Thursday, July 26, 2007

Frank: The Beer


Take a diehard Zappa fan, add ownership of a brewery and what do you get? The above – Freak Out! Ale. And it really exists! No fooling.

But wait, there's more:

Now how much would you pay? (Hint: $2.99 to $3.99.)

Tony Magee of Lagunitas Brewing Company is responsible for the above potables, which you can actually buy and guzzle. Er, savor, that is.

Such commitment. And it gets better. Tony and Lagunitas plan to issue a commemorative beer for every official Zappa album, 40 years after their initial release – the next one after Kill Ugly Radio Ale will be Lumpy Gravy. That should look pretty appealing next to the Pabst Blue Ribbon on the supermarket cooler shelf.

And in fact, this is mostly about the album cover labels – a bubbly valentine for Frank fans, according to Tony. "The label sells itself," he says. "I just want the label to be out there in the world." And so it is!

For Freak Out! Ale, Tony put a lot of effort into the recipe – probably more than was necessary – which inspired many reviews and commentary. So for Kill Ugly Radio Ale (which should make Barry kinda happy), Tony simply went with good beer: "A big, really fresh-hopped pale ale," as he describes it. What more could a Frank fan want? (Well, come to think of it, maybe two things. See if you can guess what they are.)

Naturally, this wouldn't be possible without the Zappa family's consent. But Tony said Mrs. Z and the fam embraced the idea, and even had him over to their home! There, he met Gail, Dweezil (yes, that Dweezil) and Vaultmeister Joe Travers (arguably the world's most insanely amazing drummer – at least I've never seen anyone play like that).

So that's what you have to do to make the pilgrimage to Zappa Ground Zero - invent Frankworthy beer. But damn, it's been done.

For his next project, Tony is working on a whole line of Suzi Quatro-flavored beers. There's Stumblin' In Ale, Daytona Demon Pilsner... OK, I made that up. But the Zappa beer is real.

So, to tell us all about Lagunitas Brewing Company's Zappa-flavored beers, none other than Tony Magee himself will be my guest on Zappa's Grubby Chamber, Friday, June 27 at 10:30 p.m. Pacific time.

Meanwhile, how many Frank songs so much as mention beer? Two come to mind... I won't say which... tune in...


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Frank 'n' Me

Once upon a time... it wasn't in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fremont, California, actually, where I and my colleagues made many cocaine decisions. I'm not bragging.

That was also where I once received a personal missive from a Mr. Zappa. Naturally it blew me away. I had done two disconnected things, and with his computer brain, he made the connection, tracked me down and sent me the nice letter above.

First, after a show, I handed Frank some Zappa bucks. (Maybe seeing his Overnite Sensation/"I'm the Slime" visage in the presidential oval inspired Frank's later presidential aspirations?)

Second, I sent him a photo of me standing next to a fantastic, custom-made foamcore Tinseltown Rebellion display from the tape cassette store I managed at the time. I'd written my address on the back, and someone later told me the picture was posted on the wall in his manager Bennett Glotzer's office.

So, at some point within the Zappa organization, Frank seems to have inquired about that guy in that picture with the TR display (me), who also gave him a Zappa buck, and do we have his address? And I get a letter in the mail.

There was a period in the late 1970s and into the 1980s when Frank would nod in greeting when he spotted me in and around concerts. Sometimes I think about how my existence was actually encoded in Frank Zappa's brain! Not bad for a Northern Californian, since he refers to our kind as "hot tub dipshits!"

Oh, did I mention that the next Zappa's Grubby Chamber show is on Friday, July 27? The July 20 show is pre-empted by Relay For Life, though I hear there will be at least some Zappa triage for the needy between 10 p.m. and midnight.

But to truly quench those Zappa thirsts, tune in July 27, for something really special.

A bwahaha may be in order here, along with a grand mooo-aaaahhh.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Frank speaks

Yes, another LP. Know how hard it is to take a pic of a vinyl record without your reflection showing up in it?

Funny how in the olden days we had to have big, dumb pieces of plastic to convey sound info. But it made for some nice picture discs.

Frank was, as we know, one of the more articulate and voluble "rock stars." And he had actual things to say. I have tons of old interviews with him; clippings from various mags and newspapers, fanzines, etc.

One thing I'm sort of saving for the future is the big interview Eric and I did with Frank in Sacramento. It's hard for me to listen to these days, as it was the first time I'd met Frank and I was very nervous. But one of these weeks I'll get around to playing it.

So, I have no idea what's on the above record, but I'll play it on the July 13, 2007 Zappa's Grubby Chamber. Plus some spiffy tunes and who knows what else.

Feel free to e-mail and call during the show. Listener input always takes the show in interesting and unexpected directions.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


There's no special significance to, or theme associated with, this week's pic – it's just another dreg from the archives.

Seems the execs back in 1970 wanted to milk the nascent FZ legend, so they issued this compilation LP of Frank-friendly acts like Alice Cooper, The GTOs and Wild Man Fischer. (Whatever happened to Judy Henske and Jerry Yester, anyway? Maybe they're worth a whole theme show!)

There's a relatively hi-res shot of the back cover below. Sorry if it makes the page slow to load.

Reading the liner notes, I'm kind of curious, so I guess I'll dust off KHUM's "record player" for the July 6 show and play some of these tunes.

I get the feeling from this album that the Warner Bros silk-jacket weasel brigades were already eyeing Frank as a possible Ronald McDonald of the Noveau Abstruse. That is, working with their "media partners" (the worst kind of sleaze) to package Frank as some sort of kooky-cute eccentric leading a coterie of weirdos like Capt. Beefheart and Lord Buckley who might make a coupla bucks who knows? This won't take long...

Funny how the front cover says "Zapped" while the back (and the label on the record) says "Zapp├ęd." Musta been a miscommunication as the execs hovered over the mirror in the toilet stall at HQ. They probably got sidetracked talking about Acapulco, where all their friends go.

But never mind all that. For the next show, I'm not even going to try to call Jay Brown of the Arcata Muffler Brain Police. Nope, we've given up on that. Instead, Jay's going to be in the studio, and I'll interview him there, have him tell the legend and lore of the AMBP and play some of his fave FZ tunes. I think that'll include some '60s material, which is good because I don't play enough of the early years.

And in coming weeks I'd love to hear from and interview more FZ fans. What turned you on to Frank. What do you find most piquant about him and his music? Ever meet him? Got any stories? Call, write...

And speaking of that, thanks for all the e-mails and calls, folks. Again, do consider diverting some of that communication to the blog, so everyone will know.