned, though, an average show from 10/77 is on par with the best from most other tours.


October 28th, 1977 early

The only complaint I have about this tape concerns the sound quality. It is not so good, with quite a bit of audience noise from start to finish and nothing but garbled sound during some of the more frantic parts. Nevertheless, it is obvious from the first note that tonight the band is ON, and despite the tape's best efforts to bury the music under distortion, this concert makes the Zappa fan very happy.

The band sounds like the young punks they are- brash and confident, whipping out the hardest of tunes with the greatest of ease. Whether its "The Black Page", "Conehead", or "Dinah-Mo Humm", however, it is obvious that everyone is treated equally, and each song packs as powerful a wallop as the one before it. "I Promise Not To Come In Your Lather" is extremely strong, as carefully laid out as always but with a reckless energy that lends an out of control feel to the musical twists and turns, culminating in two emotionally charged solos.

Solo wise, the muses were active from the start. Frank's first effort of the night- "The Torture Never Stops"- provides a textbook example of how to slowly build and then climax a solo. Throughout this tour, Frank's "Torture" solo basically consisted of some beginning, more jazzy, introductory "flavorings", followed by an intensity of playing marked by a heavier guitar tone and a pumped up rhythm section. The premise is excellent, but unfortunately, the passage between the two sections was typically abrupt, and thus there was not any real build in intensity. That is not the case here. As usual, Frank's begins the solo with several minutes of shorter, more melodical lines based around a basic theme. As the solo continues, Frank slowly and quite unnoticeably begins deviating away from the theme, while slowly increasing his speed and intensity. All the while, the rhythm section is doing the same, displaying remarkable restraint in repressing its more exploratory grooves and allowing Frank to slowly increase the pressure. Before you know it, the "Torture" proceeedings are going full-bore- Frank his slicing away at lightning speed, the rhythm section is pounding away in a fury, and the listener is grabbing is seat and preparing for the worst. When the climax arrives, the band slides effortlessly back into the main tune, and everyone is quite satisfied, and prepared for even more madness.

"City of Tiny Lites" finds Adrian opening the solo department, whipping out a much more interesting effort than Frank's closing effort. "Pound for a Brown" stands out more for its solid rhythm work than anything else, but is nevertheless quite enjoyable. "Conehead" is nothing but pure uncut Frank, dishing up a solo that is all over the map thematically, and nothing but funky grooves rhythmically. One of Frank's longer "Conehead" solos, this effort finds Frank in one of his more "reflective" moods, yet still keeps one's feet tapping thanks to the monstrous O' Hearn/Bozzio machine.

As always, "Wild Love" is the highlight of the night- the true MONSTER- with keyboard, e-bow, percussion, bass, and guitar solos all thrown our way. Frank's effort is the obvious highlight of this highlight, with special mentions needing to be made of Ed Mann (who sounds extra bouncy in his solo) and Adrian Belew (who once again makes us scratch our head in awe as we wonder how he gets qll those sounds from just one guitar). But none of these can compare to Frank's song closing effort- a solo commonly known as "The Squirm" and to be released as "Bowling on Charen" sometime soon (ha ha!). This classic piece (yes, by now it is more than just a solo- it is a piece) finds Frank demonstrating The Six String Squirm to us all. First he goes through some pre-Squirm exercises (basic themes, effects, carefully played, well-spaced apart phrases), and then actually does the Spuirm itself (full-speed, kick it into overdrive, sheets of metallic fury playing), and then relaxes with some post-Squirm cuddles (lazy riifs, chords, slower groove yet still a "groove"). The guitar playing, the rhythmic support, the three-part construction, the contrast in themes and styles, the building and release of tension- all these factors combine to make this one of Frank's most interesting and accomplished "instantaneous compositions".

For that song alone, this tape is PROBABLY essential. Throw in a 110% effort from one of Frank's most talented bands, and one of his stronger and more diverse set lists, and despite some shitty sound quality, this tape is ABSOLUTELY essential. A must have for Zappa fans.

(Oh yeah, there is also some cool harmonica playing during "Bobby Brown"- a nice little addition that could have helped BB survive better through the ages).


October 28th, 1977  late

This is one of the few tapes of this band that I don't recommend. I can  only think of two reasons to have it: completism and Wild Love. The main drawback is that it's far from complete - the taper seems to have turned his deck on and off, leaving out most of the really interesting songs (= solo vehicles). Also, the sound is horrible, and most of the songs can be found on much better tapes.

But as I hinted above, there is one exception, spelled Wild Love. The first solos, by Peter, Tommy, Ed and Adrian are all fine, and the support from Terry and Patrick is great, though muddled by the recording. This must be the longest Peter solo I've heard so far, and one of the best too. Adrian's gets really good when he switches from the e-bow playing to more regular style. However, these solos pale in comparision to the absolute highlight of the show, namely Frank's Squirm/Bowling on Charen solo. The more famous version, known from the KBFH broadcast (and soon from Trance Fusion if we're lucky) is from the previous show, but this one is nearly as good. The only point on thentape where I forgot how bad the sound was and just enjoyed the music.

Other noteworthy aspects: hmmm...well the I Promise Not To Come In Your Mouth solos are pretty nice and the Punky's Whips solo is good. Long dialogue in Titties 'n Beer, but not one of the funnier, and a Dance Contest in the Black Page. But most of the time, I found myself annoyed by thesound and the fact that I got deprived of Torture, Tiny Lights, Pound and Conehead. Put this one near the end of your 77/78 wishlist.


October 29th, 1977 early

Ahh, New York!! Well, here we are for the second show of what must be a strong contender for BEST FZ STAND OF ALL TIME!! (Maybe next to the Garrick, but with no tapes to judge from...)

In any case, the band do come out for the early show pretty much on fire. The feel is still kind of a "warming-up" one, but with the band THIS hot, this is definetely an enjoyable warm-up!! I've commented ad nauseum on how much I appreciate FZs, solos from this tour, and tonight's "Torture" is no slouch
either...he takes a while to develop it, but really takes it somewhere...WHY wasn't this in the movie?!? Again, we have a fairly streamlined performance for the most part due to the band playing the same setlist (more or less) at every show BUT..Bobby Brown is still young and much more fun than later tours  (FZ puts lotsa emphasis on the words in this slow arrangement), and Pound is pretty friggin' incredible as always (Ladies and gentlemen, Tommy Mars and Peter Wolf)...the meat here is, of course, Wild Love in another "WHY WASN'T THAT IN THE MOVIE??" situation. A nice lengthy version this, actually would
make a nice legit release but I doubt it (and without editing?). T&B is always fun (for me), but the Dance Contest tonight is not that amazing (compared to the other NY nights). This is probably not the best quality tape from this run BTW, but the atmosphere is pretty well-captured.

Another great FZ solo on Punky's Whips ends the show proper. Actually it's probably the best Punky of the entire stand (solo at least!!). Of course, the next two nights were pure Magic, but this ain't bad at all!!


October 29th, 1977  late

Now we're talking! This show has pretty much everything you could ask for from a Halloween show, including a band that's incredibly "on", extended solo extravaganzas, Frank in a great and talky mood, audience participation and more than 2,5 hours of great music. Well, again the sound could have been a
whole lot better, but I do actually have reason to believe that we will find upgrades of these shows in the near future, so...

It's obvious from the very start of the show that FZ is in great spirits and eager to get started. The intros are almost screamed out, but by a very happy- and excited-sounding Frank. And his first solo, in Torture of course, is very good. Unfortunately, he chooses to stay in echo-plex mode all the way through. It's quite cool for a while, and he uses it to great effect tonight, but soon you start longing for him to turn it off. Oh well, the first part is near magic, and it's overall a good solo, no doubt.

City Of Tiny Lights also shows how inspired Frank is, firing off some unusually interesting pyrotechnics over the dull vamp. But as it so often did, COTL pales in comparision to the following Pound For A Brown. First to solo goes Patrick - woo-hooh! And yikes, what an awesome solo it is! First, some of
his usual quirks and great Terry-collaborations, but the highlight is when he picks up a twisted 7/8 version of the riff from Aerosmith's Walk This Way. This leads to some really cool jamming between him and Bozzio, and they maintain this level during the following keyboard solos. The Mars/Wolf workouts are not only extremely energy-filled, they're unusually long too (even though they're cut), making this the best Pound I've heard so far. Tommy even throughs in a long Inca Roads quote.

After the cut, we land right in the beginning of FZ's preamble to Bobby Brown. Like most everything else, it's very long tonight, and provides us with Frank's views on women, and in particular women's movement. The sound prevents me from hearing most of what he's saying, and for once, I have to say it's probably fortunate. Next, Conehead, with an excellent guitar solo.

The solos in I Promise Not To Come In Your Mouth are sweet, but still frustratingly short. But my need for long improvisations is soon saturated, when Wild Love takes over the stage. By now, this song has evolved into a huge monster, getting closer and closer to the 30 min mark for each show. The improvisations are nothing short of excellent, with Tommy, Petey, Eddie and Adrian all being allowed to stretch out. But again, the highlight is FZ's solo. This one is a little different to the Squirms we've heard before, with FZ visiting new, exciting harmonic territories. It starts out unusually heavy and pounding, and with FZ's nasty playing, it feels pretty much like a 1976 Filthy Habits. They eventually move into double tempo, and from here on, the comp is wonderfully flexable and dynamic. FZ seems as he's about to run out of ideas, but gets inspired by the rhythm section and mangles out some more great notes. All in all, a breathtaking experience.

After this musical outburst, we're into a more talky section of the show. Titties 'n Beer has a long dialogue, much of which is hard to discern, but it's mostly the old Can-I-Bring-Warner-Bros-Into-Hell? and Tower Of Power chatting. Next, a long Dance Contest, which would be much more fun on video. Patrick's bass playing is great, though.

The rest of the show is your typical 1977-concert-ending, though performed with a whole lotta' extra energy. FZ's Punky's Whips solo is unusually subtle, but unfortunately quite short. In Dinah-Moe Humm, O'Hearn kicks out the In-a-gadda-da-vida bass line, and Frank starts singing a bit of it, which is about the last thing of interest to happen.

A terrific concert.


October 30th, 1977

This is one of the 20 or so epic shows in FZ history - epic not only in length (the set runs around 3 hours), but in the sheer magnitude of the music and the event. It's hard to do justice to this sort of show with a review, but here goes...

We get a unique-on-this-tour Stinkfoot opener, including FZ's explanation about the movie, a good short guitar solo, and then the definitive Poodle Lecture, familiar from the movie and YCDTOSA 6. With the introductory portion over, FZ gets down to business with Torture, featuring a superb solo, where FZ deploys all of his effects and builds things up methodically, exploring (with the usual berzerk Bozzio fills and bizarre O'Hearn harmonic insertions behind him) and ending with a firm resolution before cueing the outro. City Of Tiny Lites, in contrast, finds FZ at his most adrenalized.

After the head of Pound, O'Hearn takes a nice solo. (Unfortunately, there's a side break just as he starts really ripping.) Then we get more movie material, including Tommy's solo (vintage Mars) followed by FZ's I Have Been In You intro. It's not surprising that FZ left the song itself unreleased, as he evidently still hasn't figured out how to sing it, and the keyboardist with the string synth hits some severe wrong chords. Of course, that only adds to the fun, and this continues when FZ decides to offer the world premiere of the underrehearsed Dancin' Fool. Another premiere, Jewish Princess, came out well enough for FZ to use this performance as the basic track for the album version, although not much other than the rhythm tracks survived. (It's a shame that Tommy's scat vocal breaks got mixed out.) Then the final bit of classic stuff from the movie : King Kong (with the human trombone, gas mask and police car segments as well as great solos from the band) and Disco Boy.

The second tape starts with an odd comedy bit featuring Peter, Roy and a magician named Thomas, which makes little sense without the visuals. Then it's back to the regular program with Lather and the mammoth Wild Love. Here we get more involved interplay in Peter and Ed's solos, the by-now-standard great two-part Adrian solo, and then FZ's halftime extravaganza - he rolls out a long stream of barbed licks and strong themes, including a Lohengrin quote. By now, it's clear that "epic" is the only appropriate word.

Notable features of the home stretch include FZ's rap in T & B about a possible anti-trust suit against Warner Bros., a ripping Punky's solo, and more audience interaction. On Muffin Man, after a few bars of Adrian soloing, FZ simply elbows him aside with an overpowering riff and takes over. About the only disappointing aspect of the tape is that it cuts near the end of San Berdino, possibly depriving us of a Black Napkins.

What's most fortunate is that there is a clear, vibrant audience tape circulating from this show, unlike the others from this run. All of the charisma and power evident in the Baby Snakes movie comes through here. Apparently there is also a board tape around, but I haven't heard it.

An essential tape for every FZ collector.


October 31st, 1977

Please note that this review is going to be based on the 180 minute, B- sound Halloween tape, rather than the 50-minute bootleg, the Baby Snakes album, or the Baby Snakes movie (which I haven't seen).

Halloween with FZ, and the last of a series of 6 Palladium shows, something Frank would repeat the following year to even greater effect. This show is the big one (well, perhaps not QUITE as big as 10/30), and provides a ton of highlights for the discerning listener. It gets off to a bit of a slow start, with a decent but normal Fall 77 Torture, and a high-energy Tiny Lites solo.

Things really start to happen in Pound. Instead of Tommy or Eddie, we start off with a Patrick bass solo. It starts off less-rhythm oriented than usual for O'Hearn, and sounds more like a 'solo'. This can't last long, though, as Patrick decides to groove along to the beat and ends up winding things up with surf music! Tommy goes next, and we get the start of what would be an evening long secret word-thing. "Watch him while he's eating, and while he's eating, ask him what he's doing. What's he doing? He's eating." Quite a mouthful, but Frank and the audience go on about it for 3-4 minutes, with Tommy in the background. After it quiets down, he gets a real solo for a while, then a short Wolf solo.

After that we're still not done, because we have Roy Estrada and the demise of the imported rubber goods mask. Frank is in a great mood tonight, explaining that they can't turn off the lights because they're filming the movie. Roy does his grand operatic thing for a while, but it's more interesting for the great background music the band is cranking off - nice! After this there's a bit of hand cue improv, and it all ends with FZ realising that a mic has been turned off throughout, so the audience missed the point of most of the 'he's eating' stuff. ^_^;;

Bobby Brown is made a bit more interesting by Frank getting a bra and panties (with note) during the song. Conehead has its usual cool riff, but the riff is so loud and the tape quality so fuzzy that the solo tends to get lost. Another interesting variation occurs during Envelopes, where rather than sing the lyrics Tommy sort of goes 'boing' - very odd vocal delivery, not the same as his scatting. And the 'he's eating' is back.

Then we have Wild Love. It clocks in at precisely half an hour. Peter starts off as usual, a bit more energetic tonight, then he trades licks with Adrian. Ed's solo is typical - it wouldn't be till 1978 that he'd really get daring. Adrian gets a chance to take a long break, both on e-bow and normal guitar, with even MORE 'he's eating' mixed in. The Squirm is, as usual, the big highlight of the entire show. Just in-fucking-credible, especially in the 5-minute coda, where it becomes an improvised guitar frenzy. Get the tape if only for this.

Titties and Beer is slightly longer than the one on the BS album, with some of the duller bits left in. It's still quite good, with Terry less meek than usual (Frank had a tendency to just bully him in these improvs). The Dance Contest is the humor highlight of the tape, though, with Janet the Planet and Donna You Wanna whipping some poor schmuck named John, who seems less than pleased to find out he's part of this. "We're going to beat the living shit out of John tonight!"

The rest of the show is typical Fall 77, with a nice longer-than-usual Punky solo. Muffin Man is wonderful, one of the best solos I've heard from this vehicle. My tape ends with a cut-off Black Napkins, with lots of echo effects, sounding like it was starting to really get interesting.

Perhaps not as wild as 10/30, but still a great show, and worthy of the FZ Halloween tradition.


November 11th, 1977

This was my first Fall 77 concert, and was one of the reasons they became a favorite band of mine. Heck, the main reason. After hearing THIS band tonight, Spring 1980 and the like will never seem as satisfying.

The opener is a surprise, harkening back to the 74-76 concerts. But fear not, Stinkfoot is ON tonight, as Frank delivers a fabulous solo, with echo effects, building to a climax just like his best solos do. Sadly, the presence of Stinkfoot means we also get a Poodle Lecture, and despite being slightly more interesting than it used to be, it's still a major letdown.

The letdown doesn't last long. After Dirty Love, Frank says, "This is the sensitive, intellectual part of our program tonight!" then, listening to the audience's lukewarm reaction, responds "Hey, you know I'm just teasing you! There's nothing like that happening here tonight!" and, after a short tuneup, goes into an inspired Peaches.

Despite his words, there's plenty to enjoy tonight on an intellectual level. Torture is at its most relaxed, rivaling the Fall 76 Tortures for sheer laid-back mellowness. Patrick is also excellent in the background, adding a little jam counterpoint to FZ's picking. Speaking of Patrick, he gets a long, 5-minute plus solo in Pound that's marvelous, sounding at one point like he's quoting a song (which I can't place), and bouncing off of Terry's drumming. Tommy's next, taking a solo that runs through the gamut of his keyboards, including one that sounds very much like Peter's keys.

Bobby Brown is still new, so still gets the long intro. "No, this is not the BeBop Tango." It sure ain't, but the audience seems to like it. Then another surprise - no Conehead, but straight into King Kong. Again we get a keyboard solo that starts off sounding very much like Peter, but leads me to believe is Tommy by its later development. Zappa's next, and it's a quite interesting solo, with more band interaction than he usually has. Starts off very slow, but builds itself up to a frenzy, ending with a Smoke on the Water quote. All of Frank's solos tonight are long and melodic, allowing him to get the most from his guitar.

After a furious guitar finish, we head into the Flakes/Broken Hearts portion. The songs are paired for the first time, I believe, and the band seems unsure about the segue. BH, nevertheless, is quite assured, with Patrick getting in some amusing comments.

When listening to Punky's Whips tonight, I realized just how HARD it is to play, and how talented Frank's bands were to manage it. A cut in the middle sadly deprives us of the beginning of FZ's solo, but we get the end, which kicks ass.

And yet (as if that weren't enough), we get surprise #3: it segues into Wild Love. (Note that Wild Love here contains the Fall 77 intro, later dropped, that some say is actually a coda of I Promise Not to etc.). Finally I get a solo that I can definitely say is Peter, and it's quite good. Ed's is even better, as he senses the mood of the evening and has a quiet, reflective solo. Adrian is getting very assured at the segue between e-bow and normal guitar solo, and the latter is on tonight, full of energy. But all of these are merely preludes. We get the 'Yo Mama' drums going, and Frank steps up to begin his solo. It doesn't start with the Squirm, but with a riff very similar to the Winter 76 Zoot Allures. After playing with this for a while, Frank gets back to the Squirm motif, but stays in the relaxed mode. After more echo effects, Terry starts a march-like drum tempo, and the rest of the band picks up on it (Tommy's even playing 'dah-dah' chords in the bg), but Frank seems oblivious, continuing his solo as if nothing is happening. The result is quite majestic. Finally Frank wakes up and gets grooving, ending the solo by quoting Zoot Allures for real. My notes simply say "My God!" when describing the solo. A short coda, and FZ does the outros.

The encores are only Disco Boy and Black Napkins, but the latter doesn't lose any of the energy of the show, quoting Zoot some more.

An amazing show. You *need* to hear this.