Another side of the revolution is to be found in the pure Laurel Canyon music of FRANK ZAPPA. His new album, his second under his own name, is the very life-beat of Hollywood music; every pore of 'Hot Rats' echoes with the vibrations of those few freaky square miles. An album of his own music, an album where Frank reveals all the goodies he has been saying up since "Lumpy Gravy', carefully mixed and backed together to sound just as Frank wanted them to!
It is the sound of the hot LA summer when Frank would get up round 3 in the afternoon & sit by the pool for a while with Moon Unit Zappa, his daughter, then round about 8 or 9 in the ' evening he would get into the Buick and Gail would drive him down the canyon to the studios on McFaddan. Kansas would have already left with the panel truck containing the equipment.
T.T. & G. is the home of some beautiful 16-track equipment and as Frank inched his way along the 2' tape, using only a few minutes at a time then returning to the top and filling in, the information sheets to each tape box piled up like the manuscript for a novel. The studio musicians were conducted by Johnny Otis (of the Johnny Otis Show), resplendent in black silk sox, snakeskin shoes and Esquire jacket, elegantly casual, finger-popping and getting in real close on the drummer hoping to get that little bit more energy into the sound by frenzied clapping. At the end of the session Johnny still had every hair carefully in place; it didn't move an inch.
Frank would stomp his feet and nod his head in the control booth through each number, then, as the red lights went off, announce . 'Not Bad'. In his head he could hear the perfect version. Telling Ian Underwood, 'Play facing the wall and we'll mike the sound as it bounces back over your shoulder. That's how they got that really greasy sound!' and then again interrupting Ian in the middle of a tenor solo with a revision of several lines of notes. Frank wouldn't bother to write them down, just say them out of his head and Ian remembers perfectly. Beefheart stalking the studio waiting to sing 'Willie the Pimp' declaring Frank a genius and everyone else motherfuckers. Late in the night Gail would arrive with the Buick after Frank had made some trial mixes to listen to later that night. By 8 or 9am in the morning Frank would at last go to bed. The house air-conditioning would be barely coping with the 90 degree sunshine outside of LA August and September 1969,; now it's ready for you. A summer condensed into the limited space of one album, called 'Hot Rats' and on Reprise RS 6356. Watch for Frank's amazing rockout guitar solos and also Jean Luc Ponte's violin on 'It Must Be A Camel' and the 'Gumbo Variations'. Beefheart sings 'Willie the Pimp' in his usual inimitable style. Miss Christine of the G.T.O.'s peers at you outrageously from the sleeve, you can't miss her.
Jean Luc Ponte has gone on to record a whole album of Frank Zappa compositions for World Pacific. Frank arranged the numbers for him and when I saw him in LA in November was cutting the master tape to ribbons and trying out new endings and insertions. The results were amazing -- the furthest-out violin playing I've ever heard and of course with that characteristic Zappa sound coming from the key changes and multi-time signatures. Frank has also completed the editing and assembling of the Mothers last album 'Burnt Weenie Sandwich' which has some of their very best work on it including some chrome-plated rockouts which will make you think twice before calling Led Zeppelin heavy. As Frank never goes out sometimes for months on end (unless on tour or recording) you can be sure that at this moment more music is being written or mixed in his basement studio, high in the Santa Monica hills, insulated from all outside influences and interruptions by his court and his machines. This total dedication to his work shows in the quality of it -- it's always of the very highest and best.
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