Zappa: Overnight Sensation at U.M.

By Mike Parykazu

Towerlight, October 20, 1978

If nothing else, Frank Zappa deserves unending praise for his continuing assaults on disco, that obnoxious bubblegum for the ears that is strangling the music industry today. Back in 1976 he recorded that milestone parody "Disco Boy"; in a May 1978 issue, Downbeat magazine stated that disco music was responsible for "disco entertainment centers" were "mellow, boring, laid-back kinds of people can meet each other and reproduce".

The point of all this is that over-commercialisation needlessly sacrifices musical value for the sake of what radio station executives think will become saleable "hits" (it is frankly more than a little sickening for me to see that valid, creative musical statements are being eclipsed by mindless pap like "Boogie-Oogie"). One of Zappa's early albums was called No Commercial Potential, and it is the devotion to this principle that has made him one of the most important musicians and composers of our time,

Last Saturday [1] Frank Zappe brought his unique brand of music to the University of Maryland's Cole Field House. Although the performance was not sold out, the audience was nonetheless enthusiastic, appreciative. and stoned to the gills, judging by prevailing atmospheric conditions and crazy pre-performance frisbee battles.

Opening the concert was a slow, 3/4 tune which served as a splendid vehicle for Zappa's awesome guitar technique. "Dancin Fool" followed, which was described by Frank as the "lewd portion of the show". This was an energetic disco attack, full of humorous allusions to typical disco-droid paraphenalia. This ended with a rhythm vamp over which Zappa narrated a typical bar pick-up scene. "She Was Easy" was next, after which came "Honey Don't You Want A Man Like Me" (from the Zappa in New York album), a particularly witty tune that many in the audience recognized. The rather perverse twist of "Honey" continued throughout "Keep It Greasy So It Go Down Easy".

Up until this point Zappa had fairly dominated the show, alternating between equally impressive guitar and vocal work. "Village of the Sun" featured one of the rhythm guitarists on lead vocals. Despite the absence of a horn section, the tune sounded much like it did, on the Roxy and Elsewhere album. Each member of the band soloed in the quasi-jam session that followed. Zappa's past Mothers ensembles have featured some memorable personnel and the new band that played at Cole proved to be no exception. Ed Mann played a jazzy vibes solo, along with incredible bass playing by Patrick O'Hearn (both of these Mothers were also on Live in New York. Denny Walley was featured on guitar, along with Peter Wolf and Ed Mann on fender rhodes and organ. Both keyboard players displayed a strong be-bop influence: another solo synthesizer section sounded remarkably like Weather Report. This ended with a rock flavoured samba featuring guitar and synthesizer.

This incredibly musical part of the show was followed by "Bobby Brown", an intensely satirical tune in which Zappe baited cheerleaders and sang about the "American Dream". One of the more hilarious moments of the evening began after Frank announced "OK Folks, watch out, because the name of this song is CONEHEAD". At this point he donned a genuine Saturday Night Live issue cone before singing and playing guitar. He then stepped out front for an "audience participation part of the show" in which everyone was invited to sing along with "Remulac, Remulac, Remulac, I'm comin back". After this came "Flakes" another wildly satiric piece with Ed Mann featured on a scathing Bob Dylan parody. In the midst of some humourous crooning Zappe calmly asked "wanna buy some acid Bob?"

A tight rendition of "Magic Fingers" (from "200 Motels") followed. From this Zappe launched into the entire "Don't Eat Yellow Snow", one of his more recognized tunes. A splendid ending for what was a brilliant show from start to finish.

The encore set consisted of "Dinah Moe Humm" (played incredibly fast), "Camarillo Brillo," and "Muffin Man," which featured an amazing Zappe solo.

1. Zappa had concert in Cole Fieldhouse, University Of Maryland, in October 14, 1978. The concert tapes and exact songlist are not known.

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