Q: “Where’s the Beef(heart)?” A: “With Zappa, Allen and Jones, making musical laughter.”
On Frank Zappa’s 70th birthday —- and on the heels of the 17th anniversary of his departure on 12/4 —- we reflect on the absurdities of music and life in general, acknowledging the passing of his confrere Don Van Vliet AKA Captain Beefheart from complications due to multiple sclerosis:. As many of you know, Vliet/Beefheart and FZ attended Lancaster (CA) High School, located if not snugly, at least warmly, in the Mojave Desert.
What can we say about Zappa or Beefheart Malone that hasn’t been said, done or contemplated? Glad you asked! How about a YouTube posts of Frank’s 1964 appearance at age 22 on the Steve Allen show? (The first of 4: I’ll leave it to you Internet-adepts to click on the other three.)
Note the graffiti and otherwise/generally surreal opening to Allen’s show, and btw, if you want to be scared on an astrological level, consider the fact that Allen would’ve turned 89 next Sunday 12/26, was probably the only musician MORE prolific than Zappa, and as a musical parodist/satirist, right there with Frank when it came to silliness/brilliance.
If that ain’t enough (and don’t you think it oughta be), consider as well the fact that Spike Jones’ birthday was only last Tuesday, no 12/14: he would’ve turned 99, had he not “left the building” in 1965 (which means he easily could’ve caught Zappa’s segment on the Allen show…and, I’m guessing, probably did. (I’m hoping he was able to rest-in-peace easily, knowing that the acetylene torch of satirically humored music had been passed, pausing long enough to weld a bicycle or two.)
For a more familiar Zappa creation, let’s enjoy a live incarceration of “Cosmik Debris” from ten years later, featuring the irreplaceable, irrepressible Ruth Underwood on xylophone (the ultimate comic instrument, if you think about it, and — after FZ himself — the essential ingredient in all REAL Zappa tunes) with Spanish subtitles? “Mira, Tio…tomale el pelo a otro con ese rollo cosmico.” (Not an exact translation, mind you, but the colloquial equivalent.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-E6FDf9GkA&feature=related
Finally, bringing it home (literally): when I asked Mom what she wanted for Christmas, she wasn’t sure. “How about your two front teeth?” I asked. “YES….” she replied. “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” Hence, here is Spike Jones’ version of that song, for Mom: Spike Jones – “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”
Also, a fascinating read = Zappa and Beefheart’s “The Secret History Of Maximalism” http://www.saltpublishing.com/assets/samples/1844710599samp.pdf
Finally, “The Torture Never Stops – Live (Part 1)” from their BONGO FURY TOUR in 1975…and yes, it does stop after about 11 minutes. And no, it’s not torture. (Or is it?) So very much music, so little time… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVUgQEnxC0g