Frank Zappa Looks Like Frank Zappa!

By Allan Powell

Exit, May, 1974

With Captain Beefheart and Dr. John on Friday, Steely Dan on Sunday night, Frank Zappa and the Mothers on Saturday night would certainly be the highlight of this particular weekend.

The parking lot looked rather incumbered by the time Bill Gubbins, Bob Gearhart, Joe Costa and I had entered. Joe was wearing a shirt once owned by Jane Fonda. Hare Krishna were pushing that damn incense as usual and as soon as I got out of the car some cat shoves some emphatically smelling sticks in my hand, and all of a sudden I’m pissed off. This damn incense smells to high hell and not wanting to throw it away for ecological reasons of course, I put it in my pocket. It was perhaps the worst thing I could have done because throughout the whole concert I had this stuff linger all around me. But I gave him a quarter anyway to feed his acquaintances in India and headed for the backstage door.

Gubbins and I weren’t readily admitted, and I thought it was the incense. It turned out to be press protocol, where before you are admitted to anything like this, it is recommended and required that you stand outside the door for approximately fifteen minutes until your civilian scent and integrity have vanished and you have transformed into an acceptable member of the press, and then you walk in.

Backstage, you are either a guard, the press, road manager, sound engineer, performer or groupie. I left Bill backstage with his camera and I went out front to cover the concert.

I found for myself a comfortable spot in the area which might be considered the ice if it weren’t for the slabs of thick cardboard the Sports Arena management laid down. And then I found myself pissed off again because you had to sit on the floor. I'll be quite honest with you; I think sitting on the floor is a drag, rip-off, archaic, not hip anymore, cheap and perpetuates hemorrhoids.

The place filled rather quickly to about five thousand and by the time l met up with Gearhart and Costa, who incidentally flew all the way from New Jersey to catch Zappa at an interview we would be doing after the show. Dion could be seen walking around with his guitar over his shoulder and then running on-stage without any backup group at all.

Dion looks like a math teacher!

Dion’s act started slowly enough that my attention was taken over by the lighting. It seemed rather professional. Belkin had sponsored the concert, and it seems those brothers from Cleveland are the only people who can operate a concert smoothly and efficiently. Some concerts I’ve been to have been real fine parties, but with terribly intruding disorganization.

Why, of course, Dion sang “Abraham Martin and John.”

“Men may die, but their dreams live on,” said Dion strumming into it. Of course, he didn’t sing it exactly like it was recorded years ago, but I would assume that his emotional involvement in this area, like everyone else’s, has changed.

Why, of course, Dion sang “Ruby, Baby.”

Why, of course, Dion sang “Run Around Sue.”

It’s 8:15, Dion walks off stage, and l can’t talk, already quite drunk.

Frank Zappa looks like Frank Zappa!

Right in the midst of an eighteen stop concert tour, Zappa stops in Toledo. He tells you first, “Well, people, we're going to be here for awhile so you might as well sit down. This is not the kind of music you can stand up to.”

Zappa’s on. Napoleon Murphy Brock is the lead singer, introduced by Zappa as the Planet Earth. Synthesizer player, Don Preston was also introduced by Zappa, as the Planet Venus. And after telling, Toledo that it also was a planet which is leading the great Ohio Blues Experiment (What did he know?) then comes “Cosmik Debris.”

By this time I finally figured out that the bald-headed guy, sitting to the right of the stage near an additional sound board but more importantly next to Zappa, was a bodyguard for the well-known superstar. (This term was relayed to me by Charles Cohen, an airtime salesman for WIOT).

When Zappa goes to the mike, he speaks insultingly. He has and perhaps still holds a certain contempt for everything. A balancing act of contempt and musical genius must occur in order for Zappa to be appreciated. For example, he would speak directly to the audience, with seven other members on stage, lights, action and tuned instruments and say, “It can’t happen here,” and then start swinging his arm like the orchestra conductor and one, two, three, four, you're into it. “It Can’t Happen Here,” from the Freak Out album.

During songs like “How Could I Be Such a Fool,” “You Are Probably Wondering Why I’m Here," and also others from his newer album, Apostrophe, both lead vocalist Napoleon Murphy Brock and Don Preston, performing on the synthesizer, were outstanding along with Zappa himself.

While Zappa — live — is good regardless what is played, there has been some consternation about his lack of progression, “his sensibilities being frozen in some arctic-vault of the 60’s.” — Village Voice.

It may be a problem, but I would think Zappa is more inclined to be trying to shove his genius of new and old down all our throats.

Frank Zappa said, “Small but high quality audience.”

The audience moved little during the set. The lights came on and the arena cleared like a flushed toilet.

“Thanks, Frank,” I heard someone say.

Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at)