Where's That Zappa Comin' From

By Joe Panholzer

Statesman, October 18, 1978

About 10 years ago, there was a man out among the sun-drenched foothills and taco stands of Los Angeles, writing songs (on whatever it is that they write them on out there) that did not quite fit into the dog, two kids, house in the suburbs mold, and the type of music that mold generates.

This guy's music was really different.

For one thing, his songs were dirty: not like that deck of cards hidden under a pair of silk jockey shorts in your old man's drawer, but really perverted stuff like whips, chains, and Yoo Hoo bottles. Mom had warned you that listening to "that kind of music would surely make you go blind" but you listened anyway hoping that you could get to see him in person before you needed glasses.

Well, the dreams of many by now slightly myopic people came true when that man from LA – Frank Zappa performed two shows before a sell-out crowd in the Stony Brook Gymnasium last Sunday night. [1]

While no longer accomplanied by the Mothers of Invention, Zappa did bring a band just as capable of performing his [...] scored arrangements. The opening song, in fact, was one of those neatly assembled rock operettas exemplified on such early Zappa/Mothers collaborations as "Uncle Meat" and "Fillmore East." With the band jamming behind him Frank concerned himself with the lyrics, cleverly knocking everything from singles bars to the unhip in general, all strewn with the visual imagery that Mr. Z is famous for.

Ever since his first album "Freak Out," Zappa has presented himself as not only a lyricist and guitar soloist but as a bandleader and arranger as well. "Freak Out" was one of the first rock albums to feature integrated horn arrangements, a technique beaten into commerical mediocrity by such bands as Chicago and Tower of Power.

On Sunday night, Zappa's was true to form as he led the band through several cuts from his "Apostrophe" album, beginning with the tune "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow." Zappa combined exceptionally tight improvisation with lyrics just as imaginative as the music. The subsequent and previous numbers developed a series of constantly changing themes at all times blending smoothly with the orchestration.

The Midnight performance concluded with the instrumental, "Black Napkins" from Zappa's last studio album, "Zoot Allures," his most guitar oriented album to date. Frank's guitar work on this tune was calculated yet energetic.

The show taken as a whole was uneven. At times the music was misdirected,(since when does Zappa play the blues) at other times the music was vintage Zappa. If he left some disappointed at his lack of reliance on recognizable material he delighted others with his uncompromising and experimental flair. The two hour, non stop show Zappa performed at Stony Brook was everything one has come to expect from a Zappa

1. According to ad in Statesman #14, October 9, page 9, Zappa had 2 concerts in Stony Brook in Sunday, October 15, at 8 and 12 PM. The songlists and tapes of these concerts are not known.

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