- Bah Hambug, Now That’s Too Strong: The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” Is the Best Holiday Song of All Time (The Ringer)
- Barack Obama lists his favorite books, music, and movies of 2018 (Boing Boing)
- NPR Music Staff Picks: The Best Of 2018
- My 30 Favorite Albums of 2018 by Vinod Shankar (Spotify)
- Best Albums of 2018 (Metacritic)
- 50 Best Albums of 2018 (Rolling Stone)
Monday, December 31, 2018
Friday, December 21, 2018
Zappadan always goes so fast.
I didn't do as much here as I had thought I would. I haven't in recent years. It's difficult to blog about a single topic for 17 days straight and to do it with a new angle.
But, Zappadan these days is not so much about the blogging. I spent some time watching some really great kids doing some serious vlogging, and they managed to make it to pretty much every blessed night. I learned much from these vlog sessions and will probably revisit them. You should note that these two sometimes got chat from some weird old guy. They were extremely nice to their party crasher.
Lot of activity over at the @zappadan Twitter. And, I tried to document the activity over at zappadan.com. I will be adding more stuff and cleaning it up as I have time, and I think I'm going to try to blog over there year-round.
I like the Zappadan thing. It's weird. But it makes me expand my appreciation. I ended up taking on a few more albums, including Sleep Dirt, which I managed to find on vinyl; The Roxy Performances, Chicago '78, Little Dots, the Road Tapes albums, Finer Moments. All highly recommended listens, and all brand new to me this year.
And I think if I realized something about Frank this year, it's that yeah, he was a great musician, a spouter of various wisdom, a brave stalwart versus authority's fists, and just plain altogether an attitude.
I think the greatest thing about Zappa was that he was the ultimate music fan.
And I think that's what makes Frank Zappa so undeniable to those of us who revere him.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Monday, December 17, 2018
I finally watched Solo: A Star Wars Story last night, and I'm utterly annoyed that I didn't go see it in the theater. I had avoided it because
- General disappointment in the direction taken in The Last Jedi
- Not really feeling the need to have Han Solo's background story fed to me with a spoon
That it was somewhat acclaimed critically but considered a failure at the box office didn't help lure me, either. However, I watched the thing this past weekend, and it's good! It hits your fan service bone just enough, it offers a fine story with familiar elements, and it manages to be a groovy heist pic as well. It's so enjoyable, I've already made plans to watch it with Dear Old Dad this weekend. Yes, I shall watch it again.
We also managed to trek out to see The Favourite. This is a period piece in the court of Queen Anne, who ruled from 1702 to 1714. Here. I cribbed this bit of history from the Vox review (cuz Dad and I were wondering...):
Anne was queen when the Acts of Union were signed and England and Scotland were united to form Great Britain. She also ruled during the War of the Spanish Succession, and waged war with France in North America for control of the continent, in what would become known as Queen Anne’s War.
Not that this is what the film is about. No, The Favourite is a power struggle, and it is, above all, Breaking Bad set to Bach. Mr. Chips to Scarface. It incorporates ribald and often dark comedy and employs it effectively.
It also has a final scene that might be offputting. I've seen commented that the ending felt incomplete. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The symbolism used here isn't hinting anything, and I'd like to take a moment to perhaps clarify.
Spoiler ahead. You've been warned. Don't read any further if you don't want to know how The Favourite ends.
Abigail in one moment feels buoyed, triumphant, powerful, and, sadly, cruel. She sets her foot upon one of the Queen's rabbits, threatening its suffocation.
In a few moments, she finds herself kneeling beneath Queen Anne, providing her relief while the Queen is fully leaning upon Abigail. This is the last scene of the film. This is how it ends.
Many might find this ending unsettlingly murky. However, this ending offers a meaning I found to be crystal clear: Abigail is trapped. She is as trapped as one of the Queen's rabbits and will similarly spend the rest of her life caged. Just as she held that bunny under her foot, she is to be held underfoot of the Queen. The power and the freedom she felt she'd achieved were illusory.
It's bleak, but it's all there.
Hope that helps.
Sunday, December 16, 2018
Last night's episode of Saturday Night Live was surprising. It was you know, actually funny.
The cold open presented Trump in an "It's A Wonderful Life" scenario. Matt Damon's monologue was a great reflection from his early years trying to stay up late to watch SNL, a familiar memory. The first sketch was a well-crafted love letter to Monty Python's "Upper Class Twit of the Year," then a spot-on Christmas sketch. I'll never understand how they can miss on all cylinders so often and then for an entire show get it completely right. But, suffice it to say, if you catch one episode this year, make it the one that aired on Dec. 15.
And I hate it when I like Miley Cyrus, but she was fabulous. Rare is the musical guest who eschews the backing tape, but Cyrus' performances are clearly all hers. And especially touching was her version of "So This Is Christmas," where near the end she brings the background vocals—which Lennon meant as the nut of the song—into the foreground. War is over, if you want it, war is over now. This, and realizing that Sean Ono Lennon is her accompanist, lends this performance some real gravitas.
And of course, guess what President Sippy-Cup is blathering on about on the Tweeter: Trump freaks out over SNL’s ‘unfair news coverage’ and threatens legal action (Raw Story)
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
It's day nine of Zappadan good people, and this morning was a crisp clear mid-30s that makes you draw a breath when you first encounter the naked air. Gorgeous day. Just gorgeous.
I reckon I'm focusing on a cut from Sleep Dirt because it's the one Zappadan's newest stars, Alex and Alexa, reviewed on night eight.
What a weird album, but that figures, as it was one of those released by the record company to settle a contract. Probably issued a bit out of the oven too soon. This track, however, is pretty astonishing. I might have to look for this on the original vinyl though to make sure I'm hearing the original poop.
Saturday, December 8, 2018
I don't know if many fans of Frank Zappa's music are likely also to be fans of the Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. If you're not, why aren't you? Why aren't you watching it right now? If for nothing else then to see Kevin Pollak play the role of a lifetime as Moishe Maisel?
Anyway. If you do watch the show, then you know a frequent character is a fictionalized Lenny Bruce. And, if you've gotten as far as I have in the second season, you know that they have Lenny Bruce appear on The Steve Allen Show, where he sings a weird lonely little song. And, as much as you wonder via watching this show if Tony Curtis ever actually compared smooching Marilyn Monroe to smooching Hitler (he did), you wonder if Lenny Bruce ever actually got on The Steve Allen Show and sang this weird lonely little song.
Now, if you're a fan of the album We're Only In It For The Money by The Mothers, then there's another Lenny Bruce bit you might want to hear.
Madge, I just couldn't help it, dog-gone it.
Today is Dec. 8, 38 years since the bizarre assassination of singer-songwriter John Lennon and, incidentally, 14 years since the bizarre assassination of Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell.
There are interesting places in the Zappa story where John Lennon and Frank Zappa’s points meet. One of the most intriguing that I discovered this year was the intent and meaning of a song I’ve been listening to for most of my life: “Oh No.”
Zappa did not dig the “love song” much. He called it “the ultimate form of absurist comedy.”
In fact, the song “Oh No,” as presented with lyrics on the album Weasels Ripped My Flesh, is a general refutation of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” which was initially released as a non-album single in July 1967.
I think it’s pretty straightforward in the lyrics…
Oh no, I don’t believe it
You say that you think you know the meaning of love
You say love is all we need
You say with your love you can change
All of the fools, all of the hate
I think you’re probably out to lunch
Oh no, I don’t believe it
You say that you think you know the meaning of love
Do you really think it can be told?
You say that you really know
I think you should check it again
How can you say what you believe
Will be the key to a world of love?
All your love
Will it save me?
All your love
Will it save the world
From what we can’t understand?
Oh no, I don’t believe it
And in your dreams
You can see yourself as a prophet saving the world
The words from your lips
I just can’t believe you are such a fool
Al Stone on December 14, 2018 at 3:56 pm said:
Another link is the mixing of 4/4 and 3/4 time. While the Beatles track is basically in 4 with with 3/4 at the end of phrases, Zappa alternates to give an essentially 7/4 feel.
Thursday, December 6, 2018
Frank Zappa and his family moved to California in 1952. He was 12.
The practice of putting Japanese-Americans into interment camps in California and elsewhere ended in 1945.
Frank Zappa likely spent many of his formative years profoundly aware of the quite recent history of Japanese-American internment during World War II. In Monterey, where the family first moved, he would have been 6 minutes away from the Manzanar War Relocation Center. He would have grown up in his formative years with a profound understanding of the history.
Trust a kid who grew up in Kent Ohio. That shit becomes you.
So it should come as no surprise that the song "Concentration Moon" is in some respect about these camps.
Here is how Frank Zappa explained it to an interviewer named Studs Terkel:
FZ: Well, we have a song coming up, called Concentration Moon which is … ah … a make-believe story about some very real concentration camps, that the US government built to house Japanese people during World War II. These people were snatched up out of their homes …
ST: Relocation camps.
FZ: Yeah. You're doing them a favor you're relocation 'em … the American government's so nice to get them a place to stay during the War, and they snatched these people off of the street and they stick in these camps and I guess they turned them loose later but the camps're still there, and it was a popular myth – let's hope it's a myth – among the hippies on the West coast, that very soon … ah … any dissatisfied, potentially non-conforming person person in the US is about to be rounded up by the government and stashed away in these camps. That doesn't mean just hippies, but they're probably thinking that militant Blacks and militant Latin and militant anybody or even passive people …
ST: … pretenders …
FZ: Yeah, anybody, who doesn't go along with the main stream of the hokum of the government is speeding to you is gonna be stashed away, so … ah …
ST: It starts with the concentration camp …
FZ: It starts with that and then goes on to the story of Mom & Dad, which is a … ah … middle class couple, who have been informed by one of their children, that … ah … their daughter has been killed in the park, by the cops, because she just happened to be there laying in the grass with a Hippie. And, ah, the attitude of the song is, that the parents say, well, it served her right, that she had associated with such trash. And then we have Bow Tie Daddy, which is another song about those same people, who are … didn't care when their child was killed by the police, because they were embarassed that their child should have anything to do with a Hippie, and we have Harry You're A Beast, which is a song about the sexual attitude of the parents, giving a little insight into why these people should feel that way about their child, finally winding up with What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?, a song about … the intelligence of the parents.
ST: The Ugliest Part Of Your Body turns out to be …
FZ: … the mind.
ST: The mind.
...and now you know the rest of the story...
It has long been my opinion that the band known as The Mothers (of Invention), as the lineup that stood in the year 1968, should be at least nominated to be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As far as I know, a nomination has not even entered the brain of anybody on that board.
Don't get confused here. Yes, Frank Zappa was inducted by Lou Reed in 1995. The closest the Mothers have come to that honor was when Walter Becker name-checked Jimmy Carl Black when Steely Dan was inducted in 2001.
I mean, I love Phlo and Eddie and all, but to me, The Mothers are Frank Zappa, Ian Underwood, Roy Estrada, Jimmy Carl Black, Don Preston, Ray Collins, Motorhead Sherwood, Bunk Gardner, Billy Mundi, Art Tripp, and sure, even Ruth Underwood.
I mean, it does not get badder than that lineup playing King Kong.
Or this, of "Pound for a Brown" and "Sleeping in a Jar?"
I mean, I enjoy Zappa after 1970. I think Apostrophe and Overnight Sensation are brilliant. I am indeed a dabbler of many different stages of the Zappa universe, and yet, I think strongly that the most original, organic music ever to come out of it was made from approximately 1966 to 1970. Enough so, I think, that it warrants an induction.
Before they're all dead, preferably.
Zoot Marimba on February 9, 2019 at 6:52 pm said:
Well, I’m now starting a campaign to achieve this.
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Dear Little Richard:
Today, by my calculations, Little Richard, the Architect of Rock and Roll, the Georgia Peach, the Bronze Liberace, the innovator, the man who, among other things, explained to future performers how rock music is to be sung and how to strut while yer doin' it, that man, Little Richard, turns 86 years old today.
As anyone who bothers to read this blather knows, every year on Dec. 5, I take a bit of time during Zappadan to tip a hat to Little Richard. Because Little Richard begat "Directly From My Heart," which begat my favorite recorded performance of music of all time, which would be The Mothers of Invention cover on Weasels Ripped My Flesh, featuring Sugarcane Harris. I've said it all before. This track is untouchable. And while it takes some liberties with the original as belted out by the great Little Richard, the rhythm section still retains that brilliant dragged left foot that makes me so horny for this song.
And while I have realized a mad adoration for this artist, I wanted to remind you why you should too. I wrote this a few years ago. It is the best thing I have ever written. It is called
a piece that essentially recognizes the great and, I think, often overlooked influence that this beautiful man had on the music you dig right this minute. Without him, Jim Morrison doesn't howl, Prince doesn't oooooh, and Robert Plant does not baby baby baby. In fact, I would like to mention at this time an interesting fact to add to the hefty pile of Little Richard impact studies available to us.
Ya'll know the song "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin, yeah? Well. Do you think John Bonham just pulled that drum part out of his butthole?
The answer is "no." Dude apparently had a Little Richard song in his head:
I've said it before. The ones who you revere, and maybe the ones they revere, revere Little Richard. All the Zeppelin dudes. All the Beatles, all of the Rolling Stones, and all of AC/DC. David Bowie. Elton John. Lou Reed. John Fogerty. Bob Dylan. Elvis Presley. Patti Smith. Michael Jackson. Bob Seger. Tina Turner. Jimi Hendrix. Bruno Mars. Andre3000. Chris Cornell. Freddie Mercury. All of these artists have somehow acknowledged Little Richard as a powerful influence.
As they should.
Not convinced? Here. Watch the great Muhammad Ali watching Little Richard. The man is in awe.
Little Richard is a national treasure, an innovator, and has inspired every rock artist you enjoy today. Look him up on Spotify today.
Health and peace and comfort to you on your birthday and well throughout, Little Richard. We appreciate you.
And also: Merry Zappadan.
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
In 2018, We're Only In It For The Money and I both turned 50.
Now as I recall it, my introduction to Frank Zappa was the song "Who Are the Brain Police" from Freak Out, which my Dear Old Dad played for me when I was a mere toddler. And you wonder why I am the man I am today.
But my formative introduction to Zappa was most certainly Money, also via Dear Old Dad, of course. I was probably 14 when I started latching on to this record.
And the 50th anniversary of this release makes me realize what a busy, important year 1968 was for Zappa. Money is released. Lumpy Gravy is re-released. Cruising with Ruben and the Jets is released. They're touring. They're recording Uncle Meat. Not to mention, it's the last full year the original Mothers lineup will exist.
So, yep. This Zappadan, I am going to be focusing on the Frank Zappa and the Mothers in the year 1968.
Except for tomorrow, of course.